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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Taxonomy of Leisure Activities: The Role of ICT


A number of studies have examined the adoption of information and communication technology (ICT) and its impacts on personal travel, both at a general level and in the context of a particular kind of activity. While it is not surprising that initial attention has focused on the effects of ICT on travel for mandatory and maintenance activities, discretionary or leisure activities have received relatively little attention from this perspective. This report offers a conceptual exploration of the potential impacts of ICTs on leisure activities and the associated travel.

We start by discussing some ideas about what leisure is and is not. We point out that one reason for the nebulous nature of the concept of leisure is that the boundaries between leisure, mandatory, and maintenance activities are permeable, for three reasons: the multi-attribute nature of a single activity, the sequential interleaving of activity fragments, and the simultaneous conduct of multiple activities (multitasking).

With respect to the relationship of ICT to leisure activities, we discuss four kinds of ways by which ICT can affect leisure activities and travel: the replacement of a traditional activity with an ICT counterpart, the generation of new ICT activities (that displace other activities), the ICT-enabled reallocation of time to other activities, and ICT as a facilitator of leisure activities. We then present 13 dimensions of leisure activities that are especially relevant to the issue of ICT impacts: location (in)dependence, mobility-based v. stationary, time (in)dependence, planning horizon, temporal structure and fragmentation, possible multitasking, solitary v. social activity, active v. passive participation, physical v. mental, equipment/media (in)dependence, informal v. formal arrangements required, motivation, and cost.

The primary impact of ICT on leisure is to expand an individual's choice set; however whether or not the new options will be chosen depends on the attributes of the activity (such as the 13 identified dimensions), as well as those of the individual. The potential transportation impacts when the new options are chosen are ambiguous. A number of directions for further research are identified.

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