You had to be there : extending intergroup contact theory to positive contexts through a participant-centered analysis of fans’ experiences at the Olympics / Luke Brenneman

Brenneman, Luke

Edited by ProQuest / UMI. Ann Arbor - 2017

This dissertation investigated positive intergroup contact and communication in the experiences of fans at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Guided by concepts from intergroup contact theory (ICT), formerly Allport’s (1954) contact hypothesis, the author asked fans to identify and discuss factors that were relevant to their experiences at the event. These factors are reported in previous literature to foster positive intergroup relations. The fan participants also provided detailed, experience-based rationales for why and how the factors supported each other and created individual models of their experiences of ICT at the Olympics. The study relied on participant-centered, in-depth qualitative interviews using interpretive structural modeling (ISM) software. Based on an integration of ICT, communication theories, social capital concepts, and calls from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and mega-sporting event industry, the dissertation sought to answer four research questions. It started with a broad approach to the array of previous scholars’ ICT factors in order to identify what factors were present and relevant in fans’ experiences. It also sought to understand why and how the factors worked together by analyzing the ways factors related to and supported each other in Olympic fans’ experiences and producing a composite metastructure of the factors’ relationships. Additionally, through thematic analysis, the research explored where and when in fans’ experiences the factors emerged and were active. Finally, the study identified the functions that each ICT factor served in fostering positive intergroup contact and communication and offered suggestions for practitioners and organizers of intergroup contexts. The study aimed to make theoretical contributions by addressing gaps and calls in ICT literature, as well as practical contributions by ii providing insight about how to organize intergroup contexts to foster positive contact and communication. In addition to addressing its research questions, the study provided a comprehensive list of previous scholars’ ICT factors, a preliminary, tentative model of ICT for ideal intergroup contexts adapted from Pettigrew’s (1998) model of group membership transformation for problematic contexts, and promising future directions given the unique, ideal, and unexplored features of the Olympics.

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