The Imagined Architecture of Homo Transludens

The Imagined Architecture of Homo Transludens: Networked Sport and Affective Politics

(an excerpt, submitted by sean smith to the social sciences and humanities research council of canada post-doctoral fellowship program for a proposed residency at concordia university's sense lab)

Venice Biennale Basketball

Play is a fundamental component of human cultures, one that has infused other structural forms of the society of Homo Ludens, such as art, philosophy and law (cf. Huizinga). Inherent in play to greater or lesser degrees are sets of rules that channel the conditions of possibility for the ludic subject, whether towards a particular goal or in freer forms of expression. But in the contemporary digital age, these rules of play often become more implicitly rules of a computer system, algorithmically and architecturally so. Julian Kücklich suggests that cheating — with Homo Deludens as a strategic figure — is one way to understand such systems, to learn what constitutes their conditions of possibility and opportunities for agency.

Located in the liminal space between these two strategic figures, Homo Transludens is proposed in this program of post-doctoral research as one who navigates the threshold in sport between rules and non-rules — not in such a way as to cheat against one's opponents but rather to find new opportunities for athletic expression at the ostensible boundaries of play. Brian Massumi refers to this threshold phenomenon of relational movement as the style that generates the evolution of a sport. Homo Transludens, then, may be considered the creative figure at play "who most effectively melds with the collectivity, toward its becoming" (PftV, p. 78, emphasis added).

In the context of the Global Village Basketball pilot project, Massumi's style referred not only to the creative expression of athletic bodies on the court, but to the design of the actual playing spaces themselves. While many of the meta-game molecules played indoors in "traditional" gymnasium locations, many others joined the game from municipal parks or playgrounds. One mother used toy baskets and chalk to sketch a scaled-down outline of a full court in her driveway on which local pre-school children could participate. Meanwhile, absent a ball to play with at the Venice Biennale art festival, two artists mimed on video the gestures of a one-on-one competition, using Alexei Kallima's Rain Theorem — a black light installation of a football stadium crowd cheering — as the visual backdrop for the performance.

Venice Biennale Basketball

This capacity to imagine local architectures helped mobilize a collective architecture of the imagination for networking together some of the molecular pickup games that existed around the world. The Global Village Basketball meta-game was an aggregated, yet distributed, net performance of improvised pickup basketball played upon on a smooth patchwork of architectural spaces. In this sense we may consider it to have existed as a line of flight from the privileged structures and spaces of state-organized basketball, temporarily allowing for new biopolitical subjectivities to emerge in a sporting context.


3 responses to The Imagined Architecture of Homo Transludens

- rss feed for this comment thread
  1. sportsBabel » Synchronicity and Failure says:

    [...] on sportsBabel: for example, a failure of internet connectivity that yields to the emergence of imagined architectures; a failure of the body that leads to new insights about skin and electricity; and various failures [...]

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

    [...] immediately sets up a tension in which we seem to actually be waging war against ourselves. Once an imagined play begins and the pieces commingle (dare we say miscegenate?), they slowly start to lose their [...]

  3. sportsBabel » roundball, oblique function says:

    [...] if the normally orthogonal space of the basketball court existed as an oblique function, with the direction of the grade incline running from sideline to [...]