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avatar for Joshua Newman

Joshua Newman

Florida State University
Professor
Session: Digital Audio, Sound, and Physical Culture Research Practice
Narratives, Meaning-making, and Community Identity in E-sports

Sport sociologists have long studied the extent to and ways in which identities in traditional sport settings are constructed through the media in a global(izing) information infrastructure (Falcous & Jackson, 2008; Rowe, 2011; Tomlinson & Young, 2006). This line of inquiry has often entailed examining how cultural intermediaries have actively produced dominant representations of fan, participatory, consumer, or nation-based communities in and through mass discourse. However, the burgeoning field of e-sports presents a new and complex medium/site through which re-spatialized online gaming communities are actively engaged in creating unique individual and collective experiences while building distinct participant/consumer identities (Taylor, 2012). As such, gamers are effectively blurring established boundaries of producer and consumer, mediated and lived experience, spectator and agent by sharing in-game experience, providing emotional and social support for various off-line e-sports tournaments and teams, and translating passion into tangible consumption practices in and through the platform of social media and streaming services. In this presentation, we emphasize the unique meaning-making processes in e-sports community by examining how members of online e-sports community construct narratives, create interpretations for games and their relationships with others, and ultimately build a (virtual) community identity. To do this, we analyze e-sports related texts collected through Reddit over a 12-month period. In so doing, we look at how the e-sports environment presents a new set of logics, mediations, and modes of engagement through which sporting communities can be constituted, contested, made meaningful, and operationalized.


Session: Populism and the Leisure Spectacle: Performing Power and Identity

Digital counter-sphere or political fragmentation?: Twitter networks and the NFL protests in the era of resisting America’s popular white nationalism
With the emergence of social media, scholars have celebrated the democratic promises brought by digital technologies that disrupt the traditionally institutionally controlled “top-down” communication mechanisms (Loader & Mercea, 2011). This is certainly manifested in the mediation of the recent NFL protests, where digital platforms played critical roles that challenged the existing racial and political orthodoxies. Such observation situates the understandings of digital space in Habermas’ (1962) theoretical articulation of public sphere—whereby deliberative democracy occurs through participatory communicative action(s)— and as constitutive of Fraser’s (1990) ‘counter sphere’ which provides  “oppositional interpretations of identities, interests, and needs” (p. 123). Paradoxically, the protest and networked connectivity were also utilized by President Donald Trump to publicize and galvanize a soaring populist movement associated with racial politics, national insularism, and socio-religious conservatism. To conceptualize this paradox, we will empirically examine the complex communication dynamics on Twitter to assess whether the mechanism facilitates counterpublics or drives further political polarization through performing relational boundaries. To do so, the authors conduct a Social Network Analysis based on real-time Twitter data from “#TakeAKnee”. The results reveal that social media is a highly contested terrain for political engagement, where the networked mechanism simultaneously gate keeps populist neo-conservatism and resistances in this current wave of athlete activism.

Session: Sport, Society, and Technology
Concuss(us): On Knowing the Athletic Brain, Damaged
Sport-based traumatic brain injuries have in recent years become increasingly exigent in public health and medical science discourses. Numerous scholars and public commentators have suggested that the violence endogenous to many popular contact sports—boxing, mixed martial arts, American football, hockey, among them—has intensified in rhythm with advances in speed/strength training regiments and performance technology. The ‘concussion crisis’ as a matter of public concern perhaps reached its apogee with the release of the Will Smith-protagonized film Concussion, which depicts the struggles of Dr. Bennet Omalu as he sought to challenge the medical and professional sport dispositifs standing orthodoxies on links between sport participation and long-term health consequences thereof. 

Our concern here is with how the brain—as both instrument (the doctor’s or athlete’s medical diagnosis) and object (swelling, ionic imbalance, damaged nerve fibers, etc.) of biopolitics—expresses itself at the materializations of medical gaze and corporeality. That is, how is the traumatized brain in sporting contexts expressed, embodied, performed, diagnosed, and rendered safe or at risk? In this presentation, the authors seek to establish a cross-disciplinary dialogue around the concurrent medical, performative, and neuro-physical events that constitute the sport-based concussion. By way of this ‘dialogue,’ the first author will provide auto-ethnographic reflections on the challenges faced by medical care providers (and by those concussed) in (self-)diagnosing the symptoms associated with brain trauma. The authors will conclude with a series of new materialist interpretations of how sport-based violence comes to be embodied as brain matter-turned-performance/discourse.

Political Ecology of a Carbon Neutral Bundesliga Stadium
Since 2010, Sc Freiburg has been pressured by the Bundesliga to build a new stadium due to concerns from the media, regulations changing the size of the pitch, structural concerns, and other sponsorship related deficiencies. After four years of posturing between the club and the city, a vote was held in 2015 to construct a new stadium. One of the most successful votes in the history of sport stadia referendums in Germany (60-40 in favor), the city and citizens of Freiburg, as a concerted leader in the global Green Movement, the stadium will utilize solar panels for energy and steam from a local industrial partner to heat the stadium. In this presentation, we seek to employ a political ecological framework to understanding the phenomena of constructing a carbon neutral stadium. We utilize interviews, public records, policy documents, blogs, websites, newspapers, and social media sites to examine the intra-action of actors in the creation of the carbon neutral stadium phenomenon.