Computer's Impact on Leisure
COMPUTER'S IMPACT ON LEISURE
Children and teenagers today were born into a world of technology. They experience a leisure lifestyle very different from generations who grew up before the technology boom. In 2002, it was estimated that 70 percent of U.S. households with children under the age of nineteen used computers, compared with 55 percent in 2000 and 43 percent in 1995. In 1953, there were only about 100 computers in existence worldwide. Computers are now commonplace in schools, with 95 percent of schools having at least one Internet connection as of 1999.
Computers provide the benefit of easy access to information and have expanded communication capabilities. Favorable or unfavorable, technology has become an unavoidable part of life for most Americans. Computers play a vital role in the areas of education, business, and leisure. Development of personal computers, the Internet, the World Wide Web (WWW), and other computerrelated technologies such as video games and virtual reality have dramatically influenced the leisure lifestyles of people in modern society.
Technology continues to influence the nature and diversity of economic, social, interpersonal, and leisure patterns of people. Both benefits and negative ramifications can be identified in our new technological world. Technology has the capacity for creating changes in our concepts of organization as well as redefining the leisure experiences of contemporary Americans.
History and Development of the Computer
Broadly speaking, a computer is any mechanical device that can perform numerical calculations. According to this definition, even a simple adding machine, an abacus, or slide rule can be regarded as a computer. However, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines the term "computer" as "a programmable electronic device that can store, retrieve, and process data."
The abacus, a system of strings and moving beads, is regarded as the first mechanical calculator. It was devised in Babylonia about 2,500 years ago (500 B.C.). The abacus was the fastest and most powerful calculator until the French scientist Blaise Pascal invented a mechanical calculator made of wheels and cogs in 1642. Both the abacus and Pascal's wheels and cogs were simple adding machine.
The British mathematician Charles Babbage invented one of the first versions of the modern computer in 1833. His computer contained all of the basic elements of a modern computer: input devices, a memory unit, a computing unit, a control unit, and output devices. During the 1880s, Herman Hollerith, an American inventor, developed a calculating machine called a "tabulator" that counted, collated, and sorted information stored on punched cards. The tabulator was used to sort statistical information for the United States census in 1890. It took only six weeks for the tabulator to count simple statistics for the census. In 1896, Hollerith founded the Tabulating Machine Company, which became the IBM (International Business Machines) Corporation in 1924. Until the late 1960s, IBM produced punch-card machinery for the business world.
World War II accelerated the development of modern computers. An operational computer (the Z3 and Z4) was first used in German military systems in 1941. In the United States, an electronic computer (the Harvard-IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, named the Mark I) using electromechanical relays as on-off switches was invented to create ballistics tables to make navy artillery more accurate. In Great Britain, in 1943, the Colossus, the first fully functioning electronic computer that used vacuum tubes, was developed to break secret German military codes. However, the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Calculator), which was designed by two American engineers in 1946, is regarded as the first modern general-purpose electronic computer.
A revolution in computer development was brought forth by the invention of the transistor in 1947. Later, small germanium transistors were designed, which led to the miniaturization of computers, as we know them today. In 1958, an American engineer named Jack Kilby designed the first integrated circuit (IC), which helped rapidly develop the use of silicon microchip technology. The personal computer (PC) revolution occurred in the 1970s after an American engineer Marcian E. Hoff invented the microprocessor in 1971. The emergence of the microprocessor contributed to the cost reduction of electronic components required for a computer. The first major manufacturer of personal computers was the Tandy Corporation in 1977. IBM began to produce its personal computer in 1981. Since the early 1980s, the prices for personal computers have declined drastically, while the productivity and speed have increased.
Computers became more versatile in the 1990s, and this versatility opened the multimedia age. The term "multimedia" encompasses the computer's ability to combine text, charts, maps, animations and video, along with music and audio sounds, into interactive presentations. In order to store the enormous amounts of information that audio and video clips require, manufacturers began producing CD-ROMs (Compact Disc-Read-Only Memory). The enormous storage potential of CD-ROMs prompted the development of various types of video games and virtual reality programs. CD-R and CD-RW are more advanced forms of CD-ROM. CD-R is short for "CD-Recordable." Recordable CDs are WORM (Write Once, Read Multiple) media that work just like standard CD-ROMs. The advantage of CD-R over other types of optical media is that you can use the discs with a standard CD player. The disadvantage is that you can't rewrite a disc. On the contrary, CD-RW (CD-Rewritable) allows you to erase discs and reuse them, but the CD-RW media doesn't work in all players. CD-Rewritable drives are able to write both CD-R and CD-RW discs. In the late 1990s, a more advanced technology called DVD-ROM (Digital Video Disc-Read Only Memory) was invented. This technology can store greater amounts of data such as an entire feature-length motion picture on one disc.
The Internet and the World Wide Web
The era of information was brought forth by the advent of the Internet and the World Wide Web (WWW). The Internet is a system of networked computers. The first computer link began in the 1960s by the U.S. Department of Defense, and the project began by connecting four computers. Nowadays, the system of networks and computers spans the globe, and it is difficult to know just how big the Internet is. However, it is estimated that the global online population has grown to over 600 million as of 1 November 2002 (NUA Internet Surveys). Research indicates that Europe currently has the biggest online population in the world with 190.91 million Internet users. In September 2002, the North American Internet population reached 182.67 million and accounted for 30.1 percent of global Internet users.
The World Wide Web, on the other hand, which is an information retrieval system, was created only over a decade ago (1990). The WWW can transport documents (that is, Web sites or Web pages) containing text, graphics, audio, and video, while the Internet is the vehicle that allows users to access to the information. In other words, the WWW distributes information on the Internet. The WWW uses hypertext, a document type that contains information and links to other links. Thus, users can find information or Web sites by using a page's URL (universal resource locator). The WWW is a huge multimedia information resource and a convenient and efficient way to distribute information. It is growing at an exponential rate each year. By the early twenty-first century, the availability of Web-site development software allowed users to create their own Web sites such as personal home pages, marketing and business Web sites, and organizational advocacy pages.
Electronic mail (e-mail) is another tremendously convenient communication tool via the Internet, and it is becoming a more and more important way of communicating among people. E-mail enables people with e-mail accounts to create and send information to any other individual or group of individuals who also have e-mail access. Therefore, e-mail provides convenient and speedy communication. E-mail allows people to keep in touch with others at their convenience. Many people think that returning e-mails is easier than returning phone calls, and less intrusive as well. Some find that keeping in touch with friends and family out of state through the use of e-mail is more affordable than long-distance phone calls. With current advances in technology, it is now even possible to view the person you are instant messaging through the use of digital cameras.
Playing video games is a preferred leisure time activity for many people. Playing video games at home or in a video arcade setting became popular in the 1970s and tapered off during the late 1980s. Ralph Baer is credited as the inventor of the video game, with his design of a television set that incorporated an interactive game. A prototype was created in 1968, known as Brown Box, which played ball-and-paddle games and shooting games. Upon seeing a demonstration, Magnavox signed an agreement in 1971 resulting in the release of the first video game system, Odyssey, in 1972. It was also in 1972 when the first successful arcade video game, Pong, was released. Designed by Nolan Bushnell and Alan Alcorn, this simplistic game ignited the video arcade industry. Several home versions were created as well. Bushnell is responsible for creating Atari Inc., which introduced games such as Pong, Tank, Gunfight, Breakout, and Space Invaders. The incredible popularity of Space Invaders is credited with bringing video games into the public consciousness, with games showing up in restaurants, malls, and bars. The public's growing interest in playing video games created an environment of competition for game makers. Striving to create the most exciting game playing experience, home video game companies continue to engage in constant innovation and improvement. Although video arcades could still be found in the early 2000s, their popularity decreased significantly since the 1980s.
Computer-based home video games are the fasted growing type of entertainment except for Internet usage. According to a recent study, an average American spends seventy-five hours per year playing video games (Lewis). More than half of American households have some kind of game machine. Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox are examples of dedicated game computers that can be connected to regular television screens. People also use their own personal computers to play games, with numerous CD-ROMs for computer games currently available. Internet gaming is another way of enjoying computer games. People visit Internet game parlors and enjoy interactive computer games with other Internet users. For example, numerous people (i.e., over 30,000 in 2003) have played pool online at Yahoo Games, and thousands more play card games on AOL Games, MSN Games, or Gamespot. Currently, handheld gaming computers and personal digital assistants (PDA) such as portable Nintendo Game Boys, Palm Pilots, and Pocket PCs are gaining significant amounts of attention. More recently, playing games on cellular phones became available.
The popularity of home game systems, however, has decreased the social element of video games that existed in the arcade atmosphere. Although more than one individual can play home game systems, they are more often played solitarily.
Youth between the ages of eight and eighteen spend more than forty hours per week using some type of media, not counting school or homework assignments. Although television is still the most frequently used medium, electronic video games are rapidly growing. More specifically, among the age group of eight- to thirteen-year-old boys, the average is more than seven and a half hours per week. And 14.8 percent of high school senior students played at least six hours per week in 1999 (Anderson and Bushmen).
Virtual Reality (VR) is a new human-computer interaction in which users are no longer simply external observers of images on a computer screen, but are active participants within a computer-generated three-dimensional virtual world. VR environments differ from traditional displays in that computer graphics and various display and input technologies are integrated to give the user a sense of presence or immersion in the virtual environment. The most common approach to the creation of a virtual environment is to outfit the user with a head-mounted display. Head-mounted displays consist of separate display screens for each eye along with some type of display optics and a head-tracking device. The head-tracking device provides head location and orientation information to a computer graphics workstation that computes visual images on the display screen consistent with the direction in which the user is looking within the virtual environment. In short, VR integrates real-time computer graphics, bodytracking devices, visual displays, and other sensory input devices to immerse a participant in a computer-generated virtual environment.
Technology for Everyone
The appeal of technology is obvious for young people who grew up with technology, as well as for adults who were somewhat forced to incorporate it into their working lives. The use of technology, however, is not limited to young people and adults. Interestingly, seniors are the largest growing group of Internet users. With 13 percent of Americans age sixty-five and older having Internet access, it is obvious that older adults appreciate the benefits of technology. Although this percentage is relatively low, studies show that those seniors who do have access to the Internet are among the most avid users with 63 percent going online daily, compared with 54 percent of people under thirty. Web sites such as senior.com, seniornet.com, and computersforseniors.org are only a few examples of the multitudes of sites designed to interest seniors. These sites offer information on health, travel, news, and computer tips specifically geared toward the retired population. E-mailing is one of the most popular online activities engaged in by seniors, with half of the online senior population sending and receiving e-mails on any given day. Many senior community centers offer computer classes, and even nursing homes are building computer labs within their facilities. The use of technology in leisure shows great promise in this faction of the population.
Technology and computers have also widened the doors of leisure opportunity for people with disabilities. Communication devices and specialized personal computers allow people with mobility or communication impairments to communicate their needs to others effectively. Screen readers and voice output technology allow individuals with visual impairments to surf the Web and to e-mail. Advances in assistive technology are growing constantly, allowing individuals with disabilities to enjoy the benefits of the Internet.
Increase in Popularity
Certainly one of the most convincing reasons for the increase in popularity of computer technology is the convenience with which one can obtain any type of information. With very little instruction, one is prepared to surf the Internet and obtain knowledge on nearly any subject of interest. E-mailing and instant messaging are uncomplicated tasks and allow for ease in communication with others. The appeal of Web surfing and e-mailing from the privacy of one's own home, without even having to change out of one's pajamas is undeniable. Becoming informed has never been easier, and the face of communicating with others has changed forever.
The use of computers and technology in leisure has become increasingly popular in part due to decreased costs of computers. Whereas in the 1980s a home computer was an expensive luxury, by the turn of the century it was considered to be affordable by many families. Computers are available for personal use at libraries and community centers, often at no cost. Children become familiar with computers at school, and often teach their own families how to use them. Becoming adept at computer use is a practically unavoidable part of life for many people. Even those who are hesitant to learn and intimidated by the computer often are required to learn simple computer tasks in their workplace. Once it becomes evident that using a computer does not require tremendous knowledge and skill, people become more comfortable with exploring the various uses of their computers.
Economically, the WWW has opened up new and exciting opportunities for the business world (that is, e-commerce or e-business). Companies began to sell their products online, with great success, and home shopping by the Internet is becoming very popular, especially among young generations. People can purchase nearly any item online, from airline tickets to a baby pacifier. Although online sales are not dominant revenue streams yet in most industry sectors, e-business transactions from 1993 to 2003 sharply increased. By the early 2000s, companies in the United States generated an average of 15 to 18 percent of their revenues from e-business (InformationWeek Research's E-business Agenda Study).
Factors addressed above do not entirely explain the surge in popularity of computerized and technological leisure activities. Computers may provide some psychosocial benefits, as well. Computers may allow people to compensate for their own perceived lack of power. In today's huge corporate, educational, and government bureaucracies, individuals easily feel lost. However, people can feel a sense of control when they sit in front of computers. A computer operates only as the control of people, and it never judges or rejects them. If someone knows how to use a computer, it does only what that person wants it to do.
Surfing the Internet, playing games, and visiting chat rooms provide individuals with a sense of escape from their everyday life. The appeal of computer games, fantasy sports, and virtual reality is the convincing realism that is experienced while playing. The graphics and sound effects draw the player deep into the activity, eliciting a feeling of real participation on the player's part. Investing oneself in a virtual reality permits a temporary and partial relief from one's own reality. Many people enjoy visiting chat rooms because of the anonymity associated with the process. A sense of freedom and adventure can be experienced due to the decreased inhibitions associated with being anonymous. Some people even visit chat rooms under an assumed identity, an identity that does not resemble their own life. Escapism is part of the appeal of technology in leisure.
Many argue that our dependence on computers results in a lack of socialization with others. It can be argued, however, that computers have created rather than eliminated ways of communicating with people through the use of e-mail, instant messaging, chat rooms, and message boards. Face-to-face communication may indeed be decreasing, but a new kind of communication may not necessarily be viewed as negative.
The psychosocial impact of computer use has been a topic of interest to researchers. John Robinson and Meyer Kestnbaum published a study in which they compared cultural and other free-time activities of heavy users, light users, and nonusers of personal computers, based on a 1997 survey of more than 6,000 respondents. According to the study results, heavy computer use was associated with significantly greater participation in cultural and other free-time activities than light users and nonusers of computer. In particular, computer users tend to be more active in activities such as arts, going to movies, playing sports, and engaging in outdoor activities. These results may indicate that new technology users are more likely to engage in other cultural and leisure activities as well.
Another interesting study, done by Matthew S. Kerner, Michael Kalinski, Anthony B. Kurrant, Eric Small, Eugene Spatz, and Stacy Gropack, followed 295 adolescent African American girls and revealed that leisure-time Internet use was not correlated with a lack of physical activity or a decreased physical fitness level. These results are also somewhat contradictory to the traditional beliefs that computer users may neglect the importance of physical activities and experience physical inactivity.
As illustrated above, computers and the Internet have become an integral and essential part of education, business, leisure, and everyday life. However, technology not only provides us with positive benefits, but also with negative ramifications.
Negative Ramifications of Technology
The onset of computer technology, especially the Internet, has occurred so quickly that most could not predict the potential dangers. Because the Internet is so vast, managing and monitoring its contents is difficult. Although steps are taken to monitor illegal activity on the Internet, it is possible for things to slip through the cracks. Criminals can enter the Internet just like regular people. Fraud and money scams are pervasive problems online, as well as identity theft. Chat rooms can become dangerous places for young people when child predators enter and persuade them to meet in person. Online dating poses similar risks when people present themselves under false pretenses.
For example, although e-mail is a tremendously convenient communication tool, there are some concerns regarding the its use. One of the concerns is an issue of its security. While an e-mail message travels from one computer to another computer, a third party such as marketing companies and hackers can retrieve it. Spamming occurs when a company sends numerous e-mails to an intended audience. That is why e-mail users receive numerous commercial e-mails from unexpected senders. Users' names and personal information can spread widely throughout the Internet.
As contradictory to the results discussed in the previous section, some researchers found that excessive Internet use leads to the inherent lack of socialization due to the solitary nature of the activity. That is, Internet users spend less time with people, often resulting in strain in personal relationships. Users may be avoiding social interactions, thereby deterring the development of social skills. They also reported that many heavy users of computers experience academic problems, dysfunctional personal relationships, financial problems, work-related problems, and physical risk factors such as sleep deprivation and lack of exercise.
Information overload and the threat to reliable information are other problematic areas that resulted from the availability of numerous Web-site development tools and the explosive growth in Web sites. Countless Web sites can be found for one keyword. However, it is not always easy for users to obtain information that is relevant and reliable. Not every Web site provides accurate, complete, dated, and reliable information. That is, the integrity of information on the Internet is threatened by numerous inaccurate, incomplete, outdated, and unreliable data. In order to use information on Web sites wisely, users should examine the accuracy of the information by checking citations, an author's credibility, the existence of copyright protection, and when a site was updated. Users also need to examine whether the information on the Web is a commercial advertisement or factual information. Therefore, importance should be placed on the reliability of information rather than the availability.
Advanced technology exacerbated another significant societal problem: media violence. Although numerous educational, nonviolent strategic, and sporting games are available to players of all ages, the most heavily marketed and consumed games are violent in nature. Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter are examples of the violent video games, both of which were best-selling games in the video game market in 1990s. The main goal of the games is to wound and kill opponents. By the end of the twentieth century, even more graphically violent and audibly vivid violent games became available.
There are some arguments regarding the positive aspects of violent video games. Some espouse the belief that playing violent games teaches youth how to deal with pent-up feelings of aggression and hostility. Others justify the violent games as pro-social by seeing violence as an acceptable method for defending good from evil. However, the majority of the numerous studies on media violence and aggression claim that playing violent video games increases aggressive behavioral tendencies both in children and adults. Playing violent video games also increases physiological arousal and aggressive-related thoughts and feelings, as well as decreases pro-social behavior.
Properly selected, age appropriate video games have the potential to foster creativity and promote pro-social behavior. Playing video games may be used both for educational and clinical purposes. Video game play can enhance hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, and can increase an individual's ability to pay attention to detail. Therefore, careful game selection (such as examination of game description and rating code) should be made based on a player's developmental level, personality, and his or her purpose for the involvement. Placing limits on playing time is recommended as well.
Pornography has been a controversial topic since the Internet and WWW became popular. Pornography can be defined as any sexually explicit representation to arouse its audience. Traditional forms of pornography such as soft-core magazines (such as Playboy ) and hard-core films depicting explicit sexual acts are now available on the Internet in different formats. There are thousands of sex-related Usenet groups (Internet news groups) and numerous WWW pages showing pornographic images, video clips, and sounds. Text-based Internet chat can also be used for sexual conversations. Video conferencing programs are now being used for sexual interaction among Internet users and for users to view and direct real-time online sex shows.
Pornography is one of the most profitable ventures on the Internet, and accessing pornography Web sites is one of the Internet's most common uses. Although no official figures are available, industry executives estimate that the worth of the Internet pornography market increased from $1 billion in 1997 to $1.75 billion by 2001.
While adult pornography is legal and has become more accepted in society as a legitimate leisure activity, it is also true that the cyber pornography can pose potential problems. Repeated Internet pornography use may become an addiction when the user becomes obsessed with the behavior. For example, a study in 2000 projected that at least 200,000 Web porn users are "cybersex compulsives," spending more than eleven hours viewing Web porn each week. Internet pornography is also a threat to many parents. According to a statistics, one in four children online sees sexually explicit images and one in five children are aggressively solicited online for sex (Garcia). More than 725,000 children were asked online to meet someone face-to-face for a sexual encounter. Protecting children from Internet pornography and exploitation has continued to be an issue, as the Internet creates a loosely monitored space for child predators to roam. Creating and maintaining legal boundaries for Internet pornography continues to pose legal and social conflicts for Internet users.
Technology and Leisure: Changes in Leisure Pursuits and Patterns
It is generally well accepted that the primary characteristics of leisure are enjoyment, freedom of choice, feelings of control, and intrinsic personal satisfaction. From this perspective, playing through the use of a computer can be regarded as a new type of leisure time activity because it is usually a self-directed activity and it appears to provide enjoyable and satisfying experience to the voluntary users.
According to a survey conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers Consumer Technology, the two top reasons people visit the Internet are research (90 percent of the respondents) and e-mail (89 percent). Shopping was next at 42 percent, while interactive entertainment like gaming was listed by 37 percent of the users.
The leisure lifestyles of contemporary Americans can be enhanced by computer technology. Having access to the Internet eliminates some of the hassles inherent in preparing for a leisure activity. The convenience of using the Internet to plan vacations, for example, has allowed people to make all the preparations from the comfort of their homes. One can book a cruise or a flight for a vacation, make hotel arrangements, get advanced knowledge of all the attractions near their destination, make restaurant reservations, and even see the menu for dining selections. All of this is possible without having to make phone calls or visit a travel agency. Practically any recreation activity outside the home can be explored via the Internet before an individual actually goes. Internet users can view movie listings, show times, and even buy a ticket. People can obtain maps ahead of time for backpacking, canoeing, and camping trips. They can purchase sporting goods online, or buy tickets to sporting events, gallery openings, Broadway shows, and concerts from the privacy of their home. The convenience of technology also allows people to save time and frustration when planning an outing, although it also eliminates the opportunity to make connections with real people. Although the leisure activities themselves may not be different, the way people prepare for an experience has changed with the technological advances.
Computer technology has created new spaces for leisure participation. The increasing use of the Internet and computer-related technologies during and/or for leisure time have prompted a transformation in the leisure activities of people today. Jo Bryce coined the term "virtual leisure spaces" to describe this new computer-related space. While traditional leisure activities occurred within the home, bars, restaurants, parks, and outdoor spaces, today's leisure can also be experienced through the computer and virtual spaces.
Traditional notions of leisure have been transformed by technology and the use of virtual spaces. For instance, computer games can reproduce board games, sporting activities, shopping, and social interaction with others. These technological leisure activities can also provide relaxation, stimulation, escape, and the development of self-identity and lifestyle. For the purposes of socializing and information exchange, people can form discussion groups to discuss a range of topics. Chat rooms allow for online conversation with people from all over the world. Players who are geographically distant can play competitive games over the Internet. Thus, the traditional concept of spatial organization of leisure is now being challenged by the advent of virtual leisure spaces, resulting in the boundaries between domestic, virtual, and commercial leisure spaces becoming blurred.
Legal and Moral Challenges of the Technological World
The virtual leisure space also plays a role in testing the limits of moral and legal acceptability. Victor Turner used the term "liminal leisure" to describe the phenomenon. According to Chris Rojek, leisure activities are often significant causal factors in explaining deviant behaviors, including violence and murder. Liminal leisure sites are those that are organized around deviant leisure activities, such as fetishism and pedophilia, suicide, racism, and satanic worship. People wishing to test the limits of acceptable moral standards may explore these types of sites.
The Internet has the capacity for posing great dangers to people of all ages, especially those who are impressionable (such as young people). First Amendment laws of free speech apply to the online community, permitting hate groups, cults, and other negative affiliations to vie for members. Access to these Web sites is as simple as any other site, allowing people to view ideas to which they may not have previously had access. Instructional Web sites are available to teach things such as how to make bombs or drugs. Parents must understand the magnitude of the availability of all kinds of information and carefully supervise their children online.
Online activities need not be illegal to pose risks to computer users. Online casinos are legal, yet they become addictive and problematic for some users. Easy access to pornography can exacerbate sexual disorders. Some Internet users spend excessive amounts of time on the computer, leading to problems with their families, their jobs, and their social lives in general. The term "Internet addiction" has been coined to describe people preoccupied with the Internet and unable to control their Internet use. Many problematic Internet users report symptoms of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and loneliness. This may explain why nearly 80 percent of participants in a study on Internet abuse reported using the Internet for two-way communication such as interactive multiplayer character games, e-mail, and chat rooms.
Technology in Our Everyday Lives
Research results on the relationship between technology-based leisure activities and health are controversial and debatable. However, in general, the use of computer or technology as a major focus for leisure activity appears to reduce participation in active and health-enhancing leisure activities, thereby influencing the individuals' physical health. A sedentary lifestyle and the lack of regular physical exercise are known to be detrimental to health. On the contrary, it is possible that technology-based leisure activities such as Internet use may improve mental health when used properly. The opportunities for communication, social support, and interaction may provide interpersonal resources in times of crisis and contribute to satisfying social experiences. The proliferation of online self-help groups and numerous Web sites providing information about illnesses and heath issues can be valuable resources. Online participation may enable people with psychosocial difficulties (such as depression, stress, helplessness, lack of social support, etc.) to overcome their difficulties by providing greater control, anonymity, and social support. The same principle can be applied to people with disabilities and illnesses who may have limited accessibility to traditional leisure spaces. It should be noted that research on the influence of computer-based technology on health is still inconsistent and incomplete. Further research considering a variety of behavioral, psychological, and health outcomes will be required for clearer conclusions.
Whether new technologies are truly effective tools to make our lives more convenient and our leisure more productive is another debatable issue. Although it was expected that computers would streamline our workload, make life easier, and give us more free time for leisure activities, this may not necessarily be the case. Many people are spending as much, or even more, time at their desks toiling away on their computers. Just answering e-mail can take hours. Computers can be serious time wasters in the workplace, as well. Writing and receiving personal e-mail, paying bills online, shopping, and surfing the Internet are activities that many perform while they are at work. In the long run, this may be keeping us at work longer.
Using technology for leisure at work doesn't necessarily constitute a negative situation. Being able to communicate with your loved ones while at work is soothing to many. Performing menial tasks and errands on coffee breaks gets those tasks out of the way and off individuals' minds. Some parents view their children at day care via a digital camera placed in the day-care center and posted on the Web. This may provide some reassurance for many parents throughout the workday. Companies that allow for this type of "play" during work hours find that their employees are happier and thus more productive. Companies with strict rules on leisure at work may find that employees are going elsewhere, where their needs can be accommodated. The future may hold a workplace that incorporates leisure into the everyday job.
The Future Outlook for Technology and Leisure
Computer-related technologies are transforming the contemporary experience and the organization of many important aspects of people's lives such as education, business, and leisure. Specifically in leisure, the interactional, spatial, and temporal experiences of leisure are transformed by a variety of leisure experiences provided by the computer-based virtual spaces.
Both benefits and dangers are inherent in the technological world. For some, the novelty of new technology has already worn off. Online businesses are closing at an alarming rate, and many people are heading back to the stores to do their shopping. However, regardless of people's whims, technology is here to stay. It has become a necessity for the way people conduct business, educate their children, and entertain themselves in today's world.
Whether people like them or not, the new technologies have opened up new worlds of opportunity for more efficient and productive life. The next step will be to embrace the technologies for the ways they can help people. When used wisely, the new technologies promise to open new doors of opportunity for more efficient and productive lifestyles in the future.
See also: Computer/Video Games; Fantasy Sports; Internet; Media, Technology, and Leisure
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