A workshop / Master class of the ASCA Cross-Media Research group in cooperation with Arts and Culture, VU)
The media discourse of competitive sports contributes some of the most consistent and powerful world-building dynamics to the constantly changing cross-media landscape. The serialized and repetitive organization of its competitions guarantees an endless stream of interrelated events, and the evaluation of performances provokes ongoing investigations and contested narratives about heroes and villains. While each sport offers its own characteristic spaces and characters, they all share an emphasis on the particular rules that structure behavior within their specific worlds, rules that aim to create a level playing field that is clearly differentiated from the surrounding ‘reality’.
So far, ‘world building’ has mainly been described as a branding strategy (and fan practice) dealing with works of fiction. Yet, sports also offer a highly dynamic and complex set of elements with their own logic and mythology. All media – from newspapers, radio, and film to television, social media, and smartphones – contribute to this world of sports to attract and monetize eyeballs, activating their specific capabilities to extend the already existing world with additional details and alternative perspectives. While narrative is important, the world building in sports includes other elements as well: rankings and records, data visualizations and memorabilia, medical reports and legal contracts, for instance. Because of sports’ character as a global commercial enterprise, its world building is closely entangled with questions of copyright and the appropriation of the latest technology. And while the media discourse often presents sports as a world of its own, it connects to, and impacts on, the world beyond its delineated space (just like all world building does).
In this workshop, we present several case studies with which we analyze how different media and their specific technological and economic affordances harvest, extend, or modify the world-building dynamics of modern competitive sports, asking how the entanglement of sports and media practices generate narratives, characters, events, visuals, controversies, and real-world (legal, technical, political) effects.
Organization: The workshop is open to all interested scholars, PhD- and MA-students. Next to the key-note lecture, there will be a number of smaller presentations; anybody interested in contributing a paper or other form of input (e.g. discussion of pertinent examples) please contact email@example.com before 20 May. RMa and PhD students who want to earn 1 ECTS can either contribute a presentation (15 minutes) or a report on the event (800-1000 words).
Invited speaker: Travis Vogan, Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Iowa. He researches the intersections among sport, media, and U.S. culture with a special focuson television, media industries and institutions, documentary, and the relationship between commerce and cultural value. Next to numerous articles he published the following books:
Keepers of the Flame: NFL Films and the Rise of Sports Media (University of Illinois Press 2014)
ESPN: The Making of the Sports Media Empire (University of Illinois Press 2015)
His current book project, ABC Sports: The Rise and Fall of Network Sports Television, uses the American Broadcasting Company’s influential sports TV division to outline the development, politics, and transformation of sports television from the 1950s through the early 2000s.