(down the rabbit) holey space

a breath of fresh air, redolent of vuvuzela blossoms

there was a public outdoor screening on a restaurant wall a few nights ago at the end of the street where i live: "bangladesh defeats england in historic cricket victory." it was not projected through the partition but rather reflected upon the building’s facade. closer, yet further away.

oh, i *do* remember our identity tourism in tucson. there were cast-iron sculptures of lisa nakamura's body on every building, just like antony gormley in london. "inverted post-colonialism," i think, was the vogue.

context is not only a spatiotemporal phenomenon, but a (matrixial) psychic phenomenon as well. context suggests an increasing tendency towards harmonized (and dare we say synchronized?) co-resonance. it seems to me that context itself constitutes the stasis of monotony and that the coming-into resonance of and through alterity is what creates the openness.

did you know that amsterdam is the steampunk version of second life? delanda said they created this shit back in the 1400s! and then at some point lewis carroll wrote a virus and messed up the code. the game still plays in my console, but the graphics are a little distorted, you know?

how does third place, the "runner up in the exceptional case," change the relation between numbers one and two ("the best winners")? the ontogenesis of the third is an alter-accomplishment in its own right, no? how do we understand the third in terms of multitude and the very being-in-language of which virno, agamben and nancy speak? how does the third come into resonance of and through alterity? is openness created?

children both shy and fearless; translation, mistranslation, smiling without voices; does it really matter? tonality, don't think in terms of romanization! a new iron curtain; public, private, third spaces; be a switch; but it wouldn't be a very honest emotion if you could turn it off like a switch.

or am i flailing?

crushed blossoms in a vase of water

Dematerialization and Disinformation

As videogame controllers become more sophisticated, there emerges a "gamer envy" in those who do not possess the physical skills to play, nor perhaps the discretionary time required to summit the steep learning curve, and thus a cultural divide is created between those who possess this physicality and those who do not. Clearly the desire is for interfaces that more naturally approach everyday body movements, with the caveat that these movements can then be hyperrealized mathematically in the game environment via kinaesthetic wormhole. In this sense, Virilio's prediction (in Open Sky) of the telematic datasuit seems prescient.

But for a critical theorist so knowledgeable about speed, light, and the vision machine, it is quite surprising that he could not follow his own logic to the limit and realize that the datasuit could be dematerialized completely.

With the EyeToy, it is light that takes the gamer and makes of it a metabolic vehicle in its own right. The EyeToy (as well as later devices such as the Xbox Live Vision and PlayStation Eye) is a color digital camera device, similar to a webcam, that uses computer vision to process images taken by the camera, allowing players to become an avatar in the game environment and interact using body motions.

EyeToy - Courtesy of Sony

We thus witness a progression: from the mechanical dance of the puppeteer's wooden frames and strings, with its cognate "problem" of the strings' tensile properties; to the paddle used in early videogame consoles, a direct descendant of the knob-tweaking required to operate the Tennis for Two oscilloscope at Brookhaven National Laboratory that offers one line of movement in virtual space; to the wired joystick, with its digital connection to the game console and problem of plastic and wire fatigue at key joints; to the wireless controller, like the Sixaxis (traditional-style controller neutered of wire) or Wii (kinaesthetic gyroscope), with its dematerialization of the umbilicus and problem of electromagnetic spectrum connectivity and interference; to the EyeToy and its problem of light wave interference and colour spectrum noise.

EyeToy Kinetic - Courtesy of Sony

Perhaps Virilio is correct after all: the dematerialized interface of light is a unidirectional interface, representing the body and its kinaesthetic activity in virtual space with no corresponding haptic feedback. The sense of touch is folded into the sense of sight for representational purposes and does not make a return: the body shirks its tactile burden. The hypothetical datasuit of Virilio, on the other hand, is a bidirectional interface that leverages the haptic to help reorient the body in the vertigo-inducing non-space of the data-network.

But perhaps Virilio is wrong after all: there is no need for this feedback dimension to be simulated to the skin (and sympathetic nervous system) by a datasuit so that a "real" message may then be transmitted to the central nervous system, when instead it is possible to just simulate the message directly to the central nervous system. So long as the datasuit (or other controller) ports into the nervous system for feedback purposes its potential as an input device isn't negated in advance. Tactile feedback thus becomes a problem in communications engineering, of jamming the signals emanating from the skin so that a contradictory message may be injected into the channel.

Datasuit or no, one thing seems certain: biological disinformation will become central to the mediated leisure society.

The Virtuality of Sporting Spaces

Consider the life cycle of a sports stadium:

  1. From detailed blueprints, a model of the stadium is constructed in a 3-D virtual reality environment.
  2. This model is used as a tool to condense flows of investment capital and form the structure of the physical building proper.
  3. The stadium is constructed and becomes a fully realized place, in which flows of people are carefully tracked, striated, monitored. There is some freedom of movement, though it is limited, for both patrons and employees of the stadium.
  4. The place becomes visually overexposed, in terms of its optoelectronic surveillance and its production of video flows for spectacular consumption. It is here that we begin to see the reduction of the space to the screen.
  5. This is a precursor to the reproduction of the stadium in the videogame environment, a 3-D non-space that is rendered in the flattened 2-D of the telescreen.
  6. CAE: "Currently, VR takes a very secondary position to older nonimmersive screen-based systems" (Flesh Machine, p.21).
  7. There exists a limited freedom to choose one's identity in this simulated environment: either the corporate manufactured professional athlete avatar or one that is custom designed by the user from a limited menu of rendering possibilities.
  8. On the other hand, one has only an illusory freedom of movement within this environment: beyond the limited body movement possibilities that are programmed into a sports videogame, one also is prevented from moving outside the parameters of the playing field/ice/court by a "glass wall" that keeps the user enclosed within the ideological environment of the game at all times.
  9. Virilio: "In fact, since men first began using enclosures, the notion of what a boundary is has undergone transformations which concern both the facade and what it faces, its vis-à-vis. From the fence to the screen, by way of the rampart's stone walls, the boundary-surface has been continually transformed, perceptibly or imperceptibly. Its most recent transformation is perhaps that of the interface." ("The Overexposed City", Architecture Theory Since 1968, p.543).
  10. CAE: "In terms of the spectacle of consumption, the real problem for VR is that there are very few occasions when the institutions selling the products want to give even the smallest amount of authentic choice to the consumer" (Flesh Machine, p.21).
  11. CAE: "VR’s primary value to the [Ideological State Apparatus] is not as a technology at all, but as a myth. VR functions as a technology that is out on the horizon, promising that one day members of the public will be empowered by rendering capabilities which will allow them to create multisensual experiences to satisfy their own particular desires. … This combination of myth and hardware sets the foundation for the material posthuman world of the cyborg" (Flesh Machine, p.23).

Hybrids, Mutants and Replicants

In The Will to Technology and the Culture of Nihilism, Arthur Kroker remarks:

"If molecular biology can adapt so quickly to the epistemological possibilities of the order of the transgenic, it may be because the spectre of transgenics originates less in the order of science than in culture" (p.30).

And has sport not contributed to this epistemological awakening? As a site of cultural (re)production, is sport not implicated in this normalization of the will to technology?

The hybrid, the mutant, the replicant: transgenic variants all seen in the crucible of the high performance athletic arena or dreamt of in the sportocratic laboratory.

Muybridge

Eadweard Muybridge, Animal Locomotion Plate 99, 1887

Ever since Eadweard Muybridge's Animal Locomotion photos and the subsequent dawn of biomechanics, the body athletic has been considered a problem in Newtonian physics: forces, levers, torques, velocities and accelerations, each describing a specific movement. As a result, of course, the athlete comes to be viewed as belonging to an Erector Set of body parts, from which ideal collections and assemblages are regularly imagined, particularly in the context of high performance sport. "If only he had an arm to go with those legs." Or, metaphorically: "I wish I could put this guy's heart in that guy's body."

In the absence of such an Erector Set, however, we seek out the mutants. Forget standard endo-, meso- and ectomorphs. Instead, sport offers the hyperexaggeration of bone, fat and muscle: vomiting pygmies bouncing prettily around gymnastics apparatus, or the wraiths of endurance racing, bodily annihilated, trudging inexorably toward the finish line to a drumbeat cadence of footsteps; hypermuscular bodybuilders, football players and wrestlers straining at the skin; and the lipidinal masses that have accelerated to the point of polar inertia,

best visualized as a vicious, lazy, profoundly ignorant, perpetually hungry organism craving the warm god-flesh of the anointed.

Personally I like to imagine something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a week-old boiled potato, that lives by itself, in the dark, in a double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka.

It's covered with eyes and it sweats constantly. The sweat runs into those eyes and makes them sting. It has no mouth, no genitals, and can only express its mute extremes of murderous rage and infantile desire by changing the channels on a universal remote.

Or by voting in presidential elections.

(Gibson, Idoru)

Replication has also long been manifest in the sportocratic imagination, its genealogical roots reaching back at least to the mechanical reproduction of baseball cards and bubblegum. But these flattened, lifeless representations lack sufficient dynamism for a culture hell-bent on its own immortality, and so we begin to animate the images by repurposing the data stocks and flows generated as a derivative of baseball's industrial production process. At the cusp between biomechanics and the age of simulation, Strat-O-Matic becomes the link in the helical chain connecting Branch Rickey and scientific management in baseball with Billy Beane, the sabermetric revolution and the third wave eugenics of baseball performance.

In that time, a whole industry has emerged around so-called "fantasy sports". But the fantasy these games deliver isn't to be like the pros, as is purported. It is rather a fantasy of cloning, a fantasy of pro athletes, Sea Monkeys and Monopoly recombined into one alluring hybrid, a fantasy of ownership. Play capitalist and own your own sports team, though the vectoralist still retains class power.

The "authentic replica" sports jersey offers another example of the "spectre of transgenics" in a hyperreal sportocratic culture: replication of the star athlete via an equivalence embedded in the code of the extended skin – all in the context of a post-industrial capitalism of signs and symbolic exchanges. In this case, the fantasy is of becoming-clone, the successful and particular cloning of a purebred stock.

Presumably, then, the inauthentic replica of a cheaper jersey carries an equivalence to the bastard laboratory experiments that preceded the birth of Dolly the Sheep?

Finally, we may discuss sports videogames and virtual worlds, which also allow us the potential of becoming-clone. As with fantasy sports, this is once again made possible by repurposing the data stocks and flows generated during games, but the stakes have increased, since no longer do we rely on static photographs but rather advanced body-xeroxing technologies such as motion capture, green screen, and biometric scan.

It seems appropriate, then, to conclude my thoughts with a sample from Baudrillard, who, in his "The Clone or the Degree Xerox of the Species", writes:

Multiplication is positive only in our system of accumulation. In the symbolic order, it is equivalent to subtraction. If five men pull on a rope, the force they exert is added together. By contrast, if an individual dies, his death is a considerable event, whereas if a thousand individuals die, the death of each is a thousand times less important. Each of two twins, because he has a double, is ultimately just half an individual — if you clone him to infinity, his value becomes zero (Screened Out, p.199).

eXperienZ

Re-watched David Cronenberg's eXistenZ last night, an existential meditation on reality and the virtual realities of future videogame worlds. Without spoiling the plot (since this is really a must-watch movie), Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jude Law are the main characters negotiating their way through the chaos that ensues when a focus group for a new videogame is hijacked by an activist intent on killing the game's designer (Jason Leigh).

eXistenZ

Some notes as they relate to sportsBabel:

  • The interface for the game is a very organic animal tissue and umbilicus construct that jacks directly into one's spinal cord via an implanted 'bio-port' — "C'mon Pikul, they do these at the mall. It's like having your ears pierced."
  • The motif of religion surfaces often during the movie, from the fact the focus group takes place in an old church, with the congregation of attendees waiting expectingly in pews; to the title of the game in the movie, transCendenZ, which is published by the PilgrImage company. It reminded me of the religious motif that appears at the heart of Michael Jordan advertising for Nike.
  • Another motif that reappears in the movie is one of hygiene, infection, mutation, etc. Of particular interest is the idea that there is some sort of possibility for hygiene/infection that may permeate the invisble membrane between the digital and the organic, a question I have pondered myself.
  • Finally, we note that Geller (Jason Leigh) is an extremely tactile and sensual woman, demonstrated repeatedly in the ways she touches, caresses or otherwise explores objects and surfaces with her hands. In fact, since the game is jacked directly into her nervous system, she plays with her eyes closed and her hands manipulating the interface as necessary. I see strong resemblances between her and this young man.

conceptualizing:// networked_performance

A conceptual framework I am borrowing from the networked_performance blog to help me with my thinking on Global Village Basketball and other networked elements of sport.

Networked Performance

Any of a number of approaches to performance that incorporates computer networks (the internet, wireless, telephone, or other) or a combination of networks in the creation or distribution of a work. Works may be any mode, format or combination, such as synchronous, asynchronous, ongoing or fixed duration, distributed, local, etc.

Distributed Performance

Music/Theater/Dance/Cinema. Occurs simultaneously in multiple locations via networked interaction. Physically dispersed participants coming together through the network. For example, the performers in two or more locations play to audiences in their performance spaces and simultaneously to worldwide Internet audiences by means of especially created websites.

Collective Net Performance

A network-enabled performance in which a group collectively activates or participates simultaneously in the performance experience. Can be local or distributed. This is how I understand the Global Village Basketball game.

Augmented Reality

Involves overlaying a virtual world on your view of the real world so that you experience both at the same time. Unlike virtual reality where you cut yourself off from the real world in order to immerse yourself in a computer generated virtual world.

Ubiquitous Computing

Ubiquitous computing seeks to embed computers into our everyday lives in such ways as will render them invisible and allow them to be taken for granted.