Swapping Avocation for Vocation: Expansive Serious Hobby and Skilled Leisure Activities to Supplement Diminishing Work Opportunities?

Swapping Avocation for Vocation: Expansive Serious Hobby and Skilled Leisure Activities to Supplement Diminishing Work Opportunities?

Shalin Hai-Jew (Kansas State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2509-8.ch009

Abstract

If subsistence were not a factor, in a time of less available work, a simple shift for human lifestyles would be from vocation to avocation, such as serious hobby and skilled leisure activities. As expressed in the West, avocations can be all-consuming: expensive, time-intensive, resource-intensive, skilled, long-term, sophisticated, pro-social, and self-affirming. In many cases, serious leisure activities may result in skillsets that are near-professional in status and scope. Some people practice as amateurs (and novices) in various professional fields, as citizen practitioners and citizen scientists. This work offers a conceptual exploration of the affordances and constraints of expansive serious hobbies and skilled leisure activities to stand-in for full work participation.
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Introduction

For career development and counseling professionals, some conventional approaches to aiding displaced workers include “advocacy for displaced workers, participation in dialogues to transform educational institutions, and efforts to extend the range of counseling interventions to prepare clients for a career future that may be far less stable for increasing numbers of workers” (Lent, 2018, p. 205). A less convention approach involves considering building out spaces for serious hobbies and skilled leisure activities to supplement and complement vocations.

If a person were to assess how personal time were used, such as through an activity diary (say, down to 15-minute increments), it would be possible to see what is considered worth doing. The individual could see when personal time occurs as well. And with some self-reflection, the individual may explore why the particular activities are pleasurable and appealing. Are they socializing with friends? Are they benefitting family? Are they promoting their sense of health? Are they expressing their values? Their aesthetics and artistry? Are they using acquired skills? Are they created products and services they can monetize? Are they burnishing their reputations? Are they making the world a better place? Are they documenting the past for memory? Are they meeting spiritual needs? Are they fulfilling social responsibilities? Are they expanding a skillset for career advancement? What very human needs are being satisfied?

The role of hobbies in contemporary life is often as a focus of relaxation and off-time. However, how can serious hobbies and skilled leisure be reconceptualized for a time of diminishing work opportunities? Are there ways to deploy these to positive effect? For example, those who are under-employed or unemployed but have other means for subsistence may look to swap in a serious avocation (or several such minor occupations) to replace some hours of vocation (or career-based work). They may engage in hobbies, which are “a special category of human activity that was neither work nor play” (Gelber, Summer 1991, p. 742). How can this vocation-and-supplementary avocation scenario unfold and manifest in the present and near-future?

This work reviews a selection of the academic literature on serious hobbies and on leisure activities, in the West. This is in part based on the sense that Americans tend to “let the values from our working world spill over into the world of leisure” (Reissman, Nov. 1956, p. 18), with expected efficiencies and purposefulness and some personal fulfillment. Perhaps the idea of working hard and playing hard also applies here. One researcher suggests that in free time, people may engage in three forms of “serious leisure”: hobbies, amateurism, and volunteering (Hartel, 2003, p. 230). The author defines a hobby as “the systematic and enduring pursuit of a reasonably evolved and specialized free-time activity” (Stebbins, 2003, as cited in Hartel, 2003, p. 230). “Serious” leisure refers to “the systematic pursuit of an…activity that participants find so substantial and interesting that, in the typical case, they launch themselves on a leisure career centered on acquiring and expressing its special skills, knowledge, and experience” (Stebbins, 2001, p. 3, as cited in Hartel, 2003, p. 230); “casual” leisure is defined as “activity that is done passively and requires no expertise, such as daydreaming, chatting with friends, or being a couch potato” and “watching television” and is seen as “the more ubiquitous and common type of leisure” (Hartel, 2003, p. 230). One librarian categorizes hobby classes into the following: “collectors, makers and tinkerers, activity participants, players of sports and games, (and) liberal arts enthusiasts” (Hartel, 2003, p. 231).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Avocation: A minor occupation, a light hobby.

Leisure: Activities during free (non-work) time.

Serious Hobby: Activities done in leisure time for pleasure and self-fulfillment that may be expensive, time-intensive, resource-intensive, skilled, long-term, sophisticated, pro-social, and self-affirming.

Skilled Leisure: Activities done in leisure time for pleasure and self-fulfillment that may be expensive, time-intensive, resource-intensive, skilled, long-term, sophisticated, pro-social, and self-affirming.

Hobby: Leisure-time activity, an elective and pleasurable activity during non-work time.

Leisure Time (Residual Time): Time left over from paid and unpaid work (and not counting time spent sleeping).

Enthusiasm: High interest.

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