Sportscape

Introduction

2822963411_baf25e1da8_bI am taking part in a CSIRO Cafe Scientifique event on Canberra Day (11 March). I am delighted to be a panel member with David Rowe and Paul Fairweather. Stefan Hajkowicz is the facilitator.

The topic is What is shaping the future of Australian sport?

Background

I have been thinking and writing about the future of sport of late. Recently, I have posted:
A year ago I wrote about Stefan Hajkowicz’s work on the Future of Australian Sport. I noted then that Stephen and his colleagues had identified six megatrends in sport in Australia. These were:
  1. From extreme to mainstream (the rise of lifestyle sports)
  2. New wealth, new talent (economic growth and sports development in Asia)
  3. Everybody’s game (demographic, generational and cultural change)
  4. More than sport (attainment of health, community and overseas aid objectives through sport)
  5. A perfect fit (personalised sport and tailored training systems)
  6. Tracksuits to business suits (market pressures and new business models)
2577007801_5756fdd242_bI have been thinking about these megatrends. I have been thinking about some earlier work undertaken by Stephen and his colleagues that looked at Megatrends and Megashocks. CSIRO published Our Future World: an analysis of global trends, shocks and scenarios in April 2010. This report noted that a megatrend “is a collection of trends, patterns of economic, social or environmental activity that will change the way people live and the science and technology products they demand.” The report identifies five interrelated megatrends:
  • More from less. This relates to the world’s depleting natural resources and increasing demand for those resources through economic and population growth. Coming decades will see a focus on resource use efficiency.
  • A personal touch. Growth of the services sector of western economies is being followed by a second wave of innovation aimed at tailoring and targeting services.
  • Divergent demographics. The populations of OECD countries are ageing and experiencing lifestyle and diet related health problems. At the same time there are high fertility rates and problems of not enough food for millions in poor countries.
  • On the move. People are changing jobs and careers more often, moving house more often, commuting further to work and travelling around the world more often.
  • i World. Everything in the natural world will have a digital counterpart. Computing power and memory storage are improving rapidly. Many more devices are getting connected to the internet.

The Report identified eight megashocks relevant to Australia (a ‘megashock’ is “a significant and sudden event; the timing and magnitude of which are very hard to predict):

  • Asset price collapse
  • Slowing Chinese economy
  • Oil and gas price spikes
  • Extreme climate change related weather
  • Pandemic
  • Biodiversity loss
  • Terrorism
  • Nanotechnology risks
During this period I have followed discussions about the Crawford Report and the more recent discussions about the Winning Edge. I have been particularly interested in thinking about the ecology of Australian sport during this time. I found it fascinating to consider the synchronicity of the launch of The Winning Edge and the publication of Tim Flannery’s Quarterly essay, After the Future: Australia’s New Extinction Crisis.
I am following the Australian Academy of Science project “Australia 2050: Towards an environmentally and economically sustainable and socially equitable ways of living”. I think we can learn a great deal from deliberation about learning loops. This week Beth Fulton, Steven Cork and Nicky Grigg have shared some of the work of the 2050 Group.

Other Voices

3675431410_4f2a1d179d_oIn thinking about the future of Australian sport, I have been re-visiting a number of authors. These include:

George Orwell’s (1945) The Sporting Spirit.

Nearly all the sports practised nowadays are competitive. You play to win, and the game has little meaning unless you do your utmost to win. On the village green, where you pick up sides and no feeling of local patriotism is involved. it is possible to play simply for the fun and exercise: but as soon as the question of prestige arises, as soon as you feel that you and some larger unit will be disgraced if you lose, the most savage combative instincts are aroused.

Johan Huizinga and his writings on Homo Ludens.

One of his five characteristics of play is “play is connected with no material interest, and no profit can be gained from it”. He argues that “civilization is, in its earliest phases, played. It does not come from play…it arises in and as play, and never leaves it”.

Roger Caillois and his discussion of Man, Play and Games. Callois presents a taxonomy of play and games and proposes that there are four play forms and two types of play. The forms are: agon (competition); alea (chance); mimicry (role playing); and ilinx (pursuit of vertigo and altering perception).  A Wikipedia article on the 1961 translation of the 1958 French text points out that these four forms of play take place on a continuum of two types of play (ludus and paidia):

from ludus, structured activities with explicit rules (games), to paidia, unstructured and spontaneous activities (playfulness), although in human affairs the tendency is always to turn paidia into ludus, and that established rules are also subject to the pressures of paidia.

Caillois observes “It is this process of rule-forming and re-forming that may be used to account for the apparent instability of cultures”. He points out (in 1958) a tendency for a corruption of the values of play in everyday life.

John Hoberman‘s discussions of Sport and Political ideology (1984), Mortal Engines (1992) and Testosterone Dreams (2005). John Hoberan has had a significant impact on my thinking in the last thirty years. He prompted me to think deeply about sportive expressionism and dehumanisation at a time when I was actively involved in international sport, seeking to optimise performance through probabilistic models of success.

At times like this I return to Gregory Stone. Fifty-eight years ago, his paper, American sports: Play and display, was published in the Chicago Review (9: 83–100). In it he observes:

Play and dis-play are precariously balanced in sport, and, once that balance is upset, the whole character of sport in society may be affected. Furthermore, the spectacular element of sport may, as in the case of American professional wrestling, destroy the game. The rules cease to apply, and the “cheat” and the “spoilsport” replace the players.

A Future for Sport?

As my contribution to the discussions at the Cafe Scientifique, I will propose that for a sustainable future for Australian sport, we should:

  • De-emphasise the acquisition of nation state status through sporting achievement  and recognise the intrinsic value of play, games and sport.
  • Accept the 2000 Olympics as the high-water mark for Australian sport (other than the professional football codes).
  • Think very carefully about providing opportunities for late specialisation in sport.
  • Accept that the quest for television coverage has commodified sport and recognise that we are responsible for this.
  • Lament that despite all our efforts there is cheating in sport and we have hypokinetic diseases.
  • Re-calibrate our thresholds of repugnance.

I think we should celebrate:

… and listen to some of the least privileged children in our society:

AS0000154F06 Primary school children, sports day

In December 2012, the New Zealand Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty presented its Priorities and Recommendations. There were seventy-eight recommendations in total. I was particularly interested in Recommendation 72 from the children interviewed by the Advisory Group. They recommended that:

all local governments ensure that parks, playgrounds and public spaces are safe and welcoming for children, and free leisure and recreational activities are available, especially in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

Photo Credits

Surf Life Saving (New South Wales Maritime, CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Rough Sea (Victoria Rachitzky, CC BY 2.0)

Geen hulp voor Giusto Cerutti (Natinaal Archief, No known copyright restrictions)

Primary school children, sports day (Anthea Sieveking, CC BY 2.0)

Environments

I happened upon three discussions of environments yesterday.

The first came via Stephen Downes with a link to to a post about the Telefonplan School in Sweden. The school was designed by RosanBosch.

Other designs include the Efterskole, Brotorp and Sodermalm. These are some of the links to the coverage of these designs.

Shortly after reading about school design I was on my way to Canberra listening to Radio National. Michael Dunlop was Cameron Wilson’s guest on Bush Telegraph. The trail for the conversation was:

A new CSIRO study shows that ecosystems we grew up with will be changed so much as a result of climate change that they will look, sound and smell completely different in years to come. The study is the first Australia-wide assessment of the magnitude of the ecological impact that climate change could have on biodiversity. It says the scale of the problem could have major implications for conservation policy and the management of Australia’s system of national parks and reserves. The report predicts that by 2070 most places in Australia will have environments that are more ecologically different from current conditions than they are similar.

Shortly after interviewing Michael, Cameron spoke with Danica Leys. She is a co-founder of the social media platform AgChatOz, a community forum for rural Australians to connect and discuss issues affecting their lives. AgChatOz hosts a weekly discussion on Twitter on Tuesday nights from 8-10pm.  This week there was a live event in Canberra.

There is more information about AgChatOz at their web site. I liked the rationale for social media use:

The great thing about #AgChatOZ is that allows farmers to tell their side of any story. It is breaking down barriers of rural isolation and allowing for consumers to engage with farmers and understand the inner workings of a farm and rural environment.

With more than 50% of the world’s population under 30 years old, more than 80% of online Australians familiar with Twitter, and Facebook reaching nearly 1 billion users, it is no surprise that social media is one of the most powerful communication tools of the 21st century.

Social media has allowed users of the AgChatOZ platform to have a global reach with relative ease. Our discussions have trended globally on Twitter more than twice, which has been one element of measuring our success. The calibre of groups and individuals participating and continue to engage also prove we are reaching the right audience, not purely “preaching to the converted”. We often engage with; Ministers, peak farm lobby groups, environmental groups, farmers and city consumers to name a few.

Social media can empower and connect country people, it can assist in bridging the gap between “country and city” and it allows for the paddock to plate story to be told. It is vital and crucial in building relationships and forming a better understanding of the diversity of rural people, their lives and industry.

Most importantly, it is crucial to remember that social media is simply a tool in the process of communication. Social media is not a “silver bullet” to the issues the industry faces and will continue to face, but it does provide a free, powerful and limitless platform to be heard.

My environment day ended with showing a friend the INSPIRE Centre on the University of Canberra campus. It has been built with sustainable principles and supports approaches to learning evident in Swedish plans and #tag conversations.

 

Photo Credits

Telefonplan School

INSPIRE Centre

 

The Future of Australian Sport

I was interviewed today by Lisa-Cathrine Wilhelmseder as part of an Australian Sports Commission research project being conducted in partnership with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) into ‘The Future of Australian Sport’.

It is “the first research study of its kind to be conducted within the field of Australian sport, the study will examine a range of social, economic, political, environmental and technology insights, to predict trends that may impact the future of Australian sport.”

For those who would like to have a say on ‘The Future of Australian Sport’ and contribute their views to the study, either:

  • Visit the online forum to share your views on future trends that may impact Australian sport. (To access this forum, please email CSIRO at futuresports@csiro.au)
  • Fill in an electronic form to share your views on future trends. To request this form, please email futuresports@csiro.au

The ASC and CSIRO have identified industry experts both within and outside the sport sector to seek their knowledge and expertise on future trends. This involves: interviews with a cross-section of industry experts to seek their in-depth insights; workshops with a targeted selection of key experts to obtain their high-level insights on the most significant trends.

The project research team can be contacted at futuresports@csiro.au.

I enjoyed my conversation with Lisa-Catherine. My interview was recorded with my consent and Lisa-Catherine’s semi-structured interview made chatting very easy.

I see two approaches in this project: looking forward to 2040 and looking back from 2040 to the present. I suggested that one trend to discuss is declinism and the other is to look at the social capital value of play, games and sport as intrinsically worthwhile.

My hope is that there can be an organic approach to sport that links families, schools, and communities. I do think we will have major demographic issues to address in 2040 combined with catastrophic climate events and trends.

For example:

The Australian Bureau of Statistics suggests that of all the changes that are projected to occur in Australia’s population, “ageing is the most dramatic, resulting in major changes to the age structure of the population. The projections show that the ageing of Australia’s population, which is already evident, will continue. This is the inevitable result of fertility remaining at low levels over a long period associated with increasing life expectancy. As growth slows, the population ages progressively with the median age of 35 years in 1999 increasing to 40-42 years in 2021 and 44-47 years in 2051.” “The age composition of Australia’s population is projected to change considerably as a result of population ageing. By 2056 there will be a greater proportion of people aged 65 years and over than at 30 June 2007, and a lower proportion of people aged under 15 years. In 2007 people aged 65 years and over made up 13% of Australia’s population. This proportion is projected to increase to between 23% and 25% in 2056.”

CSIRO pointed out in 2008 that:

“Australian average annual mean temperatures have increased by 0.9°C since 1910 (Figure 2a). Most of this warming has occurred since 1950, with the greatest warming in central and eastern parts and the least warming in the far northwest. The warmest year for Australia since 1910 was 2005, while 2007 was the warmest year for much of southern Australia. The number of hot days and nights has increased and the number of cold days and nights has declined.”

Four years earlier CSIRO noted that:

“The combined impact of rising sea levels and extreme weather events are likely to result in increasing occurrence and severity of high rainfall and flood events in some parts of the country. Research shows that with a 20cm sea level rise, damage costs associated with flooding would increase by up to 50%. Despite forecasts for decreased rainfall in many areas of Australia, research by CSIRO predicts that by 2040, climate patterns for the eastern coast of Australia are likely to bring about more intense and more frequent extreme rainfall events. The most vulnerable regions for extreme rainfall include Coffs Harbour, Coolangatta, north of Brisbane, and over mountainous terrain.”

At present “eighty percent of Australians live within 80 miles of the sea; 50 percent of the country’s houses sit less than 8 miles from a beach.”

My hope is that this research project can persuade all political parties to have an agreed approach that would allow a thirty year window of policy opportunity rather than a three-year turn around of priorities.

We might even come up with a Finland solution that does for sport what long-term planning has done for Finnish education.

Photo Credit

Challenge and Support slide. (Andreas Schleicher (Head of the Indicators and Analysis Division of OECD’s Directorate for Education) visited Australia in May 2010. His presentation Seeing Your Education System in the Mirror of Other OECD Systems, can be found on SlideShare.)