Benefits and Motivations for Virtual Community Participation: A Netnography of the Hogwarts Running Club

Authors

  • Robin Lizzo Illinois State University
  • Toni Liechty University of Illinois

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.18666/JPRA-2021-10778

Keywords:

Digital Leisure, Leisure-Based Communities, Netnography, Self-Determination Theory, Virtual Community

Abstract

Keeping up with technology today can be challenging. As park and recreation agencies increasingly find the need to adapt to and incorporate new technologies to stay relevant, the challenge to maintain membership and attract the ever-growing digital generation cannot be underestimated. Technology has long been considered a tool for agency administration, program registration, and implementation, but new forms of technological interaction should be considered by professionals as a way to reach existing and potential participants as well as a way to build community. The rapid development and growth of technology has spurred the development and popularity of virtual communities. Although these communities have been around for over 30 years, they have not yet been adopted into the professional “tool kit” for program delivery or in reaching out to foster stronger community connections and involvements. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore perceptions of benefits and motivation among participants of a leisure-based virtual community. This study utilized the qualitative research technique netnography to explore the perceived benefits and motivations of members of the virtual community The Hogwarts Running Club (HRC). The community has the mission of changing the world through physical fitness and charitable giving and has attracted a large, active, and loyal membership. The HRC was an ideal study setting due to its popularity and the leisure-based nature of the community. The HRC virtual interactions included in the dataset took place via a Facebook group where the focus of discussion was on Harry Potter and running. Data analysis revealed three primary categories of perceived benefits and motivations among the Facebook posts collected over a six-month timeframe: improved physical health, improved mental health, and social and emotional support. Participants indicated that their participation in HRC community events and the support and encouragement they received led to these perceived benefits. As many park and recreation agencies have mandates and commitments to improve quality of life for their constituents, facilitating a leisure-based virtual community might be one avenue of doing so. As such, implications derived from the findings for theory and practice are discussed along with suggestions for future research and practice.Subscribe to TPE

Published

2021-07-22

Issue

Section

Regular Papers