Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sharing the Cup with the World

On June 17th, Ochoa was the One.

The 2014 World Cup represents fundamentally new stage in the history of World Cups.  World Cups have long been some of the largest international events of mass culture and broadcasting, they have also been celebrated at a local community level.  However, to a degree greater than ever before, the local, micro level of the cultural experiences of the World Cup have the potential to accumulate, spread and influence others well beyond the local.   

This photo-shopped mash up of Neo with Ochoa's face illustrates one of the ways that creative, digital culture invites participation and shapes peoples experience of the World Cup.  This image was created by someone during an impromptu photoshop contest in an online community.  The image was picked up and posted to another online community, where I saw it, and then screen captured it with my phone.  Then posted it on my Facebook feed, which I have reposted here.   Social media and the culture of creative participation have become sufficiently widespread that "everybody" can participate.  This changes what it is like to experience the World Cup-- making it more participatory, less scripted, and more unpredictable.   

Way back in 2007, Clay Shirky wrote that "Communications tools don't get socially interesting until they get technologically boring."  When these ordinary tools are in everyone's hands we do ordinary things differently.  Just watching a game, and posting a message about a goal on FB changes how we and others experience that event.  In millions of small ways more of the cultural creation related to the World Cup is taking place by all of us, between friends, within social networks, and across online communities.  More so than ever before, hundreds of millions of people are participating in their digital lives and the World Cup is part of that, and therefore, the participation of all those people becomes part of the World Cup.  Here are a bunch of ways that people can join the participatory culture is shaping the World Cup: 
  • National supporters groups like the American Outlaws reduce the transaction costs of traveling and increase the commitment and participation of fans.
  • Sport specific online communities (like r/Soccer on reddit)  hasten the enculturation of new fans, and create a platform for ordinary people to participate in the narrative and events of the World Cup.  
  • Social media like Facebook and Twitter make it easier to organize watch parties and for folks to comment on, and share about the World Cup, these include individual participation, as well as hundreds of local community soccer pages.
  • Soccer blogs and other semi-grass roots soccer media sources create and motivate greater levels of fan interaction in the mainstream media, through sites like Men in Blazers, (also on ESPN FC for World Cup).   
  • Attend local watch parties at a local bar.   Soccer provides an international index of soccer bars to see the next match.  
The World Cup is still a giant international media event, organized from the top down by a hugely wealthy sports organization of mixed repute (FIFA).  And watching a soccer game (football match) is still an individual act of mass media cultural consumption.  However, our experiences of the World Cup will be produced increasingly by how we share the cup with our friends, communities, and world beyond.