“At play on the field of ghosts” – James Bridle on code/spaces of competitive sport

Reflecting upon the increasing instrumentation of the sporting field off play, for spectating, e.g. the ‘Hanwha chickens‘, and for the judgement of rules, e.g. ‘HawkEye’, James Bridle has written a nice piece on Medium about how the idea/ideal of ‘sport’ may be getting translated into something else…

This distinction between the actuality of the event and the fidelity of its recreation is narrow and could easily be dismissed as just another conjuration of spectacular TV coverage, were its remit limited to mere representation. But in the hyper-competitive domain of sports, lubricated with broadcasting and gambling dollars, recreation turns into prediction, and representation into judgement. The distinction between what is seen and what occurs becomes crucial.

More and more, the practice of human adjudication in sports is being crowded out by the supposed superiority of machine perception; a perception which is based on the recreation and prediction of real events, rather than their explicit witnessing. Since 2001, the Hawk-Eye computer system has become increasingly ubiquitous in major sporting competitions, combining machine vision with motion analysis to not only declare where precisely a ball touched or crossed a line, but where the ball would have gone if it were not rudely interrupted.

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