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!

The Tweeting Experience

Technology has improved and widened our abilities to communicate, interact and learn.

Sally Stearns says that “live tweeting is a craft that takes focus and creativity, and when done well provides a great social power”. This semester it proved to challenge our abilities to analyse and review a film in real time, while post appropriate comments, links and content in relation to what was going on and reflect on key themes that were spoken about in the weekly lectures.

Twitter is not my platform of preference, however this weekly task pushed me to step out of my boundaries for the better (well you can judge). My interactions with others was most prominent through ‘liking’ and ‘retweeting’, I rarely commented because I was simply too shy despite hiding behind my computer….

https://giphy.com/gifs/redneckisland-cmt-redneck-island-l2R0c88udofxmmPss

Credit: Giphy

Ghost in a Shell.

First week viewing was of Ghost in a Shell – anime style. The film itself explores the roles of computer networks in our social, cultural and contemporary lifestyle. Our seminar focused on self-identity and the influence of technology. My aim was to broaden my understanding of the film and its meanings along with the themes of cyborgs, cybernetics and cyberfeminism.

I was fascinated by the concept of the cyborg, how in the near future we will ultimately have the opportunity to transform ourselves with robotic and digital alternatives. I was intrigued by this quote:Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 7.26.33 PM

Now in the 21stcentury, we are so infatuated with technology and bettering ourselves that I began to consider who is the higher power manipulating us to think this way? In following posts my aim was to post links to Reddit chartrooms, and alternative texts that not only helped me but also could help others begin a discussion.

My interaction with fellow students was extremely limited, (stage fright). But one tweet that caught my attention in particular was

https://twitter.com/CL_Moore/status/969054762141327360

I thought that this really reflected self-identity at the cusp of the digital age, are we still human if we become cyborgs, rather than retaining memory in the brain we are ‘exporting’ memory do we still have the qualities of the human?

West World.

Excitement is an understatement.

This week was based on who has the authority between man and computer, who is the gatekeeper and ultimately ‘who is real’. West World has always left me in two minds, who is conscious and who is not.

This week my twitter presence was more, its difficult to distinguish who is a robot and who is human. One character that challenged this theory was android Maeve, who “grabs a technician’s tablet showing her personality dashboard and upgrades herself to genius. Can robots dream?!” My following tweets follow this and I post a variety of articles, which challenge the idea of inhumanity, robot or human and challenge the distinction of consciousness again.

@CL_Mooretweeted:

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It made me think, will we succumb to this preconceived idea of ‘utopia ’ or are we going to be left with the excuse, death by technology. I thought it seemed like the ultimate gatekeeper was the program rather than the technicians behind the robot.

Johnny Mnemonic.

This week we saw two worlds cross, the realm of high tech and the underground world of modern pop. The term cyberpunk comes from the realm where the computer hacker and the rocker overlap, Johnny Mnemonic proved to fit this term quite perfectly showing us how two worlds collide, and the futuristic dependence on technology and data storage proved to provoke the thought of how memory and information are going to be stored in the future.

An article written by Wired caught my interest in particular, breaking down technology and how much we have learned in one sit in. I particularly liked the connection drawn between mnemonics mind eroding as a result of the overload of information, and the effect the internet has on us now “the internet that we actually have, is pretty much effortless from a physical standpoint but tends to erode you mentally over time with YouTube comments and drawings of My Little Pony characters”.

https://twitter.com/angster1/status/974128866389147650

Another concept I found interesting in the film was the notion of time; Angus Rigby-Wild for instance raises a good point. How would we function and evolve if we did not rely on the concept of time? Despite the evolution of technology, as human beings time is a dependent for us we are unable to function without the guidance of time.

The Matrix.

Continuing on from last week, Cyberculture and cyberpunk represents the mind-machine interface – the ability to plug into the brain. “Cyberculture is the experience emerging from the dominant role of computer networks in communication”. Having previously watched the Matrix I had a better understanding of the film. My objective for this weeks tweets were to show the hidden meanings of certain characters and how the reveal and link back to the overarching themes of cyberculture and cyberpunk.

https://twitter.com/miaiorfino18/status/976646819030622208

https://twitter.com/miaiorfino18/status/976648621851525120

This week my interaction with peers gained momentum and I retweeted. Some thoughts resonating with me in particular were:https://twitter.com/PG_Adrian95/status/976654132298661888

 

https://twitter.com/neil_fam/status/976656599681921024

I thought both of these were great points, it is a common feature across movies involving cyberpunks that we see the fight against rebellion. It made me question are they fighting the higher power or the presence of technology? Another point was the change in scenes, colours were used according to the shifts of worlds and action. It created the idea that the substitution of nature for technology will wash our human like qualities and cause us all to be generic, thus using the colour coating.

Black Mirror S02E01

This weeks viewing challenged my morals a bit. ‘Be right back’ was based on the idea that technology was able to recreate and essentially bring back to life someone who has passed away. I was strongly against this as you can see below:

https://twitter.com/miaiorfino18/status/979195679884034048

https://twitter.com/miaiorfino18/status/979198925188956160

https://twitter.com/miaiorfino18/status/979200499151859712

However, what I did find interesting was a post from @kristyyrenae

https://twitter.com/kristyyrenae/status/979192071738150914

Robot and Frank

Sentimentality is a human quality and one I personally think is vital in the creation of human emotion and empathy. Robot and Frank depicts a relationship between a robot and a human. It highlighted the ethical implications behind robots and also touched on the treatment of the elderly, I posted a variety of links to articles surrounding these topics to broaden my understanding and others.

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Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 5.27.46 PM

https://twitter.com/EzzyApples/status/981747809136160768

I think this question @EzzyApples  raises a good point. Growing up in a society were everything has become digitised, will we become inclined to trust robots to care for us. Or will our understanding of the implications of such technology and its potential failures urge us to resort back to the ‘old fashioned’ way? This places an emphasis on cyborgs, will we still be conscious enough and aware of our emotions to make such decisions?

Black Mirror S03E06

Black mirror brings to life fear of a technological takeover. This episode is a prime example to show the potential cybernetic takeover. Not only are our boundaries to controlling humans expanding, but the ability to recreate and control animals and insects is prominent in this episode.

For this week, my tweets were more commentary like. I began with an article breaking down the concepts in this episode, however, ended up being too intrigued in the episode to continue my analysis. https://twitter.com/miaiorfino18/status/984275016245129216

 

https://twitter.com/miaiorfino18/status/984277645843087360

https://twitter.com/kristyyrenae/status/984288992798523392

Engaging in conversation and liking tweets was a great compliment to this viewing. Its interesting to analyse and interact with those who have differing or similar opinions and widening the views on this particular episode. We can see that censorship is non-existent and this is evident through #DeathTo. We are already living in a world where big brother is watching, but this sense of surveillance needs to continue to expand if we are expecting robotic killer bees to be our future.

 

Arsenal vs. Swansea

Since beginning the season Arsenal has had 7 wins leading the to second place on the EPL ladder, victory is sweet.

As week 8 of the EPL season was approaching, Arsenal announced that they would be arsenal_vs_swansea_250314.jpgwithout Giroud and Ramsey. However, this did not setback the team, as they took out Swansea in a 3-2 lead. Walcott scoring the first two goals, and Ozil finally stepping up the plate and perfectly executing a volley a great way to celebrate his 28th birthday.

This week’s game was viewed in the comfort of my very own bed, lonesome to say the least but worth it to see the boys fight till the end.

Watching Arsenal play is a favourite pastime of mine, however, what I have found is that the experience is not the same when watching with friends. While the company can often be annoying, it is the people and the atmosphere that create the ultimate viewing experience.IMG_6300.jpg The constant bickering of rivals and the tension as the players dribble the ball up to the goal for execution creates the suspense, and once they score the feeling of relief and happiness is indescribable.

This week was not as enjoyable as the last, while the game was neck-to-neck sitting in bed  alone removed the climax of the game. Listening to myself quietly chant and cheer as Walcott took out the first two goals of the game was just not the same.

Fans do not only connect to sports through stars and places but also through the communication and social currency it generates. Sports events are social gatherings where the supplementary events and experiences are often more important than the actual game. One of the fundamental advantages of social currency is that it appeals to the deeply rooted desire of people to be part of crowds. This factor is critical to the popularity of fan-zones, travelling to away games, viewing parties, sports-bars and – more recently – the dramatic ‘socialization’ of the sports fan.

Fan socialisation ultimately is what has a dominate influence on your viewing experience. I think this was proven correct in my sit in, my viewing habits in comparison to week 4 changed. For example, my media use increased by more than 50% in areas such as social media conversations and media activity. Like my male friends, I began to involve myself in online conversations with my friends and others from around the world. I began to notice that I was using the game almost as background noise while playing games such as 1010! and Candy Crush. My attention would shift to my laptop as the commentators and ground began to create suspense as either team’s were shifting closer to the goals. And due to the early hours of the morning, the comfort of my own bed at the best of times I would often fall asleep.

In the process of viewing this week’s game, I noticed that my movie habits crossed over. These examples are how my attention span and dynamic of my bedroom influence my viewing experience:

  •  The way I assemble my pillows in my bed
  • Positioning of my laptop
  • Every 10 minutes I would put my phone down and focus on the game
  • The process of checking social media: Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and finally emails
  • I always eat/chew when there is no speaking or an ad break
  • Room must be dark apart from the laptop and phone

This lonesome viewing experience highlights how the company of an audience enhances the viewing experience. In my opinion, it adds to the atmosphere, making the game more enjoyable to watch. However, it has emphasised viewing habits and attention spans, by viewing the game alone I noticed that I had a constant habit or desire to be on my phone. From a research experiment conducted by Microsoft, it found that “Young respondents were more likely to display addiction-like behaviors when it came to their devices. For example, 77 percent of people aged 18 to 24 responded “yes” when asked “When nothing is occupying my attention, the first thing I do is reach for my phone,” compared with only 10 percent of those over age 65. Out of the 18 to 24 age group, more than half admit to checking their phone every 30 minutes or less and over three-fourths used their portable devices while watching TV“. Furthermore, it intertwines the idea of personal devices in a public and private space, in this instance I was in a private space. However, due to my media activity across a range of various platforms, I was participating in public activity.the-new-retail-boundaries-private-vs-public-spaces-of-shopping-9-638.jpg

As a result of viewer habits during games, the EPL has adopted Twitter, Facebook and various other accounts. By doing so it integrates the viewing and social media experience together, therefore blurring this idea of public and private viewing habits.

This week’s viewing experience has taught me how media influences individuals watching experience. And also allowed me to value how good company is when watching one of your favourite sports.

Till next week, Up the Gunners!

Arsenal vs. Southampton

The Premier League season is finally back and to say I am excited is an understatement.

Week 4 into the EPL season Arsenal was set to face  Southampton. After SouthamptonSouthampton-vs-Arsenal-prediction.png
scoring the first goal, in the 29th minute Koscielny legendary bicycle kick settled the score to be 1-1 at half time. However, with 5 minutes extra added to the clock, Cazorla’s last minute penalty gave Arsenal a 2-1 victory over Southampton at Emirates Stadium.

This week I had chosen to watch the game at my boyfriend’s house with some friends. We were a divided audience, and it was safe to say that the banter was at its peak.

Cheering and laughter filled the room as the game became neck-to-neck after half time, like any sporting event a referee is always subjected to hateful remarks. And in this instance, hateful remarks were yelled at the television as three Southampton players were rewarded a yellow card, and the “banta” did not stop there.

Throughout the game, I began to observe the social media habits of myself and also my
friends. For myself, I noticed that my mind wandered more at the beginning of the game, my social media activity was at a high as I found that I was not as interested in the first 30 minutes of the game in comparison to the 65 minutes remaining. Whereas observing the boys around me, after every five minutes each one would log onto Facebook to post something in the sports chat or access Twitter. From there, conversations would circulate during the game around certain players and dispute certain official calls.

“Through social media, fans not only connect with sport teams and leagues, but the athletes themselves have accounts which allow potentially millions of fans to connect personally to the athletes and their teams. This direct connection has allowed fans to now be a part of the sport organization’s story.” – Dr. Alyssa Tavormina.

It is becoming increasingly evident that social media is having a profound effect on the way sports fans interact and watch sports. It is almost like their social media activity adds to their viewing experience, a friend said that it adds an extra commentary section which is both informative and entertaining. Mashable have designed an infographic which displays how social media is changing our sports experiences, http://mashable.com/2012/04/27/sports-social-media-2/#9_5J3wwr8kqf.

While the night was all fun and games, I noticed that unenforced rules began to emerge such as:

  • During a good play, no one was allowed (or did) speak
  • The ‘banter’ came to a halt when we each realised it began to become a bit much
  • Once the game resumed after halftime, we all were back in the same spots as no one wanted to shift the unexamined balance of the room

After everyone left I began asking my boyfriend why he thinks these rules were unknowingly followed, he responded: “to tell you the truth its just ‘soccer watching etiquette’, rules that we’ve just unknowingly followed and its mediated everyone”. I thought this was interesting, that these rules were based on seating and speaking rather than focus on social media or what is going on around them.

From reflecting on this sit in with my friends I wanted to decipher why they added to my viewing experience?  I noticed that we feed off each others enjoyment and passion of the sports, while we were a group divided it was this division that created an energetic atmosphere. It can be said that “sports bonds people together“, while we may not have a continuous conversation circulating, “sports isn’t replacing other, more worthwhile topics of conversation between those sons and fathers, it’s just adding a level of closeness that would not be there without it“. It is this ‘bond’ that created an enjoyable atmosphere while my engagement was not at its peak, it was the influential attitudes that drew my attention more so to the game than usual.

It is the norm to say that having our eyes glued to social media we become anti-social, however in the case of this event we were becoming more social than ever. Not only with each other but from people around the world, and also individuals watching the game first hand.

Despite being in Oran Park in front of the television, having a valuable group of friends that share the same interest in sports as you enhances your viewing experience. The energetic atmosphere of Emirates stadium is also replicated in our lounge room.

Where is your favourite place to watch sports?

Till next week, up the Gunners!