Collective Forgetting

In a normal basketball game, score is a marker of difference. It provides a purportedly objective measure of which team was better able to meet the primary goal of the game, namely to score more baskets than one's opponent.

GVB Eq.1

As such, score has a subtractive aspect to it, in which the difference between the scores of the two teams, a and b, becomes a margin of victory c (and we must remember that in almost all North American team sports c cannot equal 0, for tie scores are anathema). In professional contexts this value c is then compared to Vegas point spreads to determine an even more "authentic" victor, one determined by the logic of the market.

The inaugural Global Village Basketball event treated score in a slightly different manner. While Red and Blue teams were indeed competing against one another on a local basis in six countries around the world, and as such followed the formula outlined above, score was also used as a means of linking the various games together into one meta-game. In this sense score became additive, with the goal to collectively score as many baskets together worldwide as possible.

GVB Eq.2

In other words, we may describe an aggregated score d that adds together the Red score and Blue score to show the collective production of those around the world who played in the game.

Of course, d isn't simply a singular Red score added to a singular Blue score, but rather the sum of all local game scores and their additive characteristics:

GVB Eq.3

But even this formula doesn't tell the whole story, for there is an error coefficient that exists at each local game event that accumulates across the network. As we know, this error exists even in the most carefully constructed apparatus of truth that is professional basketball. But it is far more pronounced in the pickup version of the game, when all participants are in the process of playing and there is no external governing authority responsible for the role of archon and the accorded hermeneutic right to interpret the archive, or scoresheet (cf. Derrida).

GVB Eq.4

Let us say, for example, that a game of pickup basketball is played in which the first team to seven baskets is declared the winner. The game begins, the action moves up and down the floor, always in flux, and baskets are scored. After a while one of the players shouts out the query: "Score?"

"4-2," someone responds.

"Oh no, it's only 3-2," counters an opponent.

A dispute arises, however banal, and play temporarily comes to a halt.

Everyone plays, everyone performs. In their running and passing and shooting and sweating everyone participates in a collective act of forgetting. What ensues in the absence of an external governing authority granted the "hermeneutic right" to maintain and interpret the archive is a local oral micro-history of the game. Rather than an archive, the memory of score becomes a distributed, communitarian process of orality and embodiment.


This is not as trivial as it seems. Once such a rupture in basketball-flux arises, there is no external referent from which the assembled athletes may regain their bearings. In practice, it might play out something like the following. The opponent says, "OK, who scored your 4 baskets then?" Since both sides agreed that at least 3 baskets had been scored, the group quickly identifies who had scored those.

But the fourth basket proves surprisingly elusive. Someone suggests that Brown scored the fourth on a slashing drive to the hoop. And here is where we find the greatest moment of contrast between the archive and the attempt to overcome collective forgetting. In the former instance, we have a remote locus of surveillant optics as with the Foucauldian disciplinary diagram, which gives us the official basketball scoresheet. In the latter, the perspective-as-memory is fragmented and scattered around the court, with each part-locus of the collective gaze turned toward the path or trajectory through which Brown allegedly passed to score the basket.

This is not simply an optic phenomenon. Each person who may have witnessed the basket taking place actually retrieves in an embodied sense one's memory of self located where they were at the moment of the drive and shot attempt, rhythmically relative to Brown and each of the other bodies on the court. The "visual" memory of the basket does not take place without this somatic relocation in memory. As Brian Massumi suggests, "Where we go to find ourselves when we are lost is where the senses fold into and out of each. We always find ourselves in this fold in experience" (PftV, p. 182, emphasis in original).

In this case, however, the fold is not an individual experience but one that is collective and relational. And it is not perfect, but fuzzy. If enough players on both teams are able to retrieve from this folding of sense-dimensions a memory of the basket, then the group agrees to count it towards the score — or, put differently, to treat it as a knowable object of truth.

And the game goes on.

* * *

GVB Eq.4

As a mathematical-linguistic construct, the last equation shown best describes the structural form of score as it is used in the Global Village Basketball game: what DeLanda describes as an intercalary element that condenses the gaseous particles of pickup sport into liquid form. But the epsilon that signifies error in the model should also at once signify embodiment. For the flesh as a way of knowing always contains a zone of error, negotiation and approximation. It is decidedly imperfect in a positivist sense yet often good enough to reach compromise or agreement, and for that very reason should be embraced in those nebulous arrangements we call community.


3 responses to Collective Forgetting

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  1. sportsBabel » instant karma's gonna get you says:

    [...] Or do we refuse the archive? Do we retain tactility? Do we encounter the inevitable confusion once the board becomes more chaotic during middle and endgames? Do we collectively remember and resolve the confusion? [...]

  2. sportsBabel » archive, intelligence, thought says:

    [...] I will contrast the archive as technical apparatus with a more embodied and intermediated form of collective remembering, as well as explore their implications for political sovereignty in the age of [...]

  3. sportsBabel » modes, nodes, electrodes says:

    [...] and i was all, you know, the *ballplayers* — they were like, forgetting and everything. but, if you put them together they could kinda remember, or something to that effect … (snaps [...]