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Sport and ‘Being-in-the-Zone’

Tuesday, 9 July 2013, 10:00 - 15:30

University of Brighton, Grand Parade Building, room M56

This AHRC funded workshop is part of the BITZ - Being-in-the-zone Project.


About the BITZ Project

'Being-in-the-zone' (bitz) is an expression for moments when someone who normally and routinely undertakes a certain creative action experiences a sudden, and often unexpected, increase in their competence in performance, often experiencing themselves as performing not only at their best ever but in a way better than they had thought possible. Bitz is experienced in work practices like software coding, musical practices like playing an instrument or in sporting events. Such moments are recounted by musicians, sportspeople and creative workers, when reflecting on their activity and often because these moments clearly engender a deep sense of commitment to their particular creative practice and a positive sense of their body and psyche for being able to 'get in the zone'. Being-in-the-zone is an experience that helps many to sustain and continue in their routine and repetitive practices and provides an experience that inarguably offers a positive sense of psyche and body.

This project seeks to open up a new cultural approach to being-in-the-zone.

Being-in-the-zone has largely been analysed as an internal psychic state, drawing primarily if not wholly on psychology. In such an understanding, peak or unusually good performance comes from within the individual and is therefore dealt with as a psychological phenomenon. Yet being-in-the-zone is also a cultural phenomenon. Only with the integration of cultural insights about the nature of being-in-the-zone will there be the potential for fully understanding being-in-the-zone.

The main objective of this project derives from the fact that being-in-the-zone has been primarily, if not entirely, analysed from psychology with bitz understood as an individual experience. Such approaches, most famously that of Csikszentmihalyi, fail to understand or explore the cultural dimensions of being-in-the-zone and in doing so fail to develop key understandings that would lead to improved practices. Culture is important to being-in-the-zone as it is only with culture that the constituent moments of being-in-the-zone make sense. Definitions of competence can only be culturally developed and learned, accordingly without situating the internal psychological experience of being-in-the-zone in a cultural context there will be significant difficulties in understanding this experience, thereby ensuring difficulties in developing practices for engendering it.

The specific objectives relate to identifying key cultural factors that contribute to being-in-the-zone in creative practices, both in terms of existing structures and emerging forms, in the domains of;

The specific objectives of this workshop relate to identifying key cultural factors that contribute to being-in-the-zone in the domain of sporting practices.  The discussion will include participating in  'competitive' sports such as football and/or tennis, in ‘expressive' sports such as surfing and/or parkour, and participation via the media and fandom. We will also look at developing innovative methodologies for recording creative performance and peak performance, and non-representational methodology that allows comparison across different cultural domains where being-in-the-zone may occur.

Workshop Provisional Programme

9.30      Arrival, coffee

10.00-12.00  Session 1


Margaret Whitehead (University of Bedfordshire, UK),

Clifton Evers (University of Nottingham Ningbo China): A GoPro camera dérive of surfing "events": a creative enskilment of feelings, bodies, ecology and technology.

12.00-1.00  Lunch

1.00-3.00 pm  Session 2:  Round-table panel discussion:


Jayne Caudwell, (University of Brighton)

Sam Elkington, (The University of Bedfordshire)

Angela Pickard  (Canterbury Christ Church University.

Kath Woodward, (The Open University).

Chair Belinda Wheaton, (University of Brighton)

3.00-3.30 Summary of theoretical and methodological themes.


This workshop is hosted by University of Brighton Sport and leisure Cultures (SLC), and funded by the OU’s AHRC BITZ project.

For more information on BITZ, click here. Or watch the video clip here.



This workshop is free to attend, but places are limited. Please contact to apply for a place.