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.


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!

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.

Wearable Technology

Cybernetics has reformed the relationship between man and machine. It has allowed us outperform human ability and has given the push to become more efficient and sustainable. The simplest of things like the new Nike Flyknit running shoe, or the personal tracking device in the Apple Watch are some examples showing how digital technology has changed our existence.

On the theme of sports and technology, cybernetics has revolutionised wearable technology in the sporting industry. Sporting technologies are man-made means (methods), developed to reach human interests or goals in or relating to a particular sport. Technology in sports is a technical means by which athletes attempt to improve their training and competitive surroundings in order to enhance their overall athletic performance.’  

Wearable technology is an example of our cyber culture, the incorporation and dependence that is and will be placed on cybernetics and digital technologies. We can see already that wearable technology is vastly improving and helping the performance and training of athletes, and as a result it is highly doubtful that we will result back to a time where technology and sport did not meet.

The incorporation of wearable technology has attracted the term ‘cyborg’, a term that describes a person physical ability extended beyond normal human limitations as a result of mechanical elements adjusted into the body. The incorporation of wearable technology in sport raises anxieties. Arguments investigate whether using and allowing wearable technology can cross the line between artificial enhancements and what is ‘socially acceptable’.

Firstly, we must understand what wearable technology is, and its application in sports in order to assess its validity in sport.

Where and why do we draw the line between artificial enhancements?

Wearable technology must not be narrowed down to only digital and technological functioning systems; rather, the concept of wearable technology acknowledges ‘smart textiles’. The application of smart textiles sees the fusion between certain fibres and materials to create a technology that allows for better aerodynamics, body circulation etc.

An example of this is ClimaCool by Adidas, an integrated system of technologies that work together to regulate the body temperature. “ClimaCool apparel activity conducts heat and sweat away from the body through a combination of heat and moisture-dissipating materials, ventilation channels and three-dimensional fabrics that allow air to circular close to the skin”. ClimaCool has been integrated into all athletic wear created by Adidas to help regulate body temperature. This is one evident example of wearable technology; it is changing the function of standard athletic clothing in order to adhere to an advancing society.

To check out more smart textiles check out this website: https://www.theteamfactory.com/blog/2014/05/29/uniform-fabric-technologies/

As fantasy sport is on the rise, wearable technology is being held accountable for the collection of personal player data. Known as player tracking devices, these wearable technologies have the ability to record and analyse player performance. The data collected by these wearable devices transmits data to the cloud and is then reviewed by analysts. Exactly what devices used, and whether they gather their information is still a grey area, which calls for further investigation!

But player-tracking devices are not only used for generating statistics.

In the NRL players use GPSports, which identifies changes in each athlete’s relative training load. The benefits of such device allows coaches to review data from athlete’s training history. The device is general worn between the shoulder blades of the athlete, and has proven to efficiently track heart rates, monitor fatigue, track movements etc.


Companies are now pushing to take GPS tracking to another level, making it possible to track players in indoors and under stadium roofs with the introduction of the new CSIRO indoor tracking system.

CSIRO is wireless ad-hoc for position technology, measuring player performance under the roof of Docklands Stadium. The device, ClearSkyis produced by the Victorian company Catapult Sports that supplies GPS tracking devices for elite sports, one being NRL.

Wearable technology will only continue to expand in products. Chief economist of the Consumer Technology Association Shawn DuBravac says, “If we were to go show up at a marathon somewhere, my bet would be that everybody in that first corral has a wearable on… they consider that as important as, if not more important than other things they might have on.”

Wearable technology is changing the game, from a performance perspective, athletes use this data to maximise performance. In the medical areas, these devices are tracking player health and injury. They are allowing medical staff to identify which parts of the body are most injured, and are helping to target treatment for effective treatment.

Across all levels of sport, wearable technology is continuing to be a prominent feature. Wearable technology offers businesses the opportunity to generate data analytics, which heavily influence the fantasy sports industry, they are creating the opportunities for big brands to sponsor such technology and reinvent pre-existing products and lastly it has revolutionised the medical side of sports.

The Cyborg Athlete

As previously stated, wearable technology is revolutionising the sporting industry. However, it seems the inclusion of technology is beginning to raise anxieties, questioning whether such applications are a viable resource in sports.


A cyborg is defined as “an integrated man-machine” and “a person whose physical tolerances or capabilities have been extended beyond normal human limitations by a machine or other external agency that modifies the body’s functioning”. With the rapid advancements and implantation of science and technology are changing the human species and our activities.

Sport can no longer remain the same, the integration of wearable technology such as tracking devices, prosthetic limbs, smart watches etc. are the key innovations that are leading sporting events to be called ‘transhumanist competition‘ – competition beyond human means.

The application of technology in sports has raised anxieties and concerns.


Where and why do we draw the line for artificial enhancements?

A survey of eighty people was conducted in order to gather public opinion on the matter of the ‘cyborg athlete’. When asked the “does the inclusion of technology in sport bother you”, 85% of responders voted yes with responses stating, “they are no longer human”, “it’s cheating if they don’t need the technology”. One response, in particular, suggested, “Sports is a showcase of how well humans perform. A technological enhancement takes away the human factor in the game”. Do you agree with this? Does technology remove the human factor in sports?

Researcher F. Lopez agrees to say, “The cyborg threatens deep-seated convictions about both sports and ourselves”. Lopez aligns his theory with Bioethicist, Michael Sandel, who suggests the example of the bionic baseball players. Sandel argues his case against the cyborgised baseball players, stating that the use of the bionic arm eliminates the human elements of sport, “the descent of sport into the spectacle is not unique to the age of genetic engineering. But it illustrates how performance-enhancing technologies, genetic or otherwise, can erode the part of the athletic and artistic performance that celebrates natural talents and gifts” (Sandel, 2009). Despite reasoning behind the application of wearable technology, researchers pinpoint one of its ethical implications, “it is removing the human element”.

The following Youtube clip produced by Professor Steve Haake further explores this point.

Sport thrives on the application of human performance, take three athletes and examine their abilities. Would you be able to pinpoint the exact similarities across these individuals? Take a moment to reflect on what they are best known for.
Researcher Andy Miah explains, “sport is described as existing on a continuum of technological change, where technology becomes increasingly necessary as it becomes more apparent that the human body cannot sustain limitless, unaided enhancement”.

The gradual introduction of wearable technology has fastened the human performance factor, for many a simple flyknit technology and the application of are blades for runners can allow them to glide, the Fastskin swimsuit replicates similar functions. Miah continues to say; “the concept of performance enhancement has had strong associations with elite competition, where the importance of competition and winning is paramount”.

The importance of competition and winning will continue to be paramount is sports, however, much like previous doping scandals can the inclusion of wearable technology begin to replicate doping habits?

We can see that the application of technology may never fade as a result of the prevalent nature of cyberculture. Miah suggests, “sport will seek to legitimise performance-enhancing technologies that will allow the continued surpassing of human limits in sport and bring about a new kind of sport that has a different regard for distinctions between legitimate and illegitimate means of enhancement”.

Like Prof. Steve Haake suggests, has cheating now become unclear?

A prevalent example of this is Speedo’s 2000 invention of the Fastskin Swimsuit, that that the swimming world up in hands. The suit was a full body suit; the material was modelled to resemble sharkskin, which can help enhance the performance of the athlete and reduce drag. A study on the suit revealed that it provides a 3% advantage to the athlete, which caused officials to question the legitimacy of the device in correlation with the rules. The governing body FINA assessed the situation and interpreted their rules to accept the suit. Shortly after they introduced a new rule stating “no swimmer is permitted to use or wear any device that may aid speed, buoyancy, or endurance during a competition”.1-2.jpg

Eight years later, at the 2008 Summer Olympics, swimmers were seen wearing Speedo’s full-body polyurethane LZR Racer suits which shattered previous world records. The suit was developed in Aqualab in Nottingham England, designed to tighten the swimmer’s physique through compression. Suits were then designed to trap air and increase buoyancy followed and FINA banned them in correlation with their new instated rule as stated above.

Two similar situations, eight-years apart and two different outcomes. As Miah has stated sport will seek to bring about a ‘new kind of sport’ and seek to legitimise and illegitimate means of enhancement. The evaluations and outcomes of these situations show that governing bodies are altering regulations in order to become inclusive of such technologies. With the constant alteration of these regulations, will cheating and enhancement ever be clear? Or will brands like Speedo’s continue to alter their technologies to follow regulation and still enhance performance?

This is an evident example of the blur of cyborg athletes and artificial enhancement.

In another means of investigation, enhancements such as prosthetics have also come under investigation. Athletes who use prosthetics, skeletons etc. have also been grouped under the term of cyborgs. But from my own investigation, many are unaware of the two types of cyborg athletes.

In 2016, Zurich Switzerland, the world’s first cyborg Olympics showed the world a “new science-fiction version of sports”. The Cybathlon, people with disabilities used robotic technology to turn themselves into cyborg athletes. These Olympics celebrated the combined power of muscle and machine, those called ‘pilots’ were individuals missing limbs or some form of paralysis, and on their own, they could never have moved. With the combination of controlling technologies, these individual’s were able to navigate through races using powered prosthetics, while others raced in robotic exoskeletons.

The Cybathlon gave these people the opportunity to compete, however, it also demonstrated that technology is yet to fully evolve. In some cases the controlling of these technologies was so difficult, some exoskeletons were unable to reach the starting line.

Although, competition organises “felt [it was] a true complement to the traditional Olympics and the Paralympics, organiser Riener has said the next Cybathlon could occur in 2020”.

So, how is this any different to other wearable technologies?

Like the Paralympics, the Cybathlon is an event that unities athlete’s who are not fully able, and with the help of these technologies, it gives them the opportunity to walk and compete.

If we were to transcend into an in-depth study and evaluate the fully abled athletes who are using these wearable technologies for performance enhancement, should we link the Cybathlon to this issue? And would it help us establish the line between aided performance enhancement and artificial enhancement? In my opinion, no.

However, to find where to draw the line for artificial enhancement in the Olympics, there is a reliance placed upon governing bodies. Management should be intact, and analysis of what technologies these athletes are using in the games and in prior training should be examined. Any further prevention of technologies in sport is no longer an option. The infatuation with cybernetics and technology has clearly become a detriment throughout the sporting world.

Sport is a celebration of pure human performance. I feel that we should not forget or abandon this.


NBNco Price Changes

The company behind the nations broadband network is changing wholesale prices.

As of May 1st2018, the pricing structure will change. NBNco as a wholesaler, are planning to change prices for Retail Service Providers such as Optus, Telstra, iiNet, Dodo and so on. This price change is directly an impact to the RSP, not to the end user (you).

The old (pre 1stMay 2018) pricing structure by retailers was actually not directly consumer friendly. A service of 50Mbps would cost retailers $34 to deliver to you to your door, but you would be paying on average $80. This means connecting a cable from the node or exchange to your house. In order to provide you with actual internet, the RSP needs to buy upstream bandwidth.

To draw up an example, let us assume that the RSP has 5000 customers on a 50Mbps plan. To maintain bandwidth for 100% capacity, RSP should be buying 250,000Mbps (250Gbps) of upstream bandwidth. Logically, this would be a complete waste. More than likely, RSPs would look at upstream of 10Gbps which costs $175,000 per month. So $175,000 bandwidth costs / 5,000 users + $34 cost = $69 cost to the RSP and you are paying them $80. $80 – $69 = $11 “profit” (not including staffing, marketing, other costs)

A variety of RSPs such as Telstra, Aussie Broadband and Exetel are promising user experience at a slightly higher cost, while others are selling cheaper plans. This is where the RSPs business model / customer service comes in to consideration.

Due to the poor planning by these RSPs, NBNCo is forcing them to have some guaranteed bandwidth per customer. As a result, the same numbers used previously will have a different outcome. For every client that buys a plan of 50Mbps, the NBNco is including 2Mbps of guaranteed upstream bandwidth.

Although this guaranteed bandwidth will benefit consumers, it comes at an increased price for the RSP. Rather than NBNCo charging $34, they will be charging $45. But because there’s guaranteed upstream bandwidth, logically RSPs will purchase less. In its place, RSPs will instead spend $140K (for 8Gbps) rather than $175K (10Gbps). Therefore, $140,000 / 5,0000 + $45 = $73 cost to the RSP for the “same” service they are providing as of pre 1stMay. A loss of $4 profit from last months pricing.

While it seems that consumers will gain from this change in pricing (due to the guaranteed upstream), it will likely result in issues. RSPS will likely be forced to cut down on how much bandwidth they buy to save costs, this will result in ‘peak traffic’ times to become increasingly worse. As a result of this, the NBN blame game will continue to prevail, due to incorrect finger pointing.

An industry professional with ten years experience says, “I think we need more transparency from RSPs and NBNCo. I know personally I’d rather pay a premium for a guaranteed speed, where others who don’t use the Internet as frequently would rather a cheaper service that will suffice for basic use”.

Ultimately, it is your choice as a consumer to choose your RSP. The lack of transperancy is making this decision clouded and unfair. Not all NBN plans are created equally.

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….


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


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.


Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 1.56.12 PM.png

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”.


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.



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



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:




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


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.

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 5.26.48 PM

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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




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.


Investigating the Cyborg Athlete

Have you ever invested so much time and energy into a topic? Understanding the ins and the outs, how it works and what it means? Well that’s me when analysing the influence technology has on sports.

For the purpose of this blog post, I want to take a particular focus on the research surrounding the topic of Cyborgs in Sport and the Olympics.

What are they? How do they work? Are they ethical? Does technology have to be obvious and mechanical or subtle and technical?

According to the Oxford Dictionary the term ‘cyborg’ is defined as “an integrated man-machine” and “a person whose physical tolerances or capabilities have been extended beyond normal human limitations by a machine or other external agency that modifies the body’s functioning”.

The application of technology in sport raises anxiety, analysis of different articles and journals shows a divide of opinions. Arguments surround the idea of whether using and/or allowing wearable technology can be classified as ‘cheating’ or deterring from the concept that sport relies on your own ability, rather than being used in order to enhance and help the performance of the athlete.

F. Lopez says, “The cyborg threatens deep-seated convictions about both sports and ourselves”. He aligns his theory with the example from bioethicist, Michael Sandel. Sandel uses the example of the bionic baseball player to argue his case against human enhancement technology. He argued cyborgised baseball players and the use of bionic arms eliminates the human element of sport, “the descent of sport into spectacle is not unique to the age of genetic engineering. But it illustrates how performance-enhancing technologies, genetic or otherwise, can erode the part of athletic and artistic performance that celebrates natural talents and gifts” (Sandel, 2009). I found that Lopez and Sandel emphasised that technological enhancement altars the crux of sport that is the human element.

For more on ‘The Case Against Perfection‘ check out an article by the Atlantic.

Where do we draw the line between artificial enhancements and enhancement that ultimately benefits the athlete and progressing with the technological revolution?

Andy Miah explains “sport is described as existing on a continuum of technological change, where technology becomes increasingly necessary as it becomes more apparent that the human body cannot sustain limitless, unaided enhancement”. We have now grown into such an advanced society where technology in all shapes and forms is improving our human abilities, as Miah says, sport is evolving with technology. Rather than relying on the progression and natural enhancement of human strength and performance (not relying on doping), can we now say we are relying on the latest technology of our swimsuits for our professional swimmers, or the latest flyknit technology for long distance runners.

Miah says that we must first consider the interest sport has in performance enhancement. “The concept of performance enhancement has had strong associations with elite competition, where the importance of competition and winning is paramount”. Sport places a great emphasis and importance on the ability to excel, in past years this emphasis on excelling has often seen athletes turning to drug enhancements and doping regimes prior to important events such as the Olympic Games. Therefore other methods of excelling have been evaluated in the contexts of fair play, paternalism, dehumanisation and social-contracts. Therefore, sport require performance enhancement to be achieved in a ‘legitimate’ respect.

I created an online survey, where 60 recipients answered questions and expressed their thoughts towards performance enhancement in sport and the concept of athletes as cyborgs. More than 50% of responders voted ‘No’ when answering whether or not wearable technology and performance enhancement was a valid means of excelling in sport. One responder explained, “Sports is a showcase of how well humans perform. A technology enhancement takes away the human factor in the game”.

For example, Miah refers to a case in 2000 were Speedo introduced a Fast-skin swimming costume which cause a deal of controversy in the swimming world. The suit was a full body suit; the material was modelled to resemble sharkskin, which can help enhance the performance of the athlete.

A study on this suit revealed that it provides a 3% advantage to the athlete, causing officials to question the legitimacy of the device in correlation to the rules. The governing body Federation Internationale de Natation Amateur (FINA), accepted the suit by evaluating whether the suit was deemed as a device. Rules set out by FINA stated “no swimmer is permitted to use or wear any device that may aid speed, buoyancy, or endurance during a competition”. Researchers such as Miah who have reviewed the rules and outcome explain that there is not enough evidence for justification of its acceptance. He explains that “the ability to distinguish legitimate technology from illegitimate technology is problematic; justification seem tenuous and poorly considered”. Moreover, Miah’s views reflect the evolution of society, if we become dependent on these technologies it seems impossible to stop them from continuing to enter.

Although on the other end of the spectrum, an article written by Eliza Strickland casts a different light on the topic. In this article, she reports on the world’s first Cybathlon – where “people with disabilities used robotic technology to turn themselves into cyborg athletes“. The games were held in Zurich, Switzerland The Cybathlon “[celebrated] pure human brawn… [rejoicing] the combined power of muscle and machine”. During this event spectators saw a paraplegic athlete get out of his wheelchair to compete in the exoskeleton race, did it show the evolution and use of Ekso Bionics but it showcased the athlete, Strickland breaks down each event and the use of technology.

During a conversation with a peer, they argued that the following arguments cover two different topics under the umbrella of Cyborg athletes. But my question is it really? Like the bionic arm or the Fast-skin or the exoskeleton these technologies are enhancing human performance, however to what degree should these governing associations permit the use of technology in sport. While Miah, Lopez and others argue that it deters from what sport is, Strickland places the topic in a different light.

There is more research to come, however through the analysis of several academic sources drawing a conclusion on the ethics behind Cyborg athletes still remains unanswered.

Here’s to the next several weeks of investigation!