Two Vectors

"The storage of information may be as valuable as its transmission, and the archive is a vector through time just as telesthesia is a vector through space. The whole potential of space and time becomes the object of the vectoral class." — McKenzie Wark, The Hacker Manifesto, #318

Mass Media and Perception

"New Media art is about enhanced perception. The aesthetic hype of new media art that parallels absolute technology is all about creating a totally immersive experience. I think this is a mistake. Mass media are effortlessly immersive. Numbing is what they do best. They fully colonize the human sensorium. They dominate perception. 'Sightless vision'. The point is not to mimic mass media aesthetics, but to break its spell." — Arthur Kroker, The Will to Technology and the Culture of Nihilism


Charlie Francis, coach of Ben Johnson, the former fastest man in the world, writes in his 1990 book Speed Trap (p.62, bold mine, italics his):

To reduce the risk of injury, I regularly massaged my sprinters, especially before their speed work. By loosening their muscles, massage enhanced their performance and removed lactic acid and other fatigue by-products from their muscles. Massage also gave me an added safety check. None of my kids ever wanted to skip a speed run. If I asked if they felt tight, they'd deny it. But their muscles couldn't lie, and a massage often clued me to pull an athlete out of a run before something went wrong.

In the quest for speed, touch is truth!

Further on, Francis describes a different method (p.73, bold mine, italics his):

In distance running, oxygen uptake and lactic acid tests can help a coach keep track of his athletes' aerobic capacity. These tools are useless, however, for anaerobic events like sprinting; there is no machine to gauge central nervous system fatigue. My feedback came from my athletes, and so I'd constantly ask if they felt as if they needed to rest. But since mature athletes tend to ignore signs of fatigue and incipient injury–believing, as I used to, that more work is better–I couldn't always trust their responses. To protect them from themselves, I would listen to their footfalls during a drill. If the sound became louder, it told me the runner's hips were dropping. The drop might be as little as a sixteenth of an inch, beyond the discernment of eyes or cameras, but my ears would tell me that fatigue had set in, and that it was time to curtail the work-out.

This reminds me of an earlier post in which I suggested that the surveillant gaze can be vulnerable at high speeds. In training sessions, Francis overcomes this vulnerability literally by listening.

As we move to the competition stadium, though, where the stakes get higher, we turn to electronic devices to provide the haptic and acoustic assistance required to "see" the athletes and determine truth.

McLuhan, Understanding Media: "Moving from print to electronic media we have given up an eye for an ear."


This came in the mail the other day. Cool.

Sugar Ray Stamp

My grandkids will learn about stamps in history class, won't they?

An American Revolution

Recently, I was interested to see a CFP for a NASSS session on "sporting nationalisms". Work on this topic usually concerns the ways in which sport (re-)creates and sustains the political and cultural practices of nation-state nationalisms as, for example, we see with the FIFA World Cup and the hundreds of countries around the world that define themselves through international football contests. However, I have discussed previously the co-optation of the word "nation" by the professional sportocracy of the United States and Canada, now in use from Raider Nation to Red Sox Nation to Leaf Nation to EA Sports Nation to ESPN Sportsnation, etc. The geographically-distributed but electronically-united tribes of consumers comprising these particular sporting cultures and sign systems aren't often given the same critical attention within the context of "sporting nationalisms".

What does it mean that sport marketers are trying to commodify nationhood? What does citizenship mean in this context? How does one display fealty?

It is against this backdrop of queries that I first saw the telecast of ABC's NBA pre-game show, NBA Nation, last weekend. It appears that the League wants its share of the world's citizens as well.

The major sponsors of NBA Nation and the NBA game telecasts are General Motors ("GM: An American Revolution") and CITI ("CITI Identity Theft Solutions"). In this, we witness the full range of major corporate sponsorship of professional sport over the last century: automobiles and petroleum products, through beer and fast food, to telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and financial services. And an earlier post on Ted Williams' cryostasis comes to mind: "Baseball, fighter pilots, motor oil: all the rich symbolism of industrial-age corporeality disintegrating into information, signaling the decay of the American Empire and freezing it for the posterity of future history."

I have discussed before that the business of professional sport is largely concerned with creating, packaging and distributing floating identities. But we cannot forget that we also create identities of our own through our deliberate (and incidental) interactions with the electronic media every day. That the safeguarding of these identities is now being seen as a financial service should make this clear once and for all.

Corporeality disintegrates into information. Identity assumes financial value. And nationhood becomes a "privileged" subject position in this new electronic world, achieved through sign system participation and consumption.

American Sporting Alphabet

American Sporting Alphabet

Design Notes

  • In homage, and with apologies, to Heidi Cody's American Alphabet.
  • Many of the logos are from Chris Creamer's Sports Logos page.
  • I have wanted to do this for sports since I saw Heidi's installation three years ago and blogged about it. However, I just recently got access to the software to do so (PowerPoint could only take me so far).
  • Update: I just found out that Kurt Hunzeker at Sparts Marketing Blography did a similar project last year. He goes in a very different direction, looking to show the breadth of sports letters and logos, including minor league franchises. On the other hand, I was looking to show iconic images that represented a particular American sporting tradition with its teams, management and media influences. Only 2 of our choices were the same.

Letter Notes

  1. With the way this franchise has changed the business of baseball, and indeed all of team sports, it had to be included.
  2. Apologies to Philly, but you had no really good P that was more visually dominant than these Hoosier-state ballers, and without that, you're just Illadelphia.
  3. I thought the fact that this franchise redesigned its logo specifically because of Yao Ming and the potential of the Chinese market spoke volumes to the globalization of professional sports.
  4. My one nod to the college sports scene, and who more appropriate than the "outlaw" football program of the '90s.
  5. From the all-black fives era of basketball nearly a century ago.
  6. Interesting juxtaposition with F.
  7. Only real cheat in the bunch, but significant in how it shows the logo redesign (and awkward transition) from the New Orleans music scene to Mormon country.