Low Post Colonialism

The NBA's "outreach" program, Basketball Without Borders, serves several purposes: in partnership with an organization such as UNICEF, it promotes particular knowledges about healthy living, HIV/AIDS, drug abuse, leadership, etc.; it operates basketball clinics and skills training sessions and seeds a future generation of basketball labour talent to fill the void left by the post-industrialization of the American (and soon to be European) economies in which the NBA produces; and perhaps most importantly, it serves as a vector that releases a contagion of memes into the host population: the NBA logo, the league's franchise identities, the players themselves as brands in their own right, the shoe companies that adorn each of the sponsored players, the corporate partners of the outreach program, etc.

The Import/Export of the Body Athletic

The sportocratic economy reaches its current lofty heights as the broader economy shifts its primary orientation from manufacturing to service. As large swathes of the workforce in advanced economies become (primarily sedentary) information- and knowledge-intensive service workers, a vacuum is created in sport, in which there is a need for fit, muscular bodies to produce the movements required for professional contest manufacture.

Some of these bodies come from the lower economic classes in the advanced economy, perhaps lacking access to the tools, information and knowledge that are required for upward mobility in the new service economy; a rare few come from the middle and upper classes, notably from those sports requiring substantial capital expenditures in order to compete. But increasingly these jobs are being "exported" to developing economies in Latin America, China, Africa and elsewhere — an "outsourcing" of body movement, per se. This is perhaps best exemplified in the global migration for labour talent in soccer, but also may be seen in basketball, baseball, hockey, rugby, cricket, etc.

But these jobs aren't literally exported or outsourced. Resample:

[T]he United States is finding an increasing number of manufacturing jobs move overseas to locales where the labour costs are lower, and has for some time. What is relatively new, however, is the growing number of blue and white collar information jobs that are moving, via the Internet, to Europe and Singapore and developing nations such as China and India. … [T]hese departures have created a vacuum in American production, which exerts a tremendous pull towards the only manufacturing sector that cannot be outsourced — the cultural production of American spectacle. In the professional sports world, the United States is a net importer of labour. This warrants mention.

To borrow from Hardt and Negri, however, we should not see this as evidence of a linear "stages of economic development" thesis manifest in sport. To the contrary, the influence of information/knowledge is pervasive in the production of these athletic bodies, with sporting academies being created in developing economies that offer resources in athletic and coaching science far beyond what was available to the American athlete 50 or 60 years ago. Furthermore, for countries featuring an admixture of economic production, such as China, the sale of one commodity form to a foreign market may act as a prerequisite for another form to exist — the body movement of Yao Ming is exported to the United States/NBA/Houston Rockets, only then to have processed Yao informational products re-imported from the United States/NBA/Houston Rockets, which are then sold to China's burgeoning consumer economy directly via paid services or indirectly via advertising for other consumer goods.

Speaking in Sung

In Understanding Media, McLuhan uses the metaphor of Narcissus to explain the almost hypnotic/narcotic effect that electric technologies have upon us — that is, we are almost hypnotized by our own reflections emanating from the "changing same" surface of the electronic media pond.

To continue the metaphor, I've often considered the DJ-as-archivist to be the individual that stirs up the sediment pooled beneath the water's surface. Sometimes you get muddy water, but sometimes the light reflects/refracts in the most beautiful way on the shifting particles/digital artifacts floating in solution.

*     *     *

In Archive Fever, Derrida notes that the meaning of the word "archive" comes from the early Greek, in which city magistrates or authorities — the archons — were granted "hermeneutic right and competence" to interpret the official documents stored within the arkheion. "The citizens who thus held and signified political power were considered to possess the right to make or to represent the law" (p.2).

Nike can pay $250,000 for the rights to use the Beatles' "Revolution" as the soundtrack for a shoe commercial in 1987, while almost two decades later DJ Danger Mouse must illegally use Beatles samples to create The Grey Album — and then circulate it via the Internet's "samizdat of sound" (cf. Miller) to share with others. If the DJ is archivist or gatekeeper to a sonic past and its potential futures, then we must view the act of repurposing samples as an attempt to seize control of that hermeneutic right to interpret — even if at first glance the issue is presented as an economic battle over musical IP and royalties.

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 (Wark, A Hacker Manifesto, #318)

As Chris Cutler points out in his essay, "Plunderphonia", samples can now be manipulated to the point of non-recognizability before insertion into a song. So why want to be recognized? Put another way, if Miller tells us that "today, the voice you speak with may not be your own," the question should be "why not?".

Because we — or at least the hackers — are literally fighting against a vectoral class (if we ride with Wark's framework) for the political right to communicate, to make the law, to exist and participate in a democratic society. To do so, we need the right to speak freely, in all senses of that word. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and we must also speak through their voices.

Cultural Memory in Motion

NIN Scene MissingESPN Video Missing