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 BLOG >> Leisure

Serious Leisure Framework [Leisure
Posted on August 28, 2015 @ 12:52:00 PM by Paul Meagher

I've been trying to crack the nut on what leisure is and now realize that part of the problem is that I lack a vocabulary to usefully talk or think about it.

We might ask ourselves how we would go about breaking down the concept of leisure into different types of leisure? It would seem that the exercise would be fairly arbitrary and mostly useful as a pleasant topic to think about rather than "serious science".

Perhaps. This is sociology not physics. That being said, leisure is an evolving concept in western society that potentially has significant explanatory force in understanding consumer behavior, addictions, mental health, societal trends, and how successful startups originate (i.e., from serious leisure pursuits).

There is a breakdown of the leisure concept by Emeritus Professor Robert Stebbins that he has been working on for a long time now (over 30 years) and which has been very fruitful in his research (note, however, that there does not appear to be consensus in the leisure studies community on the usefulness of this framework). He is in his upper 70's and the pace of his research appears to be accelerating. The concept he is pushing the hardest is the concept of "Serious Leisure" and you can visit his seriousleisure.net website to try to keep up with him.

The most important distinction I want to expose you to today is between serious and casual leisure. When most of us think of leisure we probably think of "casual leisure" activities, free-time that is directed towards pleasurable pursuits. There is another type of leisure, however, that can be called "serious leisure" where we explore our potentials over a longer period of time which involves mastery of more complexity than we tend to encounter in casual leisure. The serious leisure pursuits are not always pleasurable (e.g., practicing guitar to get to the next level) but they do lead to rewards and fulfillment that our work lives may fail to provide. These pursuits are worth pursuing for the rewards and fulfillment they bring and are not pursued primarily for economic gain or from a sense of obligation. The mastery achieved in these pursuits, however, has the potential to result in a career or startup if the actor desires to gain economically from their serious leisure pursuits - which they may not. Time spent in the pursuit of serious leisure can be a cauldron from which new ideas and startups can and have emerged.

It is hard to do justice to the Serious Leisure Perspective (SLP) framework in this blog. All I can do is expose you to the framework vocabulary and see if it resonates with your experience. Fortunately there is a nice graph that I can show you that that gives you specific examples of what the major vocabulary terms encompass or refer to.

Robert Stebbins has also written many books on various aspects of leisure. I have borrowed one of his recent books, the Idea of Leisure: First Principles (2011) from a local library. It is a short book and quite fascinating to read his exploration of the concept.

I'll have more to say on leisure as I continue my semi-serious pursuit of the ideas around leisure. The recursiveness of leisure studies (studying leisure is leisurable) is interesting and one more reason we might all want to occupy ourselves with leisure studies at some point in our life.

Chris Rojac is another author who you might want to explore. He writes very well (e.g., "spray-on sincerity") and in a very erudite manner. You can read some of The Labor of Leisure at the publishers page.

The value of Robert Stebbins work, however, is that he is putting forward a proposal for a theoretical framework for thinking about leisure whereas Chris, like many authors in leisure studies, are content to explore the area and provide critical commentary on various ideas and studies associated with leisure. This is useful and needed but ultimately if the study of leisure is have any impact on the design of leisure products and services it will probably need a theoretical framework such as Robert Stebbins has been cultivating and applying for many years now.

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Leisure Is Earned? [Leisure
Posted on August 26, 2015 @ 11:10:00 AM by Paul Meagher

I visited with a friend and discussed the concept of leisure (see my recent blogs on the concept of leisure) and asked him for his thoughts on the matter. He was fairly adamant that "leisure is earned". In his own case, he does handyman work for 10 clients for a couple of months and then comes back to his cabin in the woods for a couple of weeks or a month throughout the summer and fall. It is obvious that his living pattern follows the precept that leisure is earned.

I would have to agree that North American society often views leisure as time that people earn through their work. We often engage, or hope to engage in leisure activities after a day of work, or during our vacation time from work, or when we retire from work. We have "earned" this leisure time. Work creates a situation of "free time" with the economic resources to potentially enjoy that free time more than if we had not worked. We can go golfing, for example, if we earn this form of leisure through our work. We apparently need to build up economic capital to afford our leisure time - or so the story goes.

The idea that leisure is earned as a result of hard work is problematic in some ways. It makes leisure an after-work activity rather than something that might be a part of work we do (a style of work). It implicitly equates leisure with spending money but we can experience leisure without spending much money (i.e., going for a walk). It suggests that if we earn more we might have more leisure time when it might be the opposite; if we earned less we might have more leisure time.

I don't want to deny the obvious that leisure is earned because certain forms of costly leisure definitely require that we work to experience them. It is probably also true that working hard to get to a point of leisure might help to make that leisure more enjoyable than if that work had not been done. I don't think the idea that leisure is earned should be overstated, however, because your leisure is not simply earned by virtue of doing work. There are more elements that go into determining whether something should be called leisure than whether you earned it or not and these elements may be more important than whether you earned it or not.

It is interesting that if you google the phrase "leisure is earned" to see what others have said on the matter, the main result you get back are instructions on how to redeem your leisure-travel points. In a similar vein, work apparently gives you leisure points that you can redeem at a future date when you are not working.

I'll end this blog with this video on the relationship between income and leisure by a professor of economics. Leisure time can increase as wages increase. So you can theoretically earn more leisure time per day the more you make per hour according to this model.

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Leisure Photos [Leisure
Posted on August 21, 2015 @ 05:12:00 PM by Paul Meagher

Here is a photo at a local beach near sundown that I visited on wednesday. Beaches and leisure seem to go together.

Here are some kids jumping off a wharf at another beach earlier in day.

I'm heading out now to take outdoor photos of some nearby nature areas I've been wanting to visit. That will be my leisure time this evening.

Have a leisurefull weekend.

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Leisure Time [Leisure
Posted on August 20, 2015 @ 06:08:00 AM by Paul Meagher

In this blog, I want to continue exploring the concept of leisure. In my last blog, Leisure Studies, I introduced the domain a bit and posed a bunch of questions. In this blog, I want to explore what a definition of Leisure might look like. There are no answers here, just an exploration of the language games that take place around the concept of leisure and whether they add up to anything coherent.

Here are a few ideas, observations and opinions on the topic of leisure:

Leisure time is when we have the most freedom to fullfull our wants and desires and to develop our potentials.

Leisure in this version is related to the concept of freedom and, for some, may be the purest expression of it. We can use the freedom associated with leisure to fulfill our wants and desires and/or develop our potentials.

We can use our leisure time to watch tv or we might use it to take an online course. We can travel or we can work out (developing our physical potentials).

Many use their freedom to watch tv or surf social media rather than develop their potentials. Others use their leisure time and explore and further their potentials.

Leisure time is used to "recover" from work.

Leisure and work are often considered opposites or antonyms of each other but is appears there can be considerable overlap at times.

Futurists from 30 years ago predicted we would have alot of leisure time on our hands now. Many argue that we do not have more leisure time today than we did 30 years ago. This is very difficult to measure because we appear to have incorporated leisure into the way we work so the distinction between work and leisure is difficult to discriminate. For example, if I am mowing a field of hay in an $80k tractor with air conditioning, stereo, and tinted windows, that is not a bad way to occupy my time on a nice sunny day (just so you know I drive a $4k tractor without the luxuries). In most jobs there is the opportunity to use the internet to do our jobs in a way that improves the feeling of leisure at work.

30 years ago we were a more physical lot of people than we are today. We were less obese. Is leisure all good? Leisure can have a dark side and many critical theorists would argue that leasure is defined in the interests of the ruling class, we have no real freedom to chose only mimic images of leisure that benefit or perpetuate the ruling class. I don't think leisure is that bad, but I agree that our freedom to choose our leisure is influenced by media and advertising. If you are sweating out in a field putting in hay (as we did yesterday) that does not correspond to the approved iconography of leisure. The heat sucked, is feels like work, but in retrospect it appears to have had elements of leisure (physical workout, comaraderie, outdoors activity). It is what I call leisure work. I add work because it was for economic gain that I was engaged in the activity.

I'll end this blog with a link to an interesting article called Why leisure farms in Taiwan are now the hot destinations. These appear to be some weird mashup between farming and leisure that I haven't fully figured out yet.

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Leisure Studies [Leisure
Posted on August 18, 2015 @ 08:00:00 AM by Paul Meagher

An area of study that has my interest this week is "leisure studies".

What is leisure studies. Wikipedias page on leisure studies defines it as follows:

Leisure studies is a branch of the social sciences that focuses on understanding and analyzing leisure. Recreation and tourism are common topics of leisure research.

The work settings of people with a degree in leisure studies are:

  • Rehabilitation centers
  • State and municipal parks
  • Schools
  • Camps
  • Coaching
  • Athletic programs
  • Fitness centers
  • Sporting organizations and businesses
  • Correctional facilities
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Community centers
  • Hospitality services
  • Nursing homes

Questions that interest me about leisure include:

  • What is leisure?
  • Is leisure time increasing or decreasing?
  • How important is leisure time?
  • What are people doing with their leisure time?
  • Are the Kardashian's followed because they examplify leisure class lifestyles?
  • What are the opportunities in leisure?
  • What are some theories of leisure?

The question of what leisure is arises in my own case because this is a busy time of year on the farm. One way to keep on farming day after day is to make a mental shift where the physical work is not perceived as economic work but as leisure activity. Recreation in the form of physical workouts in the gym are a prime example of what some people do with their leisure time. A large amount of farming is pursued as a leisure activity because it can't be justified on economic grounds (so called "hobby farms"). Many farmers have a second job and persue farming as a side income/leisure activity. I mention these things because it appears we can reframe our activity as economic work or leisure activity. Perhaps all that is needed is a mental switch. It can be a source of motivation for many if the work they are doing is viewed as incorporating elements of leisure rather than pure economic work.

Are leisure and work fundamentally different ways to occupy our time? They are probably fundamentally different at the extremes, but they might start to blend at certain times and when doing certain activities.

Do entrepreneurs have less leisure time or are they mixing leisure and work so they can work longer hours? Leisure time in the form of hobbies can turn into businesses. When your leisure activity becomes a business that might put you in a good position for success.

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