söndag 1 oktober 2017

21st century sports (paper)

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This past week I submitted a paper about e-sports to a special issue on "The emergence of e-sports: Challenges and Opportunities" in the journal "Sport, Ethics, and Philosophy". The article is written by me and Daniel Svensson (Chalmers University of Technology).

The origins of the paper is an unpublished paper we presented at a cultural studies conference no less than four years ago. I actually published a blog post with the exact same title back then. The draft paper has languished for quite some time since the right opportunity has never presented itself. Also, I have not pursued research on e-sports and my co-author was busy with his ph.d. thesis which he defended in December 2016 ("Scientizing performance in endurance sports: The emergence of ‘rational training’ in cross-country skiing, 1930-1980"). The fact that he is now finished, together with increasing academic interest in e-sports, has made us a bit more alert about publishing opportunities for our text, despite the fact that this has always been a side project with some relevance to Daniel's current research but, by now, little relevance to mine. I do have to say that we really like the paper we have written together though. We would wouldn't have pursued this issue (e.g. getting it published) if that hadn't been the case.

We actually did an attempt to write up the paper already in February this year when we came across a call for papers for a special issue on "eSports and professional game play" in a computer games journal I had never heard of. Perhaps due to a misunderstanding and/or unclear instructions from the editor in chief, our contribution was "disqualified" for, let's say, technical reasons.

Then we came across this call for papers back in May (see further below) and deemed it to be highly interesting for us. An email to the special issue editors before the summer resulted in them encouraging us to submit a paper to their special issue. We didn't even have to submit an extended abstract and get it pre-accepted first.

While we for some reason have held on to the title (which perhaps should be changed?), we have reworked the paper some and also switched the order of authorship so that Daniel Svensson is the first author and I'm the second. The article as well as the journal is closer to his research interests and it's more useful for him than for me to be the first author of an article about sports/e-sports.


From the call for papers:

An article in TIME Magazine regarded the emergence of e-Sports as one of the most profound and challenging advances in contemporary sport culture. E-sports constitute a social phenomenon that brings together millions of players and has become a business of enormous proportions. As a consequence of the increasing relevance and success of e-sports, a debate has been raised within international sport organizations on the recognition of e-sports not only as real sports but also as Olympic sports. This raises important questions within the philosophy of sport, especially related to the ontological nature of both e-sports and sports. However, the debate on the ontology of e-sports does not exhaust the possibilities of the philosophical debate on e-sports. Issues related to the governance of e-sports competitions, the organization of e-sports institutions, and the relationship between e-sports and human nature, among others, are relevant as well.

This special issue of Sport, Ethics, and Philosophy is dedicated to the main conceptual, philosophical, moral and legal questions that are being raised by the development of e-sports in the context of sport and physical education.


And here is our abstract:

Abstract
Modern sports have gone through a process of sportification (e.g. Guttman 1978, Yttergren 1996), moving from loosely regulated games and play towards becoming progressively more managed and regulated. Computer games have correspondingly gone from being a leisure activity for kids and teenagers to becoming a competitive activity, electronic sport or “e-sports”, with international competitions and professional players. We argue that there is a tight connection between the sportification of traditional (physical) sports and modernity and that it is also possible to see the emergence of “21st century sports” such as various e-sports as portending a post-modern society. There are naturally many differences, but also significant similarities between traditional sports and 21st century sports as both move towards standardized, rationalized, medialized and commercialized competitive arenas. In this article we explore the similarities and the differences through the lens of sportification theory. One such difference is the fact that while some traditional sports (athletics) can use technical equipment sparsely and other traditional sports (cross-country skiing, bicycling) more extensively, e-sports do not just rely on top notch equipment, but are totally dependent on, and mediated by the most modern of machines - the computer.

Keywords:
Sports, games, e-sports, sportification, training, cross-country skiing, modernity
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