Military - Science - Entertainment?

Virilio theorizes at length about the rise of a "military-scientific complex". Haraway, on the other hand, discusses "high-tech repressive apparatuses" of an entertainment nature in which the fruits of military research and development are incorporated into the latest leisure spectacles. Rheingold also alludes to this cozy relationship between the military and communications interests in the development of virtual reality and spectacle.

Is it possible, then, to merge the two ideas, and consider a military-scientific-entertainment complex, in which the militarization of science (Virilio) is normalized in the production and consumption of techno-fetishized entertainment?

In the context of sportsBabel, can we say that it is the trickle-down of advanced military research into professional sport spectacles that serves to render intelligible and normalize our implicit participation in the project of empire?

Evidence suggests that the relationship does exist. A few examples:

It seems we can answer in the affirmative for the first question, but, so as not to simply offer trite observations, I will suggest that the second question requires substantially further investigation.

So They've Added A "C"?

On security at the Athens Olympics, from (emphasis added):

Original estimates placed the bill close to $1 billion, but the current estimate is $1.5 billion — a number that could go higher by the time the Games close. This represents more than a fifth of the expected final $7.2 billion price tag. To put those numbers in perspective, consider that Sydney's security costs were approximately $240 million, and eight years ago in Atlanta — where a pipe bomb explosion tore into the Olympic tranquility — the tab was closer to $2.5 million.

If the dangers are greater than ever, it must be said, so is the safety net Greece has thrown up to meet them. What are they getting for their money?

The centerpiece is the C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence), a $312 million network of 1,300 infrared and high-resolution cameras (some of them fiber-optic cables underwater in Athens' main port of Piraeus), spy vans, helicopters, and a 200-foot blimp with chemical "sniffers" that are all linked by a sophisticated communications system. However, a Greek daily newspaper reported last week that 20 percent of the images from cameras will be lost because of delays in wiring monitors and flaws in the command center.

Three NATO AWACS arrived last week at Aktio air base in northwestern Greece and will patrol the airspace above the Games. NATO will also provide a 200-person force to deal with any potential chemical or biological attacks and NATO's entire naval fleet will patrol the country's challenging borders. In recent weeks, U.S. spy planes, Air Force RC-135s and Navy EP-3s, have stepped up reconnaissance flights over the Middle East and North Africa. U.S. Customs loaned Greece two $7 million mobile X-ray scanners, which will be used to examine cars and trucks for possible guns, drugs and explosives — perhaps the greatest fear of Athens security experts is a so-called "dirty" bomb, a mobile nuclear device.

So we've come a ways since Haraway wrote about C3I … um, weren't computers always implied in such a scheme? And speaking of security, will The Streaker make an appearance?

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 …


A New, Complex World

It is important to note a shift that has taken place in the evolution of sport media, which reflects a corresponding shift from a Baudrillardian second order of simulacra (production) to a third order of simulacra (simulation). Only a short time ago television was the driving force behind sport videogame innovation, which led to the introduction in videogames of play-by-play and colour commentary, multiple camera angles in a 3-D game field, instant replay, and picture-in-picture showing runners on base.

Recently, however, videogames have begun to surpass television and are now the driving force behind sport media innovation. The simulation capacity of videogames has led, for example, to the 1st & 10 line in football, a virtual line "painted" on the field to show how far the offensive team needs to go for a first down.

The 1st & 10 line: a high-tech entertainment technology that has won two Emmy Awards, and which is born of higher-tech U.S. defence technology. This reminds one of the military C3I that Donna Haraway refers to in her Cyborg Manifesto: command, control, communications and intelligence. Which reminds one that the cyborg is semiurgic in nature, ie. of code.

Cyborg replication is uncoupled from organic reproduction. Modern production seems like a dream of cyborg colonization work, a dream that makes the nightmare of Taylorism seem idyllic. And modern war is a cyborg orgy, coded by C3I, command-control-communication-intelligence, an $84 billion item in 1984's US defence budget. I am making an argument for the cyborg as a fiction mapping our social and bodily reality and as an imaginative resource suggesting some very fruitful couplings.

We may thus reconsider the old military-industrial complex as the new military-communications-entertainment complex — that is, a military-post-industrial complex of warfare technology that may also be leveraged in the production and consumption of hyperreal spectacles.

Continues Haraway: "Michel Foucault's biopolitics is a flaccid premonition of cyborg politics, a very open field."

A Gendered Cyborg?

Golf, one of the last bastions of men, is under siege — and the movement has been underway since long before Martha Burk arrived on the scene.

In many sports with a high degree of male bonding, one of the strongest unifying factors is the proverbial swinging dick, and so it is in golf. The driver in golf is nothing more than the extension of the male phallus, shooting Balatajaculate hundreds of yards in all directions (preferably straight) while onlookers go slackjawed or nod approvingly. Even with drivers made out of graphite or titanium or moonrock, or whatever, the man's always got the Number One Wood in his hands.

There's even a class of "golfers" out there who do nothing but hit long drives, evoking comparisons to the disembodied circus schlongs of the porn industry. Preying on our insecurities, both groups can sell our fears back to us, either as equipment to lengthen us on the tee, or in the sack.

If you can't grip it and rip it, then you're not a man at all — or so the subtext reads.

But this is where it gets confusing, yet interesting. Many women are gripping it and ripping it right along with the men. Now maybe they aren't as dick-swinging as the male pros, but the top 25 female players are averaging over 260 yards per drive, which is much further than most Joe Titleists out there. The female golf pro is hermaphroditic in the vast ecosphere of sport.

Or maybe not. Golf is indeed a sport with a high K/L ratio (which shall hereafter be known on sportsBabel as the cyborg ratio so as to differentiate it — and the individual it represents — from the capital-labor ratio of the firm found in classical economics). Golf is a cyborg sport. And as Donna Haraway notes in A Cyborg Manifesto:

The cyborg is a creature in a post-gender world; it has no truck with bisexuality, pre-oedipal symbiosis, unalienated labour, or other seductions to organic wholeness through a final appropriation of all the powers of the parts into a higher unity.

So perhaps the female golfer isn't hermaphroditic, after all. Perhaps the golfer — any golfer — carries with them the withering remnants of a phallocentric Western culture as they enter the posthuman cyborg state of tomorrow.

Snippets on the Posthuman

As hormone flows control the stimulation of thought in each of our brains, so do electronic capital flows control advertising, the stimulation of thought in our collective virtual brain. Each of the above are examples of information, models of interconnected data themselves interconnected to form ever more complex patterns of knowledge and simulation.

* * *

McLuhan's concept of the Global Village may be one of his most misunderstood. Many have the mistaken impression that McLuhan was theorizing a global network where all people joined together in a utopian state of peace. While he was indeed optimistic about the future of electric man — if only we would heed his advice and become aware of the effects of our technologies — I do not believe that this is what he had in mind. Instead, he was pointing out that the 6 billion people on the planet were being drawn closer together by global communications networks, and therefore more aware of each other and more impacted by their actions, both good and bad.

* * *

Neuroscience research informs research on computer networks and vice-versa: our real and virtual brains are analogous. McLuhan was wrong, though, about equating our real bodies with our virtual ones, which is the implication of the Global Village. Instead, our real bodies, when outered into electric space, become the neurons of the virtual brain, of which there can only be one.

As we perform activities in real space that alter our information models — such as buying season tickets, filling out a consumer survey, or scoring 37 points for the Lakers — our action potentials are realized and a synapse fires in the global virtual brain.

This is the essence of Haraway's "informatics of domination."

* * *

We must recognize and emphasize the art inherent in our sport: for example, the first time we execute a skill; the high speed ballet that is WR and DB dancing down the sideline; the rat-tat-tat of the tic-tac-toe pass; the sound of mesh snapping as the ball arcs through the rim. This cyborg aesthetic is our only organic armour against the domination of — indeed, the annihilation by — the cybernetic.