Accepted Paper:

Where should we play tomorrow? 'Extreme sport', uncertain environment and the ludic excesses of the post-sovereign subject  


Allen Abramson (University College London)

Paper short abstract:

Far from being a trivial 'line of light' from key social relations in the present, 'extreme sports' play with the uncertainty inhering in the future key social relation of late-modernity. Mainstream social processes all begin to locally converge upon this seemingly trivial ludic sphere.

Paper long abstract:

How do 'extreme sports' (e-sports) articulate with the uncertainties of risk society and (its) environment? How important is it to pose this question at all? Most accounts of e-sport link its genesis and growing cultural significance to primary social relations in the present: viz. to extensions of neo-liberal ethos in the ludic realm or to 'lines of flight' from its various orders into the deeper authenticities of 'experience', 'flow' and 'intensity'. But, what (else) do we observe if, by contrast, we opt to see extreme sport playing out exaggerated scenarios not of the hegemonic present but of an ideal and emergent future? Specifically, we can show that the agonistic delivery of a sovereign 'champion' to the crowd or the nation is now replaced in e-sport (where e stands for 'environment' as much as 'extreme') by an epic actor who leaves the crowd for the game, who projects the game from elite spaces into the 'environment', and who transforms the environment in question into a variegated continuum of wilderness, artifice, periphery, city, 'outdoors', outer and inner body. Permeated generally with uncertainty, the name of the game in this fractal environment is the location/construction of specific edges or limit-positions designed to test and excite the playful incarnations of perilously perched post-sovereign subjects. Such subjects delight in mastering practice at points where environmental uncertainty clouds its precarious positions and threatens to extinguish them. No surprise, then, that mainstream social processes (e.g. charity; 'personal development'; corporate interest) begin to re-group on the ludic basis of this key social relation of the future rather than upon its discursive supports. All of these processes can be ethnographically traced and further explored across the sector and in local scenes - such as an indoor climbing wall - where current research is focusing.

Panel W099
How to tame, play or skirt environmental uncertainties?