David McGillivray

Professor, interested in events, culture, digital participation & sport.


Digital Leisure Cultures: Critical Perspectives

Call for Chapters

Along with my colleagues, Professor Gayle McPherson and Dr Sandro Carnicelli from University of the West of Scotland (UWS) I have been approached by Routledge to submit a proposal for an edited collection on Digital Leisure Cultures: Critical Perspectives, emerging from the Digital Cultures stream at the 2014 Leisure Studies Association annual conference.

Rationale for the publication

This edited text focuses on the changing nature of leisure cultures brought about, intensified, or accelerated in a digital world. There is an important debate worth having in the Leisure Studies sphere (including sport, tourism, and events sectors) about the extent to which the digital turn has led to something wholly positive, freeing us up from the limits of our analogue lives or whether we have simply become caught up in a web of surveillance, control and corporately controlled leisure – the darker side of digital.

This text seeks to help us to know more about what the digital age means for our understandings of leisure culture in the 21st century. Fixed understandings of time, space and geography are challenged in a digitally mediated world. We – or at least some of us can – interact with whom we choose, pursue the leisure interests that suit us, and visit places, physically or virtually, that we want. And we can do all of this more quickly than was ever thought possible even a decade ago. The digital turn in leisure has opened up a vast array of new opportunities to play, learn, participate and be entertained – opportunities that have transformed what we recognise as leisure pastimes and activities, no longer bound by geography. People are communicating with each other in different ways, more intensively and at greater speed. Technological advances enable people to create and distribute music, videos, images and ideas on a handheld device at the touch of a button or swipe of a touchscreen (Solis, 2012). As consumers, we are told that we have endless choice, able to make our own decisions when and where to listen to our favourite artists, how many episodes of our favourite TV series we want to watch in succession and on what device.

But, whilst transformations are evident, there are also tribulations that make it necessary to give critical consideration to the ‘costs’ associated with digital leisure cultures on individuals, organisations and societies. For example, participation in digital leisure cultures like using social media requires continual cultivation and feeding. Labour is expended when maintaining numerous digital profiles online, when participating actively in interdependent online conversations and when managing relationships between public, professional and private lives. We are also now inevitably creating digital footprints which will have a persistent presence extending well into the future allowing others to survey our behaviourial records on the click of a button. Whereas in previous decades there were clearer places and periods when you were at rest – before work, after work, at the weekend, on holiday – in recent years there has been a shift to a state of play whereby ‘nothing is ever fundamentally “off” and there is never an actual state of rest’ (Crary, 2013). The protected, or sacrosanct, spheres and periods of life that marked previous historical epochs have been challenged in the digital age where so many people own a device capable of securing access to a network, enabling them to connect wherever they are and at whatever time they wish. Speed and instantaneity are emblems of our time. There are many who decry the cult of connectivity arguing for the atrophy of shared physical experiences and a continual dissatisfaction that leads to disjunctions, fractures, and continual disequilibrium. Access to and benefits from participating in digital leisure cultures are not shared equally, nor is it possible to avoid inequities in participation across the categories of age, gender and class.

The mass availability of domestic and consumer technologies, social media platforms and their ownership in the hands of a relatively few global conglomerates leads us to the darker side of digital, associated with narratives of control, surveillance, exclusion, alienation and dehumanization. With a pervasive digital culture institutional and corporate regulation of individual and social life is increasingly ‘continuous and unbounded’ or as Deleuze has suggested, is characterised by the disappearance of gaps, open spaces and times. In summary, on one hand the promise of the digital sphere is of liberation, of universal sharing of knowledge and creativity and of greater spreadability which is both empowering and exciting. But, it is clear too that the digital sphere can be read as a space of universal surveillance where every engagement is tracked, captured, used and, increasingly, sold to those with an interest in extracting commercial value from our communications.

We need to know more about the time that people spend online, the nature of the activities they participate in whilst there, the impact of digital culture on existing leisure activities – whether replaced or intensified – the adaptability of individuals across the age range to participate and benefit in this leisure culture and the creative and political responses individuals and groups make to the presence of a widespread digital sphere.

Proposed book structure

The intended focus of the book is on the exploration of a range of conceptual issues brought to the fore by the digital turn illustrated through the context of leisure culture case studies. Each chapter should detail its theoretical trajectory and provide at least one case study exemplar that will used to explain its relevance for a specified leisure culture (e.g. sport, event, music, tourism, culture). The book will be divided into three main parts:

  1. Producing digital leisure cultures
  2. Consuming digital leisure cultures
  3. Regulating digital leisure cultures

Each part will be supplemented with a series of sub-themes (or topics), which could include (but are not restricted to):

  • Resistance
  • Surveillance
  • Acceleration
  • Control
  • Ownership
  • Privacy
  • Commodification and commercialization
  • Digital divides
  • Morality and ethics
  • Moral panics
  • Risk
  • Fandom
  • Health and the body
  • (Social) media and digital storytelling
  • Experiences

 Submission guidelines and key dates

We are looking to form a proposal for a book of approximately 12-16 chapters and authors are invited to submit abstracts of no more than 350 words (excluding indicative references) in a Word document to be emailed to David McGillivray (david.mcgillivray@uws.ac.uk) by Friday 28th November, 2014. Abstracts should include the following information:

  • Proposed article title
  • Proposed author names and affiliations
  • Part (production, consumption, regulation) and theme being addressed
  • Purpose/aim of the chapter
  • Principal body of literature/theoretical framework
  • Indicative case study
  • Key findings/conclusions

Key dates (estimations)

  • Submission of abstracts: Friday 28th November 2014
  • Editorial consideration of chapters and submission of formal book proposal to Routledge: December 2014
  • Submission of full chapters (pending approval of proposal): March 2015
  • Editing and reviewing of chapters: April/May 2015
  • Submission of final draft book to publisher: July 2015
  • Publication: end of 2015



David McGillivray • October 21, 2014

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