Get With The Program

An excerpt from an article on preparations for the U.S. Men's Olympic Basketball team:

From the looks of things Monday during a portion of practice that was open to the media, Brown has plenty of work ahead to get his team to conform to his mantra of "playing the right way."

"One pass and a shot, we can't do that!" Brown yelled at Amare Stoudemire after he clanged a mid-range jumper early in a possession during a four-on-four drill.

"I've got to reprogram you guys!" Brown later yelled, unhappy with the level of intensity he was seeing on the defensive end.



[Aside] Re-reading Steve Mann's Cyborg, in which the backbone of his philosophy centres around the concept of surveillance and the strategies of resistance against an increasingly ubiquitous surveillance state. He also discusses, albeit briefly, the connection between surveillance and centralized computer databases. I wanted to take a moment to share a personal reflection on this connection and suggest that we are moving beyond a simple panoptic (global)state.

I have recently had occasion to handle personal business on the phone with banks, ISPs and government agencies, and the sense I've had during each of these conversations is of having the top of my skull unscrewed while the telephone operator at the other end of the line pokes and prods at my brain.

Of course, I must be under some sort of local anaesthetic during these conversations, as I keep nattering away with said operator the entire time!

I wouldn't give too much thought to this interpretation of events, were it not for McLuhan's observation of the narcotic or numbing effects that occur when we auto-amputate parts of our bodies as we externalize their functions — in this case, the extension of the central nervous system into the mediaspace of information networks (and thus, the "local anaesthetic" I am under while on the phone).

In other words, a more complete form of totalitarian control is emerging as the panopticism of ubiquitous surveillance devices is complemented or augmented by the pantactilism of ubiquitous databases and total information awareness, which see by "feeling" one's presence in much the same way a blind person reads by using Braille. While I am never "seen" by these agencies, in the classic optical sense of the term, they certainly see my every movement as it occurs. Those interactions with the omnipresent network of databases, known in business parlance as "consumer points of contact," effectively massage our corporeal cells into the cells of spreadsheets.

A minor differentiation, to be sure, and databases certainly aren't new in criticism. But I felt it was important to create this distinction and that perhaps it could offer a slightly varied way of approaching/discussing the issue. Perhaps there is yet a "panauralism" that will perfect cybernetic social control?


Basketball and Bimodern War

A short essay entitled "Michael Jordan Mogadishu" from Kroker and Weinstein's Data Trash: the theory of the virtual class (1994). (I am not sure if this journal post contravenes the copyright notice included in the book or not, so I will post the link where you can freely download the book and decide for yourself. Boldface emphasis added.)


The NBA championship game between the Phoenix Suns and the Chicago Bulls is flickering on the screen. It's half-time, and the news announcer suddenly appears to say that the game will be interrupted for a military news burst from the skies over Mogadishu, Somalia. It was the Persian Gulf video all over again: greenish night vision, shadowy C-131 attack planes fading away in the darkness, brilliant phosphorescent explosions of the bombs as they blew away the headquarters of Aidid, a Somalian clan leader. I was prepared for this: the mediascape had signalled my electronic body for days that this was an "uncooperative" clan leader who needed to be punished (he was held responsible by the UN for giving orders to attack the Pakastani contingent). I also knew that after Clinton's passivity on Bosnia, and his shrinking away from Lani Guinier, that the President needed a quick military kill, particularly one that could be done at a safe telematic distance without the direct involvement of American ground troops.

Curiously, as this screenal display of pure war flipped back to the NBA game, the sports announcer said: "And now for the always awkward transition back to basketball." But, of course, this was the true confession which was a lie. My electronic body felt only a deep symmetry between the war scene in Mogadishu and the virtual war on the basketball court in Phoenix. Maybe there was not the slightest disjunction between these two screenal economies because we witnessed two coeval wars: real (Mogadishu) war and virtual (NBA) war. Or was it the reverse? Mogadishu as the virtual war, with its electronic mapping of the geographic coordinates of Aidid's military base and TV headquarters (were they the same?) and its application of the laser weaponry of pure technology to achieve a virtual kill? And was the Suns/Bulls game, with its violent match-up of the god-like Jordan and the super-intense Barkley, complete with a brilliantly arrayed rhetoric of strategy, tactics, and logistics, the real war in the android hearts of the virtual population?

Or something different? Not virtual war versus real war, but the superannuation of war into an indeterminate doubling: bimodern war. In this case, the violent bombing of Mogadishu provided the cycle of primitive energy necessary to sustain the pure technology of NBA championship basketball. And the in-your-electronic-face basketball of Jordan and Barkley provided the tactical clues guiding the American air force as it flipped Mogadishu into the electronic trash-bin of a computer application: total aggressivity, electronic scanning, networked virtual simulation of the target population, and specular publicity. In this case, the night bombing of Mogadishu, under the sign of basketball tactics, issues in the use of AC-130H gunships as the military equivalent of 3-point shots (safe from grasping hands); and the "end-game" of Mogadishu displays all the finesse of a half-court press. Mogadishu as the real virtual sport? Why not? This was a sacrificial scene where an accidental range of victims is selected for purposes of enhancing the internal (telematic) moral cohesion of the home team (US/UN). Michael Jordan Mogadishu, then, as the first and best of all the virtual Air Force Generals. The only question remaining is this: was the disappearance of Mogadishu timed perfectly for the half-time of the NBA game: a final deft touch of bimodern war as the leading edge of promotional culture under the sign of pan-capitalism?

Happy Third Anniversary


[Aside] Last year I asked sportsBabel/myself: "What will Year Three hold?"

Wow. A lot.

My move last summer to the urban centre of Toronto obviously had an enormous impact on my thinking and writing, given my new living space of massmarketmasstransitmassmedia as well as the elapsed time required for the ideas seeded during my University of Alberta tenure to have matured.

Voices that emerged over the course of the year:

1. My membership at a commercial health and fitness club, aka Field notes for becoming Fitter Happier.

2. The evolution of my thought on cyborg athletes.

3. The concepts of ludic luddite, I3, chrysalis digitalis, glyph equity and brand transference.

4. Engagements to varying degrees with the work of McLuhan, Foucault, Baudrillard, Haraway, Benjamin, Kroker, and Virilio.

Other favourite posts from the year that was: Metaphor Needs Fleshing; Nervous; White Lines; The Rising NBA Star (Acronymous numerous); Ali, Papa and the Forty Thieves; Notes on the Virtualization of Hockey; Bod Pod; and Priapismic.

I am really trying to get as much of this material into book form as possible, which has been challenging given the rest of what has been going on in life, but this *will* get done. Hopefully I'll have some great news to report next year …



sports videogames = body karaoke

Weird Sports-Related Images You Find On The Internet #3