Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Control over Self and Space in Rockclimbing

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Control over Self and Space in Rockclimbing

Article excerpt

Introduction: Leisure As an Expression of Self or Narrative of Coherence?

Recent leisure theorists (eg, Henderson, 1990; Kelly, 1996; Samdahl, 1988; Wearing, 1996) have defined leisure as experience of a particular kind, rather than through more objective measures of time or activity. It is now commonly accepted that leisure defined as time apart from paid work has no meaning for a large portion of the population who do not engage in such activity (a portion that includes women who are occupied with home and child-rearing duties on a full time basis; unemployed people; and retirees). It is also generally acknowledged that the practice of defining leisure as specific activities is also fraught with difficulty, given the ambiguity and complexity of meaning which can attach to any given activity (Kelly, 1996; 1983).

To define leisure as experience, however, begs the question for more detail. A number of theorists have developed a series of two-dimensional constructs of the leisure experience, each of which focuses on two varying but "essential" qualities. Neulinger (1981: 18), for example, defined leisure through the qualities of perceived freedom and intrinsic motivation. Gunter and Gunter (1980) used the axes of freedom of choice (embedded within sociological institutions such as work and family) and psychological involvement. Kelly (1983; 1978) also used an axis of relative freedom, whilst motination (ranging from social to intrinsic) formed his second axis. These three models are in broad agreement with respect to the qualities which define a 11 pure" leisure experience: generally it is marked by a perceived freedom of choice and a high degree of personal investment which stems from intrinsic motivation.

Perceived freedom of choice has been identified with the concept of self-determination (Mannell & Kleiber, 1997). Self-determination is commonly understood to be a positive attribute, leading to increased levels of life satisfaction (Guinn, 1999; Ryan & Deci, 2000) and buffering against the effects of stress (Coleman & Iso-Ahola, 1993; Park, 1996). In a world that increasingly assumes control over the most intimate of our domestic affairs (Heywood, 1994; Ritzer, 1993), leisure, in affording opportunities for experiencing this sense of self-determination, assumes a high degree of importance in our lives.

Research in the area of self-determination has focussed mainly on groups that are perceived to be disempowered in this respect, namely, adolescents (eg, Pawelko & Magafas, 1997; Shaw, Caldwell & Kleiber, 1996), people with disabilities (eg, Patterson & Pegg, 1995; Rogers, Hawkins & Eklund, 1998), the elderly (eg, Guinn, 1999; Hall & Bocksnick, 1995) and women (eg, Brand, 1998; Freysinger & Flannery, 1992; Henderson, Bialeschki, Shaw & Freysinger, 1996). These studies show considerable consistency in their results. Self-determination is a quality often denied to individual members of the above-mentioned groups, and its loss leads to boredom, apathy and disengagement. Although so called "leisure" time is frequently subject to control by others1, the facilitation of personal control leads to increased levels of participant motivation, engagement and enjoyment.

Using self-determinism as a central defining property of leisure is also associated with an understanding of leisure as an expression, or an enhancement, of the self. This notion has been contested by Kuentzel (2000) who observed that any "idea of a 'core' self that directs life decisions and develops and matures through life's experiences carries little currency in postmodern theory" (p. 88). Kuentzel suggested instead that the constitution of self is a reflexive process, something that occurs after the event. Given the complexities and ambiguities of postmodern society, the central task facing any individual is to create a self narrative that provides coherence and order. Through reflection on past actions, the individual constructs a narrative that will "anchor the self across the contingencies of time and space" (p. …

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