A Theory of Digital Leisure
There may well be a few older scholars of leisure and culture who agree with the blunt assessment by Habermas that the Net is overrated in popular culture and over-played in contemporary academic literature. But even if we are sceptical about the significance of the Net, we cannot ignore its importance in contemporary leisure lives. We have to have a theory (or theories) of digital leisure to make sense of all this. In this chapter I develop this new theory of digital leisure using Habermas’ theoretical framework of communicative and instrumental rationality, along with ideas from Castells, Urry and Bauman that have already appeared in this book. I will argue that for the users of the Net, digital leisure appears to be seamlessly communicative and liberating. Users are given the appearance of being liquid surfers, shifting their focus at the click of a mouse, sharing ideas and cultural interests with people in the global networks. However, the Net itself is a technology that is in reality a form of instrumental leisure and commodification, based on economic transactions, control and surveillance, and unequal power relations. In this respect, digital leisure is like any other leisure form. But the effect the Net has on challenging hegemonies and giving some individuals some freedoms, its unique interactivity and the speed in which digital leisure works, makes it more communicative than sports or traditional forms of popular culture.
KeywordsLeisure Activity Public Sphere Popular Culture Chat Room Communicative Rationality
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