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January 6, 2014

Imbiza: A Digital Repository of the 2010 World Cup

January 6, 2014 | By | One Comment

ZuluImbizaIn Zulu culture, an imbiza is a large ceramic pot used for brewing utshwala (sorghum beer). This vessel enables the fermentation of a fluid that facilitates communication with the amadlozi (ancestors) and lubricates social interactions. Taking my cue from this vernacular technology, I am developing Imbiza: A Digital Repository of 2010 World Cup Stadiums and Fan Parks—an open access collection of primary sources for brewing ideas and encouraging public dialogue about this defining event in South Africa after apartheid.

The potential for this digital project crystallized during a session of the Football Scholars Forum on Peter Alegi and Chris Bolsmann’s new book, Africa’s World Cup: Critical Reflections on Play, Patriotism, Spectatorship, and Space. During the online discussion, the conversation turned to ways of integrating academically-oriented essays like those in Africa’s World Cup with web-based images, videos, and texts produced by non-specialists for a general audience.

While this idea was initially framed in terms of what could be done for next year’s World Cup in Brazil, the historian in me started thinking about how a project like this could help further understand the 2010 World Cup. Serendipitously, I was also searching for a suitably interesting project to fulfill the requirements of my CHI Fellowship.  After some more pondering and a chat with Professor Alegi, my PhD supervisor, I decided to go for it.

In building the Imbiza repository, I aim to integrate openly accessible texts, images, sounds, and videos that capture fans’ perspectives and experiences at World Cup stadiums and fan parks.  By analyzing the World Cup through the prism of these geographic locations (mapped out here using MapBox), I hope to illuminate various themes that can be gleaned from each site, linking to relevant texts and multimedia sources.  Luckily, finding these sources has not proved difficult; however, the challenge will come in organizing, tagging, and presenting the items in an accessible, informed, and compelling manner.  Additionally, in keeping with MATRIX’s dedication to providing not only rich content but also adequate contextualization, I will be writing thematic essays to help guide the users in digesting the materials presented.  To achieve both of these goals simultaneously, I plan to use KORA, MATRIX’s digital repository software, as the technological backbone of the site.  Past projects utilizing KORA, like David Robinson’s Failed Islamic States in Senegambia and Alex Galarza’s Constructing the Cuidad Deportiva, will serve as models for Imbiza.

I do not want this to be a solitary academic venture; that would get away from the whole point of it. I want Imbiza to stand as a testament to the potential of digital technologies for collaborative knowledge production. I am limited by geography, time, and finances in building this archive from my base in East Lansing, but digital platforms, like this one, can get around some of these obstacles.  My hope is that this project will build a model that can be replicated in the study of future World Cups and mega-events, allowing for critical engagement as well as nostalgic reflection.  With the 2014 World Cup in Brazil just a few months away, the time is now to reflect on the legacies of the 2010 World Cup. Ke nako!

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