A hobby is a regular activity done for enjoyment, typically during one's leisure time, not professionally and not for pay. Hobbies include collecting themed items and objects, engaging in creative and artistic pursuits, playing sports, or pursuing other amusements. Participation in hobbies encourages acquiring substantial skills and knowledge in that area. A list of hobbies changes with renewed interests and developing fashions, making it diverse and lengthy. Hobbies tend to follow trends in society, for example stamp collecting was popular during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as postal systems were the main means of communication, while video games are more popular nowadays following technological advances. The advancing production and technology of the nineteenth century provided workers with more availability in leisure time to engage in hobbies. Because of this, the efforts of people investing in hobbies has increased with time.
According to the serious leisure perspective, a hobby is an enduring serious leisure pursuit having no significant professional counterpart and being too poorly remunerated to constitute a livelihood. Hobbyists are distinguished from Amateurs, who do have professional counterparts (e.g., professional actors, scientists, entertainers, athletes) and from specialized career volunteers with their interest in altruistically serving other people.
In the 16th century, the term "hobyn" had the meaning of "small horse and pony". The term "hobby horse" was documented in a 1557 payment confirmation for a "Hobbyhorse" from Reading, England. The item, originally called a "Tourney Horse", was made of a wooden or basketwork frame with an artificial tail and head. It was designed for a child to mimic riding a real horse. By 1816 the derivative, "hobby", was introduced into the vocabulary of a number of English people. Over the course of subsequent centuries, the term came to be associated with recreation and leisure. In the 17th century, the term was used in a pejorative sense by suggesting that a hobby was a childish pursuit, however, in the 18th century with a more industrial society and more leisure time, hobbies took on greater respectability A hobby is also called a pastime, derived from the use of hobbies to pass the time. A hobby became an activity that is practised regularly and usually with some worthwhile purpose. Hobbies are usually, but not always, practised primarily for interest and enjoyment, rather than financial reward.
Hobbies were originally described as pursuits that others thought somewhat childish or trivial. However, as early as 1676 Sir Matthew Hale, in Contemplations Moral and Divine, wrote "Almost every person hath some hobby horse or other wherein he prides himself." He was acknowledging that a "hobby horse" produces a legitimate sense of pride. By the mid 18th century there was a flourishing of hobbies as working people had more regular hours of work and greater leisure time. They spent more time to pursue interests that brought them satisfaction. However, there was concern that these working people might not use their leisure time in worthwhile pursuits. "The hope of weaning people away from bad habits by the provision of counter-attractions came to the fore in the 1830s, and has rarely waned since. Initially the bad habits were perceived to be of a sensual and physical nature, and the counter attractions, or perhaps more accurately alternatives, deliberately cultivated rationality and the intellect." The flourishing book and magazine trade of the day encouraged worthwhile hobbies and pursuits. The burgeoning manufacturing trade made materials used in hobbies cheap and was responsive to the changing interests of hobbyists.
The English have been identified as enthusiastic hobbyists, as George Orwell observed. "[A]nother English characteristic which is so much a part of us that we barely notice it … is the addiction to hobbies and spare-time occupations, the privateness of English life. We are a nation of flower-lovers, but also a nation of stamp-collectors, pigeon-fanciers, amateur carpenters, coupon-snippers, darts-players, crossword-puzzle fans. All the culture that is most truly native centres round things which even when they are communal are not official—the pub, the football match, the back garden, the fireside and the 'nice cup of tea'."
Deciding what to include in a list of hobbies provokes debate because it is difficult to decide which pleasurable pass-times can also be described as hobbies. During the 20th century the term hobby suggested activities, such as stamp collecting, embroidery, knitting, painting, woodwork, and photography. Typically the description did not include activities like listening to music, watching television, or reading. These latter activities bring pleasure, but lack the sense of achievement usually associated with a hobby. They are usually not structured, organised pursuits, as most hobbies are. The pleasure of a hobby is usually associated with making something of value or achieving something of value. "Such leisure is socially valorised precisely because it produces feelings of satisfaction with something that looks very much like work but that is done of its own sake." "Hobbies are a contradiction: they take work and turn it into leisure, and take leisure and turn it into work."
Hobbies change with time. In the 21st century, the video game industry is a very large hobby involving millions of kids and adults in various forms of 'play'. Stamp collecting declined along with the importance of the postal system. Woodwork and knitting declined as hobbies, because manufactured goods provide cheap alternatives for handmade goods. Through the internet, an online community has become a hobby for many people; sharing advice, information and support, and in some cases, allowing a traditional hobby, such as collecting, to flourish and support trading in a new environment.
Hobbyists are a part of a wider group of people engaged in leisure pursuits where the boundaries of each group overlap to some extent. The Serious Leisure Perspective groups hobbyists with amateurs and volunteers and identifies three broad groups of leisure activity with hobbies being found mainly in the Serious leisure category. Casual leisure is intrinsically rewarding, short-lived, pleasurable activity requiring little or no preparation. Serious leisure is the systematic pursuit of an amateur, hobbyist, or volunteer that is substantial, rewarding and results in a sense of accomplishment. Finally, project-based leisure is a short-term often a one-off project that is rewarding.
The terms amateur and hobbyist are often used interchangeably. Stebbins has a framework which distinguishes the terms in a useful categorisation of leisure in which casual leisure is separated from serious Leisure. He describes serious leisure as undertaken by amateurs, hobbyists and volunteers. Amateurs engage in pursuits that have a professional counterpart, such as playing an instrument or astronomy. Hobbyists engage in five broad types of activity: collecting, making and tinkering (like embroidery and car restoration), activity participation (like fishing and singing), sports and games, and liberal-arts hobbies (like languages, cuisine, literature). Volunteers commit to organisations where they work as guides, counsellors, gardeners and so on. The separation of the amateur from the hobbyist is because the amateur has the ethos of the professional practitioner as a guide to practice. An amateur clarinetist is conscious of the role and procedures of a professional clarinetist.
A large proportion of hobbies are mainly solitary in nature. However, individual pursuit of a hobby often includes club memberships, organised sharing of products and regular communication between participants. For many hobbies there is an important role in being in touch with fellow hobbyists. Some hobbies are of communal nature, like choral singing and volunteering.
People who engage in hobbies have an interest in and time to pursue them. Children have been an important group of hobbyists because they are enthusiastic for collecting, making and exploring, in addition to this they have the leisure time that allows them to pursue those hobbies. The growth in hobbies occurred during industrialisation which gave workers set time for leisure. During the Depression there was an increase in the participation in hobbies because the unemployed had the time and a desire to be purposefully occupied. Hobbies are often pursued with an increased interest by retired people because they have the time and seek the intellectual and physical stimulation a hobby provides.
Types of hobbies
Hobbies are a diverse set of activities and it is difficult to categorize them in a logical manner. The following categorization of hobbies was developed by Stebbins.
Collecting includes seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying and storing. Collecting is appealing to many people due to their interest in a particular subject and a desire to categorise and make order out of complexity. Some collectors are generalists, accumulating items from countries of the world. Others focus on a subtopic within their area of interest, perhaps 19th century postage stamps, milk bottle labels from Sussex, or Mongolian harnesses and tack, Firearms (both modern and vintage).
Collecting is an ancient hobby, with the list of coin collectors showing Caesar Augustus as one. Sometimes collectors have turned their hobby into a business, becoming commercial dealers that trade in the items being collected.
An alternative to collecting physical objects is collecting records of events of a particular kind. Examples include train spotting, bird-watching, aircraft spotting, railfans, and any other form of systematic recording a particular phenomenon. The recording form can be written, photographic, online, etc.
Making and tinkering
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Making and tinkering includes working on self-motivated projects for fulfillment. These projects may be progressive, irregular tasks performed over a long period of time. Making and Tinkering hobbies include higher-end projects, such as building or restoring a car or building a computer from individual parts, like CPUs and SSDs. For computer savvy do-it-yourself hobbyists, CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining may also popular. A CNC machine can be assembled and programmed to make different parts from wood or metal.
Tinkering is 'dabbling' with the making process, often applied to the hobby of tinkering with car repairs, and various kinds of restoration: of furniture, antique cars, etc. It also applies to household tinkering: repairing a wall, laying a pathway, etc. Examples of Making and Tinkering hobbies include Scale modeling, model engineering, 3D printing, dressmaking, and cooking.
Scale modeling is making a replica of a real-life object in a smaller scale and dates back to prehistoric times with small clay "dolls" and other children's toys that have been found near known populated areas. The Persians, Greeks, and Romans took the form to a greater depth during their years of domination of the Western World, using scale replicas of enemy fortifications, coastal defense lines, and other geographic fixtures to plan battles.
At the turn of the Industrial Age and through the 1920s, some families could afford things such as electric trains, wind-up toys (typically boats or cars) and the increasingly valuable tin toy soldiers. Scale modeling as we know it today became popular shortly after World War II. Before 1946, children as well as adults were content in carving and shaping wooden replicas from block wood kits, often depicting enemy aircraft to help with identification in case of an invasion.
With the advent of modern plastics, the amount of skill required to get the basic shape accurately shown for any given subject was lessened, making it easier for people of all ages to begin assembling replicas in varying scales. Superheroes, aeroplanes, boats, cars, tanks, artillery, and even figures of soldiers became quite popular subjects to build, paint and display. Although almost any subject can be found in almost any scale, there are common scales for such miniatures which remain constant today.
Model engineering refers to building functioning machinery in metal, such as internal combustion motors and live steam models or locomotives. This is a demanding hobby that requires a multitude of large and expensive tools, such as lathes and mills. This hobby originated in the United Kingdom in the late 19th century, later spreading and flourishing in the mid-20th century. Due to the expense and space required, it is becoming rare.
3D Printing is a relatively new technology and already a major hobby as the cost of printers has fallen sharply. It is a good example of how hobbyists quickly engage with new technologies, communicate with one another and become producers related to their former hobby. 3D modeling is the process of making mathematical representations of three dimensional items and is an aspect of 3D printing.
Dressmaking has been a major hobby up until the late 20th century, in order to make cheap clothes, but also as a creative design and craft challenge. It has been reduced by the low cost of manufactured clothes.
Cooking is for some people an interest, a hobby, a challenge and a source of significant satisfaction. For many other people it is a job, a chore, a duty, like cleaning. In the early 21st century the importance of cooking as a hobby was demonstrated by the high popularity of competitive television cooking programs.
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Activity participation includes partaking in "non-competitive, rule-based pursuits."
Outdoor pursuits are the group of activities which occur outdoors. These hobbies include gardening, hill walking, hiking, backpacking, cycling, canoeing, climbing, caving, fishing, hunting, Target shooting (informal or formal), wildlife viewing (as birdwatching) and engaging in watersports and snowsports.
One large subset of outdoor pursuits is gardening. Residential gardening most often takes place in or about one's own residence, in a space referred to as the garden. Although a garden typically is located on the land near a residence, it may also be located on a roof, in an atrium, on a balcony, in a windowbox, or on a patio or vivarium.
Gardening also takes place in non-residential green areas, such as parks, public or semi-public gardens (botanical gardens or zoological gardens), amusement and theme parks, along transportation corridors, and around tourist attractions and hotels. In these situations, a staff of gardeners or groundskeepers maintains the gardens.
Indoor gardening is concerned with growing houseplants within a residence or building, in a conservatory, or in a greenhouse. Indoor gardens are sometimes incorporated into air conditioning or heating systems.
Water gardening is concerned with growing plants that have adapted to pools and ponds. Bog gardens are also considered a type of water garden. A simple water garden may consist solely of a tub containing the water and plant(s).
Container gardening is concerned with growing plants in containers that are placed above the ground.
Liberal arts pursuits
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Some hobbies may result in an end product. Examples of this would be woodworking, photography, moviemaking, jewelry making, software projects such as Photoshopping and home music or video production, making bracelets, artistic projects such as drawing, painting, writing..., Cosplay (design, creation, and wearing a costume based on an already existing creative property), creating models out of card stock or paper – called papercraft. Many of these fall under the category visual arts.
Reading, books, ebooks, magazines, comics, or newspapers, along with browsing the internet is a common hobby, and one that can trace its origins back hundreds of years. A love of literature, later in life, may be sparked by an interest in reading children's literature as a child. Many of these fall under the category literary arts.
Sports and games
Stebbins distinguishes an amateur sports person and a hobbyist by suggesting a hobbyist plays in less formal sports, or games that are rule bound and have no professional equivalent. While an amateur sports individual plays a sport with a professional equivalent, such as football or tennis. Amateur sport may range from informal play to highly competitive practice, such as deck tennis or long distance trekking.
The Department for Culture, Media, and Support in England suggests that playing sports benefits physical and mental health. A positive relationship appeared between engaging in sports and improving all around health.
During the 20th century there was extensive research into the important role that play has in human development. While most evident in childhood, play continues throughout life for many adults in the form of games, hobbies, and sport. Moreover, studies of ageing and society support the value of hobbies in healthy ageing.
There have been many instances where hobbyists and amateurs have achieved significant discoveries and developments. These are a small sample.
- Amateur astronomers have explored the skies for centuries and there is a long list of Notable amateur astronomers who have made major discoveries.
- A substantial amount of early scientific research came from the amateur activities of the wealthy, such as Antoine Lavoisier's contributions to the science of chemistry. At that time there were few professional scientists and little formal study in the area. Another example is the experimentation in electricity that Benjamin Franklin undertook that resulted in his invention of the lightning rod.
- Open source is a development model using the internet to cooperate on projects. It is most notable in the development of software and widely used software, which has been developed and maintained by large numbers of people, including many home-based amateurs with high level expertise.
- While the general public was not aware of nature observation which was formally conducted as field research, during the 1930s, practitioners of the hobby went on to become the pioneers of the conservation movement that flourished in the UK from 1965 onwards.
- Stebbins, Robert (2015). Serious Leisure: A Perspective for Our Time. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.
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