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.


A gesture is a form of communication between individuals, but also an expression of embodiment unique to each individual. We know this already: gait, the form of gesture held as a primary example by Giorgio Agamben in his "Notes on Gesture," may be implicated algorithmically in apparatuses of surveillance that capture, inscribe and identify each of our methods of walking through quasi-public spaces. Our gestures, whether they are purely functional (to roll a cigarette, to shoot a basketball jumpshot) or strive to approach the sublime aspects of both play and virtuosity (the dance of bodies in improvised sport), are singular expressions of our being-in-the-world that may sometimes also be shared in processes of communication or co-emergence.

If we can suggest that the postmodern era features docile identities to match the docile bodies of the modern era, then to maintain the liberatory possibility of continually inhabiting and passing through the confines of identity-constructs we must possess the ability to assume the gestures of another individual. Or, to lean on a rather impoverished term, one must be able to speak and translate between different body languages.

Of course, this process of inhabiting the gestures of another individual already existed with actors in the theatre and cinema, a fact which assumed a particularly salient fascination and fetishization during the latter stages of an industrial capitalism that attempted to strip away all forms of physical literacy not serving to maximize economic efficiency or minimize political insubordination. In the age of post-fordism, however, it is gesture — both functional and virtuous — that becomes the motor for sign value creation and the approaching consequence of pure equivalence in exchange this implies. Whether the expression of one's own singularity or the performance of another, the control society leverages a moebius strip of surveillance and spectacle in its attempt to appropriate and exploit gesture.

Perhaps the negative space of the gesture, most clearly expressed in Erin Manning's elaboration of the tango, offers a solution to this paradox of embodiment and representation? As she articulates in her book Politics of Touch: Sense, Movement, Sovereignty, the tango is a continual negotiation between two dancing bodies, one of which leads the other during performance while at the same time always being led. Never a perfect replica of the other's body in negative space, for there is always a zone of approximation, a zone in which the unspoken remainder of negotiation resides, a zone of fuzzy logic or error. Nonetheless it is a replica faithful enough, a micropolitics considered and reconsidered, a document for one to archive in the muscle memories of negative space and its processes of embodied forgetting.

If the cinema emerges from the coupling of image and theatre, so too does the tango emerge from the coupling of sculpture and play. Sometimes skin, but always flesh.

The problem with Manning's tango is that it is usually a two-person dance, or a predominantly binary form of gesture and communication: the several is neglected. Perhaps pickup or improvised team sport may be where the tango-as-dance becomes multiple? Pickup sport fragments and fractalizes the binary relation of the tango's negotiation into part-subjects and many-relations that wholly adequate themselves to a field of potentiality emerging in real-time. That such activity itself forms a competitive endeavour remains secondary to this a priori phenomenon of coming together in sport.

As mentioned earlier, the tango and its negotiations are primarily haptic forms of gesture and communication that may be contrasted with a State power relation operating in a more optic sense of individualization and surveillance. But Foucault reminds us that

the Panopticon must not be understood as a dream building: it is the diagram of a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form; its functioning, abstracted from any obstacle, resistance or friction, must be represented as a pure architectural and optical system … a figure of political technology that may and must be detached from any specific use (1977, p. 205).

Hence the abstract diagram that optimizes the function of the prison also allows, with the necessary modifications, for the optimization of the factory, hospital, school or stadium: the capillarization of power enabled by this abstract diagram may be translated from one space of discipline to another. Even as these sites of enclosure are in a general state of crisis and permeability, the abstract diagram survives by adapting its striating function and leveraging haptic techniques in the service of administrative vision.

Similarly, though in contrast, we should acknowledge that the tango is itself not simply a form of dance that enjoys a particular haptic negotiation between bodies and a particular resonance in Argentina. The tango may also be a Russian martial artist surfing the waves of channeled aggression flowing-toward from one or many opponents. It may also be a number of self-determined and networked communities more or less simultaneously playing pickup basketball in Canada, China, Macedonia, Poland, Uruguay and the United States.

In other words, we ought to recognize the tango (like the panopticon) as an abstract diagram or general architecture of embodied micropolitics that may, with the necessary modifications, be applied to different forms of coming-together or community. Here, body becomes bodies, the tango's lightness as diagram matched only by the heaviness of the flesh in which it finds embodied form.

A Springtime Love Letter to RECL 4P21


Don't wait to be told what to do, how to share information, how to think!

Thank you for the invitation, but I shall decline. Too much surveillance already, no? ;)

Good work. You're getting it.


Twin Strategies of Control

I have suggested that surveillance and spectacle work together as if a moebius band in the control society, using the same technologies in different ways to achieve their goals. But what of the relationship between production and consumption?

Foucault suggested that surveillance allows for maximum (productive) economic efficiency and minimum political insubordination. But if you take Baudrillard's perspective that consumption is the true lever of society (setting aside for a moment D+G's assertion that "all production produces production"), then one might counter that spectacle allows for maximum (consumptive) economic efficiency and minimum political insubordination.

The difference in these two attempts to minimize political insubordination is that surveillance works by partitioning and individualizing such that seditious elements are unable to mass together for action. The disciplinary space of surveillance still exists in the control society, but only as discrete moments in otherwise topological architectural forms. Spectacle, on the other hand, actually functions best with the "crisis of enclosure" as it encourages a particular form of contagion by letting the crowd or swarm — or target market for that matter — do the work of normalization through discourse.

Gait, Surveillance and Spectacle

From an administrative perspective a person's gait is a marker of difference. The dizzying permutations and combinations of myriad factors constitute the code of our individual gait: height, weight, age, gender, centre of gravity, periodicity of stride length, number of legs, number of arms, material composition of prosthetic limb, indications for arthritis or other joint disease, prior accidents, access to health care, symmetry of body, footwear, style, cultural norms, curvature of spine, strength of core stabilizer muscles, and many more that could be added to this list. This code allows for surveillance to move beyond the strictly optic and enter the realm of the haptic, in which the walking body is sensually contoured by the eye towards identifying each individual subject by their gait.

If we suggest that surveillance and spectacle are like a moebius strip of control in the production and consumption of sport, then one wonders how gait-based surveillance techniques might be integrated into the sporting spectacle. To a certain degree, an understanding of the individualizing aspects of gait has already been integrated into sports videogames via motion capture, which allows sports videogame companies to create player constructs that "move" like their real-life celebrity doppelgangers.

But one suspects it likely that gait-based identification would also be integrated into the econometric analyses provided by ProZone and their ilk. As players come together on the pitch, there must some error produced by the apparatus in attempting to identify individual athletes (Foucault notes the political and economic problems inherent in the mass or swarm). Periodic gait analysis would offer a sort of six sigma error reduction process to the econometric apparatus.

the sports police+judiciary

What does the fact that both its police force and judiciary apparatus are embodied in the same person of the referee say about the (democratic) structure of modern, binary sport?

What does the fact that this same co-embodiment of police force and judiciary is intimately interwoven (in not quite real-time) with an optoelectronic surveillance apparatus add to the first question?


What does it mean that this same surveillance apparatus is in fact the repurposed machinations of spectacle used to support the sport-media complex, which is to say that the formerly "independent" media are now formally entwined in the democratic relations described above? Entwined not simply as a compromised partner, as perhaps before, but fundamentally in a high position of a sporting contest's judicial system, with its millions of real dollars in economic outcome at stake, in what has become a legitimation of the fact that the police force and judiciary are embodied in the same person?

One need only consider the cases of NFL official Ed Hochuli among others to demonstrate this legitimation at work. While one mistake made by an official can be simultaneously witnessed by millions, along with accompanying discourse by the announcers (fraught with its own politics), it obscures the everyday fact that police force and judiciary are embodied in the same person. At minimum, the official must now answer — via the camera — to the network, whether before the game (situation review and player briefing), during the game (coach's challenges and instant replay), or after the game. This latter may be effected along private (referee evaluations) or public dimensions (the sport-media complex and highlight packages).

"[A]ny member of society will have the right to come and see with his own eyes how the schools, hospitals, factories, prisons function. There is no risk, therefore, that the increase of power created by the panoptic machine may degenerate into tyranny; the disciplinary mechanism will be democratically controlled, since it will be constantly accessible 'to the great tribunal committee of the world'" (Foucault, Discipline and Punish, p. 207).

The cases mentioned above are a complete perversion of Foucault's suggestion that anyone could step into the tower and observe, thus maintaining a system free of tyranny. The only reason the system "worked" in those instances was due to the power of the mass, with all the problems that implies.

One might suggest that if the network is embodied in the hybrid police+judiciary figure of the referee, then ultimately we vote with our media consumption. Generally speaking, those who have the vote today also have access to a television and in such a case our viewing patterns could retain the principles of democracy. Without getting into the obvious socioeconomic questions such as the discretionary leisure time available to watch television or the restricted ability to access subscriber cable channels, the suggestion is flawed from the outset.

A vote is in some percentage combination a choice (and expression of said choice) for the best interests of self and collective, a particular calculus of the democratic singular-plural. Rational interest is involved, yes, but it is that of singular-plurality. When state and market are kept as separate as possible in the democratic process, the latter is less able to distort this calculus in favour of the purely financial aspects of rational singular-plurality.

But when the Nielsen rating substitutes for the vote as the expression of choice, it must be communicated through an entire machinic circuit of direct market influence before it may arrive to fulfill its democratic purpose. Along the way lies the financial compromise and the distortion of the calculus of singular-plurality. Our viewing habits cannot fulfill the mandate of democracy simply because they must be free of economic gradients and the power relations they embody.

To come full circle, then, far from fulfilling a democratic mandate, the best that viewing habits can support in the sporting context is a legitimation of a system in which police and judiciary are embodied in the same figure. Sport is an institution that maintains strong hierarchical relations in the contemporary age of the network, and thus we might suggest that in the limited case of sporting Empire — bearing in mind its capillarization with broader meshworks of imperial power — the nexus of strong hierarchy and network at the level of assemblage of the league constitutes a weak point in the preservation of democratic relations.