The hallmark of most leisure activities, since industrialisation, seems to have been the interpenetration of those activities and rapidly evolving technology. This article examines how a range of digital technologies have changed the ways American households pursue leisure activities, with particular emphasis on the ways they are performed at home.
Digital technology has transformed the home by providing a greater variety of entertainment choices, and has also enhanced the simultaneity of multiple activities. For example, household members can watch what they like, when they like and for as long as they want. The way they consume news is also changing: instead of reading newspapers, people now read news online on their computers and mobile devices (for instance in short bursts throughout the day and at weekends).
While these changes are generally positive, some potentially negative implications should not be overlooked. For example, the ability to socialize with others in leisure activities via chat rooms may lead to a decline in face-to-face interactions. Moreover, the emergence of escapist hobbies such as gaming, ayurveda and “chilling” has the potential to diminish the amount of time that people spend on healthy and productive activities.
The analysis in this article was done using an interpretative/constructivist approach that argues that human beings construct meaning from their activities, making sense of them and sharing the meanings with other people. To help with this process, informants’ narratives were grouped into simple categories and analyzed with the aid of qualitative data analysis software such as EdEt editor for ethnographers (Polkinghorne, 2007). Selective sampling at an ICT training centre helped to identify our first informants. Then snowball sampling and maximum variation sampling were used to access additional informants from a wide range of backgrounds in terms of sex, education, living circumstances and occupation.