force, field, play

Courtesy of George Lucas and THX 1138Courtesy of George Lucas and THX 1138Courtesy of George Lucas and THX 1138Courtesy of George Lucas and THX 1138Courtesy of George Lucas and THX 1138Courtesy of George Lucas and THX 1138Courtesy of George Lucas and THX 1138Courtesy of George Lucas and THX 1138

Images from George Lucas' THX 1138 (1971)

"The tendency of electric media is to create a kind of organic interdependence among all the institutions of a society, emphasizing de Chardin's view that the discovery of electromagnetism is to be regarded as 'a prodigious biological event.' If political and commercial institutions take on a biological character by means of electric communications, it is also common now for biologists like Hans Selye to think of the physical organism as a communication network: 'Hormone is a specific chemical messenger-substance, made by an endocrine gland and secreted into the blood, to regulate and co-ordinate the functions of distant organs.'"

– Marshall McLuhan, "Telegraph: The Social Hormone"
Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

Cresting Signal and Noise

"Everywhere surfing has already replaced the older sports," says Gilles Deleuze, perhaps the philosopher most concerned with the question of bodies and flow. The surfing, flowing body finds its rhythm in a whole continuum of matter-states, from the gaseous waves of the hang-glider or skydiver to the concrete waves carved by the street skater, to the frozen in-between waves of aqua and terra shredded on the slopes by the snowboarder.

But we must remember that surfing has its origins in the smooth space of the ocean, with only the logic of the tide and the deep swell accompanying a hybrid of body and board on its path of creative potential towards the beach. From the very beginning then, despite its forays into other matter-states, the surfing body has always been a liquid body.

Today we are all becoming surfers — surfers of waves, surfers of electromagnetic transmissions, surfers of relational databases and other networked information-constructs. One need not have a board to be a surfing body. But one does need a body. The question today has become one of embodiment. Does the body sense? Does the body move or create?

Is the body liquid?

The surfer is equally comfortable navigating between signal and noise. Slight murmurs and adjustments made by the finely attuned body maintains an optimal position while riding the liminal edge between the two. For the waves that surfers call home are nothing if not the pure signal of the cresting swell in its becoming-noise, before crashing to shore at the feet of the masses lying recumbent on the sand: aqua meets terra where the noisy wave hits the beach.

The relationship between the two becomes more distant when moved to the urban context, though there is still a connection in noise. Today, aqua and terra are the noise to the constantly throbbing signal of dwelling and commerce. The tree, the pond, the park, the rain: all are noise to the decaying spaces and shiny interfaces of the contemporary city, connected in signal through the boulevards and underground conduits of the city, as well as the fluxes of people navigating the urban everyday. Though they, too, will eventually become part of the total communications infrastructure, for now they remain the playground of the surfer.

This urban playground, however, remains largely unused. For too long our sport has resembled the factory production model and for too long our surfing has been that of the data-net sort. Sport can be the anti-work, but only insofar as one is embodied and creative, or as one is a playmaker.

Interestingly, Deleuze describes the runner as the sporting figure obsolesced by the emergence of the contemporary surfer. We should not be surprised by his diagnosis, since the sprinter and marathoner seem increasingly to be products of the industrial laboratory, while the surfing body remains largely unchanged, except for the growing variety of energetic systems in which it realizes its potential. But obsolescence is not an entirely accurate diagnosis, however, for the dynamism of the surfer has folded back upon the runner, as we see embodied in the parkour athlete who contours and traces the asphault, concrete, bricks and mortar of the urban cityscape. In other words, a body can change.

Traditionally, the playmaker has been the figure in sports who makes plays, that is, who manufactures positive outcomes in the clutch, who embodies drill, discipline, execution and repetition. But everywhere surfing has replaced the older sports. Instead of making plays, one must now embrace the challenge of making play, rescuing it from the seriousness of industrial manufacture and the factory production model. To make plays, one blocks out the noise of the crowd and visualizes the task at hand. To make play, by contrast, one embraces and engages the noise of the crowd, sensing one's self in space as an affective body, athletic and full of creative potential.

Make play. Surf. This constitutes the tactile burden of all playmakers, regardless of their material habitat: to feel the heaviness of the body at the same moment one feels the lightness of its liquidity. To move, perform, create, liberate.


Every act of archiving or inscribing on a recordable media substrate, in both material and immaterial senses, is not an act of remembering but an act of forgetting (as Shannon entropy theory suggests). It is in this processual gap or passage that vectoral capital makes its play.

Courtesy of ESPN

Perception and the State

NASSS 2008: Hybrid Bodies and Social Change in Popular Culture

"One of the fundamental tasks of the State is to striate the space over which it reigns, or to utilize smooth spaces as a means of communication in the service of striated space. It is a vital concern of every State not only to vanquish nomadism but to control migrations and, more generally, to establish a zone of rights over an entire "exterior," over all of the flows traversing the ecumenon. If it can help it, the State does not dissociate itself from a process of capture of flows of all kinds, populations, commodities or commerce, money or capital, etc. There is still a need for fixed paths in well-defined directions, which restrict speed, regulate circulation, relativize movement, and measure in detail the relative movements of subjects and objects." — Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p.385

the sports police+judiciary

What does the fact that both its police force and judiciary apparatus are embodied in the same person of the referee say about the (democratic) structure of modern, binary sport?

What does the fact that this same co-embodiment of police force and judiciary is intimately interwoven (in not quite real-time) with an optoelectronic surveillance apparatus add to the first question?


What does it mean that this same surveillance apparatus is in fact the repurposed machinations of spectacle used to support the sport-media complex, which is to say that the formerly "independent" media are now formally entwined in the democratic relations described above? Entwined not simply as a compromised partner, as perhaps before, but fundamentally in a high position of a sporting contest's judicial system, with its millions of real dollars in economic outcome at stake, in what has become a legitimation of the fact that the police force and judiciary are embodied in the same person?

One need only consider the cases of NFL official Ed Hochuli among others to demonstrate this legitimation at work. While one mistake made by an official can be simultaneously witnessed by millions, along with accompanying discourse by the announcers (fraught with its own politics), it obscures the everyday fact that police force and judiciary are embodied in the same person. At minimum, the official must now answer — via the camera — to the network, whether before the game (situation review and player briefing), during the game (coach's challenges and instant replay), or after the game. This latter may be effected along private (referee evaluations) or public dimensions (the sport-media complex and highlight packages).

"[A]ny member of society will have the right to come and see with his own eyes how the schools, hospitals, factories, prisons function. There is no risk, therefore, that the increase of power created by the panoptic machine may degenerate into tyranny; the disciplinary mechanism will be democratically controlled, since it will be constantly accessible 'to the great tribunal committee of the world'" (Foucault, Discipline and Punish, p. 207).

The cases mentioned above are a complete perversion of Foucault's suggestion that anyone could step into the tower and observe, thus maintaining a system free of tyranny. The only reason the system "worked" in those instances was due to the power of the mass, with all the problems that implies.

One might suggest that if the network is embodied in the hybrid police+judiciary figure of the referee, then ultimately we vote with our media consumption. Generally speaking, those who have the vote today also have access to a television and in such a case our viewing patterns could retain the principles of democracy. Without getting into the obvious socioeconomic questions such as the discretionary leisure time available to watch television or the restricted ability to access subscriber cable channels, the suggestion is flawed from the outset.

A vote is in some percentage combination a choice (and expression of said choice) for the best interests of self and collective, a particular calculus of the democratic singular-plural. Rational interest is involved, yes, but it is that of singular-plurality. When state and market are kept as separate as possible in the democratic process, the latter is less able to distort this calculus in favour of the purely financial aspects of rational singular-plurality.

But when the Nielsen rating substitutes for the vote as the expression of choice, it must be communicated through an entire machinic circuit of direct market influence before it may arrive to fulfill its democratic purpose. Along the way lies the financial compromise and the distortion of the calculus of singular-plurality. Our viewing habits cannot fulfill the mandate of democracy simply because they must be free of economic gradients and the power relations they embody.

To come full circle, then, far from fulfilling a democratic mandate, the best that viewing habits can support in the sporting context is a legitimation of a system in which police and judiciary are embodied in the same figure. Sport is an institution that maintains strong hierarchical relations in the contemporary age of the network, and thus we might suggest that in the limited case of sporting Empire — bearing in mind its capillarization with broader meshworks of imperial power — the nexus of strong hierarchy and network at the level of assemblage of the league constitutes a weak point in the preservation of democratic relations.