The Commodified 23, or, Michael Jordan as Text

in Sociology of Sport Journal

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Edward G. ArmstrongUniversity of Wisconsin-Stout

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Semiotics is employed in an examination of Michael Jordan (the signified) and his uniform number (the signifier). A systematic comparative framework is used to limit the potentially infinite multiplicity of interpretants. Its themes are the way Jordan expresses the modernity-postmodernity division and is, himself an aspect of this cultural characterization. Seven diacritical alternatives are considered: (a) secularism versus immanence; (b) bureaucratization versus decanonization; (c) equality versus diversity; (d) rationality versus intensities; (e) obsession with records versus spectacles; (f) quantification versus fragmentation; and, (g) specialization versus commodification. Treating Jordan as text, as postmodern athlete archetype, leads to a consideration of the commodification of his number, a process in which Jordan himself is transformed into a salable commodity.

Edward G. Armstrong is with the Social Science Department at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, Menomonie, WI 54751.

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