Leisure communities and digital participation in mass online CAL (crochet along) events

Laws, C. 2021. Leisure communities and digital participation in mass online CAL (crochet along) events. ATLAS Annual Conference 2021. Prague 07 - 10 Sep 2021

TitleLeisure communities and digital participation in mass online CAL (crochet along) events
AuthorsLaws, C.
TypeConference paper
Abstract

The recent absence of live social and leisure gatherings during the Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the important role that events play in social cohesion, emotional well-being and expression of identities (Jepson and Walters, 2021; Lamond and Platt, 2016; Andrews and Leopold, 2013). Whilst virtual events have been in some ways a panacea they come with clear challenges, namely in their ability to mirror and match the immediacy of emotional and social connection that in-person events are more naturally suited to achieve.
As we start to consider the opening up again of leisure and social events, discussion has turned to considering the new normal under which such events might operate. This special track of the annual ATLAS conference asks us to consider: How will the shift to digital events and the absence of ‘normal’ social gatherings affect communities in future? Will new models of events emerge, or will people be eager to get back to ‘normal events’?
This paper seeks to address these important questions by exploring a well-established but under-explored (in the events literature) example of organised digital leisure community interactions (Stebbins, 2017; Silk et al, 2016; Spracklen, 2015). These have been produced in the past fifteen years, utilising Web 2.0 platforms to host mass participation crafting events commonly referred to as crochet-alongs or CALs (Kouhia, 2020; Mayne, 2020).
These events were initially based around crafting community online peer networks such as Ravelry, but are increasingly hosted via individual blog sites, Facebook groups and Instagram pages. Here craft entrepreneurs, serious hobbyists and major brands alike (Maciel and Wallendorf, 2012; Myselev, 2009) host events to launch and make a particular crochet project completed synchronously and as a community – the key characteristic of a CAL. As Orton-Johnson (2014) states: “In facilitating an ethos of participation alone/together [such events] add another layer in an understanding of what connectivity and creativity mean in communities of networked leisure.” (p. 318).
The growth of these hybrid events, which often have a large global audience into the thousands, could therefore reveal important factors for the wider event planning community around how to create opportunities for emotional engagement, co-creation, active participation, and identity-confirmation in a hybrid event environment.
Current indicators point to the 'new normal' of leisure events continuing to be volatile, and subject to short-notice changes and restrictions as the variants of Covid-19 fluctuate. It is helpful therefore to reflect on the success factors of an established and successful approach to hybrid event planning. that offer high levels of audience engagement, flexibility, co-creative planning, and opportunities for tailored off and online extensions, whilst maintaining a clear identity and community culture.
If virtual engagement channels are likely to become a permanent feature of the event landscape in future, then a full mapping of the factors for effective delivery across the spectrum of event typologies will be key in forming new and viable event models.

KeywordsDigital leisure, hybrid events, emotional consumption, consumer identities
Year2021
ConferenceATLAS Annual Conference 2021

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