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<nettime> Anand Giridharadas: FIFA's digital philosophy (NYT/IHT)
Patrice Riemens on Mon, 5 Jul 2010 15:14:05 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Anand Giridharadas: FIFA's digital philosophy (NYT/IHT)


Original to: http://anand.ly/articles/in-search-of-a-digital-philosophy
published in The International Herald Tribune, w/e July 3-4, 2010.



In search of a digital philosophy
by Anand Giridharadas



MUMBAI ? The world saw the goal clear as day, but the referees did not.
And in this age of camera-embedded everything and crowd-sourced truths,
the error of the few startlingly prevailed over the cameras and the
eyes of the many.

So, despite an apology days later from Sepp Blatter, the head of the
World Cup?s governing body, FIFA, and a promise to re-examine the
technology question, England never got its second goal against
Germany last weekend.

What might have been had it entered the second half with the psychic
buoyancy of an equal? Fans and commentators simmered: How can these
multibillion-dollar games shun a technology contained in the average
cellphone? Why not embrace the inevitable?

But another way of seeing FIFA?s approach is as a rare and revealing act
of resistance in relentlessly digitizing times.

Technology is of human making. But these days we contort ourselves to
organize life around the tools and not the other way around. If the
technologists sell always-on broadband, we end up being always on. If
they invent a new gadget, we line up to buy it before knowing its uses.
If e-mail can reach us anywhere, we assume that it should.

FIFA?s digital skepticism is a notable exception to this feature-led
culture. In a noteworthy statement issued three months before the
World Cup, the association offered more than Luddism to explain its
reticence. It spoke of a game with certain deep essences that it wished
to preserve and argued that technology threatened them.

High among these is universality; the game played in a Mumbai slum
looks like the game played at the World Cup, with many of the same rules,
rhythms, rites. Digitizing elite contests would, FIFA suggested back
then, break the universality. Constant replay would make the elite
game choppy and eternally interrupted, like basketball. The
narrative continuity that defines the sport would disappear. And
the clarity of automated officiating might starve fans of
opportunities for impassioned ?debate,? the statement said.

FIFA was making a point that is becoming hard to dispute: To digitize
something is not merely to bring efficiency to it. It is also in many
cases to change it in a fundamental way, to give it a new essence.

To digitize sport, book-reading, dating ? to do any of these things is
transformative. The transformations can be good, bad or both.

Whichever it is, digitization brings hard choices about the essences
of particular human activities, and what of them we will negotiate
away for the expediency of technology. Yet we often stumble upon the
choices rather than choose them.

A new digital philosophy could serve as a guide, but philosophers
are seldom technologists and technologists seldom philosophers.
Those good at ?why? and those good at ?how? rarely talk. So many more
philosophers have waded into the questions raised by bio-manipulation
than those posed by the more immediate dilemmas of becoming digital
people.

(...)

<middle part filtered out as it is full of insufferably conventional trite
about how ICT has wipped out the social and invalidated the cat's subway
pass in the process...> (you can always read the original)

(...)

For now, FIFA has reminded everyone that the offerings of technology
are not inevitabilities but choices, and that we don?t have to live in
new ways just because they have been invented. It remains possible to
determine first the kind of life you wish to lead, and only then ask how
magnificent and hazardous arrays of ones and zeroes can be put to the
task of making that life come true.


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