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Abstract

Virtual communities have been a significant channel for people to share their feelings and experiences regarding a special issue. The combination of ethnography and the internet offers the opportunity for new methods of research that can potentially reach a broad audience in the online world. Thus, netnography, a combination of internet and ethnography, is an approach to analyze the online community systematically. This study aimed to reveal the experiences and feelings of a virtual community comprised of mountaineers in a virtual community. This research uses Kozinet's netnography approach on experiences and feelings, applied to a virtual community context, in order to better understand the nature of the sharing of a serious leisure community. The results of this study indicated that three main themes and nine sub-themes portray experiences, feelings, perceptions and group interaction of the virtual mountaineering community. This study emphasizes the themes of adventure experiences, preparation and supply, and completion, taking into account mountaineers' feelings and experiences in the virtual community.
Universal Journal of Educational Research 5(7): 1117-1126, 2017 http://www.hrpub.org
DOI: 10.13189/ujer.2017.050705
From Experience to Summit or Vice Versa? Netnography
Study on a Virtual Community of Mountaineeringi
Sabri Kaya1,*, Metin Argan2, Gözde Yetim2
1Faculty of Sport Sciences, Kirikkale University, Tur ke y
2Faculty of Sport Sciences, Anadolu University, Turk ey
Copyright©2017 by authors, all rights reserved. Authors agree that this article remains permanently open access under the
terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 International License
Abstract Virtual communities have been a significant
channel for people to share their feelings and experiences
regarding a special issue. The combination of ethnography
and the internet offers the opportunity for new methods of
research that can potentially reach a broad audience in the
online world. Thus, netnography, a combination of internet
and ethnography, is an approach to analyze the online
community systematically. This study aimed to reveal the
experiences and feelings of a virtual community comprised
of mountaineers in a virtual community. This research uses
Kozinet’s netnography approach on experiences and feelings,
applied to a virtual community context, in order to better
understand the nature of the sharing of a serious leisure
community. The results of this study indicated that three
main themes and nine sub-themes portray experiences,
feelings, perceptions and group interaction of the virtual
mountaineering community. This study emphasizes the
themes of adventure experiences, preparation and supply,
and completion, taking into account mountaineers’ feelings
and experiences in the virtual community.
Keywords Virtual Communities, Online Communities,
Mountaineering, Experiences
1. Introduction
The growth of the internet and interactive websites has led
to the creation of online communities that serve as points of
reference for word of mouth and, in particular, for
independent, personal and experiential information. With the
advances in the information and communication
technologies, internet usage has increased and plenty of
virtual communities have sprung up in many fields. The
concept of community in virtual world has started to be
considered as gatherings of individuals through
non-face-to-face methods [9]. Although, until almost 15
years ago, the main aim was to build face-to-face
communication among consumers through various ways,
nowadays it is to analyze the online activities of people in
order to understand them much better [35]. Along with the
wide range of purposes including talking, receiving
emotional support, sharing, gossiping, playing, flirting,
rebuilding identities or just spending some time, the usage of
computer-based communication constitutes a base for
building a social world full of communities referred to as
virtual, digital, electronic or online [51].
Due to the increase in the number of virtual communities,
it has become easier to exchange information with people all
around the world. Many people participate in virtual
communities to acquire information or to solve their
problems. Therefore, virtual communities depend mostly on
the communication and interactions among users. By this
means, the participants form new bonds and protect existing
ones, as well as build social interaction in virtual
communities [52]. Thanks to these communities, it is quite
possible for individuals to communicate with others from all
strata and to exchange ideas about the topics they are
interested in smoothly and without any limitations of time,
setting or status. In addition to the virtual communities of
education, health and art, in the field of sports, especially
adventure sports, users are able to share their own knowledge,
experience, emotions and problems. These sharing activities
could be both useful for those who are actively dealing with
adventure sports, and instructive for others who are new to
the field.
Virtual communities were created in order to share
interests and information thanks to improvements in
communication technology. This social and cultural
phenomenon can be seen in the online sports communities,
especially the sharing of information [50]. Thus, virtual
sports discussion blogs have become popular. Sports-themed
online communities have several advantages, such as
acquiring a supportive and stable fan base, embracing the
team and the sportsmen in the long term and having a radical
structure. The uniqueness of virtual communities with sports
content is determined by the features of the sports itself.
Regarding the sports branch, especially football, Europe
1118 From Experience to Summit or Vice Versa? Netnography Study on a Virtual Community of Mountaineering
focuses mostly on social properties like national belonging,
fan identity or community engagement [12]. Even though
experiences and feelings in a special virtual community are
considered an important variable in sport studies, rarely has
it been related to leisure, especially in the mountaineering
context, or to the consideration of different serious leisure
experiences. Hence, the purpose of this paper is to
investigate the themes or dimensions for mountaineers in a
virtual special group, taking into account the shares of the
virtual group’s members. For this reason, this study focuses
on mountaineering, which is an adventure sport, or serious
leisure.
2. Literature Review
2.1. Virtual Communities
Virtual communities enable people to discuss some
common topics such as their hobbies, health conditions,
emotions and experiences in an internet environment. Virtual
communities assemble people in order to let them gather
information on collectively created topics [3]. Studies reveal
plenty of descriptions regarding virtual communities. Jones
and Rafaeli [19] and Lee et al. [24] explain virtual
communities as computer-based areas where individuals
make contact with each other in a relatively straightforward
and transparent way by interacting or encouraging each other
to communicate via the internet. According to Chen et al. [3],
virtual communities are non-official communities where
individuals sharing similar interests and experiences gather
together without an official contract. Furthermore, Wenger
[45] and Chen et al. [3] states that virtual communities allow
people to talk about their experiences and ideas while
concentrating on a specific topic by sharing and internalizing
written information. Kozinets [21] indicates that the
definition of a virtual community has three factors: 1.
Internet / cyber world symbolizes activities done in the cyber
world as distinct from real communal activities; 2. the
exchange of ideas refers to sharing ideas and knowledge,
experiences, emotions and interests in the topics created by
the website users; 3. personal relations could be defined as
the relationship developed between the users.
Hagel and Armstrong [13] categorized virtual
communities as having four basic needs: field of interest,
mutual relations, fantasy and transaction. Field of interest
refers to sharing information and experience on various
topics. Mutual relations can be explained as communication
between individuals who share similar experiences and
opportunities. Fantasy can be depicted as individuals’
discovery of a new world consisting of fantasy and
entertainment and transaction can be described as
information exchange performed by individuals with each
other. Jones and Rafaeli[19] developed this classification and
focused on social structure and technology as well (Lee et al.
[24]. The concept of virtual communities was first put
forward by Rheingold [34] cited in Chou and Sawang [4] as
‘internet-based social gatherings where enough numbers of
individuals with sufficient emotions communicate publicly
for an appropriate period of time in order to develop personal
relations in virtual areas’. A virtual community is a social
combination of people’s general values and fields of interests
in the internet and computers [33, 52]. Balasubramanian and
Mahajan [2] define the features of virtual communities as:
Bringing people together
Rational members
Interaction in the cyber world without any physical
contact
Social change process
Possessing features such as common purpose and
interest of the members.
So far, there have been very few studies done on virtual
communities interested in online sports organizations. The
existing studies focus generally on runners. Eagleman and
Hack [7], while analyzing the website “ning.com”, found a
positive correlation between the number and duration of
visits to the site and participation in running competitions.
When they examined the demographic features, they found
that young participants were more active in virtual
communities than older ones. Osti [29] indicated some basic
features which make virtual communities important in
activities such as mountaineering and traveling: bringing up
new topics and creating an opportunity to browse,
information reliability, contribution to the new topics by all
the users, regionalistic and homogeneous structure, and the
opportunity to form real communities as well as virtual ones.
2.2. Netnography
The internet is filled with information on every topic
imaginable. It is an outlet for people to express their ideas,
emotions and opinions about every topic. The last decade,
researchers have been using this pool of data for a variety of
research purposes by means of a methodology called
netnography.
Briefly, it can be describe that netnography is the
combination of ‘internet’ and ‘ethnography’. Netnography is
an ethnographic implementation in a computer-based
environment, and is called digital or virtual ethnography. In
line with qualitative research, netnography is essential to
provide an opportunity to comprehend and to form an
opinion about the relations between virtual environments and
the symbolic meanings of consumers’ needs, demands and
choices [22]. Ethnography is an anthropological method
which has become popular in the fields of sociology, cultural
studies, consumer analysis and social sciences [22].
Traditionally, normative and qualitative approaches are
developed by adopting qualitative and ethnographic methods
which enlighten postmodern methods and are used in order
to comprehend consumer experiences. These methods have
started to be used in the online environment [48]. Robert
Kozinets, a pioneer of netnography, first defined and used it
Universal Journal of Educational Research 5(7): 1117-1126, 2017 1119
in 1997. He defined netnography as “a written account of
online cyberculture, informed by the methods of cultural
anthropology” [53]. Netnography, or online ethnography,
involves a researcher joining, recording, analyzing and
interpreting the content of an online e-tribe or social media
site. Thus, netnography, like ethnography [54] is about a
researcher observing and recording, for an extended period
of time, the acts and discussions of a target population.
Netnography is unsolicited, realistic and unobtrusive; it is
less time consuming and expensive than ethnography [23]. It
allows the researcher to gain deeper insights into consumers’
opinions, motives, worries and concerns in an inconspicuous
manner [55]. Observing the behavior of individuals online
rather than face-to-face eliminates the human aspect of the
observation. All of the data collected from an online forum is
usually in a textual format, and, therefore, cannot include
data that could be relevant to an ethnographer, such as body
language, eye contact, tone of voice, posture, general mood
and movements. However, it does follow the same
epistemology as ethnography in that results are not
generalized to broader contexts but simply represent a
particular observation of a lived experience which can
inform decisions or future research[23].
2.3. Serious Leisure and Mountaineering
Stebbins [37] has divided leisure time activities into the
two groups of serious leisure and casual leisure. Serious
leisure activities signify long-term participation in activities
requiring special abilities, knowledge and experience. This
would include the activities of those who are loyal to their
hobbies as well as specialized social volunteers [38,30].
Casual leisure, on the other hand, refers to daily activities
such as watching TV, reading a book, listening to music etc.
in which there is no need for continuity, making much effort
or developing a skill [16].
When the difference between serious leisure and casual
leisure was studied, it was observed that the individuals in
serious leisure participate in the activities more regularly and
consistently in order to develop their knowledge, skills and
abilities, whereas those in casual leisure participate
intermittently in the activities just for fun and without
planning any career in that field [1]. In this respect,
mountaineering can be evaluated within the scope of serious
leisure, since individuals take part in this activity regularly
and consistently, and they are professionally improving
themselves along with their knowledge and skills as a result
of long-term efforts and work. For this reason, there are some
distinctive characteristics of the participants of serious
leisure in comparison with those of casual leisure [11, 27].
When these distinctive features are studied in the
perspective of mountaineering which is evaluated as a
serious leisure activity:
Mountaineers show determination and continue the
climbing activity until the end even if they encounter a
number of difficulties.
Mountaineers are provided with professional
development as a result of a long-term effort consisting
of possibilities, peak points and accomplishments.
Mountaineers spend individual effort in climbing
activities requiring knowledge and skills, and take pains
with it for a long time, often with professional help.
Mountaineers, from their participation in climbing
activities, gain long-term benefits such as self-esteem,
self-actualization and social interactions.
Mountaineers form social organizations with those who
share the same interests and in this organization there is
a unique environment replete with the norms, values,
behavior and the language of the individuals.
Mountaineers obtain a social identity based on the sense
of belonging they develop through climbing activities.
Those analyzed in this study can be divided into amateurs,
hobbyists and the volunteers who are the participants of
serious leisure activities [36]. Amateurs participate regularly
in various activities for a long time and in a disciplined way,
and they become a part of the professional-amateur-public
system. In this respect, it could be said that amateurism is a
precursor to professionalism. As another type of participant
of serious leisure, hobbyists fall into the four categories of
collectors, manufacturers and repairers, participants of
activity and participants of sports and games, and they spend
effort only in order to get professional expertise rather than
doing a short-term activity.
In this context, each of the individuals who adopt
mountaineering as a hobby, i.e. individuals who spend much
time and effort in order to improve themselves professionally
and to acquire self-realization, could be regarded as the
participants of an activity. On the other hand, volunteers who
participate in serious leisure act together with the group in
order to help others voluntarily, without the purpose of
making profit and without any constraint or pressure. People
interested in mountaineering in the context of volunteerism
help each other by joining various virtual communities and
by sharing their opinions and experiences without any
purpose of making a profit or earning money.
According to the definition made by Stebbins [36,37,38],
individuals participate in serious leisure in order to
contribute to their professional development, to achieve a
career, to get a concrete and continuous benefit as well as to
just do physical activities in many branches of sport.
Additionally, in his study, Peng [31] analyzed the life of
Nelson Yang and searched for his commitment to the
academic research related to mountaineering. The interesting
point in that study is that Nelson has spent more time and
energy in mountaineering as a hobby and in related academic
research than he does in his full-time job. Yang’s devotion to
mountaineering is emblematic of the “serious leisure careers”
of Stebbins.
2.3. Mountaineering Flow Experience
Flow experience is a dominant phenomenon in
1120 From Experience to Summit or Vice Versa? Netnography Study on a Virtual Community of Mountaineering
mountaineering, as well as in many other sport experiences.
The concept of flow was put forward by Csikszentmihalyi in
1975 [5]. Flow is considered as an intense interest, deep
concentration and enthusiasm about an activity [5, 14, 39].
The flow experience as a physical activity plays an important
role in developing self-respect and courage in the future
participants [6, 18]. The flow generally occurs during certain
physical activities such as running, long distance walk and
mountaineering. High-risk adventure sports like
mountaineering provide perfect conditions for flow
experience [46]. Webster et al. [44] have indicated that flow
experience consists of the four dimensions of control,
attention, curiosity and interest in the activity. Flow
experience occurs as an enjoyable situation when the
individual is strongly concentrated on the activity. In this
matter, the participants are focused on experiencing the
whole adventure rather than merely reaching the end.
Regarding the flow experience, the balance between
individuals’ skills and the perceived difficulty level is an
important factor. When those match, the flow occurs;
however, when they do not, indifference or boredom shows
up [46]. Csikszentmihalyi [5] defines flow as the state
occurring when skill level and difficulty level are on a par.
Jackson and Marsh [17] consider flow as an optimal balance
between positive experiences and the ability of the person
(cited in Tsaur et al., [40]). Nevertheless, Engeser and
Rheinberg [8] claim that even if there is no balance between
the difficulty level of the activity and the ability of the
participant, the flow might occur anyway. They are of the
opinion that the flow experience depends on how important
the activity is to the person. Massimi and Carli [26]
developed a model where they could explain four stages of
flow: (1) flow occurs when the difficulty and skill levels
required are above the competence of the person; (2) worry
occurs when the difficulty level is above the competence and
below the skill required, (3) boredom shows itself when the
required skill is above the competence of the person, but
below the difficulty level of the activity, and (4) indifference
occurs if the required skills and difficulty are below personal
competence.
3. Methods
The paper outlines and then implements the research
methodology of netnography to achieve its purpose. This
paper represents an empirical study that employs
netnography to learn and investigate more about the feelings
and mountaineering experiences among members of a virtual
community. A netnography of a large online forum was
carried out in order to respond to the research questions.
Because of given the large number of online public forums
available to internet users, the researchers conducted internet
key word searches to narrow the options to forums that fit
within the research parameters.
On the other hand ethnography is an anthropological
method which has become popular in the fields of sociology,
cultural studies, consumer analysis and social sciences [22].
Traditionally, normative and qualitative approaches are
developed by adopting qualitative and ethnographic methods
which enlighten postmodern methods and are used in order
to comprehend consumer experiences. These methods have
started to be used in the online environment [48].
Since netnography is an open-ended implementation of
ethnography applied online, it guides the researcher in all the
stages of the study [22, 23]. Kozinets [22] indicated that a
netnographic approach includes the following stages: (1)
blending in the community to be researched, (2) data
collection and data analysis, (3) providing reliability, (4)
implementing an ethical research and (5) providing
opportunities for the members to give feedback. Additionally,
Kozinets [22] proposes the following steps with regard to the
implementation of netnography procedures” Entree: the
identification the research questions and specific virtual
community, especially through search engines. Data
collection and analysis: Copying of data on virtual
communities and in-depth examination of observations,
interactions, and meanings about virtual community
members. Trustworthy interpretation: to focus on
“trustworthiness” rather than on “validity,” and focus on
procedures of classification, coding, reporting and
triangulation. Research ethics: (1) Researchers should
explain their presence to online community members during
any research; (2) the researchers should ensure
confidentiality and anonymity to informants; (3) the
researcher should seek and incorporate feedback from
members of the online community being researched; (4) The
researcher should take a cautious position on the
private-versus-public medium issue. Member checks:
presenting some or all of a final research report’s findings to
the members who have been studied in order to solicit their
comments. This research is based on the execution of the
steps of the netnography method.
In order to have in-depth knowledge about mountaineers’
experiences in a virtual community, netnography was used
for data analysis and interpretation. In this study adopts a
netnography study approach for investigating and analyzing
how members (mountaineers) express their feelings on
experiences on www.gezenbilir.com. According to Hartley
[15] a single case study is suited to research that “explores
new and emerging process of behavior” and allows
researchers greater opportunity to explore a subject in more
depth [20]. The online mountaineering platform in Turkey
investigated for this netnography study was selected based
on the criteria of having public online community and having
open membership system. Individual who have an interest in
mountaineering access the related web site to see posts made
by peers or others. This web site is a virtual community
developed by people with the similar serious leisure hobby.
The members on this community discuss various issues and
mountaineering-oriented ideas, share their experiences and
make social interaction. The period of the study was from
Universal Journal of Educational Research 5(7): 1117-1126, 2017 1121
August 2015 to October 2015. Due to the large amount of
information on the website, only the most widely read
forums were analyzed. Therefore, the final sample contained
only climbing reports with 965 issues and 9.358 responses.
Data collection and analysis followed the established and
strict netnographic research protocols developed by Kozinet
[22].
4. Findings
This netnographic study evaluates the climbing reports
written by professional climbers who are members of the
Gezenbilir.com website. The mountaineering experiences of
this virtual community have been divided into three main
and nine sub-categories following the content analysis of
the sport. The three main categories are ‘Preparation and
Supply’, ‘Adventure’ and ‘Completion’ and the nine
sub-categories are ‘essential requirements’, ‘equipment’,
‘climbing costs’, weather conditions’, ‘problems and
dangers’, ‘acclimatization’, ‘hedonism’, and ‘satisfaction’
and ‘happiness’.
4.1. Preparation and Supply
As mentioned in the climbing reports, during the stages
of preparation and supply, the climbers get the necessary
equipment and route information after they choose a spot to
visit. Moreover, there is detailed information given in the
reports regarding the arrival at the spot (vehicle, cost,
duration, and contact info.) and meeting with the
participants coming from different cities. Consult the local
gendarmerie and providing them with the personal and
route information of the climbers is emphasized. In addition,
the spot to start climbing, altitude, detailed route line, target
duration and total costs play an important role in the
preparation stage. As an example;
“After taking in some carbohydrates, we organized
detailed information in order to answer all the possible
questions the participants might have had in their mind.”
4.1.1. Essential Requirements
In activities like mountaineering; food, accommodation
(tent, sleeping bag, mountain house, hotel etc.) and toilet are
some of the basic needs. Therefore, it is essential to prepare
a sufficient amount of equipment appropriate for the
environment. Just as in the needs hierarchy of Maslow [25],
basic needs like food and accommodation are on the top in
mountaineering as well. It is not possible to go on climbing
without making necessary preparations. Hence, meeting the
essential requirements and needs is crucial for the sake of
climbing. There are some instances mentioned in the
reports:
“We are enjoying our last night in meteo after
compensating some of our carbohydrate loss.”
“Since I did not have any appropriate clothing, my arms
got almost frozen. That is why I chose to go back after 4800
mt,. to avoid taking more risks.”
4.1.2. Equipment
Equipment forms an important part of mountaineering. It
is essential to choose appropriate equipment for the features
of the climbing area. Equipment can be divided into the two
categories of personal and technical equipment. Technical
equipment includes ice screw, security belt, helmet, rope,
pickaxes, spiky boots, walking stick etc.
Personal equipment includes water/wind proof clothes for
the weather, appropriate shoes, backpack, flask, lantern,
furnace, sun lotion, medicine, camera, flag (for the summit)
etc. As the usage of the equipment might change depending
on the area, it is crucial to choose the right one to use.
“Since the ground was full of swampy snow after 2500 mt,
we decided to put on our spiky boots. Even with them, it was
still very hard to walk on the snow.”
“There was a surprise waiting for us when we reached
the valley: ice. Even though we expected to see some snow
as we did in the previous years, we found ice. After putting
on spiky boots, we did not need to use the rope on the ice
even though we had he necessary equipment.”
4.1.3. Climbing Cost
During the activity, there are some costs to be covered.
There is detailed information about the costs in the climbing
reports, which makes future climbing easier at the same
spot. The reports mention per person costs of transportation,
food, accommodation, acquisition of necessary equipment
and guidance etc.
4.1.3.1. Guidance Service
It is essential to state that a guide should have the
technical knowledge of the route and mountaineering, and
he should carry the qualifications of a good leader to be able
to manage a group of people. Here is a good example of
guidance;
“We were climbing up on the stair-like path in the dark
as if we were going up a skyscraper. When we held our
heads up, we could see the Germans as though they were
floating above us and we were passing them one by one.
Because local guides had no technical knowledge, everyone
was trying to take care of themselves.”
4.1.3.2. Transportation
It includes the costs of the arrival to the area, chosen for
climbing, by train, bus or plane; from the main area,
reaching the climbing point by taxi, minibus or a private
vehicle and transportation between camps in order to carry
equipment.
“We started to negotiate to avoid paying $50, which was
the climbing fee. We tried all the possible ways not to pay it
1122 From Experience to Summit or Vice Versa? Netnography Study on a Virtual Community of Mountaineering
for 1-1,5 hours, but we failed. And in the end, after paying
71.000 IRR per person, we got our climbing permits.”
4.2. Adventure
As stated in the activity reports of climbers, summit
climbing is the most emotional and the biggest event.
Summit climbing is followed by writing in a memory
notebook and photo shooting. In addition, occasionally,
climbers choose to attend another summit activity called
solo climbing, which is performed without camping;
“A couple of meters before the summit, our guides
stopped and moved away saying ‘Here you are; the summit
is yours.’ It was such a nice gesture that I got very
emotional. I think I will always remember how I felt there.
Because we were moving in slow motion, everything
occurred slowly. The slope got lower. I took a few more
steps. It was eight in the morning. The sun-rays suddenly
started to hit my eyes from the shiny crystals on the floor. I
was on the top of Ağri (Ararat) Mountain. My emotions got
so intense that I could not hold my tears. We hugged and
congratulated each other. We were at 5165 mt.”
“We reached the summit by digging up a trail up and
down while experiencing snow, fog, and storm.”
4.2.1. Weather Conditions
Depending on the season, some activities were completed
while exposed to rain, sun, fog, drizzle and storm. Besides,
there are some cases in which the activities could not be
completed due to adverse weather conditions. Weather
conditions are quite important, especially while climbing up.
Here are some useful examples explaining the effect of
weather on climbing:
“We could take maximum two-three photos at the summit
because of the heavy storm which was shooting ice particles
like a bullet; we went down to the valley quickly and started
our return journey after taking in some liquids.”
“We ran into several teams who failed in reaching the
summit because of the heavy weather condition even though
the season was summer.”
“Because of the slope and the strong wind, the snow was
hitting our faces. It was very difficult to breathe oxygen,
whose level was already low, when we covered our faces.”
“The wind was shooting snow particles from the ground
to our faces. We could not even hold our heads up to see the
summit.”
4.2.2. Problems and Dangers
In order to experience a relatively easier journey, it is
essential to have knowledge about the potential and possible
dangers during climbing. There is plenty of detailed
information on the website regarding possible dangers that
was analyzed in the research. In the reports, the common
problems run into are exhaustion, toilet, lack of oxygen at
4000 mt and above, high-altitude adaptation and weather
conditions. Some are;
“Exhaustion was one of many problems. Air is thin,
oxygen is low; you get tired very easily after taking a couple
of steps. I told Attila about how I was feeling. He said I was
moving as if I was down there on a street. I was supposed to
move slower. So, I did. We started to move slower, like the
astronauts on the moon. It really worked.”
“At 4700 mt, we started to feel the effect of our fast
movements and quick climbing that high within 14 hours.
Nobody wanted to move, eat or drink anymore. However,
we knew that we needed to go down as soon as possible. We
were experiencing acclimatization problem and having
terrible headaches, dizziness and exhaustion. Therefore, we
started to return without losing any more time.”
“The most difficult part of our activity was to open up
trails in deep and soft snow. We took turns in every 50-60
steps. Despite this, it was quite hard to climb Küçükçal hill
and we lost a lot of time.”
Along with all these problems, falling rocks and health
hazard situations due to adaptation failure are the main
dangers people might encounter. To give examples of some
dangerous experiences:
“Before getting to the moraines, we are taking off our
boots while watching the falling rocks. Without losing
anytime here, we are heading for the black cross quickly
and carefully. Those falling rocks are quite dangerous and
astonishing at the same time.”
“Before sleeping, we do not forget to take precautions
against any wild animal attack.”
‘‘My brother told me that he could not breathe and that
his lungs were in pain. Without even thinking about
Samistal, Hazindağ and Pokut Mountains, we went to Ayder
and reached Pazar. While losing altitude, my brother was
feeling worse and I was going mad. We took a cab and went
to Kaçkar Hospital. The doctor gave him oxygen as the first
thing. Afterwards, my brother started to feel much better. I
was quite relieved. He ended up catching cold. He is very
healthy now. He is a nature lover at the age of 17. He says
he would go there again at any cost.’’
4.2.3. Acclimatization (High-Altitude Adaptation)
Acclimatization is the adaptation to high altitude. Due to
the decreasing level of gas pressure while climbing, hypoxia
may appear. The physiological and pathological reactions of
the human body to various altitudes might change
depending on each person. That is why it is essential to
become familiar with the physiological and pathological
changes occurring with the altitude [49]. Thus, while
acclimatization becomes important on the way to the
summit, it is crucial to have enough knowledge to interfere
Universal Journal of Educational Research 5(7): 1117-1126, 2017 1123
in case of acclimatization failure. It is quite common to run
into similar situations in the activity reports. In order to get
used to high altitudes, there are several practices performed
such as climbing up and down, camping at a high spot and
losing altitude in case of an adaptation failure. Here are
some examples of the situation mentioned above:
“At 16.00, we climbed 300 mt more with the decision of
our team leaders in order to adapt to high altitude and
waited there for a while. Around 18.00, we went back to our
camp at 4200 mt.”
“After preparing our bodies by climbing Aladağlar and
Erciyes 2 weeks before our main climbing activity, we were
finally on the way to Caucasia…”
“At 7.18 a.m. we found ourselves at the summit with our
tired bodies out of the lack of oxygen and high altitude. We
completed our adventure with the team of 8. We performed
a minute of silence for Ataturk; afterwards, we sang our
national anthem. It was quite hard to stay sill because of the
strong wind. We started to return as soon as we were done
with photographing the view. We got pretty exhausted on
the way back, one of the reasons of which might be due to
acclimatization failure, which made me have a horrible
headache and prostration.”
“After setting up the tents and putting away our
equipment, for the purpose of acclimatization, we walked
until Deniz Lake.”
4.2.4. Hedonism
Hedonism, in other words, is to enjoy satisfaction.
Satisfaction is related to the empirical joy that an individual
has experienced [28, 33]. According to the climbing reports,
the joy the climbers feel in mountaineering is the empirical
joy they experience from the preparation to the completion.
Therefore, hedonism plays a crucial role in choosing this
sport and participating in it repeatedly. Accordingly, here
are some examples of the satisfaction of the climbers:
“Apart from all the dangers, it is priceless to achieve
something unique on your own.”
“The main camp that we reached had actually been a
Soviet shelter where fuel tanks had been in use. We had
seen some photos before; however, it was quite different to
witness it all firsthand. The view was amazing. On one hand,
the majestic Elbrus with double summits was before us; on
the other hand, the Caucasian Mountains were ahead of
us.”
“We started to feel the exhaustion resulting from the
altitude. However, with the news coming from the leaders
that we had only 20 min till the summit, we felt rejuvenated
and started to climb up again. In about 15 min, the view of
the summit made us forget how tired we were. Thanks to the
excitement of seeing the summit, we continued our journey,
ignoring our exhaustion. When we got closer, we waited for
other climbers and with tears of joy, we reached the summit,
the dome of Europe, which we had been dreaming about for
months and been curious about for four days. We enjoyed
the view of Caucasia as much as we wanted, congratulated
each other and started to climb down after taking some
photos’’
‘‘I took a look from the tent and realized that a huge
mass was watching us next to the majestic Mezovit Hill. The
stars were amazingly pretty and the sky was full of them. If
felt as if Mezovit Hill was guarding us with its black,
shapeless silhouette. I acted as if I did not want to disturb
the hill. I felt the need to take some pictures, so I ran to
fetch my tripod.’’
‘‘After an enjoyable 3-hour-climb, we have reached the
Gusvensera Mountain House (3040 mt.), which looks like a
mosque. The golden dome of the house is quite shiny. As
soon as we entered inside, we started to melt some snow on
the cartridge and gasoline furnace. Hot liquids, soups,
pasta…’’
4.3. Completion
While approaching the end of the adventure, the climbers
go for their return journey full of satisfaction acquired from
achieving their goal. The return journey is easier and takes
less time compared to climbing up the slope. The climbers
reach the camping area in a short time, prepare the
equipment and continue their return. On their way, they
plan another quest to be achieved.
4.3.1. Satisfaction
Mountaineering creates strong emotional experiences.
These consist of various emotions such as joy, excitement,
and fear. These emotions play a significant role in being
satisfied by a mountaineering experience[10]. All the
participants stated their feelings of joy, worry, excitement
and satisfaction at having arrived at the summit with
emotional words. Here are some statements of theirs:
‘‘Finally, we started to feel the air we were looking for.
We could smell sulphuric acid everywhere. At the summit,
the wind was much stronger. Strong wind was on one side
and the sulphuric acid was on the other. And eventually we
were on the top of Demavend Mountain (5671m).’’
‘‘After 16-hour climbing, we were at the summit of Ağrı
(Ararat) and we wanted to enjoy it. That’s why we spent one
hour there.’’
‘‘We are climbing the sharpest slope and we see the
typical crater. At that point, we literally find ourselves on
the clouds. With an amazing view, we are climbing the last
meters to the summit. I find myself at the summit at 12
o’clock. After congratulating the others, I find a little rock
cave under the sunshine away from the wind. We are
waiting for the others to reach us while enjoying the view.’’
4.3.2. Happiness
Happiness is defined as a form of experiences occurring
1124 From Experience to Summit or Vice Versa? Netnography Study on a Virtual Community of Mountaineering
as a result of hedonic satisfaction during an activity [40].
Happiness results mainly from what mountaineers
experienced during the whole stages of climbing, rather
than only reaching the summit. To give some examples of
the happiness they experienced on the way to the summit
given in the reports:
‘‘The weather is quite nice and shiny. There is a little
wind in the valley. The snow is amazing and climbing is
enjoyable. We are climbing up while enjoying the
weather.’’
‘‘An incredible happiness is everywhere on the summit,
everyone congratulates each other and we are very proud of
ourselves. The only downside is the fog which makes it hard
to see the view.’’
5. Result and Discussion
The main purpose of this study is to analyze the
experiences of the sportsmen who performed
mountaineering using an ethnographic approach. The
findings of the netnography research point out three main
themes and nine sub-themes. The first main theme is
preparation and procurement, which refers to getting ready
for the climb by acquiring the necessary equipment, route
information etc. This theme consists of three sub-categories
itself, which are the essential requirements, equipment and
the climbing costs. At the stage of preparation and
procurement, climbers become beneficial to other
individuals who are interested in mountaineering, via
spreading their experiences on an online platform. Therefore,
those who intend to participate in climbing will be prepared
and will be aware of the requirements, transportation, food
costs etc. so that they will not experience problems in the
beginning. In his study of Italian mountaineering virtual
communities, Osti [29] stated that, like other mountaineering
communities, this virtual community is a useful way of
acquiring references about the activities such as potential
trips and destinations. With the aid of electronic
communication, members of the mountaineering virtual
communities can obtain wider information about the sport.
The other main theme is adventure, which refers to the
whole period from the start until the end of climbing. This
theme includes four sub-categories which are weather
conditions, problems and dangers, acclimatization
(high-altitude adaptation) and hedonism. The satisfaction
acquired from all these convince the individuals who have
engaged in climbing activities to participate repeatedly.
Similarly, studies show that by developing their skills and
having them look for new challenges, flow experience and
recreational expertise make people participate once more in
special recreation activities [46]. As in the flow experience,
in this activity, the climbers are motivated to experience all
the stages of climbing, instead of focusing only on reaching
the summit or the climbing performance [40].
Completion, which is the last main theme, symbolizes the
intensity of the emotions of the climbers when they complete
their journey to the summit. In the last stage of climbing, in
addition to reaching the target, the climbers begin to go back
with the satisfaction and happiness coming from the
completion of previous stages. Adventure recreationists are
likely to have flow experience which gives an intense feeling
of happiness since the flow experience includes motivation
towards an activity, focus and struggle and brings out the
feeling of happiness [40]. The happiness of completing the
climbing adventure leads to new adventures. Completion is
divided into two categories; satisfaction and happiness. This
study clearly supports previous researches. Walker et al. [42]
stated that recreational outdoor activities increase the feeling
of happiness and positive emotions are raised by the flow
experience. Warburton and Veenhoven [43, 41] pointed out
that satisfaction and happiness have a positive effect on
health, as well. Tsaur et al. [40] indicated that happiness is a
result of cognitive and emotional evaluations of the flow
experience. Moreover, in their study on tourists interested in
rafting, Wu and Liang [47] asserted that rafting skills of the
tourists and the difficulty of rafting influence the flow
experience positively and increase the mood and satisfaction.
Overall, preparation and procurement phase is the most
essential step for climbers. These results contribute
conceptually to future research and the literature related to
mountaineering experiences and climbers. In terms of
clarifying and providing virtual mountaineering community
experiences could be successfully linked and transferred by
enhancing participation of other climbers.
6. Limitation and Future Study
Like all scientific research, especially qualitative research,
this research, as well, carries certain limitations regarding its
conduct. The most important limitation was that the study
analyses only one virtual community. Additionally, the data
were collected over a limited time period. Through analyzing
more virtual communities interested in mountaineering, it
will be possible in the future to reach more information about
the mountaineering clubs/virtual communities belonging to
different cultures. Furthermore, this netnography data was
descriptive and exploratory, and not designed for
quantitative hypothesis testing. Future studies may look at
the different specific mountaineering groups. Additionally,
future studies should expand the different communities and
different regions. This research provides impetus for future
work in the content area and in the use of the netnography
method. And also this paper is original in a respect: the use of
netnography as the research method in this context.
Acknowledgements
I would like to thank Mrs. Monica Woods from Foreign
Universal Journal of Educational Research 5(7): 1117-1126, 2017 1125
Languages Department at Bilkent College for her assistance
with proofreading in this study.
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i This paper has been presented at the Second International Conference on
Tourism and Leisure Studies, held in University of British Columbia,
Vancouver, Canada, April 6 7, 2017.
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Despite the relevance of the concept of serious leisure to the study of certain types of sports participants, little is known about the relevance of the serious leisure framework to the study of destination preferences. This paper outlines the findings of a qualitative study of “serious” mountain bikers in New Zealand. In-depth interviews were used to determine the attractiveness of certain destinations to mountain bikers whose devotion to the sport conforms to the notion of serious leisure. Travel to tourism destinations helps mountains bikers pursue serious participation in mountain biking. Reciprocally, destinations are assessed by serious mountain bikers on the basis of their ability to advance participants’ degree of seriousness. Therefore, this study suggests that the serious leisure framework can enhance understanding of destination preferences in sport tourism as well as provide management and marketing professionals with insight regarding destination development and promotional strategies. Implications for practitioners are discussed. This paper aims to make a scholarly contribution by exploring specific connections amongst serious leisure, sport tourist behaviour and destination preference.
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This paper examines: (a) the quantity of optimal experiences got during the on-site phase of outdoor recreation; (b) the quantity of benefits gotten off-site, during the recollection phase of outdoor recreation; and (c) the relationship between (a) and (b). Optimal experiences-a psychological state considered to be special, meaningful, and/or out-of-the-ordinary-are characterized by intense focus on a stimulus, an altered sense of time; and loss of-consciousness of the self. A three item scale, part of an on-site questionnaire, was developed to measure the quantity of optimal experiences outdoor recreationists reported getting. The quantity of benefits recollected off-site was measured using a follow-up, mail-out questionnaire (n = 169). Regression analyses found significant relationships between the quantity of optimal experiences and the quantity of three benefit categories. With the higher meaning and social interaction benefit categories, the relationships were quadratic; indicating that high quantities of optimal experience produced higher quantities of these benefit categories vs. very low, low, moderate, and very high quantities of optimal experience. This type of relationship suggests that very high quantities of optimal experiences may result in disbenefits-possibly due to the addictive nature of very high quantities of optimal experiences. With the greater knowledge benefit category, the relationship was cubic; indicating that very low and high quantities of optimal experiences may produce higher quantities of this benefit category vs. low, moderate, and very high quantities of optimal experiences. Management implications and research recommendations are discussed.
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Wheelchair basketball is one of the most popular sport activities among persons with disabilities. The current study focuses on “reverse integration” (RI) groups of athletes with and without disabilities playing wheelchair basketball in Israel. A qualitative analysis approach was chosen to examine whether the able-bodied participants in RI wheelchair basketball training and competition identify their participation as a “serious leisure” (SL) activity, and to determine which additional insights could be gained about this activity from participants’ perspectives. Eight male able-bodied participants, who have taken part in three Israeli wheelchair basketball leagues (divisions), were interviewed. All eight participants in this study played longer than a year. The findings revealed support for the SL premise within all six SL criteria. Participation of our informants was categorized within the establishment and maintenance phases. All participants reported sustained perseverance in spite of having to deal with significant challenges, including the physical strain and mental difficulties associated with the game, coping with dual roles of participation as player and coach, and finally, having to face the same economical and social barriers typically reported by athletes with disability.
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Nowadays, situations associated with high altitude such as mountaineering, aviation increasingly draw the attention of people. Gas pressure decreases and hypoxia is encountered when climbing higher. Physiological and pathological responses of human body to different heights are different. Therefore, physiological and pathological changes that may occur together with height and to know the clinical outcomes of these are important. Acute mountain sickness caused by high altitude and high altitude cerebral edema are preventable diseases with appropriate precautions. Atmospheric oxygen decreasing with height, initiates many adaptive mechanisms. These adaptation mechanisms and acclimatization vary widely among individuals because of reasons such as environmental factors, exercise and cold. High altitude causes different changes in the cardiovascular system with various mechanisms. Although normal individuals easily adapt to these changes, this situation can lead to undesirable results in people with heart disease. For this reason, it should be known the effective evaluation of the people with known heart disease before traveling to high altitude and the complications due to the changes with height and the recommendations can be made to these patients.
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With the developments in communication technologies individuals come together and constitute virtual communities through internet and this has a focus of many research. On the other hand, the spread of such communities has caused that the quality of social interaction between individuals should be questioned and brought about a debate obout their effects on traditional community life. It can be argued that these debates take characteristcs and current status of traditional communities as the basis. Yet, a sociological analysis of differences between virtual and traditional communities has largely been ignored. This study aims to outline and discuss differences between tradiditonal communities and virtual communities on the one hand and physical and electronic space on the other.