The Affective Labor and Performance of Live Streaming on Twitch.tv

Woodcock, Jamie and Johnson, Mark R. (2019). The Affective Labor and Performance of Live Streaming on Twitch.tv. Television & New Media, 20(8) pp. 813–823.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1527476419851077

Abstract

This article explores affective and immaterial labor on the leading live-streaming platform, Twitch.tv, which boasts over one hundred million regular viewers and two million regular broadcasters. This labor involves digitally mediated outward countenance, including being friendly to viewers, soliciting donations, building parasocial intimacy with spectators, and engaging audiences through humor. We offer an examination of streamers broadcasting as a “character,” which we situate within the context of play becoming work, the labor of performance and acting, and the economic compulsions that shape cultural labor on Twitch. We draw on hundred interviews with professional and aspiring-professional game broadcasters conducted in 2016 and 2017 at gaming events across the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, and Poland, alongside ethnographic research. This inquiry into the dynamics of digital games and labor underscores the importance of studying live streaming as part of a wider critical investigation of contemporary digital work.

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