Online tennis forum member dynamics: A changed scene?

Authors: Ayer, N.

Conference: Leisure Studies Association Conference

Dates: 11-13 July 2023


Introduction: Technology continues to play an important role for enthusiasts to appreciate their favourite sports. It can encourage creativity, fostering continued participation (Torres, 2022). Online discussion forums are spaces for interaction as well as individual and collective experiences. While online forums can be seen as a messy structure with contradicting, emotionally charged, and often conflicting dynamics (Ayer & McCarville, 2021), they can facilitate group cohesion. These forums are consistent with our understanding of dynamic systems with interdependent players collectively creating valued outcomes (Foote, 2022). Online forums rely entirely on active participation of its members, largely driven by professional sporting activity. So, what happened when this needed input was compromised? In response to pandemic restrictions and the absence of sports, an online system can continue to grow (attract new members) and adapt while learning and introducing new components (Ayer, 2023). Method: This study seeks to expand our understanding of the emerged adaptive capacity after the pandemic. Did the system retain some of the new activities introduced? The forum under study is a tennis message board with millions of fans who daily debate, celebrate favourites, and diss rivals. This study focuses on member dynamics as they reacted to sport resumption using a theoretical framework of resilience thinking. Resilience thinking describes the way systems may move through different phases, helping us understand their dynamic nature in the changing world (Walker & Salt, 2006). An immersive netnography approach (Kozinets, 2020) observing daily member posts from August 2020 until August 2023 was used. An inductive data analysis approach and ‘analysis operations’ of collating, coding, and combining were utilized (Kozinets, 2020). Findings: Preliminary findings reveal persisting discussion of the pandemic, suggesting its long-lasting effects on the system. It is also observed that the online forum system learns, retaining new activities introduced during the absence of professional sports. Author Bio: Nadina Ayer is a lecturer in the Department of Sport and Event Management at Bournemouth University. Her research focuses on online communities and interpersonal and group dynamics. She is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Leisure Research and a scientific co-chair for the 2023 Leisure Studies Association (LSA) conference.   References Ayer, N., & McCarville, R. (2021). Creating and consuming content: exploring member engagement and role acceptance within an online tennis forum. Leisure/ Loisir, 45(4), 525-550. Ayer, N. (2023). Online tennis forum member dynamics in the face of disruption.

17th Canadian Congress on Leisure Research A Half Century of Canadian Leisure Research: Towards a More Inclusive Future. University of Ottawa, May 23-26, 2023. Published in the book of abstracts (pp. 45-46). cclr17-book-of-abstracts_2023.pdf ( Foote, J. (2022). A Systems Approach to Studying Online Communities. Media and Communication, 10(2), 29-40. Kozinets, R. V. (2020). Netnography: The essential guide to qualitative social media research (3rd ed.). Sage Publications.

Torres, E. N. (2022). Online-to-offline interactions and online community life cycles: A longitudinal study of shared leisure activities. Leisure Sciences, 42(1), 32-50. Walker, B. & Salt, D. (2006). Resilience thinking: Sustaining ecosystems and people in a changing world. Island Press, Washington, DC.

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