This image portrays a lone figure illuminated by the light of a smartphone screen, surrounded by darkness. It captures the solitary nature of sports betting through apps, contrasting the vibrant world of sports with the individual's isolation.

The only times I’ve ever betted on sports is with my father. Back when I lived at home, we’d all choose a horse in the Grand National (out of a hat) and I’d go down with him to the bookies to put the bets on. And then, when we went to a football match at Sunderland, we’d decide what bet to put on, too.

I’ve never betted on sports by myself. It’s a slippery slope, as I know what I’m like. When I was my son’s age (17) I was mildly addicted to scratchcards for a few weeks, but quit when I won enough to break even. That’s why the whole world of sports betting, which I know must be huge given that almost every Premier League football team is sponsored by a related company, is a black box to me.

Drew Austin talks about sports betting not only being the further atomisation of an activity which was at least nominally social, but also the way that it reduces a complex bundle of qualitative emotions down to a set of flat, quantitative, numbers.

As the Facebook/Google/Twitter clearnet dissolves and the internet becomes a dark forest, another relatively recent tech category offers a lens for anticipating the future of shared experience and solipsism: sports betting apps. Although largely unleashed by regulatory changes rather than technical innovation, the rise of mainstream, app-enabled sports gambling has reframed a still-powerful bulwark of mass culture as a solitary pursuit. As televised sports continue fragmenting into digital content just like everything else, sports betting creates a derivative market on top of that content, which in turn yields its own additional bounty of content. If you’ve ever bet on a game and then watched it with other people, you probably realized quickly that nobody cares about your betting angle(s) and that you have to shut up about it. You’re on your own. But if you show up at the Super Bowl party wearing a Kansas City Chiefs jersey, you are a legible entity, and everyone has something to talk to you about. To bet on sports is to share the same space (literal or figurative) with a multitude of people who have their own specific angle and only the meta-game in common. Sports gambling is even more fascinating, however, in the way it alters your brain as a spectator of the game: You exchange a complex bundle of emotional and aesthetic nuance for a purely quantitative perspective, which highlights everything that benefits you and pushes the rest to the background. It’s how it would feel to be a computer watching sports. A lot of things we do on the internet feel like that. Who needs NPCs to interact with when we all act like them anyway? We pay so much attention to how computers are learning to be human, but forget we’re also learning to act like them.

Source: Kneeling Bus

Image: DALL-E 3