Important and refreshing insights into the digitalization of sport and leisure

Anne Tjønndal
Nord University, Bodø, Norway


Michael Silk, Brad Millington, Emma Rich & Anthony Bush (red)
Re-thinking Leisure in a Digital Age
131 pages, hardcover.
Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge 2019
ISBN 978-1-138-32541-8

Digital worlds and social media such as YouTube, Instagram, wearable tracking technology and health/fitness apps dominate our everyday lives in large parts of the world. We have moved from simply consuming content online to actively producing digital data. Therefore, our understanding of our everyday lives should be informed by digital cultures and virtual environments created in and through new emerging technologies. These are important underlying assumptions behind this edited volume. Michael Silk, Brad Millington, Emma Rich, and Anthony Bush are the team of editors responsible for putting together the anthology. Michael Silk, Professor of Sport and Social Sciences at Bournemouth University (UK) is well known for his research and scholarship in the field of sport and physical activity. His fellow editors, Brad Millington, Emma Rich, and Anthony Bush, are all associated with the Department of Health at the University of Bath (UK), Millington as a lecturer, Rich as a reader and Bush as a senior lecturer. Originally published as a special issue of Leisure Studies in 2016, Re-thinking leisure in a digital age brings together eight individual peer-reviewed chapters on digitalization and leisure. In addition to the eight chapters, professor Deborah Lupton, famous for her work on digital sociology and self-tracking, has written a foreword titled “Lively devices, lively data, and lively leisure studies”, and professor Steve Redhead concludes the book with his afterword “A new digital leisure studies for theoretical times”.

As the editors state in the preface of the book, the purpose of the anthology is to provide critical engagement with digital technologies and the meanings such technologies have for our understanding of leisure cultures. Chapter 1, “(Re-)thinking digital leisure” written by the editorial team, serves as an introduction to the former special issue. Here the editors explain that they aim to contribute to emerging debates on digital leisure while realizing that it is not possible to address all the nuances and complexities of such debates in one piece of scholarly work. This first chapter addresses four themes in particular: digital leisure assemblages, the importance of taking digitality seriously in the field of leisure studies, leisured data doubles, and finally, digital leisure body politics. The editors’ main argument in this introductory chapter is that leisure scholarship must embrace the digital turn, or otherwise it would limit the possibilities of the development of leisure studies and render the field insignificant on the outskirts of academic peripheries.

Chapter 2, titled “Young people, digital media making and critical digital citizenship” by McGillivray, McPherson, Jones & McCandlish, demonstrates how major sporting events can impact the digital literacies of young people while simultaneously facilitating opportunities for young people to develop valuable critical digital citizenship. In “Video games and the political and cultural economies of health-entertainment” (chapter 3), Millington examines the cultural and political economies of Nintendo’s adaption of health and fitness motifs in the early 2000s, along with the video gaming company’s growing interest in older consumers. The fourth chapter, “Exploring online fitness culture and young females” by Jong & Drummond, is based on a combination of netnography and 22 qualitative interviews with Australian women aged 18-24. Based on their findings, Jong & Drummond suggest that online fitness use is becoming a popular leisure activity and source of health and fitness information. It reveals how social networking sites are used as a platform to gather ideas of health and fitness.

The individual chapters in the book are far-sighted, creative and valuable contributions to the advancement of sport and leisure as academic fields.

Chapter 5, “Be who you are and be proud: Brittney Griner, intersectional invisibility and digital possibilities for lesbian sporting celebrity” written by Chawansky, examines the American professional basketball player Brittney Griner and the ways her personal and athletic lives are represented on social media. Chawanksy aims to analyze how Instagram opens up new digital possibilities for social change by lesbian sporting celebrities. Her analysis focuses on Instagram posts regarding Griner’s romantic relationship with fellow basketball star, Glory Johnson. The main argument in Chawansky’s work is that Griner’s Instagram profile helps challenge the invisibility of black lesbian sporting celebrities in public spaces.

“Towards typologies of virtual maltreatment: sport, digital cultures & dark leisure” (chapter 6) by Kavanagh, Jones & Sheppard-Marks aims to contribute to the growing field of research on abusive behavior towards athletes. The authors highlight that existing research mainly focuses on face-to-face behaviors while overlooking abuse in online spaces. Using a netnographic approach on the social media platform Twitter, Kavanagh, Jones & Sheppard-Marks examine what types of abuse are present in online environments. This results in the development of a conceptual typology of virtual maltreatment in sport, identifying four broad types of abuse in this setting; physical, sexual, emotional and discriminatory.

Chapter 7, “(Re)constructing the tourist experience? Editing experience and mediating memories of learning” by Merchant provides insight into the ways digital technologies are used to ‘edit out’ memories of tourist place and leisure practice, reconceptualizing understandings of alternative leisure realities. In doing this, Merchant points to the ways post-tourists are increasingly the auteurs of their leisure experiences of places. In “Immaterial labour in spaces of leisure: producing biopolitical subjectivities through Facebook” (chapter 8), Rose and Spencer analyze Facebook as a leisure space. The authors apply a critical perspective to identify the flaws in Facebook’s structure and ways of working.

Collectively, the contributions in this anthology provide refreshing new insights and perspectives on the digital shift that international leisure studies are confronted with. The topics addressed here will be important to examine in other sports-related scholarly fields in the coming years. The individual chapters in the book are far-sighted, creative and valuable contributions to the advancement of sport and leisure as academic fields. Reading this book, my own highlights were chapters 5 and 6, which both represent work that is thematically important for sport and leisure scholars to engage in further in the future. These two chapters also represent explorations of novel and digital methodologies of doing sport and leisure research. For any scholar interested in technology and digitalization in sport, the articles compiled in this book is a must-read.

Copyright © Anne Tjønndal 2019

Table of Content

Foreword: lively devices, lively data and lively leisure studies
Deborah Lupton

  1. (Re-)thinking digital leisure
    Michael Silk, Brad Millington, Emma Rich and Anthony Bush
  2. Young people, digital media making and critical digital citizenship
    D. McGillivray, G. McPherson, J. Jones and A. McCandlish
  3. Video games and the political and cultural economies of health-entertainment
    Brad Millington
  4. Exploring online fitness culture and young females
    Stephanie T. Jong and Murray J. N. Drummond
  5. Be who you are and be proud: Brittney Griner, intersectional invisibility and digital possibilities for lesbian sporting celebrity
    Megan Chawansky
  6. Towards typologies of virtual maltreatment: sport, digital cultures & dark leisure
    Emma Kavanagh, Ian Jones and Lucy Sheppard-Marks
  7. (Re)constructing the tourist experience? Editing experience and mediating memories of learning to dive
    Stephanie Merchant
  8. Immaterial labour in spaces of leisure: producing biopolitical subjectivities through Facebook
    Jeff Rose and Callie Spencer

Afterword: a new digital Leisure Studies for Theoretical Times
Steve Redhead

 

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