Flow: Beyond Fluidity and Rigidity. A Phenomenological Investigation

Human Studies 23 (1):43 - 61 (2000)
Abstract
The term flow refers to a particular type of experience experience characterized by feelings of fusion with an on-going activity, effortlessness, and fluidity. This article concerns the results of an empirical investigation and phenomenological analysis of this type of experience. The analysis yields a distinction between three phenomenological structures, identified as arising in different combinations within concrete experiences of flow. These results are discussed in relation to the theories of Alfred Schutz and Erving Goffman regarding the organization of experience in everyday life, and in relation to the theory of Otto Friedrich Bollnow regarding moods in everyday life. The results of the analysis are also discussed in relation to different uses of the flow concept in a variety of contexts found in recent theoretical contributions. These differences of usage and approach are explained in the light of the results of the phenomenological analysis, which distinguishes qualitatively different variants within the phenomenon termed flow experience. In conclusion, I emphasize the need to adopt a broader concept of experience in sociological analysis, as well as the need for further empirical studies of the contextual frames of different variants of flow experiences.
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