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The Democratization of Knowledge Through Live-Stream Video

Scholarly Critique #1.4

Audubon McKeown Dougherty

Comparative Media Studies Program

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, June 2010

I found this article through a google scholar search using the search terms “live-stream” and “engagement”. The article is hosted on a site featuring over 17,000 open access articles from student theses and dissertations, peer reviewed articles, and technical reports from as far back as the 1800's.

Author Audobon Dougherty’s report centers on exploring civic motivations for live-stream video broadcasters, with an in depth investigation into a now discontinued mobile live-stream video platform known as Qik. One of the strongest components of this resource that stands out from previously reviewed reports is the author’s ability to approach the topic through a personal perspective. Her writing is a window into the researcher, and she immediately captures the attention of the reader with a personal antecdote.

Her interest in exploring the democratizing power of the live-stream video platform also caught my attention, and supported my efforts to find any existing resources on live-stream video and community engagement for my research on Twitch. Daugherty builds the foundation of her research around the following questions:

  • What types of videos are actually being broadcast online through mobile phones?

  • How can we identify demographic trends in general production?

  • How much of content in this new medium has civic value, and what factors encourage producers to capture and live-stream this type of footage?

  • Can we form an understanding about the profile of civic producers and the contexts in which they produce media?

I appreciate that her questions are framed around her data collection methods; for example, her first question sets up the rationale for her observation based analysis. The methodology of this research consists of surveys, interviews, and a heavy reliance on observation (5 months of logging video information). The in depth information about observation practices utilized provide a window into the processes used to collect data. I found her reflections on the challenges of her observations to be particularly insightful, as she adapted her processes due to challenges with buffering, loading times, and connectivity issues.

Dougherty used a content analysis model by Hansen, Cottle, Negrine & Newbold that includes six steps:

  • defining the research problem

  • selecting media and sample

  • defining analytical categories

  • constructing a coding schedule

  • piloting the coding schedule, then checking reliability

  • completing data preparation and analysis.

While the methodology of this research is similar to my proposed methods, the focus and outcome of the research are starkly different from what I hope to achieve. Dougherty provides an exploration of the motivations for production of the videos, while I hope to investigate some of the interactions that occur as a result of participating in the video stream. Her research also focuses solely on the broadcaster, whereas I hope to involve more of the community that develops around the broadcaster.

One aspect of this research I feel could benefit my own research proposal is the tracking of cross posting and engagement on social media as a result of interactions within the live stream channel. In addition, I found Dougherty’s questions around tracking broadcaster's experience with other video production tools interesting. Looking at the questions that I have developed, I realized that additional questions based around social media and tools should be added to my surveys.

It was also particularly interesting to read about a mobile live stream video platform that has now been discontinued. In her research, Dougherty does mention the predecessor of Twitch,, as a competitor platform, among several others. What is fascinating to me is how one platform has evolved and continued to grow, while the other was discontinued. Both were purchased by larger companies; Twitch was purchased by Amazon, and Qik by Skype/Microsoft. Now, mobile live stream video platforms like Meercat and Periscope that bear significant resemblance to Qik are re-emerging. Will they face the same fate? Why did Twitch continue to grow when Qik did not? Is it the platform design, the community, or the decisions of the parent organization that made a difference? As I approach my own research, I continue to reflect on what makes Twitch a uniquely successful platform.

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