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I visited Workington this week to meet someone who plays in the Uppies and Downies mass football game, an annual event in the town that goes back for at least 500 years, but probably longer. http://www.workingtonuppiesanddownies.co.uk/

The game is unpredictable and Joe Clarke has written that no man could trace its path, but that’s the challenge that I’ve been given by John O’Shea of the National Football Museum – is it possible to GPS track the ball, and the game?

This is why I’ve been looking at how GPS data loggers have developed, to work out which one would be best for players to carry, possibly sewn into clothing, and which might be possible to have built into the centre of the custom made leather football.

I’m interested in two aspects of this – how does the changing topography of the town change the way the game is played, but also reflect greater social changes brought on by declining industry. How does a decline in industry, mining (the uppies) and the docks (the downies), change the game. I’m also interested in what will happen when we map the movement of several individuals, some from each side, in a large group of people. Will we be able to map the slowly moving scrum, as well as the faster sprints that can happen. The challenge of mapping such an unpredictable event allows me to think of GPS in a different way, not necessarily a device for accuratly mapping routes and paths, but as a way of recording a collective mobile event.

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