Archived project

Gamer or citizen? : live video politics in a digital age

Goal: This research will be publicly available once the embargo protecting key participants is lifted. Please feel free to contact me for further details.

This thesis is a study of the communities of gamers who populate several live-video streams on the website Twitch. I explore gamers as citizens and ask how gamers are political in light of their activities on stream. We have inherited an understanding of gamers as "disaffected" and their "habits" a retreat from a world apparently deprived of hope and increasingly devoid of human contact. This is an inheritance which constrains the very question 'gamer or citizen?' I write against this dominant discourse of disaffection. While I show that gamers and video games are not separate aspects of play rather inextricably linked, I emphasize that streaming is not a game. Instead, I show that it is a human activity system configured for the gamer subject to develop a notion of self fundamentally located in community. I use the term 'community' to refer to existing channels of which there are 7 core sites on this project. What gives these communities cohesion is the underlying premise that gamers create, inhabit as well as inherit a political world. Streaming communities offer unique insights into what it means to live in a "digital age." Gamers find through streaming 'a way in' to viable channels and ostensibly 'a way out' from demonization, but in so doing they experience tensions as part of what I call a "live-video politics". They find themselves caught up in a neo-liberal world as their streaming entails hard and often poorly remunerated work. What is more, their virtual encounters bring dominant and subordinate subjects into view revealing negotiations and colluding hegemonies not only with a corporate world but across the fault lines of race, gender and sexuality. My main conclusion is that it will be up to gamers as citizens to 'rise up' and take control of their politics, to show not only that they are not so narrowly determined by their activities of play but also that they can indeed become leaders in an incumbent democracy.

Date: 9 September 2014 - 1 January 2019

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Ilya Brookwell
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This research will be publicly available once the embargo protecting key participants is lifted. Please feel free to contact me for further details.
This thesis is a study of the communities of gamers who populate several live-video streams on the website Twitch. I explore gamers as citizens and ask how gamers are political in light of their activities on stream. We have inherited an understanding of gamers as "disaffected" and their "habits" a retreat from a world apparently deprived of hope and increasingly devoid of human contact. This is an inheritance which constrains the very question 'gamer or citizen?' I write against this dominant discourse of disaffection. While I show that gamers and video games are not separate aspects of play rather inextricably linked, I emphasize that streaming is not a game. Instead, I show that it is a human activity system configured for the gamer subject to develop a notion of self fundamentally located in community. I use the term 'community' to refer to existing channels of which there are 7 core sites on this project. What gives these communities cohesion is the underlying premise that gamers create, inhabit as well as inherit a political world. Streaming communities offer unique insights into what it means to live in a "digital age." Gamers find through streaming 'a way in' to viable channels and ostensibly 'a way out' from demonization, but in so doing they experience tensions as part of what I call a "live-video politics". They find themselves caught up in a neo-liberal world as their streaming entails hard and often poorly remunerated work. What is more, their virtual encounters bring dominant and subordinate subjects into view revealing negotiations and colluding hegemonies not only with a corporate world but across the fault lines of race, gender and sexuality. My main conclusion is that it will be up to gamers as citizens to 'rise up' and take control of their politics, to show not only that they are not so narrowly determined by their activities of play but also that they can indeed become leaders in an incumbent democracy.
 
Dear Ilya,
my name is Nadia Ruiz and I am a PhD candidate at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. My investigation is about video games and the video game industry and some specific aspects of it. Right now, I am studying whether video games (or video games streams channels) are being used as new digital platforms for political activism by the younger generation. I saw the publication of your doctoral thesis "Gamer or Citizen? Live Video Politics in a Digital Age" and I would love to read it! I believe it will be a very important source for my own investigation. Is it possible for you to provide me with a digital copy of this project?
I hope you have a wonderful week.
All the best, Nadia Ruiz
 
Carola Boehm
  • 4.71
  • Staffordshire University
Hi Ilya, very interesting. Would love to read the whole article. From my perspective, I would suggest it might help to recontextualise the struggle of digitally distributed communities and the neo-liberal corporatisms as a struggle of Culture 2.0 and 3.0. (See 15 min introduction of these concepts in http://blogs.staffs.ac.uk/c3centre/2020/09/25/culture-3-0-arts-culture-diversity-and-gatekeeping/ )
Bascially twitch and many online communties have build up a technical infrastructure/world that could technically bypass gatekeepers (= Culture 3.0). However current economic models are still based on the high individualism of the 20th centruy, exploitation of IP, monetisation of IP and gatekeeping is part of this. (Culture 2.0).
This can be seen as a struggle, as technologically we can bypass gatekeepers already (soundcloud, twitch, podcasting tech), but structurally in our economic models (and policies), there is still a tendency to narrow down and gatekeep with arguments of quality, ownership, excellence and security.
Other fields you can see this struggle:
- RSS podcasting (more Culture 3.0) vs Spotify (more Culture 3.0)
- crowdsourcing bookpublishing vs traditional publishers AND amazon
We also find that some of the biggest tech companies (amazon, youtube, facebook) are really at the edges of the intersections between culture 2.0 and culture 3.0. They have developed technologies that could really distribute wealth in a culture 3.0 way (allowing the complete mixing who consumes and who produces), but due to wanting to retain their dominance in the market they ideologically and business-strategically maintain a Culture 2.0 stance and really hold tight on Culture 2.0 concepts for their business strategy.
That's how I'd contextualise it.
Have a look at the into to these concepts and let me know what you think.