Superhumans and Mutants

The light-speed of the nuclear blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki forces a recalibration of other speeds as well. The succeeding Cold War witnessed one such recalibration in the animal speed of the moving body: while proxy wars were fought in the jungles of the underdeveloped world, they were contested in the sporting arenas of the overdeveloped world as well. East versus West sporting competition launched a total rationalization of the athletic body as object of science that could be engineered for the optimal pursuit of speed in the name of ideology. The fallout from this proxy sporting war was most notably witnessed with the national teams of East Germany, which implemented programs of steroid use to increase speed and power for both its male and female athletes, resulting in short-term athletic success at the expense of substantial physical deformities later in life. From state-sponsored subhumanization to state-sponsored superhumanization and its mutant consequences in a matter of three decades, the jackboot march of progress carried on.

From the forthcoming essay:
"La Bombe Philosophique: An Archaeology of the Stereoscopic Present (Or, Sorting Through the Shrapnel)"

The Moebius Strip of Control

It used to be of greater consequence whether an individual was located in front of the camera (participant) or in front of the screen (spectator), but that holds less true today. When considering contemporary aesthetics and politics, camera and screen no longer provide distinct or mutually exclusive subject positions, bound up as they are in the moebius strip of surveillance and spectacle, or the moebius strip of control. As Arendt and Virilio would suggest, the substance of technological progress also contains the catastrophe of the accident — and the erosion of democratic principles may be witnessed as the accident of camera+screen.

Courtesy of ESPN

ESPN, the "Worldwide Leader in Sports," uses "never before seen" surveillance camera footage for an Outside the Lines segment alleging the involvement of Adam "Pacman" Jones' entourage in an Atlanta nightclub shooting June 18, 2007. Jones was not charged by police. In this snapshot of Jones' biography on Wikipedia, 24 out of 54 references were from ESPN.com.

The Overcompressed City

Hollywood was the first great project of the industrialization of information compression, folding entire buildings and cities into a few square miles of gated Los Angeles suburb. Notably, its nine massive hillside letters were cleverly positioned just out of reach of the other three great American landmarks destroyed on September 11, 2001. Military, political and economic symbols were all struck that day (in material or discursive form), though it was the entertainment symbol and all it represented at the frontier of westward expansion that gave the semiotic raison d'etre for their destruction in the first place. From expansion to compression — not explosion to implosion — for if there is an information bomb of the nuclear sort it is not only because the vectors of transmission have enveloped the earth in unprecedented fashion, but also because the compressed density of information is such that explosiveness-in-potential trembles deep within.

From the forthcoming essay:
"La Bombe Philosophique: An Archaeology of the Stereoscopic Present (Or, Sorting Through the Shrapnel)"

Wetware Rhizome

Hardware Rhizome by purple

Hardware Rhizome (detail)
created by purple
2008

"The storage of information may be as valuable as its transmission, and the archive is a vector through time just as telesthesia is a vector through space. The whole potential of space and time becomes the object of the vectoral class." — McKenzie Wark, The Hacker Manifesto, #318

I have long admired this particular quote from Wark, but have been thinking a little bit more about it recently, and just about the same time this Wark-inspired artwork from purple comes to me through the wires. Namely, I am wondering about the idea that the whole potential of space and time become the object, or goal as it were, of the vectoral class.

It seems to me that capitalism (which yields to vectoralism in Wark's framework) has always been a system of the human body — that is, it has always been a system of relations that arranges, manages and optimizes the production, distribution and consumption of resources by influencing or constraining the human at the level of the body. That this statement is anthropocentric or speciesist is precisely the point: it wasn't the birds, bees or flowers that created the relations of capitalist exploitation.

As we move into the era of vectoralism or information capitalism, things remain largely the same, though the stakes have gotten much higher. Today, it is the total exo- and endocolonization (cf. Virilio) of the human body that is truly the object of the vectoral class. Relations of space, time, orga or mecha are but the vehicles through which these are achieved.

The Over/Under on Scheduling

With regard to the cognitive and social development of their children during the non-school (ie. "non-work") time of leisure, parents are rethinking their chosen strategies for success. Packing too many activities into a demanding timetable regimen is perceived to have negative effects on child, parents and total family unit, and hence the beginning of a shift from the overscheduled to the underscheduled.

Organized sport and fitness demands such a timetable, however, mostly due to scarcity — a scarcity of playing facilities, a scarcity of players of similar skill level at any particular moment, etc. Hence, the timetable ensured that there would be enough of a critical mass at a particular space and time to stage an event.

Moving to the unscheduled does not necessarily imply a return to the romanticism of free play, however.

What happens when we move to the online sport and fitness universes of Playstation Home, Xbox Live, EA Sports, (and soon) Wii Fit? Is the aforementioned local scarcity eliminated by the global decentralized mass of anytime-available "dividual" users and rapidly replicating server farms, such that the strict barriers of the timetable begin to dissolve? And what happens to the athletic body in the process?