onsdag 12 juni 2013

21st century sports

I'm at the ACSIS conference (the conference theme is "On the move/I rörelse") in Norrköping right now:

"On the move is the fifth biennial conference on cultural research arranged by ACSIS (The Advanced Cultural Studies Institute of Sweden). ACSIS was established early in 2002 [and] it is a national centre for cultural research with linking, driving and quality raising tasks"

It's the first time I visit this particular cultural studies conference and it's also the first time that me and my collaborator Daniel Svensson present our work on "sportification". More specifically, we held a presentation based on our draft paper "21st century sports: Movements without movements". Despite the cryptic title, it's actually an improvement compared to the previously Swedish-language title, "Från rörelse to sport och till sporter utan rörelse" [From movement to sports and to sports without movements]. We submitted our abstract three months ago and I wrote a blog post about it at the time. We later decided to rewrite our paper in English and I therefore post the new, reworked abstract (paper introduction) below.

Despite having been very busy lately, me and Daniel pulled together and managed to whip this paper together in no time at all (less than a week). It's not really a finished paper (the status is "draft version" or perhaps "working paper" right now), but we are in fact very happy both about the contents of the paper as well as the fact that we actually managed to get it written (it's a dozen or so pages long). Since we didn't have time to finish the paper, the paper lacks a concluding discussion and we instead chose to write some meta-text about three different possible direction in which we could take the paper. The paper ends like this:


Discussion and conclusion is pending!

Depending on what we decide to do with this text (i.e. what publication we aim for), we see three tracks that could be developed (both above but especially) in the discussion. These tracks could perhaps be developed independently, but they also heavily overlap:

...followed by a 1/2 page long outline of the three different tracks. Me and Daniel "met" a year ago, but this is the first concrete outcome of our cooperation, so how then did this presentation of ours turn out? I had to put together our Powerpoint presentation on the 90-minute train trip from Stockholm to Norrköping, but despite (or because of) this, it was actually pretty good. I don't think I could have increased the quality very much even had I spent twice as much time on it.

A really great outcome was that the other three presentations in our session were very relevant to ours. A presentation about breakdancers - amateurs who invest huge amounts of time, but who aren't (and don't want to be) professional dancers - was of especial interest to us. Another outcome is the input we have gotten at the conference. Shared experiences (of attending the same conference) are valuable and me and Daniel have thus discussed and documented some things/issues/perspectives which could be of use in later developing our ideas further.

Something that was less good was that there weren't really a lot of people in our session and our talk didn't have a particularly large audience. That also means that I didn't manage to get rid of the 15 copies of our paper that I brought with me.

On the whole it was still useful for our future work to present, get feedback and acquire new shared impressions to formulate new ideas about how to develop our project. Attending a conference together is also a way for me and Daniel to have some more time to talk and get to know each other - since our ordinary meetings are usually tightly scheduled and very goal-oriented.

I'll get back with a separate blog post about the conference itself as apart from this blog post about our contribution to the conference.

21st century sports: movements without movements

On sportification

Modern sports originally developed from physical practices of moving the human body - from movements. Examples of such sports are running, cross-country skiing, ice-skating, swimming and rowing. These sports often originated in work-related practices, for example forestry, and they have, through standardization, organization and rationalization, been turned into competitive movements (for the participants), events for spectatorship (for a sedentary audience) and organizations/social movements (for amateurs and professional practitioners, coaches, administrators, functionaries, sponsors/investors and others). Many sport researchers, (sport) historians and (sport) sociologists have pointed out that modern sports have gone through a process of “sportification” (Guttman 2004, Yttergren 1996) - that there has been a movement from games and play towards fully-fledged modern sports - and that this process has occurred in parallel with the modernization and industrialization of society.

Today we see the emergence of sports where practitioners’ physical movements are very limited, and where different kinds of movements plays an important role. Computer games have gone from being a leisure activity for kids and teenagers, to being a competitive activity, “e-sports”, with international competitions and professional players (Rambusch et. al. 2007, Taylor 2012). In e-sports, movements takes place mainly within computer games, and there are both differences and similarities between these new sports and more traditional sports. Where certain traditional sports are heavily dependent on specialized equipment, e-sports are instead totally dependent on a well-functioning technical infrastructure with computers, networks and servers. Within the world of sports, movements over national borders have grown in lock-step with more international, global (and, when it comes to e-sports, also internet-based) arenas (Findling & Pelle 2004). The ever-growing importance of training, and of strengthening the scientific base for this training is also an important part of the sportification process (Heggie 2011, Hoberman 1992, Svensson 2013)

We argue that even if sports can be separated by differences in what types of movements are required and what sorts of meaning are invested in them, there are similarities between processes in the work-intense sports that evolved from heavy physical work in the early 20th century and the digital sports that are on the rise today. Both modern and “post-modern” sports are characterized by movements towards standardized, rationalized, medialized and commercialized competitive arenas. 

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