Open Access (free)
An actor-network theory perspective
Author: Roslyn Kerr

In today’s world, we are offered a constantly expanding number of technologies to integrate into our lives. We now utilise a range of interconnected technologies at work, at home and at leisure. The realm of sport is no exception, where new technologies or enhancements are available to athletes, coaches, scientists, umpires, governing bodies and broadcasters. However, this book argues that in a world where time has become a precious commodity and numerous options are always on offer, functionality is no longer enough to drive their usage within elite sports training, competition and broadcasting. Consistent with an actor-network theory approach as developed by Bruno Latour, John Law, Michele Callon and Annemarie Mol, the book shows how those involved in sport must grapple with a unique set of understandings and connections in order to determine the best combination of technologies and other factors to serve their particular purpose. This book uses a case study approach to demonstrate how there are multiple explanations and factors at play in the use of technology that cannot be reduced to singular explanations like performance enhancement or commercialisation. Specific cases examined include doping, swimsuits, GPS units, Hawk-Eye and kayaks, along with broader areas such as the use of sports scientists in training and the integration of new enhancements in broadcasting. In all cases, the book demonstrates how multiple actors can affect the use or non-use of technology.

Open Access (free)
Roslyn Kerr
in Sport and technology
Open Access (free)
Roslyn Kerr

This chapter investigates three ways that technology can be understood through actor-network theory. First, an individual technology is considered as consisting of its own unique actor-network and also within the wider actor-network that constitutes sporting practice. Second, technology is argued to be a stabilising device, which when integrated with human behaviour, can cause behaviour to become constant. Third, technology is considered as holding agency, thereby acting as an intermediary to facilitate action or a mediator to prevent action. This chapter considers how these three views of technology are highly relevant to understanding the role of technologies within sporting practice.

in Sport and technology
Open Access (free)
Which technologies are improved, and how?
Roslyn Kerr

The technologies that this chapter focuses on are those which are constituent for sport and are used by athletes every time they train or compete. These kinds of technologies include balls in football, boats in rowing or yachting, bicycles in cycling and shoes in running. As these form necessary parts of each sport, it is understandable that improving these technologies has become another avenue for athletes to attempt to achieve an advantage over their competitors.

This chapter examines how constituent technologies come to be enhanced or improved. It may seem obvious that all athletes would be constantly seeking the best technological options, but this chapter argues determining the best option for an individual athlete can be very difficult. The chapter specifically focuses on two cases. First, the non-use of a new kayak design in kayaking in France and second, the integration of polyurethane swimsuits in elite swimming. Overall, the central question explored throughout the chapter is why some technological enhancements easily integrated, or enrolled, into sport while others are resisted.

in Sport and technology
Roslyn Kerr

Sporting performances and processes can be strongly influenced by technology and equipment that are not considered a standard part of sport. This chapter focuses on the introduction of ‘non-sport’ technologies into the sports training environment. It includes two case studies: a study of the use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) in Australian Rules Football (AFL) and an examination of the use of technologically constructed hypoxic environments (TCHEs), commonly known as altitude chambers. The previous chapter introduced the concept of enrolment, an ANT idea employed to determine how an actant comes to be part of an actor-network, which is also drawn upon in this chapter. In particular, both cases highlight the difficulty of creating equal opportunities for enrolment. In the case of GPS, the difficulty concerns equalities between all teams in the league, while for TCHEs the inequalities are reflective of global economic disparities.

in Sport and technology
Roslyn Kerr

This chapter examines how various organisations have utilised inscriptions and a range of other surveillance methods in order to control doping. The type of control varies between organisations, with some aiming to control doping discourses, some to control doping in order to prevent it, and some aiming to control athletes.

This chapter argues that inscriptions are a crucial tool used by organisations to retain power. It describes how they were used by the IOC to seize control of the anti-doping campaign through the banned list, by East Germany to determine the significant performance effects of the steroids and therefore justify the programme, by the legal profession to hold East Germany accountable and by WADA to confirm their appointment as the director of the anti-doping campaign. Similarly, WADA’s case demonstrates how the Latour’s (2005) concept of the oligopticon is significant for understanding how institutions use networked operations in order to confirm sovereign power.

in Sport and technology
Roslyn Kerr

Experts in sports science and medicine are now assumed to make-up a significant part of a competitive athlete’s actor-network. These experts have a range of technological tools at their disposal that are able to reveal the inner workings of the body and suggest solutions. This chapter investigates the processes utilised by athletes and coaches to integrate sport scientists into the sporting context. While it would be easy to assume that enrolment would easily take place owing to athletes, coaches and scientists all having the common goal of improving performance, the two cases in this study, of rowers in the UK and gymnasts in New Zealand, demonstrate that the integration process is more complex and encompasses a range of perspectives and understandings, as well as specific actants, that contribute to enrolment or non-enrolment. This chapter also offers a demonstration of the ANT methodology at work, particularly drawing on AnneMarie Mol’s (2002) ANT orientated work examining the workings of medicine.

in Sport and technology
Roslyn Kerr

This chapter considers the actor-network of various sports that have enrolled technological devices for assisting with umpiring or judging. The cases of cricket, tennis and artistic gymnastics are drawn upon to examine how the actor-network of each sport is affected by the new technology. The focus in this chapter is following the actor-network beyond the initial implementation. Each sport is followed beyond the point at which the governing body introduces the new technology, to how the new assemblage affects other, often unexpected, parts of the actor-network. In all three cases, the particular technologies included an aspect of video-replay that meant the performances of the athletes could be repeatedly seen and examined in detail by suitably qualified umpires or judges. All three sports also chose to implement hybrid systems, which exist as a technology and human working together in order to produce the most effective outcome, with literature arguing that both technology or humans on their own can be potentially problematic.

in Sport and technology
Open Access (free)
The production of sports media broadcasts
Roslyn Kerr

Latour (1992) is famous for describing non-humans as the “missing masses” in the study of society. While more recently authors have argued that the increased number of studies examining technology, animals and other non-humans mean that that non-humans are no longer missing (see Sayes, 2014), they remain missing in the study of sports media. There is little attention to the exact technologies utilised by sports producers and how the assemblage of humans such as commentators and technologies such as digital overlays work together to produce the actor-network that is the sports media broadcast.

The goal of this chapter is to begin to remedy this deficiency. The chapter draws attention not to sports media representations, but to the processes by which these representations are produced. It considers how humans and technologies assemble together to produce what we view to be a seamless television broadcast.

In this chapter, the global nature of sporting coverage is considered through Collier and Ong’s (2005) concept of a global assemblage. Following the introduction of this concept, the chapter examines China Central Televison’s production of the 2008 Beijng Olympic coverage, and the history of the broadcasting of the America’s Cup.

in Sport and technology
Open Access (free)
Roslyn Kerr
in Sport and technology