The Exponential Death Spiral of Pokerface


The basic premise when playing poker is that one never knows what cards the other players are holding. Indeed, 'calling one's bluff' in a gambling-style poker competition essentially amounts to one player 'paying for the right' to look at the opponent's hand, to reveal the card values for the other players in the game that had been to that point occluded from full view (ie. cards in 'the hole').

Given the big data set that emerges from a televised professional poker tournament, on the other hand, with all of the hands dealt, the corresponding recalculations of probabilities after each card turned over and each bet made, the running tabulation of betting pot values, and the presence of the 'hole cam' that shows the TV audience everyone's hidden cards, lies the fact that the televisual-AI apparatus of the event knows everyone's cards before the outcome of each hand is concluded (a handy and trivial AI exercise in image recognition), thus making possible, at least in part, a quantitatively actionable science of human bluffery.

hole cam

This is why the Face — which is dissimulated in the human-to-human communication of game play by being completely devoid of expression, servomechanimistic, through wearing sunglasses or a low-brim hat, etc, so as not to give away 'a tell' that indicates one is bluffing — becomes obsolesced in determining said bluffery, insofar as the human-to-machine communication is concerned: a large enough data set that can recognize and process statistically-anomalous betting decisions vis-à-vis card values around the table doesn't require faciality in its retrospective digestion of the event — 'tells' will be determined by econometric modeling instead.

And yet it remains that these professional poker events take place in real life, in person, in the flesh. The Face still matters in this immediated context as a guarantor of bluff authenticity: there is a qualitative difference between this sort of live, in-person gambling play, and the sort of play that occurs on poker web sites with avatar stand-ins; it is a different sort of affect. Consider the former as a truth marker for how humans act when they are together, trying to deceive one another: the truth of the Pokerface as a guarantor of the false swirls and spirals helically with the false of the Face as an indicator of the true.



There is an interesting nexus in basketball that exists between the seams of the ball as a particular functional outcome of industrial design and manufacture; the seams of the ball as a particular means to optimize 'grip' or purchase between a player's shooting hand, the ball itself, and the potential for backspin on a shot proper; and the seams of the ball as a visual indicator to determine any change of spin during slow-motion instant replays (and the correlate determination of who may have touched the ball last on an out-of-bounds call). In this sense we may describe a particular and peculiar line taken from symmetry, efficiency and aesthetics to an omniperspectival optic regime and its corresponding apparatus of truth.

sport and political technology


resurfacing, re: surfacing –> once again here's what the post-disciplinary enclosure looks like . . . all that is required now is for these technologies to get "better" and be merged with irregular image flows such as with public surveillance systems in London or Chicago . . .

sport and political technology –> panhaptic, simulated:

- multiple cameras 'speaking' to one another
- markerless motion capture
- extrusion of x,y,z coordinates to create 3D image
- timestamped events
- unique person IDs
- historical databases of typical body movements
- merging of 3D image with statistics
- expected vs. actual outcome analysis
- econometric querying



"It begins with the mass deportations. 25,000 runners packaged onto a fleet of school buses as neatly as you can say 'logistics'. They are being shipped to another town for processing — 26.2 miles away, to be exact — and yet the overwhelming sense in the air right now is one of optimism. An affirmative energy of nervous dialogue markedly contrasts the monologue of radical dividualization that steers the proceedings. Bright yellow sponsor bags, which hold those personal possessions one hopes will make the return journey, are clutched in every hand. An inversion has taken place: these overmen&women are the new figures of Agamben's camp logic, and yet they couldn't be happier. In some ways, they run for us all."

(Hunter Thompson Blanchot, I'm All In for the Disaster, p.22)

Electroshock Therapeutics


Other nonhuman actors play no small role in manifesting the crowd-as-crowd — and by (intensive) extension, the expressive potential of the athletes on the basketball court. The public address announcer, cheerleaders, jumbotron, canned sound effects, in-house music: all of these purportedly exist to "enhance the game experience" for paying consumers.

But it might be more accurate to suggest that they serve to keep an otherwise distracted or exhausted audience in a state of electro-charged readiness for the potential of crowd-as-crowd to become in-formed and activated.

In many cases these are electrically-generated shocks of sound or light that serve to twitch the assembled flesh at regularly programmed intervals, though the gestures and gyrations of the team cheerleaders or mascots may accomplish similar goals in a more analog fashion. The point is less the modality and more the shocks themselves, which unfold as a steady stream of attack on the collective perception of these bodies assembled under the rubric of "spectator".

While they appear at a surface glance to be visual or auditory phenomena, their affective force is rather to be felt as a synaesthetic folding which locates itself in the haptic and proprioceptive. Blink, blink, twitch, twitch: think of a defibrillator that may kickstart smooth cardiac muscle into autonomous, yet directed, contractions — except absent the direct tactile connection of the medicalized jumper cables.

If the role of the in-stadium spectator is increasingly to bear resonant witness to the athletic virtuosity otherwise digitized as television signals for mediated distribution around the world, this electroshock readiness is paramount. Just as the crowd — even one relatively uninformed about the sport in question — can readily spot qualities such as particularly stylish performance or submaximal effort given, so too can the television audience spot a fake. Gestures are not enough. It is obvious to the TV spectator when the intensity of witness response flips from an aggregation of individual reactions to the "crowd" proper as independent and enthusiastic actor. The play-by-play commentary only confirms this in narrative form and completes the affective transfer to whatever potentials exist elsewhere via the telescreen.

The stadium spasms the assembled spectators, in other words, to optimize the readiness potential for the formation of crowd-as-crowd and witness-as-intensity. An electroshock therapeutics framed in terms of entertainment value and consumption, but which is more properly understood in terms of a fuzzy affective labour value and abstract production.


It is in this readiness potential that consumption actually invests itself — this time as sponsorship capital. The relentless stream of attack on the perceptive faculties of witnessing serves first and foremost to coordinate the gaze toward advertising images, whether flat or volumetric. The intensive crowd knows nothing about corporate sponsors, but the extensive aggregate of more or less engaged spectators certainly may: programming meets readiness in this zone of indistinction between the two. If the crowd ends up forming, directing, contracting, then so much the better — but at least the ads will have been viewed during the twitchy interim. Exhaustion, indeed.

this won't mean nothing to you.

chip time and fuzzy geolocation. these are the watchwords of a sport at the vanguard of control. a swarm of runners channeled for 26.2 miles down a long corridor, tagged like insects in a laboratory experiment. the clock-foot is synchronized to the clock-eye, which swarms in turn around the course of events, ticking.

touching. spools of clock-skin are spun out along the channel, spun around the city, spun across the network: not a dermal whole, as with a text or a book, but part-fibres that twitch with every passing muscular stepflayed skinny one might suggest as the weaving unfolds.

misty-eyed. the insects run and spray numbers everywhere: we know inexactly where your code is in the swarm at all times.

chicago 2012

"Digital technologies have a connection to the potential and the virtual only through the analog. Take word processing. All of the possible combinations of letters and words are enveloped in the zeros and ones of ASCII code. You could say that entire language systems are numerically enveloped in it. But what is processed inside the computer is code, not words. The words appear on screen, in being read. Reading is the qualitative transformation of alphabetical figures into figures of speech and thought. This is an analog process. Outside its appearance, the digital is electronic nothingness, pure systemic possibility. Its appearance from electronic limbo is one with its electronic transformation. Now take digital sound: a misnomer. The sound is as analog as ever, at least on the playback end, and usually at the recording end as well (the exception being entirely synthesized music). It is only the coding of the sound that is digital. The digital is sandwiched between an analog disappearance into code at the recording and an analog appearance out of code at the listening end.

Take hypertext. All possible links in the system are programmatically prearrayed in its architecture. This has lead some critics to characterize it not as liberating but as downright totalitarian. While useful to draw attention to the politics of the possible, calling hypertext totalitarian is inaccurate. What it fails to appreciate is that the coding is not the whole story: that the digital always circuits into the analog. The digital, a form of inactuality, must be actualized. That is its quotient of openness. The freedom of hypertext is in the openness of its analog reception. The hypertext reader does something that the co-presence of alternative states in code cannot ever do: serially experience effects, accumulate them in an unprogrammed way, in a way that intensifies, creating resonances and interference patterns moving through the successive, linked appearances."

– Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual, p.138

chicago 2012

the whole thing is partly inexact.

no, the code is in the miles and the sweat and the pain and the fatigue and the stretching and the training partners and the dirty laundry and the calories and the, and the, and the pantpantpanting.

and then it's in the code. after that, these alphanumerics — but more precisely, the numbers that drive the text and image — have a felt-ness of context and can mean something across the planet, mean something more than just a clinical dividuality given substance as a temporary-or-forever object of information. they can produce new intensities in turn — and call these latter human if you must.

chicago 2012

what kinds of meanings, though, or what kinds of intensities? what kinds of affects can these numbers produce from the ocular mist?

proximal, yet missed. some programs have more of an openness than others: did playing fantasy sports or videogames ever make you want to cry?


(lkl 7039: you made it look like a walk in the pahhhk.)