Tourism Cluster Seminar: Professor Heather Gibson

22 March, 2017 - 10:00 to 11:30
General Purpose North (39A), Room 201

Over the past 25 years, the most commonly used methods in our research were surveys and in-depth interviews, with a sprinkle of focus groups and other methods here and there. Recently, however, interest in using different methods has emerged with a particular focus on using digital approaches. For example, not only have scholars used Amazon MTurk as a sampling frame for their studies and online surveys, while others have conducted secondary data analyses of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.  With roots in consumer research and communication studies, there has been a growing use of a technique called netnography, or ethnography on the Internet in research across leisure and tourism.  Kozinets (2002) defined netnography as “a qualitative research methodology that adapts ethnographic research techniques to study the cultures and communities that are emerging through computer-mediated communications (p. 62).” Nimrod (2010) was the first scholar to apply netnography to leisure research. She used data from online communities to study: (1) the fun culture among seniors; (2) tourism-related contents in senior’s online communities (Nimrod, 2012); (3) how leisure is used to cope with depression (Nimrod, Kleiber, & Berdychevsky, 2012); and recently, (4)  Berdychevsky and Nimrod (2015, 2016) adopted a netnographic approach to investigate sex-related discussions in seniors’ online communities. While in tourism studies, Mkono (2012; 2013) not only discussed the use of netnography in tourism studies, but also a further adaptation with the use of autoethnography (Mkono, et al., 2015).  In addition to online discussion groups, researchers have used other digital forums.  For example, Ivan and Hebblethwaite (2016) explored how older adults use Facebook for their social interactions and to maintain contact with family. Getz and Patterson (2013) used blog posts to examine the event travel careers among committed leisure participants. As we embark on new research methods, it is important that we share not only what works, which is typically what is published or presented, but also studies that did not go as planned, so that we can learn from them. 

Much of the existing use of netnography has been to analyze conversations that took place on existing platforms which is consistent with the parameters of ethnography. However, in contrast to using an existing forum, the purpose of this presentation is to discuss the lessons learned from trying to establish our own on-line community in a study of parents of elite youth sport athletes and the influence of their children’s sport participation on family life. I will discuss: 1. How we tried to create a closed online forum using the Vbulltin platform; 2. How after piloting Vbulltin we switched to using Voice Thread, a more user friendly software; 3. How eventually we turned to traditional in-depth interviews, and resulted in rich findings. 4. Finally, I will discuss what (we think) went wrong and the lessons learned and talk about the potential violations of ethnography/netnography which may have been at the root of our problems

Professor Heather Gibson

Heather Gibson is a Professor in the Department of Tourism, Recreation and Sport Management at the University of Florida and an Associate Director of the Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute. People often ask “does Heather specialize in tourism, sport or leisure?” The answer is all three. She graduated from Brighton Polytechnic in the UK with a Bachelor’s in physical education and a specialization in sport sociology. This focus on the sociology of sport and leisure led her to the University of Connecticut where she earned her Master’s and PhD. and was introduced to tourism as a field of study.  Currently, Professor Gibson teaches classes in leisure theory, tourism and research methods. She also leads study abroad programs to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. Her research interests include sport tourism with a particular focus on sport-related travel in later life and small-scale events; leisure and tourism in later life; women travelers; and perceived risk in travel. Professor Gibson’s research appears in such journals as the Annals of Tourism Research, Tourism Management, Leisure Sciences, and the Journal of Sport Management. She also edited the book Sport Tourism: Concepts and Theories and Co-edited with Jerome Singleton Leisure and Aging: Theory and Practice. She is currently a Managing Editor for the journal Leisure Studies.