Streaming on Twitch: Fostering Participatory Communities of Play
Scholarly Critique #1.3
William A. Hamilton, Oliver Garretson, and Andruid Kerne
Dept. of Computer Science and Engineering
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas USA, 2014
I found this resource through a Google Scholar search using the search terms “Twitch” and “engagement”. This report was published in a journal that was available for purchase, however I was able to find a free pdf online as well.
In my own research, I am exploring how Twitch has emerged as an example of a unique and successful platform to engage in art online. Twitch is a live stream video application that is based primarily on gameplay, but also includes categories for “Gaming Talk Shows”, “Creative”, and “Music” among others. While my research focus is centered more specifically around engaging with art online, there are many aspects to the Twitch platform that you might acknowledge as art forms. For example, video games contain a variety of art forms: character design, graphic backgrounds, animations, sound & music, etc. In addition, many streamers have custom made screen overlays, special emotes for the chat feature, and edited audio notifications for interactions with viewers. There are many other ways that both broadcasters and viewers engage with art, but I’ll save that for another post!
The focus of this research article was to “investigate how the popular new medium of live video streaming, i.e., live streaming, fosters participation and community.” The authors took an ethnographic approach to “describe processes through which stream communities form, the motivations of members, and emergent issues in the medium.” I appreciated the contextual descriptions and introduction to the research project, and found their language to be accessible to those unfamiliar with the Twitch platform.
One aspect of this research that stood out to me as particularly helpful in the development of my own research is the detailed information on how they selected participants. I hadn’t previously considered stream moderators as participants for my study, but they would have a unique perspective that connects the broadcaster with the viewers.
The methodology of qualitative interviews discussed in this research supports my plan for engaging my participants, but due to the constraints of time I plan on also using quantitative surveys to collect data. I am using a similar process of initially building rapport within potential stream channels, and I would love to know more about how they went about recruiting participants. This is one aspect of my research I am concerned about.
In respect to the discussion of findings, I found the “Identification with Content, Streamer, and Community” section to be particularly salient. In the synthesis of the data, the authors said that “A major theme that emerged through our analysis is that streams develop an atmosphere that reflects the streamer’s attitude and values.” The implications for the formation of identity through these processes has a close tie to the the connection between developing identity through engaging with art. The authors also acknowledged the artmaking that occurs in conjunction with these interactions on Twitch, and draw attention to “the sharing and adoption of fan art created by a stream’s viewers”.
This article has been incredibly helpful in planning my own research, and I look forward to finding more studies that can build the credibility of my own investigation. I also was compelled to find these researchers on social media, and hope to follow their work as it closely aligns with my personal and professional interests.