Theme:Blurring Offline/Online

Next up here is a selection from theme 2…

Garry Crawford and David Hancock (Salford University)

Cosplay: Play in the Sunshine

This paper considers how cosplayers use, subvert and transform public spaces. Cosplayers’ costuming and performances typically take place at game and comic conventions, but cosplayers can also gather in private and public spaces away from conventions. This paper draws on ethnographic research involving interviews with approximately thirty cosplayers, plus detailed observations of cosplayer gatherings. Cosplay takes the ‘virtual’, often online, and carries this over to ‘offline’ physical spaces, employing low-fi means to express an appreciation of ‘geek’ culture and fantasy. Specifically here this paper focuses on the cosplayers’ use, subversion and transformation of a public park in the centre of Manchester. In doing so the paper draws on and adds to our understanding of cosplay, theories of play, spaces of resistance, and contemporary subcultures. In particular, parallels are drawn with Iain Borden’s (2001: 218) work on skateboarders, as, like skateboarders, cosplay is consider as  “…an aesthetic rather than ethical practice, using the ‘formants’ at its disposal to create an alternative reality”. The paper argues that, for cosplayers, the physicality of the form is essential; however, they do not reject technology, on the contrary, this is adopted and made full use of by carrying its significance ‘offline’ into physical spaces. This is, that their immersion into the virtual is not enough, and they bring the object of their devotion into the physical world to engage with it more tangibly in ways that express creativity and the possibilities of subversion.


Borden, I. (2001) Skateboarding, Space and the City: Architecture and the Body, Berg, Oxford.

Alex McDonagh (University of Salford)

Parklife blurred: how a collaborative research approach may unmask boundaries as rhizomatic networks

This paper discusses the author’s current PhD research which uses collaborative (Waterton 2005) and reflexive (Bender et al 2007) research approaches to understand the effects of representing a park space in a digital format. The research has revealed a number of boundaries within digital and outdoor leisure contexts, the malleability of which support the notions of Bourdieu’s habitus (1977) and Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome (2002).

The paper will discuss how interviews with participants revealed differing opinions about the leisure roles of the park and of digital media. Firstly the paper will provide some context for the research project and outline the methodologies involved. The interview data will then be used to explore the blurred boundaries between the perceptions of leisure within the park. This will focus on interpretations of a bowling green and the contestation of its leisure use as either a sports area or as a heritage garden to the nearby stately home. The paper will go on to discuss the reactions of participants to a digital interpretation of the park and how this illuminates the role that digital media plays in people’s lives. This section will explore notions of how our relationship with digital technology is changing and how the boundaries between leisure and work are therefore changing in our homes and in society at large. Finally, this paper will discuss how the methodologies in this research project have facilitated the illumination of blurred boundaries between traditional and everyday values in digital and park leisure contexts.


Bender B., Hamilton S. & Tilley C. (2007) Stone Worlds: Narrative and Reflexivity in Landscape Archaeology, Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press

Bourdieu P. (1977) Outline of a Theory in Practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F. (2002) A thousand plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia, London: Continuum

Waterton, E. (2005) ‘Whose Sense of Place? Reconciling Archaeological Perspectives with Community Values: Cultural Landscapes in England’, International Journal of Heritage Studies 11 (4)

Ilja Simons (NTHV University of Applied Sciences)

On-site and online rituals of event communities

Events have traditionally played a role in creating group solidarity and sense of togetherness (Getz, 2008; Finkel, 2010). Whereas originally, these event impacts were place-bound, nowadays in the network society (Castells, 2010), events have become nodes in complex social networks. This study focuses on the phenomenon in which people from different geographical backgrounds create a temporary space in which an informal community is built, which is then maintained online. These so-called hybrid communities (Sechi et al., 2012) change the social meaning of events. Instead of being isolated in time and space, events should be seen and studied as essential for building social capital in contemporary society (Richards and de Brito, 2013). Analysing these new communities will increase our understanding of how people adhere to the informal social practices that underpin new forms of social cohesion. However, the mechanisms which lead to community building as a result of such practices are poorly understood.

One way to understand community building through events is by regarding events as leisure practices in which rituals take place. Collins’ (2004) meso scale theory about Interaction Ritual Chains distinguishes ritual ingredients and ritual outcomes. Emotional energy obtained from a successful ritual stimulates participants to seek similar experiences, which can take the form of online and offline interaction. This paper focuses on the theoretical considerations of the (ongoing) study, illustrated by the outcomes of a case study: the Redhead Days in Breda, the Netherlands. The Redhead Days are the largest gathering of redheads in the world, attracting visitors from more than 80 countries. The event has resulted in a large online community. This qualitative study combines participant observation and semi structured interviews with Netnographic methods (Kozinets, 2010), leading to insights in the way offline and online rituals lead to the organic development of a new informal community.


Castells, M. (2010) The Rise of the Network Society. Second edition, Chichester: John Wiley and Sons Ltd.

Collins, R. (2004) Interaction Ritual Chains. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Finkel, R. (2010) ‘“Dancing around the ring of fire”: social capital, tourism resistance, and gender dichotomies at Up Helly Aa in Lerwick, Shetland’, Event Management, Vol. 14, pp. 275–285.

Getz, D. (2008) ‘Event tourism: Definition, evolution, and research’, Tourism Management 29, pp.403–428.

Kozinets, R. V. (2010) Netnography. Doing ethnographic research online. Thousand

Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Available (accessed 4 February 2016).

Richards, G. and de Brito, M. (2013) ‘The future of events as a social phenomenon’. In Richards, G., de Brito, M.P. and Wilks, L. (eds.) Exploring the social impacts of events. London: Routledge, pp.219-235.

Sechi, G., Skilters, J., Borri, D. and De Lucia, C. (2012) Knowledge Exchange in hybrid communities: a social capital-based approach. Evidence from Latvia. Available at (accessed 4 February 2016)

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