Scholarly Critique #3.1: “Know Your Role.” - Categorising Insults and Harassment Received by Female Gamers on Xbox Live.
I originally found this article from a google scholar search for any availalbe resources related to Twitch.tv. While I initially felt this article wasn’t at the top of my list to include in my scholarly critiques as it wasn't related to the arts, I decided to bookmark everything I came across. Now that my research team has drafted our literature review, I decided to take another look at some of my previous bookmarks to see what resources I still had not read. One theme that emerged during our literature review was the relationship between art and identity development. After briefly scanning this report from Ramos, I was excited to find a significant section of this research devoted to defining identity, including social, virtual, and gender identities. I then took the time to read through the full report and consider the research design and methods used for the study.
Ramo’s purpose in this analysis was to “categorise and demonstrate how insults and sexual harassment directed at women in an online gaming environment (in this case, Xbox Live) can contribute to furthering a hegemonic masculine agenda in which women must be complicit or be punished” (p. 6). Although her research doesn’t focus on Twitch.tv, it does feature a sociological reflection on the interactions taking place in a social, online community. Given the limited amount of resources available in my own study, I found this report interesting to consider due to the significant parallels of the Xbox Live platform; in particular the synchronous communications and interactions and ties to the gaming community.
One particularly salient element in this report is the section on “Flaming and Trolling”. In the interviews I have already conducted, several participants have talked about how “trolls” are a big challenge for engagement on Twitch. I appreciated Ramos thorough descriptions of trolling and flaming, and her reflection on Suler’s “dissociative imagination” (p.25) and the breakdown of inhibitions in an online space.
The research questions guiding her study were:
Do women receive verbal abuse in online gaming situations? What is the significance of the harassment directed at women?
Can most of the harassment that women receive in online gaming environments be classified as sexist (especially sexual harassment)?
Does the medium help determine the kinds of harassment female gamers receive, and to what extent are there similarities and differences within these modalities?
How does the abuse they receive contribute to creating or positioning certain identities for them in relation to masculine ideals?
Ramo’s methodology in this research is based on a “feminist critical discursive analytic stance” with the intentions of uncovering inequalities and oppression within the Xbox Live online gaming community (p. 34). Data collection was primarily done through audio transcripts and jpeg screenshots sourced from media archives online. The archives were studied, and relevant transcripts were “selected and saved and categorized by date” (p. 35). Then, a frequency table was created to document the occurrences of particular events.
Results of the categorization of a synchronous text based interactions are presented in a table, and then the most common factors are discussed and related back to reviewed literature. Screenshots of messages from the archive support the discussion and provide a somewhat shocking preview of the discourse. I was surprised to see that usernames for the senders of the messages were not kept confidential in the report. Comments received via synchronous voice chat interactions are also presented in a table, and followed by a reflection on the common occurrences, couple with verbatim quotes. Then, findings from both data sets are compared and contrasted, and followed by a discussion and conclusion.
One thing I feel could add to this study is a call to action. While the study was well supported and data was thoroughly analyzed, I left wondering what the main takeaway would be. Is the point just to make people aware of the behaviors and interactions that support gender role stereotypes and oppression? How could we use this information to challenge the status quo or change the environment? My perspective is perhaps a result of my research team’s focus on action research, which is quite different from the categorical analysis conducted in this study. There also was also an absence of identified stakeholders for this project, and a lack of collaborative processes of research design and analysis. For example, in addition to this type of categorical analysis of data, semi-formal interviews with both men and women from the setting would give the report a more personal touch, and offer the perceptions and reflections of community members.
My main takeaway from this scholarly critique is the importance of collaborative research design efforts and the presence of multiple perspectives in analysis. Through my interviews I have realized the power of the perceptions of community members, and how experiences and emotions can vary significantly. Giving the community the opportunity to engage in reflection on these topics can be more powerful than publishing a paper that most of them will likely never read. Reflection can inspire real change.