chapter  17
3 Pages

Concluding remarks


This book has taken us on a cultural journey exploring 16 chapters across the digital leisure cultures arena. These are discussed and analysed in many different ways and have looked in depth at the multiplicity of impacts they are having on our society. But what does all of this mean for the future of digital leisure cultures and the sort of agenda that as scholars we may want to pursue over the next few years? If we take it as read that we are increasingly tied into digital leisure pastimes that are double edged, then there is a pressing need for more research that tries to understand and explain these phenomena further. There are a few important elements that we feel require deeper scrutiny. First, we need to know more about the time that people spend online, the nature of the activities they participate in while there, the impact of the affordances of digital culture on existing leisure activities – whether replaced, reshaped or intensified – and the adaptability of individuals across the age range and social stratum to participate and benefit in these leisure cultures. We also need to know more about both the creative and political responses which individuals and groups make to the presence of a widespread digital leisure sphere – avoiding the temptation to accept the digital as inevitable, but also not falling into the trap of dismissing the leisure practices it brings into focus as superficial or less valid than those evident in offline spaces. In our view we also need, as scholars of leisure and cultural practices, to explore the suitability of a range of methodologies, methods and techniques of analysis used to investigate digital leisure cultures. For example, as we go about our leisure or working lives mediated by digital platforms, we produce copious data that challenge us as researchers. What does it mean that a penalty shoot-out in a World Cup has produced in excess of 350,000 tweets per minute, and how might that impact upon the way in which these mass ‘participation’ (online, at least) events are understood? Who uses these data and to what ends? Why ought we to pay more attention to the privacy settings and terms and conditions when using social networking sites? What tools help us to make sense of these phenomena, and what are their limitations in interpreting such vast quantities of data? Recently, we have heard about new fields of digital sociology and digital humanities, and alongside these we will see new methodological approaches that involve immersion in digital spaces. As one

recent example, Pink et al. (2015) have argued for a distinctive digital ethnography, defined by an engagement with multiplicity, non-digital-centricness, openness, reflexivity and unorthodox ways. Similarly, Lupton (2014) has suggested that a digital sociologist engages in new forms of professional practice using digital tools to network and build conversations; researches how people are using digital media, technologies and tools; uses digital tools for analysis; and engages in critical analysis of the use and consequences of digital media. We are calling for those involved in studying the digital leisure practices contained in this text and beyond to adapt their practices to ensure that the insights they gather are reflective of the complex practices, cultures and behaviours they encounter online. As a number of contributors to this text attest, we also need to understand more about the experience of the disempowered and disenfranchised in a digitally enabled society, including further investigation into the barriers impeding participation, whether economic, cultural or social. We must look beyond simplistic dichotomies of digital immigrants and digital natives to explore the unevenness of access to, participation in and outcomes from digital technologies and platforms. Not everyone participates, and those who do participate in different ways, with ongoing struggles for recognition, power and status a feature of digital platforms, from Facebook to FIFA16. Related to inclusion, exclusion and digital beneficiaries, we also need to understand the moral and ethical implications of leisure lives mediated in online environments and the place of the law and other regulatory agents in governing behaviour in these spaces. Those interested in the psychology of leisure might consider the stresses, anxieties and emotional responses generated by the always-on and always-on-them culture described by Turkle. Those with a focus on legal discourses might explore further the limits of national regulatory frameworks to contain and restrict the sharing of media artefacts, gambling activity and artistic property in a globalised arena, and the attendant risks and economic implications. As social media platforms become pervasive, leisure scholars need to participate in, and shape, policy debates around the rights of children to benefit from the affordances of the digital world, while being protected from its deleterious excesses. Finally, though no less important, we need to consider the creative (and political) potential of the digital sphere as a sphere of resistance, protest and dissent – extending classical critical theory and cultural studies analyses of the leisure phenomenon but addressing the unique environment that the digital environment presents for online activism. Digitally enabled protests are not without their limitations, but while transnational corporations and states come together to monitor, survey and harvest data online, digital subcultures form and operate online to contest and challenge these powerful interests. Whether satirical (see Chapter 12 on E’gao) or concerned with bringing about material social change, the nature, form and activities of these subcultural activities require the attention of leisure scholars.