Conference paper Open Access

Information sharing in serious leisure as a source of Ibasho and Tanoshimi: A narrative from bonsai growers in Australia

Mansourian, Yazdan

This paper presents selective findings from an ongoing project exploring information activities of bonsai growers in Australia. Bonsai growing is a traditional Japanese art of planting and preserving miniature trees in shallow containers and represents an ideal form of nature. Bonsai is a trendy hobby globally, and the volume of information about different aspects of it is massive and available in numerous formats. Therefore, bonsai growing is a productive ground for information behaviour research. Moreover, bonsai is an example of serious leisure because it requires passion, perseverance, and specific knowledge. The project aims to discover how bonsai growers seek, locate, evaluate, organise, share, create and curate various forms of information related to their hobby.

This paper focuses on information sharing as a major area of interest within the human information behaviour scholarship. While information sharing is a common information activity in everyday life, most studies in this field have focused on work-related, health or educational settings, and fewer studies have investigated leisure contexts such as hobbies. This study provides new insights into information sharing patterns in a unique hobby. It contributes to research on information behaviour by demonstrating how bonsai growers share information within their communities of interest. Furthermore, the paper borrowed two conceptual terms from the leisure studies scholarship to map the collected data into a multidisciplinary domain. The first term is “Ibasho”, which in Japanese means a sense of comfort and emotional safety that a person feels in a specific context. Research in leisure studies shows Ibasho generates personal identity, social ties, and group affiliation. This term refers to a place where people feel they belong, and others accept them as they are. It is a unique concept in Japanese culture, and the closest term in English is “niche”. Ibasho includes three aspects: place, relationship, and time. Therefore, ibasho refers to a physical or digital place where one can feel safe, has decent relationships with others in that setting, and has a perspective for future engagement. The second concept is Tanoshimi which means enjoyment, fun or hobby. Tanoshimi refers to joyful experiences that people look forward to experiencing in a context and anticipate a positive and enjoyable outcome. Research in leisure studies suggests tanoshimi serves as both emotional and problem-focused coping strategies. It also helps people find meaning to explore new purposes in life. Besides, tanoshimi can be a source of normality and continuity to experience personal transformation.

The findings indicate that engagement in this hobby requires passion, perseverance, and constant learning. As a result, bonsai growers need so much information to pursue their hobbies. They need specific knowledge to nurture and preserve their trees and keep them in good shape and health, and their primary source of this knowledge is other fellow bonsai growers with more experience in this practice. Therefore, most of the participants in this study were members of their local bonsai club. The findings show that this hobby helps them create communities of interest in the form of bonsai clubs, associations, workshops, and exhibitions.

As a result of this collaborative culture, there are 57 Bonsai clubs and societies in Australia, and most of them are a member of the Association of Australian Bonsai Clubs (AABC). Bonsai clubs organise workshops, tours, contests, and exhibitions, active platforms for information sharing. These clubs are like a source of Ibasho for bonsai enthusiasts as they enjoy attending the events and freely sharing bonsai-related information. Furthermore, their information practice is mainly joyful, and they typically look forward to finding new information and sharing it with their peers.

In summary, bonsai growers are actively engaged in various information activities, such as information seeking, information sharing and information curation. Besides, they create a massive volume of information about their hobby activities and publish it via multiple channels such as social media. Furthermore, they develop exclusive information sharing techniques to stay in contact with their peers and exchange information via social contexts such as bonsai clubs. As they are passionate about their hobby, they actively search for information and share it with their peers, and these information activities are mainly joyful and rewarding. In addition, Ibasho and Tanoshimi are helpful conceptual frameworks to explore and understand the lived experiences of bonsai growers and other serious leisure enthusiasts. Information professionals can use the findings of this study to gain a deeper understanding of hobbyists’ information behaviour to serve them more effectively across the GLAM sector.

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