Uncovering China’s agenda for Ping-Pong

Table Tennis is not for the faint-hearted, it is a sport of endurance, stamina and utter focus.

Sports presents itself in all forms and sizes, as an individual of the Western World I was not always aware of the extent of ping-pong. In Australia, I associate ping-pong with the legendary game of Beer Pong and a casual muck around with friends. In China, Table Tennis is the countries biggest sport. China is ranked number 1 in the world and holds the three top seats in the Men’s and Women’s leagues. Of China’s population, it is estimated that there are around 10 million citizens who regularly play the game. During the 2008 Bejing Olympic Games, a solid 300 million people of China tuned in to watch the mega show-down between China’s Table Tennis athletes Ma Lin vs. Wang Hao.

Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno). As part of autoethnography, researchers are challenged to participate in their own self-evaluation, this stems from the concept of epiphanies. Epiphanies are remembered moments percieved to have significantly impacted the trajectory of a person’s life. Epiphanies require a level of self-awareness, they reveal the ways and ‘whys’ a person reacts to particular circumstances or situations.

My first step of investigation for my digital artifact was to sit down and watch a clip of the best rallies in table tennis history. My mind was blown by the skill and endurance these athletes have. My next aim was to sit and attempt to watch a full game to get the feel. My past is grounded in tennis, as a former Australian athlete I thought to myself, it really is in essence tennis but on a way smaller level. So I sat down and had a go, after 30 minutes past it was safe to say I was bored. Some people say its because Youtube provided me with an old and ordinary game, but I also think it’s because I had no clue what was going on…..

I researched the rules and training behind the sport and spread my wings to watch a variety of different games at various levels and tutorials. What I found interesting was that undoubtedly each tournament was filled with spectators; views on YouTube videos were consistently more than 400,000+. Interestingly an epiphany popped into my mind, “what makes sport so culturally valuable in society?” “Why do certain countries choose to invest in particular sports?” To narrow down my scope, I researched the history behind the emergence of table tennis in China, why it is a cultural value and to further my own understanding of the game in order to try and value it the same as the Chinese people do.

To validate my epiphanies against Ellis theory of autoethnography – Ethnography is, the study of a culture’s relational practices, common values and beliefs and shared experiences for the purpose of helping insiders and outsiders better understand culture.

As previously stated in my other blog post, China was first introduced to Table Tennis by its former leader Mao Zedong. The sport swiftly became a cultural value of the country, the sport was ‘bizarrely‘ popular amongst the Communist Party of China’s military force during the 1930s. Not long after do we see China using Ping-Pong as a source of diplomacy, this is through the games introduction to the Olympic Games and also communication with other countries.

I found that a brief look into the its history in China and the values that extend past the social norm of sport generate yet another element for my digital artefact. In order to fulfil the criteria of autoethnography, my aim will be to reveal the history of ping-pong in China and explore its globalisation and diplomacy. It will not only allow me to understand the value the country holds for the sport, but also allow me to uncover the hidden agenda government’s hold for sport.

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A sport for every nation.

The world of sport is much larger than what society understand. Sport provides not only a source of health and fitness, rather sport has created unity in communities, it has broadened inter-cultural communication and brought into effect the realities of globalisation. Sport can be named as a ‘peacetime’ event, occasions such as the Olympic Games have bought peace amongst countries in the modern day. Government’s are utilising sport as a platform for global attention and political activity.

I have always had a profound interest in sports, as a former athlete and as a fan and spectator. I have been particularly interested in what sports are largely followed in selected countries, for example, in Australia, our biggest and most followed sports are NRL, AFL and Cricket. Across each sports, fans, coverage and the match itself differs.

For the upcoming research project, I endeavour to take a focus on China’s value of sport with a particular focus on Table Tennis, also known as Ping Pong.

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To get the ball rolling, I turned to trust Google to help me understand a little more about the sport. Little did I know that my views of Ping Pong have been completely wrong.

The game of table tennis actually began during the 1880s in England, as a lawn tennis player adapted their game to play indoors during the winter. It has had its humble beginnings grounded as a ‘parlour game‘, for anyone who had the access to a table, paddle and a ball. The name ‘Ping-Pong’ followed shortly after, it was coined by the English firm J. Jaques and Son at the end of the 1800s, and later trademarked in the US by Parker Brothers, the board game company. The game expanded and caught wind during 1901, the earliest dates of tournaments show that there were more than 300 participants. In 1922 the first Ping-Pong Association was formed and renamed The Table Tennis Association.

Mind-blown? Me too.

But when was ping-pong introduce into China?

China has been infatuated with table tennis since the 1950s, it was during this time Chairman Mao declared it as the national sport. The communist leader thought it was a logical decision, a sport that can be played at a cheap expense and was a sport that was not as popular in the West. Today, China holds the top three ranking in the Men and Women’s League as well as the top spot in the world!

Fun Facts:

  • China is ruthless in their national team selection
  • Chinese players train for a minimum of 7 hours a day
  • Players work with specialised practice partners, even sometimes two against one
  • Chinese teams have the most extensive and strategic analysis about competitors and are pioneers for new techniques

For this digital artefact, I want to immerse myself in the culture of Ping-Pong. I endeavour to watch, research and write about the ins and outs of the sport.

I am a self-proclaimed sports fanatic (sports journalist is the ultimate goal), but I have very limited knowledge to play with. With the help of autoethnography, my digital artefact will be a reflection of my understandings, conclusions, opinions and epiphanies concerning ping-pong and its stance throughout the Chinese Culture.

I have chosen to present my artefact in written form, a mixture of reviews, analysis, cultural understandings and a sports report. I believe this is an effective way to convey my findings, as well as allow my brain explosion to flow and explore a range of different avenues ping-pong influences and flows amongst.

First stop! Watching re-runs of the Table Tennis games during the 2018 Asian Games.

Let the games begin!

Is It Really Equality?

On the surface, Nike’s Equality campaign presents all the elements to successfully adhere to a social justice intervention. Its motto, activists and ambitions urge consumers to break the barrier and welcome equality of race, gender, religion, so on. Although, there has been speculation surrounding Nike’s choice of advertising and a question of what goes on behind the scenes at Headquarters. Through reflection and feedback received from peers, it has become evident that while Nike have created and advocated for change and equality, it seems that these motives have not always been successfully executed.

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As previously stated, ‘Equality’ is an initiative that serves as an equal opportunity for all. Although, since the campaign has hit the headlines it seems that their actions are far from closing the barrier.

Firstly, an article written by OKTC journalist Clay Travis is quite striking, “Nike is for equality: unless you make it shoes”. Travis brings to light the imbalance between common society and LeBron James. For obvious reasons, LeBron is one of the world’s greatest athletes and a KOL for the campaign. LeBron is one of the leading activists for Equality, Nike utilises a renowned athlete as such to help circulate awareness and bring coverage to the intervention.

LeBron has evolved as not only an athlete but also as a brand. From apparel to shoes, Travis explains that while the collaboration between Equality Ambassador James and Nike there are ethical and contradictory issues.

Nike-Air-Jordan-1-OG-High-Chicago.pngThe purpose of the campaign is expressing and providing the opportunity for equality; however, this is contradicted through production labour. Reports show for a pair of Air Jordan’s, Nike is set to pay a total of US $16.25 (roughly) – to break it down: $10.75 for materials, $2.43 for labour, overhead is $2.10 and the factory profit. In Australia, to purchase a pair of LeBron James shoes, you are estimated to spend $210+ on a pair alone. Comparing and contrasting the manufacturing costs to retail, it is evident there is a clear inequality here.

Through Nike’s Equality AD, taglines such as “opportunity should not discriminate” and “we can be equals everywhere” are repeated. The question stands, how is Nike able to continue advocating for Equality when the productions of their products are an example of inequality. It is interesting to reflect on Nike’s prior history; an issue they were previously entangled with was their ‘sweatshop’ image in the shoe industry.

img_6814-e1501517865348.jpgIn July of 2017, students and activists around the world came together to participate in a day of protest against Nike, organised by the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS). Allegations against Nike have begun to rise once again as claims have emerged that workers at the Nike contract Factory in Hansae and Vietnam have suffered wage theft and verbal abuse. This follows long laboured hours in temperatures that were estimated to be over the legal limit of 90 degrees. As a result of this, it is evident that many American Universities have cut ties with the company to push for equal opportunity and fairer working conditions.

Nike confirmed that it would reduce the volume of orders to Hansae, and worked towards improving the working conditions at the factory alongside the Fair Labor Association.

Interestingly, it is evident that while a sporting conglomerate such as Nike push for equality throughout society, we can see that the initiative has not made a fair impression on the people. Nike must push to rectify these issues in order to create a neutral and clear view of its campaign and future objectives.


Bibliography

Akira

Usually I wouldn’t openly express my profound interest in all things cyber, dystopian and futuristic. But it seems BCM320 is making me do just that.

Our screening of Akira, made my geeky senses tingle and I became intrigued.

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Akira is a Japanese anime movie set in 1988, which explores the Japanese government dropping an atomic bomb on Tokyo after ESP experiments on children go ‘awry‘. The film illustrates the repercussions of the bomb almost 31 years after it destroyed the city. The movie is all things dystopian and cyberpunk, and shows strong similarities to your favourite movies and shows like Blade Runner and Stranger Things. It’s crazy to evaluate the similarities between the successes despite being decades apart. But it seems the themes of dystopia and cyberpunk will continue to reign as current and adaptable themes for futuristic movies.

We were given the challenge to channel our thoughts and understanding of the film in an autoethnographic account. ‘Autoethnography’ is “an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience“. Autoenthography is a combination of autobiography and ethnography, fundamentally autobiographies are often written based on epiphanies of the researcher. Such epiphanies are “remembered moments perceived to have significantly impacted the trajectory of a person’s life“.

Autoethnography all the researcher to analyse their content from an outsider and cultural perspective. “Scholars began recognising that different kinds of people possess different assumptions about the world…Auto-ethnography, on the other hand, expands and opens up a wider lens on the world…

Attempting to live tweet while focus on the movie and research the film’s themes proved difficult, and this is exhibited by the minimal tweets I was able to curate. My cultural understanding of anime has never been broad, or my preference. However, I have always had an interest in post-apocalyptic film and the analysis of the repercussions of war and corruption.

During the viewing I noticed constant references and similarities to Blade Runner, and began thinking about the correlation between the movies and their overarching themes. Akira, like Blade Runner incorporate the themes of globalisation, technology and capitalism. It is these themes that we can see transcend over time, to portray a dystopian society which reflects war and destruction. This was evident throughout Akria, understanding these themes helped me to gather the cultural understanding of how Japanese people have dealt with the repercussions of atomic bombs.

The post-apcolyptic destruction reflects the ruins and fear of the Japanese people. What once was and what now stands, are the effects of military and political corruption which are common themes in Japanese film and literature. Being set in 2019, as the repercussions of WWIII caused me to constantly question, I questioned how filmmakers have the capacity to create films that reflect times that we have not yet experienced or predicted. It caused me to question, whether these themes of political corruption, war, globalisation and technology will continue to be labelled as ‘time-less’. And it lastly caused me to question the Japanese culture and its preconceived predictions for the future, and their immersion with western culture.

So I attempted to draw a conclusion.

Akira is a futuristic reflection of the repercussions of Atomic Bombings present and future. As a result of a Western influence and Japan’s technologically advanced society, they predict that military and political corruption will lead to ultimate destruction. Cross-cultural understanding and autoethnography allowed me to understand that Japanese culture largely influences post-apocalyptic and dystopian films. The value of Japanese anime and film culture is preserved and treasured amongst the film industry. Anime is ‘time-less’.

Gojira 1954

Live tweeting is a difficult skill set, one that is only mastered over the course of the semester. However, lucky for me BCM325 prepared me for the big league.

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Unfortunately, I was unable to attend our first seminar back. Jet lag with a side of exhaustion from the first days back at work can really wear down a girl’s immune system. But the show goes on, and lucky for me the internet makes life a lot easier.

My first viewing experience of the semester was not pleasant and resulted in my tweets being forcefully taken down due to utter embarrassment.


Godzilla is a world renown movie, however, I must be living under a rock to have never seen any of the films.

I didn’t know what to expect with Gojira, a black and white film created in 1954 is not an everyday preference. Personally, I enjoy binge watching Harry Potter, any sortShodaiGoji_0.jpg of RomCom or action movie. To educate myself I read an article by the Atlantic to understand why Gojira is a popular film.

Christopher Orr, writes that having watched the American remakes as well as the Japanese original you are able to distinguish the cultural differences. “The Japanese original is far darker and more seamless, a topical fantasy of uncommon power. It may not be a great film, but it is an important one, a surprisingly sombre meditation on means and ends, on when exactly the price of peace becomes too costly to pay“.

 

It was brought to my attention that many Japanese kaiju movies are created as a metaphor  for the nuclear horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Gojira is, as Orr explains, “a theme of visceral immediacy” which becomes increasingly evident throughout the film. It added, in my opinion, more value to the film. Rather than reflecting a myth or legend, the tragedy that struck Japan was channelled in order to create a ‘timeless’ film.

I found that viewing this film in black and white with the accompaniment of subtitles exhibited the overall metaphor of destruction and dispart of the film. Generally, the effect of black and white can cause the viewer to reminisce, it enhanced the feeling of fear and apocalyptic ruins. Director Honda explains, “I took the characteristics of an atomic bomb and applied them to Godzilla“, and I felt that this was further reinforced through the black and white effect of the film.

Having understood the general gist of the remade Godzilla, it was interesting to watch the original and parallel it to the remake(s). America’s Godzilla – King of Monsters, was made to look through the American eye. Producers edited the original Gojira to include the US perspective told by a new protagonist Mr Martin. The protagonist reports on the events of Gojira in Japan without translating the original dialogue. This was an element I thought exhibited how cultural understands heavily influence perceptions and in this case production.

Researchers say that elements of the original film, that were not included in the America remake deter away from the impact of nuclear destruction in Japan. Rather it created an awareness for ‘global nuclear threat’, and comparing these diverse additions of Gorjia we can understand how the nuclear war and the arms race in the 50s have been diversely perceived all around the world.

This cautioned me to rethink my viewing habits. As a Harry Potter enthusiast, with an interest in dystopia, cyborgs and all things comedy. Am I being conditioned through the American lens? My initial understanding of Godzilla as a whole was through Austin Power’s reference to Godzilla in Gold Member. But as you can tell, I have been living under a rock…..

Next time someone tells me to watch the original before the remake, I will listen.

Cyber Culture & Sport

Technology as a whole has progressively evolved. It has changed the way we do, think, operate and communicate. Modern technology has made it “possible for the discovery of many functional and utility devices such as wearable technology. With the introduction of these technologies, it has made our daily lives easier, faster and more efficient.

However, there is more than meets the eye when examining the effects and influence technology has on society. Have you ever wondered and questions how technology fits so well with humans, how this integration enhances the extension and capabilities of human existence?

Cybernetics is one of your answers and Norbert Wiener is your man.  Cybernetics takes as a domain for the design or discovery and application of principles of regulation and communications. Cybernetics is defined as “the science of communication and automatic control systems in both machines and living things”. Cybernetics is an important concept when understanding the relationship between man and machine; it connects control with communication, and understanding the connection between the goal, the information and the outcome. Wieners theory originated from the Greek word Kubernetes, which directly translates to ‘steersmanship’, which funnily enough helps you to understand that cybernetics is essentially the study of systems.

The 21stcentury has now become a cyber world and Wiener has been the crux of inspiration for following his footsteps. Geeta Dayaldraws on Brian Eno’s understanding of cybernetics in the 1975 classic, stating that cybernetics is defining the creative process “cybernetic systems were used to model practically every phenomenon, with varying degrees of success”. Some suggest that Wiener resembles a prophet of an uncertain future, writing about the human perils faced by handing over power to machines.

Essentially with the influence of technology and the cyber realm, we can be seen as an ongoing scientific experiment, understanding how man/animal and machine work coherently on a daily basis.

But here’s an easier way to understand cybernetics!

Essentially, cybernetics reaches us on any end of the universe. It is a concept that only will continue to evolve as technology progresses.

It is interesting to examine exactly what areas cybernetics can change!

Sport is an interesting example, it is one industry that over the years has progressively changed and evolved as a result of the incorporation of technology and cybernetics. Since the 60s we can see the sporting industry rise, “it has carved out for itself a niche with its roots so deep that I cannot fathom the sports industry showing any sign of decline any time soon – or later”. The sports industry can be said to be home to one of the largest masses of fans the world has ever seen, Owner of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings says, “fans will paint their face purple, fans will evangelize… every other CEO in every business is dying to be in our position – they’re dying to have fans”.

The introduction of technology into the world of sports has created opportunities, it has given fans a larger playing field for interaction with athletes, and it has helped enhance athletes, technology has changed the way referees score and the way athletes train and lastly it has helped differ those who are pushing to exceed in illegal ways.

We have seen the incorporation of video and touch technology, player tracking devices have optimised individual statistics and feedback, EXO skeletons and bionic arms have given athletes another opportunity and made them ‘able’ and sports clothing has added another dimension to athletic ability. Cybernetics gives us these results, in other words, the specific system’s actions cause a change in the environment where it is present, with the changes reflected back to the system as feedback. As the changes are fed back to the system, it changes according to its programming.

The following portfolio will explore the influence and involvement of cybernetics and technology in sport. It will investigate a range of areas in the sporting industry and ultimately make an evaluation on the adjustments and so-called ‘improvements’ technology has made in the industry. Its aim is to broaden the understanding of how areas such as social media and fantasy sports enable fans and extend the sporting community and how the use of wearable technology is revolutionising the way we operate and improve performance.

Social Media

Social media is changing the way athletes, clubs and fans are interacting with each other. No longer are fans queuing to have the rare encounter with their idol, with the introduction of the Internet and social media, fan interaction is easier than ever! Because of the webosphere we are not only just watching, fans can get instant news, insights, commentary straight from the source.

Singaporean commentator Walter Lim describes sports and social media as a match made in heaven, he says “the instantaneous, intimate and interactive nature of social and mobile technologies make them perfect platforms to fuel our sporting desires”.

The incorporation of social media into sport is showing our deep descent into a future culture, now more than ever has social media and the internet given the sporting industry a Segway to maximise their reach to fans.

A prime example of this is renowned English Premier League Club, Manchester United. Man United are known for ‘flexing’ their ‘social media muscles’, social media has become one of their key tools in the marketing department. Manchester United are one of the most followed football clubs in the Premier League, fans of the red devils are said to make up 30% of all premier league followers. Meanwhile, the club has been accounted for more than 40% of fan engagement in 2017.

Social media is being used as a tool for marketing, fan impression and also merchandising. 2016 was a big year for signings at Manchester United; one, in particular, was the five-year deal of Paul Pogba. Rather than addressing the media the traditional way in a press conference, Man United took to social media to break the news to the world.

On Tuesday the 9thof August at 12.35am the news broke loose at emerged the hashtag #POGBACK that signified his reunion with the club that sold him in 2012. Red Devils were sent into a frenzy over the new signing, but this was not the only way the news broke the Internet.

Social media can maximise reach to their followers, Pobga, Adidas and Manchester United are a match made in heaven. The club and the brand went hand in hand to unveil a music video performed by artist Stormzy.

The video quickly went viral and within the first week, it reached more than 3million views. The video represented a fusion of music, lifestyle, rap and sport – which some can is the perfect reflection of Paul Pogba. But this is only one example; currently, Paul Pobga on Instagram alone has 22.8 million followers, Manchester United can offer any sponsorship this much reach each time the athlete posts a picture wearing their product.

Pobga signed to the club for £89 million, however, shortly after Man United signed renowned Swedish player Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a free transfer. It was rumoured that Zlatan’s jersey sales alone had paid for Pogba’s transfer fee.

These are only some examples to exhibit how much of an impact social media is having on the sporting industry. Sporting clubs now are thinking beyond the realm of social media and are exploring digital innovations; apps like the Manchester United application or the NBA app on smartphones are changing the game. Brands and clubs are branching out to maximise fan engagement in the next generation.

Sport is progressing further towards cyberculture. How we know, communicate and engage has all turned to digital technology. As previously stated the sporting industry has invested in social media in order to engage fans and attract the newer generations. However, the relationship between social media, fans and athletes proves not to always be as efficient and positive.

With heightened fan engagement and surveillance, social media creates an easy opportunity for athletes to go viral as a result of their actions or words. As a result of this athletes are heavily surveilled by governing bodies to avoid public humiliation and outrage. An example of this is Paul Pogba, in March of this year he released a photo of his latest haircut, as some described it resembling a ‘peacock’. Fans expressed outrage by Pogba’s ‘antics’ on social media, urging the football star to clean up his act.

There are further countless amounts of ‘accidental’ posts by athletes on Twitter:

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https://www.instagram.com/p/BggH7-nj-CR/?taken-by=paulpogba

Furthermore, while social media has now become a key tool in marketing for athletes, associations and brands we can see social media as an ever-evolving platform for fans and the next upcoming generation. In order to maintain its success and efficiency, player profiles must continue to be patrolled to avoid miscommunication, embarrassment and potential harm.

With all the success and branding from social media, will athletes and their clubs take an extra step for precaution and surveillance?