My keynote for The Next Web conference in Amsterdam brought together my years writing about digital and biotechnological change in performance. Here's the video...
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My keynote for The Next Web conference in Amsterdam brought together my years writing about digital and biotechnological change in performance. Here's the video...
Last week, I was in Amsterdam for The Next Web, a major digital/tech festival with 15,000 delegates. The first of my contributions to the programme was a dream team panel of experts on digital sport. We invited Shireen Hampdan from the groundbreaking architecture company Populous, Oliver Weingarten from Virtually Live, which is pioneering gaming and virtual reality sports event integration, and Bill Martens, from the amazing BamTechMedia. Here's the video!
This month, i had the pleasure to give a keynote at the MeCCSA conference in London. As the UK subject association for Media, Communication and Cultural Studies, it was a real pleasure to be amongst peers I have known for well over a decade and a personal honour to have this opportunity. I focused on the way in which Sport 2.0 tells us a story about media change which has applicability well beyond the sports discipline.
This work takes me next to PyeongChang in February, where I will cover the Olympic Winter Games, my 5th one! Keep an eye on this platform for short blog pieces and wider coverage.
Here's a bit of an overview of the manuscript for the talk....
It’s a real pleasure to be here at MeCCSA some 15 years or so after my first MeCCSA conference. And I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect a little on the intersection of disciplines that operate around this diverse subject community.
I have the dubious privilege of working across a number of subjects and, depending on the day, have my expertise described in quite various ways.
In fact, last year, I found myself giving public talks on drones, fake news, genetic enhancement, social media, Google Glass, and eSports, over just the month of November.
But over the years, the connecting theme has been our technological culture and I have always focused on emerging technologies, writing about the digital alongside biotechnology from an early stage.
I have always been interested in the moment when technology becomes available and where new cultures of use emerge, curious about how our day to day lives are affected as a result.
I mention these details because they speak directly to the emergence of my own creative space within the conduct of my research, which has a bearing on the theme of this talk, Sport 2.0 – itself a title which speaks of a digital transition, drawing on the idea of Web 2.0 or Humanity 2.0, as Steve Fuller used it.
But, to put this further into context, next month my research takes me to PyeongChang for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, at which I will spend my time embedded within the media structures around the Games. Even here, there is an interesting story to tell I think, in terms of the complexity of how we, as academic researchers interface with the media communities we study.
But the origins of this work begin with a story like this from a couple of days ago
SHOW: BBC North Korea to Olympics screenshot
Way back when, I was taken with the idea that events - mega sports events in particular - become moments for cultural and political discourse and perhaps even social change. At the very least, they are imbued with these expectations and, indeed, the principal industries around them covet such importance.
And here we have, at a time of presumed instability of North and South relations, the possibility that the Olympic Games will help ease these relationships, which may have major geopolitical consequences.
We see this kind of expectation operate around many other recent Olympic Games, where organizations position themselves and their values around the event to put across some crucial social message, as we saw with Beijing 2008, nearly 8 years ago in this Amnesty campaign.
SHOW: Beijing Amnesty campaign
And the media artefacts created around these programmes of work fascinate me intellectually. The imagery here along is deeply provocative and disruptive in a context where all imagery associated with this proprietary event is controlled.
And yet they are also spaces of multifaceted resistances. I recall how, in the lead up to the Beijing Games – China’s first Olympics as host -its aspiration to use the slogan
“New Beijing, New Olympics” was ultimately quashed, in favour of “New Beijing, Fresh Olympics”,
The story goes that the International Olympic Committee deemed that host cities are not there to change the Olympics, but to simply be its temporary custodian.
And often, technology is a thread within these discussions. In fact, every Olympic Summer Games over the last century has involved the pioneering of some new form of media technology, whether it is underwater film making, or virtual reality.
SHOW: Pool Cam
Back in London 2012, one big success was Pool Cam – underwater cameras in the swimming venues, that then had their own Twitter accounts and which were tweeting images during the competitions. Within 2 days of its launch, over 21,000 followers to the account.
Here we have examples of media innovation and media change – how to photograph the games differently – which itself is a consequence of saturated and democratized media. The professionals having to think more creatively, but with the added nuance of these being automated photographers – another theme emerging within this territory – the handing over of creative decision making to artificially intelligent systems.
So, sports as innovation spaces for the media is a core theme here and it makes sense when you consider the economic infrastructure of large scale programmes like the Olympic Games, where billions of pounds in sponsorship and rights holder money are tied up in the system and where those organizations that fund its staging seek to leverage the 16 days of competition to increase their market share through exposure.
We see this at every Olympic Games, especially over the last 20 years with each subsequent Olympic Games claiming to have transcended the previous achievements of the last, especially technological terms. For Beijing 2008, the organizers even created a building designed to look like a bar code, as a key flagship infrastructure, central to one of its core themes: Digital Olympics.
SHOW Beijing Digital building
And in many respects, this is an easy win - more people consumed the Olympics on social media than the previous Games, because there are more people using more social media.
SHOW: image of the intel site
This year, in advance of the Korean Games, we see a huge step in the direction of eSports, as Intel – a primary Olympic sponsor – hosts a major event a week before the Games begin, at a time where discussions are afoot to include eSport in the Olympic programme, which is partly why the backdrop to this prezi is a photograph of an eSport event – the World Champs from 2015, also in Korea.
Already then, we have a number of questions to ask of this terrain, which are pertinent to the expansion of our field
· How are the sports and creative industries being reconfigured through digital change?
· How does technology operate as currency within the staging of mega events?
· How do we observe change within the media industries through such activity?
And through this talk, I want to outline how my research and practice have interwoven over the years, developing in part an ethnographic style of media research, and eventually how this moves into speculative ethnography, an idea which is particularly challenging to articulate, but which I think is crucial to our present times, which are characterised by the Kickstarter economy, an ever increasing part of our consumer culture, itself intimately connected to our pursuit of the future. I found myself writing about this a lot in a Nesta project on drones where, back in 2014, nearly every month a new Kickstarter drone was released, many of which never, dare I say, took off.
Many of these ideas borrow also from work with the Designer Interactions team at the RCA, for which I guest lectured over 10 years and where the central proposition involved designing for the future in a way that invited critical interrogation.
My most often cited example from this is the design of a telephone tooth implant which two colleagues developed and I want to play you an interview with them about it, if only to show how their mischievous exploits in exploiting the media’s fascination for technology was used as a way of starting a conversation about the direction of mobile technology.
SHOW: Telephone tooth input
And here in one design is an indication of where media technology may take us, throwing up all kinds of complex ethical, cultural, and social questions.
And as the future shows us its teeth, we begin to glimpse this brave new media world
SHOW: Cicret Bracelet
Over its course, there is a research story here that describes the development of theory, practice, and of the crucial role of collaboration with the media industries, or which tries to weave together the theme of this conference on creativity and agency, as a lot of my research has involved utilizing creativity as a means through which to assert agency within an industry community and to utilize that opportunity to explore technological and cultural trends within the media.
So, I have done things like given social media training to Olympic athletes. Another role I have is as the future media mentor for the Young Reporters programme of the International Olympic Committee, which takes 35 young people around the world to the Games to learn how to report from them.
So where does sport come into all of this? It is my contention that we obtain critical insights into media change by studying sport and that, especially as this interfaces with emerging technology, we gain an insight into how technology changes societies and individuals. And so, this is also a talk that foregrounds the expansion of our field into new territories, which have yet to benefit from a research community around them. And I will go on to say more about this in the final part of this talk
To this end, I urge you to think of this not as a talk about sport at all, but of the media technology ecosystem that operates around it. I want to offer an indication of where I think this takes us as researchers and tie it back to some critical commentaries on what this means for us more generally about our diverse field.
SHOW: Screenshot of chapter and book
While the MIT book is a more in-depth overview of many of these thoughts, further insights about this can be found in a recently published Afterword for a book on Digital Qualitative Research in Sport and Physical Activity, itself a good example of how expansive media research has become.
Yet, my entry into this field is also a story about the interconnections between research theory and practice.
Back in year 2000, I was working on a range of ethical issues related to sports technology and found myself brought into the fold of Olympic research.
This took me eventually to Sydney for the Olympic Games there, at which I learned of a place called the Non-Accredited Media Centre, set up in the bustling Darling Harbour, a prime city destination, way more integrated with the city than the Official Olympic Media Centre.
When arriving into Sydney, I went along to the Media centre and presented my case for their accrediting me as one of their reporters. At the time, I was a phd student and with very few media credentials. But I had a website and I had published a few things. And let’s face it, back then websites were radical. Sydney was only the second summer games to have one.
SHOW: Sydney 2000 website
So I showed them my website and that seemed to be sufficient for them to accredit me giving me a fancy pass which got me access to all number of things, everything except the sport in fact.
A big part of the early years of this work then saw me fascinated by the Olympics for everything other than sport. Thousands of reporters would come to the Games just to cover what happened around the cultural, political and social side and, at the same time, it was becoming apparent that the reporters who went to this kind of centre would be those typically working in an online capacity. In many respects these were outsiders to the Olympic world, but it was far more complicated still. In fact, some major media providers who had more staff than official accreditations would put their staff into this facility.
And here we see another intersection – between place marketing, event hosting, and new cultures of journalism. Very soon after Sydney, it became apparent that a core feature of such reporting was the rise of the online journalist around sports, which grew into a focus on citizen journalism. Many of the reporters accredited by the city to cover the games were people looking for that kind of story and by the time we get to Athens, the non-accredited media centre has become the politically most important venue at the Games from a non-sporting perspective, hosting all kinds of important events – in part because the access restrictions in the main Olympic venues made this prohibitive.
So, here I am trying to infiltrate this world of new Olympic journalism, while also trying to understand what was taking place around this new sports media complex.
In part to occupy this space more comfortably, I co-developed a platform that fitted the brief of the research aspirations, an online media outlet called Culture @ the Olympics, which would frame every application to subsequent Olympic Games to become accredited as non-sports media – media that the host city and region sought to engage to tell their story.
Now, there were two parallel tracks of digital change emerging at this point – 2004 – the time when we see the term Web 2.0 emerge to describe a shift in what the web could do. The first is the growing digitalization of the sports media and the second is the rise of citizen journalists who sought to occupy the privilege space of the professional media and disrupt its structures and narratives on the Games.
The two clashed around the time of Beijing as it became apparent that the expansion of who could be media meant that the exclusivity of that status could undermine the previously privileged exclusivity afforded to the media.
So for the remainder of this talk I want to whizz you through these points of intersection, which provide a glimpse into the complexity of the Sport 2.0 world and which hopefully will stimulate you to think differently about this field and where it is going in the future.
And to do that, we start here: 3 trends, all of which intersect in this world
- Mobile Health
- Mixed Reality
- Internet of things
- Artificial Intelligence
And so, to conclude, I want to frame Sport 2.0 as an intersection of various media cultures the analysis of which requires taking into account their complexity. Examining sport tells us a great deal about where the media have come and where they are heading and this is why all studies of the media need to take on board how they work around the complex world of the sports industries.
Today, I am speaking at the Digital Sport Innovation event at Hotel Football. My talk focused on a proposition to create an Augmented Reality Gym, which brings together a range of interests I have in eSport, mHealth, Cities, Events and social media. Here's a glimpse into what that might look like.
This week, I've been in Canada for a couple of nights, speaking at the FINA World Aquatics Convention. It was an amazing event really and a lovely experience. My panel focused on the digital experience, and we had some fantastic experience among the speakers, which considered of Claude Ruibal (formerly YouTube, GoPro), Peter Diamond Executive Vice-President, Programming, NBC Olympics, and Will Bastin (GMS Manager, FINA)
At the awards gala, Michael Phelps was given a lifetime legend award and it really feels like a special year for swimming. With Phelps making history as the most decorated Olympian of all time, and concluding his career in Rio, it was a really touching setting, quite low-key - compared to the Olympics - and, as he put it, a feeling of being among "family". I think a lot of emotions were quite high and it was especially nice to see him here, after having last seen him win gold in Rio, in a very different setting.
Here is Phelps at the event, followed by a shot I took during the Rio Games. Slide screenshots from my presentation follow, which was the first outing of my new book, Sport 2.0 for The MIT Press. A web resource will follow soon!
The moment captured in this photograph that I took in Rio actually appeared in the Phelps video showreel of his career.
And at the ceremony...
Finally, my slides...
The amazing Beth Hewitt at Salford University produced this fantastic afternoon event within the BBC Digital Cities week, which I opened with a talk on how Virtual Reality is changing what sports involve. Here's a summary of the event from the BBC's journalist Charles Miller, who came up from London to capture some of the afternoon.
This week, I interviewed for the new publishing platform, The Ringer, on a piece about neurodoping. Some interesting stuff about how much more could be done by athletes to enhance performance, and a good example of something that does not yet engage the anti-doping authorities. Should it? Probably not, but it might, so who knows what will happen next.
This week, Gizmodo wrote a piece which really sets out why the anti-doping problem is far greater than authorities imagine and why they cannot begin to tackle the extent of it with a mediocre budget available to the World Anti-Doping Agency. The piece does not get too focused on the ethics, but the wider culture of human enhancement that surrounds sport. Take a look here.
This week, I spoke at Oxford University on the subject of e-sport, focusing on governance and a vision for its contribution to society. I feel strongly that e-sport can be a way of recovering intergenerational relationships - children who are lost to gaming - and that it can be a way of building careers and competitiveness in digital innovation. Here's the talk.
This week, I featured in an article on doping within the magazine Men's Health. My quotes:
“Athletes are in the business of attempting to transcend human limits,”
“Especially at the elite level, sport is inherently a relationship between technology and nature,”
“Sports organisations have a moral obligation to ensure that they are investing in the safest forms of performance enhancement for athletes,”
“Managing the health and safety risks associated with performance enhancement – that’s the priority.”
While in Lausanne last week, I interviewed for SportCal on the doping debate, in a week where more positive tests were revealed, this time from the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games samples. Callum Murray did a good job of pulling together my views on where we are and why anti-doping can't work. Sir Craig Reedie offered a brief reply to the article, noting the years of engagement WADA has had with me on this subject.
Throughout these years, i've always tried to find common ground as a starting point. It's sometimes hard, as my view often is seen as fundamentally contrary to the spirit of sport. I completely reject this. I am passionate about sports, I care about their role in society, and I want the best for athletes. I just don't think anti-doping does that.
Reedie's proposal - outlined in his response - is to bring more money into anti-doping through media sponsorship may change that, but it still feels like a drop in the ocean, when at the heart of the problem is a question about the future of humanity and our biotechnological future.
This week, I am in Lausanne for the Sport Future Rendezvous 2016 conference, organized by good friend Professor Jean-Loup Chappelet at the University of Lausanne. I took the chance to talk about the biodigital interface, the growth of e-sport, biotechnological change, ingestible sensors, and virtual realities. But the big controversy, as always, was my views around doping, which did hijack the futures debate a little. In any case, here's my presentation.
Thanks to Michel Filliau for the photograph.
Last night, I took part in the Grayson Debate, an annual event of the British Association for Sport and Law. I was asked by Dan Saoul, for whom I have spoken before at the BASL conference. The other speakers were the world leading sports lawyer Michael Beloff QC and former elite cyclist David Miller.
The event operated by Chatham House rules, as much of what was said was of an extremely sensitive nature, but here's the skeleton of my talk, which covers some of the main points. I focused on the processes that enable corruption and attempts to mitigate against them.
I don't know how corrupt sport is, but we have to assume that corruption is a feature of any institutional system and constantly work towards improving checks and balances to diminish its occurrence and impact.
Improving Football Governance through Supporter Involvement and Community Ownership
- 12,000 grassrootssurveyed, 73% feel completely ignored at national level, 39% at local club level
Transparency International recommendations:
- Big data – performance tracking to identify unusual behaviours
In 2013, the EU’s Expert Group on Good Governance produced their own version of Principles of good governance in sport, which included this definition:
The framework and culture within which a sports body sets policy, delivers its strategic objectives, engages with stakeholders, monitors performance, evaluates and manages risk and reports to its constituents on its activities and progress including the delivery of effective, sustainable and proportionate sports policy and regulation.”
I don’t believe in ghosts, but a traffic light system may be appropriate to identify risk of corruption, a bit like investment risks. If you are AAA then you are in good shape.
My talk at the Sport Accord in Lausanne this year focused on e-sports, an area of focus for my forthcoming book for The MIT Press, out later this year. My talk was followed by a panel debate with Patrick Nally (President, International Federation of Poker), Alex Lim (Sec Gen, International e-Sport Federation), and Chris Osborne (BBC Sport).
Here's the livestream recording
Here's the prezi...
In December, I interviewed for journalist Fabien Mulot on a feature article for L'Equipe on eSport. It is perhaps the most comprehensive news article on the subject and is a beautiful example of how long form journalism can work well online. Take a peek!
This week, I was in Seoul for the 7th eSport World Championships. Recently, I have begun working with the International eSport Federation and they ran their 1st eSport summit during the champs. It was a great chance to air some ideas I have about the field, many of which are in a book I have coming out next year with MIT Press. Here's what happened.
Salford University's Creative Entrepreneur event has become a huge success, with over 400 delegates registered over 1 day. I took part in a panel this year focused on Sport Business 2.0, at which I spoke about the game development community around sports and the growing mobile health market.
Opening at the National Football Museum this week is a new exhibition I was involved with producing, through my relationship with the museum's artistic director, John O'Shea.
I have worked with John for many years now and he has done amazing work in bioart and new media art. He has brought together an extraordinary exhibition of the last 40 years of football computer games to show how much gaming has evolved and how close art and life now come together.
The exhibition is on until June, so plenty of time to see it. It's worth spending a whole day at least, just to experience the different kinds of game interfaces and appreciate how they have changed over the years.