Consumption Communities: An Examination of the Kitchener Market as a Third Place
Johnson, Amanda Joanne
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Leisure time, leisure activities, and leisure spaces largely surround matters of consumption. However, the role consumption plays in the reproduction and performance of community is a necessarily contested topic among leisure scholars. For their part, leisure scholars have tended to regard consumption and places of consumption with a great deal of trepidation, skepticism, and even contempt (e.g., Arai & Pedlar, 2003; Hemingway, 1996; Reid, 1995; Stormann, 2000). Implications for and about community appear to be at the forefront of anxiety about consumption as it relates to leisure. As a result, a focus on “community” has become a practical response to assumptions about pervasive individualism, consumption, and the loss of community, in general. Following calls for the incorporation of community in leisure studies (Arai & Pedlar, 2003; Glover & Stewart, 2006) and drawing on Cook’s (2006a) call to move leisure studies “beyond individualism” (p. 464), this study sought to empirically examine the significance local residents attribute to everyday places of consumption. Furthermore, this study aimed to challenge the idea that leisure time, activities, places, and spaces based on consumption serve only to further alienate individuals from communities, thus weakening the social relevance of leisure, in general (Arai & Pedlar, 2003). The purpose of this research, therefore, was to challenge the essentialist conceptualization of consumption by exploring the relationship between places of consumption and the everyday lived experience of community. To do so, I engaged patrons at the Kitchener Market, a venue that encourages consumptive acts, yet serves as a focal point for everyday engagement in community. The primary research question providing focus for this study was: What roles, if any, do places of consumption, particularly third places, play in the everyday lived experience of community? Results of this research suggest there are new ways for understanding leisure and community as they relate to consumption. Rather than considering consumption places as points of exchange with little or no emotional sentiment attached, this research suggests these places have to potential to develop and create community as well as incorporate consumer values, ideals, ethics, and sentiments. Third places, as everyday places of consumption, should be examined for their potential to create, enact, and build community. Consumption is not separate from society, community and leisure; rather, consumption constitutes a salient aspect of everyday living and should be considered an important component of community.