Visual Literacy and Fair Play

Two recent events have stimulated animated discussion about the role video can and should play in officiating.

Thierry Henry’s handball in a World Cup Football qualifying game led to a FIFA disciplinary commission hearing.

The International Cricket Council will investigate the umpire decision review system after protests about decisions made in the fourth test match in South Africa.

These events have underscored for me that the essence of sport is in a state of flux and is so because of the mediated and constructed views offered by television broadcasts. The ICC proposes to meet with television broadcasters in March to discuss the standardisation of technology. Ian Chappell identified some of the issues about standardisation in his post. (See also this post and audio file from Harsha Bhogle.)

My view is that these incidents raise fundamental questions about sport and visual literacy. I note John Debes’ definition of  visual literacy as “a group of vision-competencies a human being can develop by seeing and at the same time having and integrating other sensory experiences.” Ari Santas and Lisa Eaker (2009) observe that:

… to be visually literate requires us to readjust our thinking habits and have another look—to review what we have viewed. Unfortunately, there is no ready made teaching strategy that guarantees progression from unsophisticated viewing to sophisticated viewing. … our propensity is to act habitually, and it is through habit that we navigate our social world. Consequently, habituation is not something educators can opt out of, but must make use of; but this is not to say that they should thereby succumb to the mind-numbing practices of manipulators. They must, instead, habituate their students into reflective and creative modes of thinking. Visually, this means learning how to look and getting into the habit of looking, at images with a critical eye. To educate for visual literacy, then, must include training but it is training that facilitates ready movement from habitual ways of seeing and thinking to creative ways of seeing and thinking, from distinguishing between what is in need of extensive reflection and what is best left to snap-judgment or intuition.

I believe the transformation of sport through television broadcast has habituated the viewer to a particular form of experience. This is transferred to the sports arena too where spectators and players now expect large screen images of performance. The emergence of sport as spectacle in the age of entertainment has transformed the structure of sport. The rich and high definition images created by television coverage have removed the intensity of observation needed to engage in real-time (synchronous) sport. In the home theatre environment sport has become an asynchronous relationship in which real-time events can be paused and caught up with. I am wondering if the cumulative effect of this mediated visual and aural experience is transforming our ability to learn and remember.

The dilemma for sport is that in order to appeal to audiences there is constant discussion about what constitutes a sport. The more sport negotiates away its ownership of time as an essential characteristic of participation the more mediated the experience of televised sport becomes. In cricket, for example, there is growing debate about the fate of 50 over game in the light of the success of 20 over competitions. The shortened forms of any game should offer wonderful opportunities to observe and process action in real time and facilitate the neural activity so important to participation.

Francisco Maruenda (2009) discussed a fundamental issue for the game of football:

… the human being and the technological media are both physically and technically incapable of detecting an offside position in real time, in zero milliseconds. The results of this study show that when the ball is passed, the human eye and brain and the technological media need some time to locate the at least four players who intervene in an offside position. When those players are located, time has passed and they are never in the original position, when the ball was passed. Football players are trained for speed and acceleration to change their geographical position in the field when the ball is passed. Therefore, we cannot refer to a human error when an offside position is misjudged. The human being and the technological media will never be capable of detecting an offside position in real time, in zero milliseconds. The key of the offside position is a physical problem: time.

Formal games include some means of arbitration. The future of sport could be to value the person as arbitrator rather than media as judge. Sport is essentially fallible and we should celebrate this fallibility. In the process we might enhance young people’s visual acuity in real time contexts and deliver some very important long term neural stimulation.

Perhaps we need to know more about striatal volume too as we use video as a learning medium for education spectators, players, coaches and referees.

Photo Credits

Mailliw Umpires

Gazzat Refereeeee

Kevin Katinas Superman

Breaking a Snow Jumping Record

David Crawford's Review of Australian Sport: End of Year News

I have written a number of posts about the Independent Panel’s Review of Australian Sport since its publication on 17 November 2009:

In my last post I reported on the release of the Australian Olympic Committee’s eighty-three page response to the Crawford Report and noted that the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) was holding two strategic forums to discuss the Report. The first of these forums was held in Melbourne on 15 December and the second in Canberra on 17 December. There is very little public information about these Forums and there are no links to them on the ASC web site. I understand that the ASC has prepared two summary documents about these meetings as an aide memoir for those who attended.

The Heart Foundation issued a press statement after its attendance at the ASC Canberra Forum. The statement included the observation that “the report provides an important opportunity for both sport and health policies to work together for community good”. CEO, Dr Lyn Roberts called for “a stronger connection between the key recommendations in the report and the Government’s preventive health agenda”. Dr Roberts noted that:

The Preventative Health Taskforce Report contained a range of important recommendations by which to proactively increase physical activity. There is no need to reinvent sound recommendations for health and physical activity; just ensure they are implemented. In order to promote increased participation in sport and other ways to be physically active, children and young people must be a priority.

The Virtual Equestrian had a news item about the Canberra Forum.

I attended a meeting of National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) with the Australian Sports Commission where NSOs voted electronically on each of the 39 recommendations. Most received clear majority support without much change while a small number had substantial implementation concerns registered against them. The meeting felt that some recommendations had not been well thought-through or showed a lack of understanding of sport – the economic impact of sport had simply been ignored – and that there were quite a few areas that had simply been overlooked.  These included coaches, officials, administrators, disabled sport, talent identification, digital media, etc.

Rowing Australia has made public (23 December) its letter to the Minister for Sport, Kate Ellis. The letter notes that while “Rowing Australia believes that there is merit in a number of the Sports Panel’s recommendations it is also our belief that a number of the recommendations are not in the best interests of the Australian sports system. Rowing Australia has concentrated the focus of this response on a number of key issues, both positive and negative, that it considers central to the consideration of the Crawford Report and which should be given extensive contemplation by the Federal Government in preparing its response to the Report”.

Harry Gordon (21 December) discusses the Crawford Report on the AOC web site. In it he explores the intrinsic attractiveness of sport. His post left me wondering about how all the debate about the role of sport in our society might be synthesised into a non zero sum outcome for a healthy and active Australia.

Perhaps in 2010 all those involved in the discussions about activity, health and wellness might work together to have an outcome in which all of us can flourish. What if discussions over the Independent Panel’s Review of Sport deliver a consensus in which all of us have a stake because we defer to the common good?

Photo Credits

Bike Race

Sports Day

Fly High Baby


Engines Ticking Over: David Crawford's Review of Australian Sport

My last blog post about to the publication of the Independent Panel’s Review of Australian Sport was on 27 November. There has not been a lot of publicity about the report since that time. (This report on 2 December points to ‘crisis talks’ and this post contains a report of the meeting between the Minister and the President of the AOC. Richard Hinds wrote about developments on 4 December. On 11 December Athletics Australia posted its response to the Crawford Report and this article outlined Athletics Australia’s position.)

Two recent events have opened up discussion again.

Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers of Sport and Recreation met in Melbourne on 14 December.

The meeting received a presentation from David Crawford, Chair, and Colin Carter, Panel member, of the Australian Governments Independent Sport Panel on the “The Future of Sport in Australia”. The report was welcomed by Commonwealth and State and Territory Ministers who consider the report an important step forward for the future of Australian Sport. All Ministers agreed that a holistic and strategic approach to the organisation and development of sport and recreation at both community and elite levels is crucial to our success.

All Ministers agreed to the establishment of a Government working party to comment on key areas of the “The Future of Sport in Australia” report to assess:

  • structural reform opportunities, which includes the AIS and SIS/SAS; and
  • issues to be addressed under the National Policy Framework.

It was agreed that the Ministerial Council would reconvene early in 2010, following advice from the working party, to finalise a joint position from the Commonwealth, State and Territories on the National Policy Framework and structural issues arising from the report.

This is a press statement about the meeting.

On 18 December the Australian Olympic Committee’s eighty-three page response to the Crawford Report was released.

This is the Contents page of the AOC’s response:

The AOC has posted some video clips of about the response here. This is a link to an AAP report (18 December) of the release of the AOC response (see also here and here). Dan Silkstone has an article in The Age (19 December) about the response. Nicole Jeffrey wrote about the release of the response in this Australian article (18 December). Michael Owen posted an article in the Australian (14 December) that looked at funding issues raised in South Australia. This is an Inside the Games story on the same topic on 13 December. An Around the Rings post on 18 December had a brief summary of the release of the response. The Australian (18 December) carries news of a meeting between the Minister for Sport, Kate Ellis, and John Coates, President of the AOC.

The Australian Sports Commission has held a series of forums in Canberra and Melbourne to allow other community and sports organisations to respond to the Crawford recommendations.

Photo Credits

Race 1912 Olympic Games

North Sydney Olympic Pool

Australian Olympians 1932