bODY_rESAMPLE?

John Oswald, in his 1985 essay "Plunderphonics, or Audio Piracy as a Compositional Prerogative":

Musical instruments produce sounds. Composers produce music. Musical instruments reproduce music. Tape recorders, radios, disc players, etc., reproduce sound. A device such as a wind-up music box produces sound and reproduces music. A phonograph in the hands of a hip hop/scratch artist who plays a record like an electronic washboard with a phonographic needle as a plectrum, produces sounds which are unique and not reproduced — the record player becomes a musical instrument. A sampler, in essence a recording, transforming instrument, is simultaneously a documenting device and a creative device, in effect reducing a distinction manifested by copyright.

Music that is made by (re)sampling other music is still music. It might be an abstracted music, a meta-music, but it is music nonetheless. Similarly, a video composed of video samples is still a video, while a photograph of a photograph is still a photograph. But for the art and science of sport, dance and other forms of aesthetic body movement, this relationship can no longer hold true. Once a body movement has been represented, its reproducibility or meta-reproducibility of this cannot result in another body movement. Put another way, one cannot sample body movements to make new body movements — the original art of this work and the nature of its instrumentation resists such appropriation.

It is tempting to suggest that in the context of athletic body movements the sports videogame provides an example of such appropriation, but this would not be entirely accurate. The logic is similar, in that representations of the original body movement are captured as flows of images and information (motion capture, game statistics, facial scans, etc.). In combination with a game engine that processes the simulation's algorithms, these inputs form the basis of meta-representations of other body movements when some user plays the game. This new user performs body movements connected to some computer interface (joystick, wireless/gyroscope, floor pad, haptic glove), using the meta-representations of other athletes as the identity-vehicle through which to navigate these virtual spaces.

While this discussion of the sports videogame certainly describes a recombinant or meta-cultural form, we cannot assert that sampled body movements have created new body movements. The distinction may be found in identifying the "composer" and the "instrument" of such composition. For Oswald, the composer/instrument distinction appears to hinge on the creative moment, per se, at which musical art is wrested from the cacophony of sound. And so it should be with sport.

Consider the notion of the athletic body as instrument. From this instrumentalist perspective, analogous to Oswald's quote from above, athletes (the "instruments") produce raw body movements while coaches (the "composers") produce sporting movements proper, scripting a creative interplay of tactics and strategies in the form of practice and game plans. The athletes then reproduce these sporting movements as faithfully as possible — sticking to the game plan — as they meet the moving bodies of opponents in competition (who themselves are executing a series of composed movements). This perspective holds true insofar as the coach is responsible for training and organizing a series of forces towards achieving a particular competition goal. But this is far more a task of discipline than of compositional art.

Once the athlete is actually in competition and must respond to uncertain situations, the coach must relinquish any claims to "composer" status and simply take in the performance. For the athlete, "composer" and "instrument" are one and the same: the body is the instrument that allows for various creative acts to be composed and performed, often at the same instant.

For the "sampled body movements"-creating-"new body movements" to hold true, there must also be a creative act by the user of the meta-representations. In other words, there cannot be restrictions on the ability to be creative with any new body movement. Sports videogames do not allow this. They construct a very controlled environment, with very controlled body movement potentials. In Heidegger's words, to play a videogame is more manufacturing than revealing, which is probably the crux of my criticism against Hemphill's concept of cybersport.

Put in Oswald's framework above, then, the sports videogame (software, hardware and interface) produces body movement and reproduces creative sporting art. In its current social, political and economic manifestation, however, it does not allow for the production of unique sporting movements above and beyond those allowed by the virtual environment of the game.

Worker - Athlete - Hacker

As I have mentioned earlier, the business model for the professional sports world is comprised of two components, or double-jointed: first, what we might call a capitalist component, in which the athletic worker class sells its labour to the capitalist owner who in turn provides the means of production — ie. the sports stadium or arena of competition — for uncertain game outcomes to be manufactured.

Simultaneously, to borrow Wark's framework, we have a vectoral class interest that seeks to capture the vectors of representation — ie. images, information, identities — that are produced in and around the uncertainty-of-outcome manufacturing process. This isn't necessarily straight "work" on behalf of the athlete, however, since the creative quality of the "hack" can impart sign value that raises the total value of the representation beyond pure commodity. While a Dwyane Wade dunk and a Tim Duncan layup are both worth two points in the uncertainty-of-outcome sense, the former's hack has far more value as it relates to television highlights, sports videogames, merchandise sales, etc.

Thus, we can say that the professional athlete of today becomes a hybrid of manufacturing and revealing, to use Heidegger's terms, which allows for the production of both the repetitive and creatively unique outputs. At the same time, the athlete has also become a technologized body, a cyborgian body, with the technologies enabling both the manufacturing and revealing tendencies.

Put another way, we can say that the vectoral class interest of the post-industrial age tends to outsource body movement, though this isn't the same outsourcing of body movement that the capitalist performs in exploiting the labour of the working class for commodity production. Rather, the worker-athlete-hacker exists in the paradox of sportocratic commodity production, wherein the value of the commodity lies in its creative uniqueness — in which case, however, it ceases to be a commodity. It is the legacy of commodity production that is the system stress in an economy that desires the uniqueness of the hack.

Technology as Revealing

A sample from Heidegger's "The Question Concerning Technology":

Technology is therefore no mere means. Technology is a way of revealing. If we give heed to this, then another whole realm for the essence of technology will open itself up to us. It is the realm of revealing, i.e., of truth.

This prospect strikes us as strange, Indeed, it should do so, as persistently as possible and with so much urgency that we will finally take seriously the simple question of what the name "technology" means. The word stems from the Greek. Technikon means that which belongs to techné. We must observe two things with respect to the meaning of this word. One is that techné is the name not only for the activities and skills of the craftsman but also for the arts of the mind and the fine arts. Techné belongs to bringing-forth, to poiésis; it is something poetic.

The other thing that we should observe with regard to techné is even more important. From earliest times until Plato the word techné is linked with the word epistémé. Both words are terms for knowing in the widest sense. They mean to be entirely at home in something, to understand and be expert in it. Such knowing provides an opening up. As an opening up it is a revealing. … Thus what is decisive in techné does not at all lie in making and manipulating, nor in the using of means, but rather in the revealing mentioned before. It is as revealing, and not as manufacturing, that techné is a bringing-forth.

Though I am new to Heidegger's work, reading this makes me think of Wark's concept of the hack. And that perhaps instead of considering the cyborg athlete as a hybrid of capital and labour, a more appropriate descriptor might be a hybrid of manufacturing and revealing.