The Accountability of Performance in Media Sports – Slow-Motion Replay, the “Phantom Punch,” and the Mediated Body

Research to date has primarily investigated the formation and the ideological construction of the body in sport. In contrast, the pivotal question here is how media technologies address the body in modern sports in order to make performance comparable and verifiable, i.e. accountable. In the first part, a historical review shows how since the 19th century modern competitive sport have increasingly incorporated new technologies in order to make different aspects of athletic performance accessible. In this process, the body is fragmented and abstracted (as in statistics), yet it is also complemented by nonphysical aspects of performance (tactics, mental states, etc.). The second part analyses this assemblage of different forms of knowledge in relation to slow-motion replays. Both the technical development of slow-motion as well as its first spectacular application (as on Mohammed Ali’s “phantom punch”) demonstrate how, in the endeavour of making sports more transparent via media technology, the body becomes only one of many elements at play.


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