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
- Staffordshire University