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Title: To take the flow of leisure seriously : a theoretical extension of Csikszentmihalyi's flow
Author: Elkington, Samuel D.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2670 7434
Awarding Body: University of Bedfordshire
Current Institution: University of Bedfordshire
Date of Award: 2009
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Csikszentmihalyi's (1975b) 'flow' theory has been extensively developed and utilised, providing the leading explanation for positive subjective experiences in the study of leisure. The prescriptive tenets along with the archetypal descriptive characteristics of the flow state have been well documented. What is less explicit, however, is what occurs within experience in the instances immediately prior to the onset of flow and those immediately following: in what the author has come to term as pre-flow and post-flow experience (Elkington, 2006 and 2007). This research approaches the dearth of knowledge concerning pre- and post-flow experience from the perspective of existential-phenomenological psychology with the aim of bringing clarity to the experiential, conceptual, and theoretical uncertainty surrounding what goes before and after a state of flow and with it a more complete and holistic understanding of flow experience. The research explores the intricacies of flow experiences of participants from one activity characteristic of each of Stebbins' (2007a) amateur, hobbyist, and career volunteer serious leisure categories, namely: amateur actors, hobbyist table tennis players, and volunteer sports coaches. Using narrative meaning as an interpretative tool to generate descriptions of the specific experiential situations and action sequences that comprise pre- and post-flow produced a single representative narrative of pre- and post-flow experience, and the first empirical insights into the phenomenology of such phases of experience. Examining flow in the context of serious leisure has revealed there to be significantly more to the act of experiencing flow than depicted in Csikszentmihalyi's (1975b) original framework, re-conceptualising flow as a focal state of mind in a broader experience-process model comprising distinct, intricate, and highly-personalised phases of pre-flow, flow-in-action, and post-flow experience. Combining flow and serious leisure has evoked the affinity of serious leisure activity for flow experience and the discovery that serious leisure and flow are not two disparate frameworks, but are structurally and experientially 'mutually reinforcing' of one another, revealing an explanatory framework of optimal leisure experience. The newly-emerged process view of flow was used to provide insights into the phenomenology of flow in serious leisure, adding to the explanatory capacity of Stebbins' serious leisure theoretical framework. Conflating flow and serious leisure in this way provides for significant and exciting opportunities for knowledge transfer between these two established leisure-related frameworks and signifies new vistas for future research in both fields.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: N222 Recreation/Leisure Management ; Csikszentmihalyi ; leisure ; flow ; subjective experience ; existential-phenomenological psychology