Exploring Twitch as a Model for a Successful Web 2.0 Platform
Scholarly Critique #2.1
Tom Clement Maria Raes
Faculty of Humanities, May 2015
I found this resource using Google Scholar while searching for any literature relating to Twitch.tv. This report is a Master thesis from a graduate student at Aalborg University in Denmark. As I complete my final semester in my graduate program at CU Denver, I am also researching Twitch, and I have struggled to find many related resources to include in my literature review. I am thankful to have found this resource, not only as it specifically focuses on Twitch, but this nearly 100 page document takes a fairly comprehensive look at the platform and outlines the full research processes taken in the process.
This report makes an immediate argument for acknowledging Twitch as a significant example of the increasing popularity and interactivity of Web 2.0 platforms, which identify the user as a creator, not just a consumer. Outlining the popularity of the platform, the author states “By 2013, 45 million unique viewers a month followed and shared their gaming experiences on Twitch TV causing the website to generate more internet traffic than Facebook in the US alone.” This research is further framed around the consumer perspective in that it explores the motivations for engagement through the streams in an effort to “explain the sudden success of this phenomenon”. Factors related to motivation are outlined based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
The main questions that guided the researcher’s initial inquiry come across as relating to an exploration to be utilized for marketing purposes.
“What is it about Twitch TV that makes so many people are watching and sharing their (game) experiences? What is the key to Twitch TV ́s success? This thesis has the goal to reach a better understanding of the recent success of Twitch TV and intends to shed light on Twitch TV from a consumer perspective. The consumer of Twitch TV is the Twitch TV user, other examples stakeholders on Twitch TV include but are not limited to e-sports organizations, video game development companies, advertisers.”
This is where I find my research with Twitch differs the most from this study. I am most interested in exploring the informal learning opportunities on Twitch through social engagement, and more specifically identifying the affordances and limitations of engaging with art through the platform. This research also narrows its focus to be millennials that engage in streams of a specific game, where I am looking at participants of all ages across different games and categories.
I appreciate the section on defining the situated language of the platform, providing definitions for streamers or broadcasters, normal viewers, followers, moderators, and subscribers. I was surprised to see that in the background information for Twitch, the researcher chose to omit the evolution of Twitch from the previous platform, Justin.tv. While attending TwitchCon, one of the most informative panel discussions I attended featured streamers who had been broadcasting as far back as 2008. Their insight into the changes of the platform overtime included much information about the previous limitations of broadcasting. One panel member suggested that there was a time when they felt a sense of success after achieving a milestone of 60 viewers.
Later in the report, this research does touch upon concepts that I anticipate encountering in my research. The author begins to delve into how content creation is related to identity development and suggests that “People present an image of themselves for acceptance by others which involve the art of impression management. Impression management entails the interactional competences which send particular identities to others and attempt to influence their reception.” Creation of art objects certainly qualifies as impacting the impression made on others in this social environment. The report also talks about “presence”, and this seems to lead to themes of identity development through creative expression, a topic I am anticipating will emerge in my own findings. “An important term to look at is presence because today ́s technology blurs the distinction between the actual and virtual environments in which interaction takes place.” Presence is further refined into social presence, spatial presence, and self presence. The researcher cites other authors' claims that the “experience of self-presence can alter both our self-image of our body as well as our social identity (Tamborini & Skalski 2006).” It seems the researchers also consider more specifically the creation of art objects in relation to identity development, and they state that “digital bodies can also be found on Twitch TV itself since graphics, emoticons and other virtual content can represent one ́s self.”
Another relevant aspect of this research to my own is the comprehensive outline of the methodology. This report outlines two main data collection methods, online social surveys and semi-structured interviews conducted via Skype, and discusses their related analysis procedures. The researcher also attended a live event at his University which led to direct observation of people broadcasting on Twitch TV. As I am planning on using the same methods of data collection, seeing the structure of questions, and how the data was analyzed and presented is incredibly valuable. I was also intrigued by the idea of “pilot interviews” to “to make sure that no important aspects in the nature of interaction and experience of broadcasting games on Twitch TV are left out during the interviews”.
I found it particularly helpful when the report identified the rationale for the development of the online social survey questions. The report explains the design of the research based on the prioritization of the dimensions of conducting good research according to Bryman (2008). The research refers to another author and supports the decision to conduct this research through a case-study design, based on the idea of exploring a “contemporary phenomenon in its real life context (Yin, 1981)." The researcher also quotes Bryman (2008) to say that “exponents of the case study design often favour qualitative methods” and discuss why both quantitative and qualitative research will be used.
Rationale for designing survey questions based on Bryman:
make fewer open questions compared to structured interviews, since closed questions tend to be easier to answer
ensure to have an easy-to-follow design to minimize the risk that the respondent will fail to follow questions or will inadvertently omit a question
be shorter to reduce the risk of ́respondent fatigue ́ since it is manifestly easier for a respondent who becomes tired of answering questions
it is important that one does not cramp the presentation of the questionnaire by reducing margins and the space between questions. If questions are too close together, there is a risk of a tendency for them to be inadvertently omitted
an attractive lay-out, since making sure that the layout is easy to the eye enhances response rates
a vertical arrangement of questions, this distinct questions more clearly from answers and avoids the risk that the questionnaire will be answered in haste
include clear instructions to how the respondents should answer the questions keep questions and answers together
My main questions after reviewing this report reflect on the potential bias of the researcher. The focus on a specific game relies heavily on the background of the researcher’s experience with the game in communicating with the participants, and I am not sure that it was necessary as the questions asked would be applicable to many different games and categories on Twitch. I believe that richer results could evolve from removing this emphasis, and perhaps more diversity in participant background would be a result. The report states that an overwhelming percentage of the survey responses were male (96%?!), and attributes this to the findings of one study that suggest online games are dominated by men. However, I believe that acknowledging the potential for a bias of the researcher to spend more time in male streamer’s channels. Female participation in the interview section was only 2 out of 7 participants.
Overall, this resource is incredibly helpful in refining my own research proposal, and adds to the somewhat limited relevant literature I have critiqued thus far. This research does acknowledge the lack of academic research on Twitch, however I did find it helpful to review the references for primary texts that were cited in this report.
Bryman, A. (2008). Social Research Methods, 3. ed., Oxford : Oxford University Press
Raes, T. C. M. (2015). Twitch TV: motives and interaction, a consumer perspective. Aalborg University: Faculty of Humanities. Retrieved from http://projekter.aau.dk/projekter/files/213144986/CCG2015_Thesis_Twitch_TV_TomRaes.pdf
Tamborini, R. & Skalski, P. (2006). The Role of Presece in the Experience of Electronic Games. In Vorderer, P. & Bryant, J.
Yin, R. K. (1981). The Case Study Crisis: Some Answers. Administrative Science Quarterly, 58-65.