One of the essential aspects of ikigai is having meaningful relationships; through these relationships, we can feel a sense of belonging, which leads us to feel ikigai. There are ways in which we can obtain significant relationships, and one can be through information sharing in serious leisure activities. How can we build meaningful relationships through leisure?
In this episode of the Ikigai Podcast, Nick speaks with Yazdan Mansourian about how one can feel ikigai through information sharing in serious leisure.
Becoming a lecturer. At 1:45, Yazdan shares how he ends up being a lecturer in Wagga Wagga, N.S.W.
Connection to Japan. At 4:06, Yazdan talks about his 3-month experience in Japan.
Defining serious leisure. Yazdan explains what serious leisure is at 12:02.
Difference between serious leisure and hobby. At 17:25, Yazdan differentiates serious leisure and hobby.
Why choose bonsai. At 21:09, Yazdan shares why he used bonsai as an example of serious leisure.
Bonsai growing and kodawari. At 29:46, Yazdan talks about why he associated bonsai growing with kodawari.
An opportunity to explore Japanese culture. At 39:47, Nick and Yazdan discuss how bonsai opened the door for its enthusiasts to explore and understand Japanese culture.
Information sharing. At 42:59, Yazdan shares why his paper focuses on information sharing.
Ibasho and tanoshimi. At 48:45, the two discuss the terms ibasho and tanoshimi.
The GLAM sector. The two discuss what the GLAM sector is at 1:06:37
Yazdan’s ikigai. At 1:11:19, Yazdan shares what his ikigai is.
Dr. Yazadan Mansourian
Dr Yazdan Mansourian is a lecturer in the School of Information and Communication Studies at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia. He received his PhD in Information Science from The University of Sheffield in 2006; has a BSc degree in Agricultural Engineering from Guilan University; and an MA degree in Library and Information Science from Ferdowsi University of Mashhad. He is originally from Iran, moved to the UK where he received his PhD, and currently resides in Australia along with his wife and teenage son.
The Serious Leisure Perspective (SLP) - This website contains a page describing the basic concepts and propositions of the Perspective.
Mansourian, Y. (2020) - How passionate people seek and share various forms of information in their serious leisure. Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association, 69(1), 17-30.
Mansourian, Y. (2021) - Joyful information activities in serious leisure: Looking for pleasure, passion and purpose. Aslib Journal of Information Management, 73(5), 1-17.
Mansourian, Y. (2021) - Information activities in serious leisure as a catalyst for self-actualisation and social engagement. Journal of Documentation, 77(4), 887-905.
Mansourian, Y., & Bannister, M. (2019) - Five benefits of serious leisure for a public library. Incite, 40(5/6), 32-33.
Bonsai in the time of COVID - The miniature, the social and the solitary, published in Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: an interdisciplinary journal
Becoming a lecturer
Yazdan shares that after finishing his PhD in the UK, he returned to Iran where he started his academic career as a lecturer in Library and Information Science at Kharazmi University in Tehran; he stayed there for almost 11 years, then, in 2017, he applied for an academic position at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. Since then, he has been teaching various Library and Information Science subjects and conducting research program on human information behaviour in the context of serious leisure.
Connection to Japan
In 2012, Yazdan was invited as a visiting scholar to Japan where he spent three months at the University of Tsukuba. Like many others, he was fascinated by the richness of Japanese culture – their cuisine, and the kindness and politeness of the Japanese people. At that time, he was interested in the job market for librarians and information professionals globally. Hence, at the end of his visit he was able to deliver a presentation to share the result of two studies: The Changes in Library and Information Science (LIS) and The Job Market for LIS Graduates. It was during those times, he shares, that his interest in leisure emerged because when people think about the concept of work, they also have to think about the concept of leisure – they are connected in some ways.
Defining serious leisure
Yazdan accomplished a research paper on serious leisure: “Information sharing in serious leisure as a source of Ibasho and Tanoshimi: A narrative from bonsai growers in Australia.” In the matter of serious leisure, he explains that it is a term coined by Dr Robert Stebbins in 1982, and includes hobbies, amateurism, and voluntary activities with six criteria: perseverance and commitment, potentiality to turn into a career, significant personal effort, durable personal and social benefits, unique ethos within a social world, and personal and social identity. He states that to have a better understanding of serious leisure, people have to study it in a bigger context because there are different types of leisure, and they can be identified based on the level of engagement and commitment. These are:
Casual leisure - play, relaxation, passive entertainment, and so on.
Project-based leisure - DIY projects, travelling, organising cultural events.
Serious pursuits - serious leisure and devotee work.
Serious Leisure includes hobbies, amateurism and voluntary activities with six criteria. Perseverance and commitment, potentiality to turn into a career, a significant personal effort, durable personal and social benefits, a unique ethos within a social world, and personal and social identity. - Yazdan Mansourian
Yazdan shares that Nick’s dedication and passion for his research and sharing the subject of ikigai is an example of serious leisure activity. Nick agrees stating that what he does is not only work or a hobby – it’s something challenging and he has spent a lot of time and dedication to it.
Difference between serious leisure and hobby
To distinguish serious leisure from a hobby, Yazdan shares that it depends on how much time, energy, and dedication people consider for their recreation; it varies from each individual – it doesn’t have to be serious for everyone. As long as an activity is enjoyable and meaningful, and people are passionate about it – it is considered serious leisure. In his research, he identified that serious leisure is a rich source of pleasure, passion, and purpose. However, he also found out that sometimes people tend to become too serious that it turns to obsession or addiction. Hence, it is better to carry out serious leisure in moderation.
Why choose bonsai
Yazdan’s paper used bonsai as an example of serious leisure. He shares that when he began his research program, he explored serious leisure in various groups of people; he interviewed several people with different hobbies, such as birdwatchers, and gardeners, and one of them was a bonsai grower. Among all the activities, he thinks that bonsai is the perfect representation of serious leisure: some people do it as a form of enjoyment, while some dedicate their lives practising the art of bonsai; it requires passion, perseverance, and learning specific skills; it also brings personal and social benefits and can turn into a career.
The practice of bonsaiHe explains that bonsai is a combination of sophisticated horticultural techniques, aesthetic principles, and mindfulness; it is the art of planting, shaping, and preserving trees in shallow containers to represent an ideal form of nature. The word bonsai includes two parts: bon (shallow container) and sai (planting). Hence, bonsai basically means a tree planted in a shallow container. From what he learned, almost any tree can become a bonsai depending on the climate and how experienced the bonsai grower is.
Bonsai growing and kodawari
In his paper, Yazdan stated that bonsai growing is an excellent example of kodawari. He explains that the kodawari concept is all about pursuing perfection – realising that they’ll never get it, but people keep going anyway, which is exactly what they do in bonsai growing: bonsai growers keep on working on a tree to make it as beautiful as possible to represent an ideal form of nature; they just keep on doing it even though they know that they will not reach that kind of perfection – it’s an everlasting process.
He thinks that the Japanese concepts of kodawari and wabi-sabi (the beauty of imperfection) are two sides of the same coin; for him, wabi-sabi means appreciating natural irregularity, simplicity, and roughness, therefore, there is always a room for improvement, and kodawari is that constant work towards perfection.
An opportunity to explore Japanese culture
Yazdan shares that most participants of his study showed interest in the richness of Japanese culture; their hobby has become an open window for them toward the horizon of Japanese philosophy and traditions. Yazdan believes that it is a valuable opportunity to foster intercultural ties between Japan and Australia.
Yazdan states that one cannot write a paper on information behaviour in general because of the broadness of the subject. Therefore, they have to be specific in each paper. In his case, he chose the topic of information sharing because he found out over his past research that among all information activities, information sharing is the most exuberant activity because of its communication nature. During the pandemic, he has done internet-based research about information sharing; what he found out was that it can unite people during a crisis – like a coping mechanism.
Ibasho and tanoshimi
Yazdan’s paper introduces two Japanese cultural concepts: ibasho and tanoshimi. He shares that these concepts helped him to conceptualise his data because they offer him new perspectives.
He defines ibasho as a sense of comfort and emotional safety that a person feels in a specific context; it refers to a place where people feel they belong, and others accept them as they are. For him, the closest term in the English language is niche – he thinks of it as a physical or digital space where one can feel safe, have decent relationships with others, and have a perspective for future engagement.
He then defines tanoshimi as another culturally unique concept in Japan; it is the joyful experience that people look forward to experiencing in a context and anticipate a positive outcome. Yazdan shares that for almost four decades, scholars in human information behaviour focused on all the negative aspects of information. However, recently, few of them pointed out the lack of research on the positive sides of information activities; so an emerging term in his discipline is the “joy in information.” That became the focus of his work: how joyful all the information activities can be, and it turns out that tanoshimi was one of the terms he was looking for. Leisure studies show that tanoshimi serves as both emotional and problem-focused coping strategies; it helps people find meaning to explore new purposes in life, and it can be a source of normality and continuity to experience personal transformation.
I imagine some people really do live for their hobbies, it is the thing that they care about most. Because there's this social context of ibasho, and there's this idea of tanoshimi. That it helps you get through the struggles of life and if you're unfortunate enough to be dealing with a crisis, it really helps you get through that. - Nicholas Kemp
Nick thinks that some people live for their hobbies; it is the thing that they care about the most because it helps them get through difficult times.
The GLAM sector
Yazdan explains that GLAM is an acronym for Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums. GLAM institutions provide access to information resources and deliver information services. He hopes that his paper will encourage information professionals to use the findings of his study to gain a deeper understanding of hobbyists’ information behaviour and serve them more effectively across the GLAM sector.
Yazdan shares that his ikigai is learning and teaching: he has the love of understanding things and sharing them with others. Hence, he considers his academic life as one of his ikigai sources. His other sources of ikigai are the joy of emancipation and observing living creatures; he enjoys gardening and mindful walking to immerse himself in nature and be more present.
Information sharing can also be a way of bringing like-minded individuals together. Through these, people can enjoy their activities more and gain more knowledge. It gives people opportunities to communicate and build relationships, hence it can be also considered a source of ikigai.