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Play, Playbour or Labour? The Relationships between Perception of Occupational Activity and Outcomes among Streamers and YouTubers


Abstract and Figures

The increasing digitalization and gamification of different aspects of our lives has blurred the line between what we consider work and play. Therefore, our productivity may increasingly depend on how we negotiate and view our occupations and work. Through an online survey (n=382), this study examines the relationship between the perception of online video content creation as either work, play or equally as both, and the activities and income of these video content creators (streamers and YouTubers). The results indicate that those who view their content creation as work had the highest levels of activity and income, whereas those who associated their content creation with play, earned more income than those who regard their content creation equally as play and work. The results demonstrate the emergence of new forms of digital entrepreneurial practices in the work-oriented group, but also the highlight the increasing workification of our play activities.
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Play, Playbour or Labour? The Relationships between Perception of
Occupational Activity and Outcomes among Streamers and YouTubers
Maria Törhönen
Tampere University
Hassan Lobna
Hanken School of
Sjöblom Max
Tampere University
Hamari Juho
Tampere University
The increasing digitalization and gamification of
different aspects of our lives has blurred the line
between what we consider work and play. Therefore,
our productivity may increasingly depend on how we
negotiate and view our occupations and work.
Through an online survey (n=382), this study
examines the relationship between the perception of
online video content creation as either work, play or
equally as both, and the activities and income of these
video content creators (streamers and YouTubers).
The results indicate that those who view their content
creation as work had the highest levels of activity and
income, whereas those who associated their content
creation with play, earned more income than those
who regard their content creation equally as play and
work. The results demonstrate the emergence of new
forms of digital entrepreneurial practices in the work-
oriented group, but also the highlight the increasing
workification of our play activities.
1. Introduction
The development of digital technology and the
information society has had a significant impact on
our working environments and cultures. Technology
has advanced our work and communication practices
beyond the borders of physical location, but has also
provided us with the ability to introduce work into our
free time and vice versa. This transition is exemplified
in new forms of online work, such as the gig economy
(e.g. Uber), sharing economy (e.g. Airbnb) and
crowdsourcing (e.g. Wikipedia). But it is also evident
in practices that aim to either merge play with work,
such as gamification [1,2] , or merge work with play
such as playbour [36].
Therefore, the attitude and perception we hold
towards our occupation activities might have a strong
effect on our productivity. For example, if an activity
were perceived as work, engagement with it would
usually be expected to be serious and professional
albeit not intrinsically motivating. On the other hand,
if an activity is perceived as leisure, engagement with
it could often be characterized by playfulness and the
pursuit of enjoyment albeit possibly lacking a serious
focus. What is relevant behaviour in one context may
not be relevant in another. Therefore, understanding
how we perceive different activities is of high
importance, in order to understand how we engage
with them and what outcomes we expect from them.
Content creation in digital and social media
formats is often considered a leisure activity, where
individuals produce and share content presumably in
their free time, in order to connect with their social
networks and to explore their creativity [7]. It is an
activity that may lead to enjoyment and a feeling of
sociability among other outcomes [7]. However, as
digital and social media develop and become more
integrated into our lives, the digital economy around
an individual content creator and their content has
begun to evolve.
This has been particularly evident in video content
creation, or personal broadcasting activities, through
digital platforms such as YouTube and Twitch that
have begun to develop sophisticated monetisation
systems and commercial benefits for their content
creators. The introduction of direct income and
commercial incentives to this activity has led to the
increasing professionalisation of this type of personal
broadcasting. Practices, such as scheduling, time-
management and risk-taking, which are often
associated with work, are becoming more common
within the activity. This has led to an increasing
merger of work and play within personal broadcasting
activities. Therefore, these new forms of online work
provide opportune avenues to research how people
view and negotiate their work in the internet era.
The purpose of this research is to understand how
personal broadcasters perceive their video content
creation and how that perception correlates with their
activities and the kinds of outcomes they gain from
their content creation. Data was collected through an
online survey (N = 382) and was analysed in SPSS.
The results allow us to examine this modern form of
digital labour in relation to our traditional political
economy understanding of work and labour. The
results also provide possible opportunities for
Proceedings of the 52nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences | 2019
URI: hps://
ISBN: 978-0-9981331-2-6
(CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) Page 2558
personal broadcasters to renegotiate their place in this
digital “work” environment.
2. Background
2.1. The digital workplace and gamification
For the last decades, the complex relationship of
work and leisure has been examined in conjunction
with each other [8], in the context of work-family
balance [9,10], overall work-life balance [11,12], and
the perceptions of an activity as leisure or as work
[13,14]. However, more recently research has begun
to focus more on the digitalisation of our working
environments and the benefits of gameful and playful
experiences in the workplace.
As the reach of games expanded into our modern
society, culture and practices [15], we witnessed the
exponential growth of the gaming industry that went
hand in hand with the gamification of our modern
cultural practices and work [16,17]. Gamification
attempts to redesign processes and practices through
game design so that tedious and repetitive activities
become more perceptually enjoyable [1,2]. Hence,
gamification has been employed to encourage
positive behavioural change such as increased
learning in educational contexts [18], enhancement of
healthy personal habits [19] and improved
productivity in the workplace and work practices [20].
While gamification does lead to enjoyable work
experiences and improvements in individual and
organizational productivity, as pointed out by most of
the empirical research on the gamification of work
[1,21,22], it has also led to increasing merger of work
and leisure.
2.2. Digital labour, playbour and the
workification in the media industry
Ever since the emergence of broadcasting media,
there has been an ongoing debate about the increasing
merger of work like elements into leisure, and the
commodification or workification of media
consumption [2327]. The debate has been deeply
rooted into our existing understanding of the political
economy and commercial media that have
emphasised the relationship of labour and its direct
economic value [2830]. For centuries, labour has
been equated in monetary value, which has been the
subjective norm for the generations before us.
However, the emergence of digital media formats
such as television and later on, the internet, have
transformed our underlying perception of labour by
associating it with other types of rewards and
gratifications such as enjoyment, entertainment and
information [3135].
The emergence of digital outlets and services has
also resulted in the development of the digital
economy, which combines elements from the
postmodern cultural economy and the information
industry [36]. In the digital economy, the prior
identifiers of labour have become debatable as
cultural artefacts and information have become a
currency in their own right [37]. With the
development of new digital media formats, especially
services such as social media, our media consumption
has also transformed into active digital prosumption
[3841], where the consumer also becomes a
producer of digital content. Prosumer as a term refers
to those individual content creators who are
consumers, yet simultaneously produce content
without direct incentive or association to a
commercial entity [42]. The notion of a prosumer
aims to define the blurring relationship between the
producer of content and the consumer of content,
which is evident in digital environments.
This type of prosumerism has become a typical
activity for digital natives [43], an integrated part of
modern life that provides a two-way communicative
environment as well as a creative outlet for
individuals, but also a facilitator of hybrid forms of
work and play, playbour and digital labour.
The term, and concept, of digital labour has been
associated with different activities within digital
formats and services [24,25,36], whereas playbour
has often been associated with the gaming culture
[3,4,6,44]. The basis for this type of labour relies on
the prosumption of media content in digital formats,
which is considered to generate value [43] through e.g.
identifier data and targeted advertising. Although the
commodifying or exploitative nature of this labour is
a constant discussion among scholars [25,45], many
have argued that the prosumption culture as well as
the development of the digital economy has given our
informative and communicative labour a market value
[24,37]. However, the digital economy has also begun
to transform into a new innovative version of the
traditional labour economy, by allowing the
prosumers of content the ability to gain direct
monetary value from their activities. It is hence
strongly evident that in addition to gamification,
where work is becoming more like play, play is also
becoming more like work. There is a transformation
of playful, leisure activities, towards more
professional characteristics of which a prominent
example is personal broadcasting (e.g. vlogging, live
streaming, game streaming).
2.3. Personal broadcasting and content
Personal broadcasting consists of the production
of video content by private individuals, and the
distribution of said content through one or multiple
commercial digital video sharing services such as
YouTube or Twitch. For better understanding of this
study and the analysed data, it is important to
distinguish the labour of individual content creators
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from commercial entities, as the nuances of digital
labour are most evident in the labour conducted by
private individuals. These types of individuals are not
directly associated with any commercial entity, and
generate video content in their private channels, but
may work in cooperation or partnership with brands
and organisations. Table 1 provides further examples
of personal broadcasters and commercial video
content creators.
Table 1. Examples of private and commercial video content
Content production
6.7 million
17.8 million
Personal broadcasting as an activity begun to gain
popularity in the mid 2000’s with the emergence of
the video sharing platform, YouTube. YouTube
provided the opportunity for anyone to “broadcast
yourself” and provide pre-recorded video content to
the world through the internet. This personal
broadcasting activity was furthered through the
development of digital technology, as live
broadcasting, or streaming, was introduced to the
prosumers through streaming services, such as Twitch
and YouTube live. The culture of personal
broadcasting has rapidly grown to represent a variety
of topics and personalities.
Live streaming as a phenomenon and technology
has furthered the incorporation of personal
broadcasting into everyday life. The integration of
live-streaming functionalities to popular social media
services such as Instagram and Facebook has made it
more approachable for individuals to live broadcast
their activities, but it has also promoted new forms of
digital professions and celebrity. For example, game
streaming has provoked new forms of online
interaction through services such as Twitch, and
endorsed digital careers such as game streamer [46],
professional gamer or “esports player” [47,48]. By
making the activity more approachable for individuals,
live streaming has made the dream of online celebrity
even more tangible, and increased the culture of
personal broadcasting. It has also affected the way we
perceive this activity as work or as leisure.
A novice personal broadcaster is often not
compensated for their video content or activities and
research has found that, similarly to other social
media content creation [7], personal broadcasting is
primarily intrinsically motivated [31]. However, as
the culture and the digital economy around this
activity has developed, the possibilities to gain an
income from the activity have increased and personal
broadcasting has gained more entrepreneurial like
characteristics such as a level of risk-taking [49] and
ambiguity [50,51].
The economy of this digital content creation
activity revolves heavily around the attention of the
viewers and the audiences a personal broadcaster can
gain for their content. In this way the activity has
begun to emphasize the characteristics of the attention
economy [5254], where the attention of the viewers
is commodified and establishes a certain type of
market value for the attention of the viewers.
Although this attention of the viewers is, at best scarce,
the digital landscape provides a global stage for
personal broadcasters, with the potential to attract the
attention of millions of people.
This potential combined with the allure of this
leisure activity continues to attract more individuals
towards the activity itself. Due to this increasing
popularity of personal broadcasting and the demand
for more diverse content, video sharing services have
begun to develop their own digital economies, and
reward the active and popular content creators for
their activities through sophisticated loyalty
programmes, that offer access to direct monetisation
such as advertising and paid subscription services.
However, in addition to these platform specific
monetisation services, personal broadcasters are also
increasingly involved in influencer marketing
activities [55], which consist of paid marketing and
partnerships deals with brands and organisations.
Through these commercial developments, the activity
of personal broadcasting has begun to combine some
of the elements from our understanding of the waged
economy and capitalism, but also generate new
concepts of digital entrepreneurship and a type of
intrinsic wage.
In this study, we aim to examine how the
perception of personal broadcasting as work, play or
as playbour, affects the activity levels and income of
a personal broadcaster. We consider that personal
broadcasters who do perceive the activity as play, are
more likely to be motivated by gratifications
previously associated with the use of YouTube [31]
and digital content creation overall [7], such as
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enjoyment, entertainment and social interaction,
which would further the engagement with the activity.
Therefore, we hypothesise (H1) that a play-oriented
perception will be associated with higher levels of
activity when compared with those having a work-
orientation. As previous research has also indicated
that achievement and goal-oriented behaviour [56
58] has been associated with a work-oriented
mentality e.g. entrepreneurship [5860], we also
hypothesise (H2) that a work-oriented perception will
be associated with higher levels of income than those
having a play-orientation. Finally, we cautiously
hypothesise (H3) that a perception of the activity as
playbour will be associated with highest levels of
income and activity, as these individuals may benefit
from both intrinsic and extrinsic motivational forces
simultaneously. However, it may also be possible that
the combination is conflicting in a way that prevents
either orientation to fully flourish.
3. Methods and data
This study is based on data that was collected
through an online survey during 2017. The survey was
distributed through various digital channels such as
Facebook groups and subreddits related to specific
video content genres and distribution services.
Various personal broadcasters were also approached
through email and messaging services of platforms
such as YouTube, Twitch and Vidme (closed in 2017).
The final sample consisted of 382 video content
creators, with more specific demographic information
presented in Table 2.
Each respondent was presented with four statements
(presented in Appendix A) related to their activity,
that measured their perception of their activity as
work or play. The responses were given on a 7-point
Likert scale, where each response item on the scale
reflected a specific experience of the activity as work
or fun. For this analysis, the average value of the
responses to the provided statements were divided
into the three categories, the work-oriented group, the
play-oriented group and the playbour group. Each
group directly identified with one specific statement
on the scale (Work = 1, Playbour = 4, Play = 7), but
in order to ensure a representative group for each
orientation, the cut off places for the work group was
<3.75 and for the play group >4.25.
The analysis was constructed around these
categorical variables, which were used to measure
four dependent variables. The dependent variables
used in the study measured the amount of months that
the personal broadcaster had been active in their
video content creation activities, the estimated hours
they spend on producing and distributing their video
content per week, the average hours they spend
promoting their video content on other social media
platforms and the total income they gained from the
activity. The respondents provided their answers as
estimates based on a list of provided frequencies, out
of which the maximum value was used to interpret the
The data was analysed through a one-way analysis
of variance (ANOVA). In order to assure the validity
of the ANOVA, the data was grouped into three
groups with independence of observation [61], and
homogeneity of variance was tested through a
Levene’s test [61,62]. The significance of results
within and between groups was examined using a
post-hoc Tukey’s test.
In order to ensure the validity and reliability of the
measurements, specific measures were also taken in
the construction of the survey. The order of the items
Table 2. Demographic information
< 17
Primary video
Pre-recorded video
44 >
Geographic origin
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from the work and play scale was randomised in the
online survey, in order to ensure that the respondents
were unable to detect patterns between these items
[63]. This extra measure was also used to decrease the
potential effect of common method bias [64].
Analysis was conducted using SPSS version 24.
Table 3. Comparison of means
Sum of Squares
Mean Square
Production hours/week
Tenure (in months)
Social media hours (avg)
Total income ($)
4. Results
As seen in Table 3, the mean comparison of the
three groups showed interesting differences between
the groups. However, when examining these results
through one-way ANOVAs, the difference between
groups pertaining to production hours/week (p <
0.001), average social media hours (p = 0.019) and
total income (p = 0.001), were clearly significant. The
findings related to the tenure (p = 0.405) variable were
found insignificant based on the results of the one-
way ANOVA seen in Table 4.
The findings of the study were further analysed using
the Tukey’s post-hoc HSD test to examine the
significance of the differences between specific
groups across the dependent variables, as seen in table
5. Significant differences were observed between
the production hours of the work and play group (p <
0.001) and the playbour and play group (p =
0.008). For total income, significant results were
found between work and playbour group (p = 0.003)
and the work and play groups (p = 0.001). There were
no significant findings found between the groups
related to tenure or average social media hours.
5. Discussion/Limitations/Conclusion
5.1. “The Workers”
Examining the results of the study, various interesting
findings emerge related to the perception of personal
broadcasting as work. It seems that individuals who
perceive the activity more as work, are the ones who
spend the most hours per week on video content
creation itself (M = 25.00 h), as well as the most
average time on personal broadcasting related social
media activities (M = 11.88 h). Additionally, they
appear to be earning the most income on average out
of the examined groups (M = $774.85), therefore our
hypothesis (H2) was not rejected. Despite being the
most active in their broadcasting and the highest
earners of the three groups, individuals who perceive
personal broadcasting as work are not the ones with
the most experience from these activities (M = 34.21
months). The findings related to this group indicate
that individuals, who identify the activity as work,
may be taking on a work-like mentality and a strategic
approach to it, which is reflected in their high levels
of production as well as income. While the traditional
approach of political economy has associated work
with direct income [29,30], it could be argued that in
this type of activity, income becomes the element that
transforms play into work, rather than being just the
outcome of such work. Interestingly, the work-
oriented group seems to convey a new, emerging form
of digital entrepreneurial work within personal
broadcasting, where individuals voluntarily
professionalise their leisure activities and express
goal-oriented behaviour as well as motivations for
achievement and self-development, previously
associated with entrepreneurial work [49,5860,65].
Similar findings have also been reported when
analysing worker types in online environments such
as collaborative crowdsourcing [66].
Table 4. One-way ANOVA
Social media
hours (M)
Total income ($)
Std. Deviation
Eq. Work
and Play
Std. Deviation
Std. Deviation
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Table 5. Tukey’s post-hoc HSD test results
Dependent variable
Mean Difference (I-J)
Production hours/week
Tenure (months)
Social media hours (avg)
Total income ($)
This strategic and work-like mentality towards
personal broadcasting can also be seen in the high
levels of social media activity that this work-oriented
group engages in. Personal broadcasters often utilize
this type of multichannel approach as a promotional
tool, which enhances their visibility as well as their
overall digital presence and brand. At its core, the
attention economy relies on capturing the attention of
as many individuals as possible for as long as possible
[52,53]. With social media as a promotional tool,
personal broadcasters can attract more viewers and
audiences for their content, which can be associated
with a higher income. This could further explain why
this group of individuals seems to be earning the most
on average.
The results of this study also reveal the strenuous
nature of this activity. As the overall sample of this
study indicates, the majority of the respondents are
also engaged in full-time work or studies, which
implies that personal broadcasting, may take up most
of their free time. This level of work-like activity may
lead to negative effects such as exhaustion and even
depression, which have already been reported by
some popular YouTubers and live-streamers [46,67]
Similar negative traits have been associated with
entrepreneurial work [58,68]. It should be noted that
even for those personal broadcasters, who create
video content as their full-time employment, this level
of activity would constitute nearly half of the weekly
average working hours, which also excludes all
promotional and administrative or organisational
tasks, that are also associated with this type of
independent work. Therefore, some form of
organisation or recognition for this type of profession
would be required, in order to maintain the well-being
of these type of new workers.
5.2. “The Playbourers”
Interestingly enough, it is the group that considers
the activity equally as work and play, or playbour,
who gains the least amount of income from their
activities (M= $145.76). Although this group is
almost as active in their content creation activities as
the work oriented group by investing almost the same
number of hours on the activity itself (M=20.74) as
well as on related social media activities (M=10.91),
their income levels are less than a fourth of that earned
by the work-oriented group. This partly rejects our
hypothesis (H3) and seems to assert our assumption
about the conflict this perception may cause.
It appears that this “playbourer” group may lack a
certain focus or strategy from their personal
broadcasting activities, which has resulted in more
time spent on the activity itself, but less concrete
outcomes gained from it. This lack of focus and
strategy may be affected by the longer tenure within
the activity, during which the professional elements
of the activity have begun to developed and be more
available. In order to better understand this aspect, it
would be valuable to further examine video content
creators with different tenure among the activity and
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their perceptions of professionalisation of the activity
and the effects of the development of monetisation in
this activity. On the other hand, personal broadcasting
is a creative activity. Technical and professional skills
needed to perform the activities may have been
acquired after a certain time of engaging with it and
the increased time spent on broadcasting does not
necessarily lead to the development of skills that are
of direct value to income generation. It would be of
value for further studies to examine this possible
correlation between creativity, experience with an
activity, and its outcomes.
The obtained findings about this group may also
reflect the difficult nature of this type of digital labour
and online entrepreneurship, where risk-taking [49]
and ambiguity [50] of the activity are heightened, and
clear objectives and aims, which are often associated
with traditional work environments may be missing.
The independent nature of this type of work, and the
highly competitive environment of the video sharing
platforms, may affect those content creators, who
approach the activity without a clear focus or a strong
passion for the activity.
In order to better understand the characteristic of
this type of work, future research should be focused
on the work-oriented group to define the nature of this
type of digital labour. Finally, these obtained results
for the group divided between work and play further
emphasize how possible blurring of lines between
work and play in digital environments could reduce
worker productivity, income, and possibly overall
well-being as it has in traditional work environments
[69]. Well-being in particular was not examined by
our study and future research is encourage to compare
levels of subjective wellbeing between personal
broadcasters depending on their perceptions of the
5.3. ¨The Hobbyists
The final group examined in this research and
incidentally, the largest group identified in our sample,
is the group of content creators who identified the
activity as more play than work. This play-oriented
group has the longest experience from the activity (M
= 38.67 months). However they seem to be by far, the
least active group in regards to their activities, as they
spend nearly half the amount of time on the
production and distribution of video content (M =
13.28 h) and on social media activities (M = 6.55 h),
compared to the work and playbour groups. This
rejects our hypothesis (H1), although the group could
be considered as the most dedicated group based on
their tenure.
This finding related to the activity levels of the
play-oriented group is interesting, since the
association with leisure and play, could be considered
to lead to higher engagement with the activity itself.
When examining previous research on hobbies and
free time, we do however see similar findings, where
the element of “free time” [70] is associated with
various activities and is allocated a specific time from
each day or week [71]. For example, an average US
gamer would spend 7 hours [72] per week on online
gaming, whereas an average person seems to spend
around 135 minutes a day on social media [73]. This
finding may also indicate that this group has a more
casual attitude towards the activity, where it is merely
one part of an individual’s day, whereas the work-
oriented group clearly has a more dedicated attitude
towards the activity, where they are investing much
more time on it.
As it can be argued that as this group perceives
this activity as a leisure activity, it may be motivated
by similar motivations as other types of digital content
creation [7] or the consumption of digital video
content [74], such as enjoyment, entertainment as
well as socialisation. Perceiving an activity as a play
or leisure activity has also been found to be associated
with intrinsic motivators [13].
This underlying heightened appreciation of
intrinsic and hedonic motive, may lead to less focus
on the income that can be derived from the activity,
which could be demonstrated in lower levels of
income for this group. However, the results of this
study do indicate that this play oriented group is still
likely to earn more income (M = $179.11) from their
activity than the playbour group. It may be that the
intrinsic and hedonic experiences gained from the
activity itself, is somewhat reflected in the produced
content as a more enjoyable or entertaining
experience for the consumer. This could attract more
viewers to the content, as viewers have also been
examined to be motivated by entertainment and
enjoyment [74], and lead to the acceleration of the
attention economy and further income for the content
The average level of income reported in this study
indicates that although the income level of the play-
oriented group is not as high as that of the work-
oriented group, there appears to be potential to
generate income through this activity while engaging
with it as pure play. In a way, this finding contradicts
some of the ongoing debate about digital labour and
commodification of our digital activities, as the
personal broadcaster is gaining compensation from
their activities, which they consider as
play. Interestingly, when examining this finding, the
traditional ways in which we perceive work or labour
[28,30,75], and the practice of gamification [22,76], it
could also be argued that through this activity, we are
trying to workify play, where this type of leisure
activity is taking on characteristics of work, but not
altering the way the activity itself is perceived or the
gratifications derived from it. This type of
workification further alters our understanding of work
and the way the modern worker approaches work-like
tasks, it also provides potential avenues for future
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research and practical use, in for example further
development of our gamification practices.
6. Limitations
The data for this study was collected through an
online survey, which provides a specific vantage point
on an individual's perceptions and views of reality
[77]. As this study is focused on understanding
perceptions of personal broadcasting in relation to
specific metrics that indicate levels of activity and
income, a survey was considered a suitable method
for data collection. Nonetheless, future research is
highly recommended to employ a wider array of
research methods in investigating personal
broadcasting from different vantage points such as
through qualitative surveys, focus groups or
We also do acknowledge the specific limitations
of using online surveys in data collection. As an
online survey relies on self-reporting of activities in
an unsupervised environment, we have to take into
account the possibility of common-method bias [78]
and acknowledge that the activities measured in this
study are based on estimates and self-reported values.
The common-method bias was addressed by utilizing
a variety of distribution sources for the survey and a
randomized order for items in the survey.
Ethnographic observation methods could provide a
more detailed insight into these activities, but due to
the intensity of the behaviour, and its private nature,
it may not provide accurate results either.
This study grouped together pre-recorded content
creators and live-streamers. While small nuanced
differences may exist between the two groups, many
of the study respondents reported to engage in both
live-streaming and pre-recorded video content
creation. Hence, we examined the overall production
behaviour of the respondents instead of examining
specific broadcasting forms or services. It should also
be noted that the sample is heavily male-focused,
which may limit our findings. The majority of the
respondents were located in the US and Finland,
which does provide variation in terms of the western
culture of personal broadcasting, but it should be
noted that further research should be conducted in
eastern cultures, e.g. in the Chinese market, where the
culture of personal broadcasting is different and
utilizes local services.
The three groups examined in this research were
different sizes, but each group had enough
respondents for them to be compared in this study.
Some of our findings were found insignificant
through further tests and therefore cannot be
considered conclusive.
This work was supported by the Media Industry
Research Foundation of Finland (grant number
20180084), the Finnish foundation for economic
education (grants number 10-5562 and 12-6385),
Business Finland (5479/31/2017 and 40009/16) as
well as project partners, Satakunnan
korkeakoulusäätiö and its collaborators, and
Academy of Finland (Center of Excellence in Game
Culture Studies).
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Appendix A.
Items for the Work and Play scale
I think my
Extremely serious -
Extremely fun
Extremely instrumental -
Extremely entertaining
Extremely work-related -
Extremely leisure-related
Extremely labour intensive -
Extremely relaxing
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... In addition, the working environment and culture have been significantly impacted by the information society and the development of ICT, which not only enables the work practice available without the constrain of physical location but also allows the ability to incorporate work into free time (Törhönen et al., 2019). The promotion of ICT in higher education provides teachers with new ways to tackle social learning for the global and diverse learning groups (Kuo et al., 2021), and online teaching transcending the limitation of time and space has become the 'new normal' of university teaching (Min & Bin, 2022). ...
... Yıldırım (2020) mentioned that teachers use MOOCs because they can observe the online learning environments, participate in discussions and access the free resources of high quality. Furthermore, some teachers consider working with MOOCs as leisure because participation in MOOCs is completely voluntary for teachers (Liyanagunawardena et al., 2013), which can be characterised by playfulness (Törhönen et al., 2019) since they merge work with fun regarding MOOCs, and this kind of combination is defined as Playbour (PL) (Ferrer-Conill, 2018). More recently, research has focused on digitization of working environment associated with "PL". ...
... According to the definitions of ATT, SN and PBC (Ajzen, 1991;Kumar, 2019;Lopes et al., 2019), which can be considered as an intrinsic attitude and perception towards a specific activity. As aforementioned, PL refers to a combination of play and labour considered playfulness and leisure (Goggin, 2011) and is considered the intrinsic attitude and perception perceived towards the work (Törhönen et al., 2019). Hence, in this research, PL is integrated as a mediating variable between the causal relationship of the three conceptual independent variables (ATT, SN and PBC) and the dependent variable, behaviorual intention (BI). ...
Full-text available
This study aims to understand the perception of university teachers on MOOCs and explore the critical drives that impact teachers to work with MOOCs based on an incorporated model of theory of planned behaviour (TPB) and Playbour (PL). Besides, this study also adopts Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory to include the culture as a moderator to explore how university teachers with different cultural backgrounds perceive MOOCs. The results show that Attitude (ATT), Subjective norms (SN) and Perceived behavioural control (PBC) are crucial determinants that impact teachers’ behavioural intention (BI) towards MOOCs. Besides, PL is found as a strong mediator to explain the great importance of ATT of university teachers to adopt MOOCs. Regarding the moderating effect, the significant difference in Spain and China are detected to explain teachers’ BI towards MOOCs. Additionally, the validity and model fit of the incorporated model are proved, which further enriches the field of TPB to explain teachers’ behaviour towards MOOCs.
... E-sports professionals must develop their skills and pursue a remunerated career in the area [16], while streamers must attract and retain an audience of paying spectators [31] by doing an "emotional labour" [10]. Törhönen et al. [29] showed that players engage in online content creation differently depending on the way players perceive their activity (as work, leisure, or a combination of both). Then, there is reason to believe that these categories of players might address the game having a different mindset and enact different organizational behaviors. ...
Conference Paper
The goal of this research is to study the organizational dynamics that are enacted by amateur players, streamers, and professionals in a multiplayer First-Person Shooter video game, namely Call of Duty: Warzone. These categories of players represent different “work-play” conditions, as they have different motives for playing. I assume that these players may enact different organizational behaviors to reach their objectives. To explore this hypothesis, I have been conducting a digital ethnography within an Italian gaming community since 2021, employing observations, semi-structured interviews and analysis of the communication exchanges occurring during the gaming sessions. In the literature, a cross-comparison between these players is currently missing. This work may then clarify how different “combinations of work and play” may affect players’ behaviors and organizational dynamics, as well as how they may be differently impacted by the design of the game.
... On live streaming platforms, there is a further monetization possibility apart from the affiliate marketing. If a person has many subscribers or casual viewers during their live streaming performances (for instance, on Twitch, Chaturbate, or YouNow) they can make money with paid subscriptions and tips (Törhönen et al., 2019. ...
Full-text available
Participants in real-time online sessions, be it (business) meetings, virtual school lessons, or social live streams, all engage in cyber social interactions. Unlike parasocial interactions, cyber social interactions are characterized by reciprocity and temporal proximity. In contrast to social interactions, they lack spatial proximity and bodily contact. This is a fairly new concept in information science that rose from technological advances and unprecedented circumstances (e.g., the rise of digital economy and knowledge workers being able to work remotely or, more recently, global lockdowns and contact restrictions). As a result, the past ways of working and socializing were transformed by making them, in some cases predominantly, virtual. Regarding the example of social live streaming we exhibit the importance of cyber social interactions for information behavior research. This conceptual article is a plea for information science to engage more in human-human online relations and interactions.
... Drawing from a diversified collection of studies, carried out within disparate area of research (e.g., Game Studies, Sociology, Human-Computer Interaction, Computer Science, Psychology…), we assumed that these players may be considered a reference point, as they differently intertwine "playing" and "working" practices during the gaming activity. In fact, it has already been shown that players engage in gaming sessions differently depending on the way they perceive their activity: as work, leisure, or a combination of both, i.e., playbour (Törhönen et al., 2019). ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
"In recent decades, work has been going through a series of transformations leading to the rise of virtual organizations and to the spread of gamification practices. On the other side, also play activities have been going through a process of “workification”, with the rise of phenomena such as “grinding” in video games. Nowadays, the boundaries between work and play are blurred, so that the old dichotomies between game and labour do not hold anymore. This entanglement between work and play might shape the organizations and the dynamics of their members, radically. To understand how, we investigate organizational dynamics occurring in a multiplayer video game, as virtual gaming worlds are often designed to replicate complex social structures and serious work ecosystems. We involve Esports professionals, streamers, and amateur players as they differently intertwine “playing” and “working” practices during the gaming activity. Professionals have problems that are typical of workers, like pursuing a remunerated career in the area; streamers invest an emotional labour during live performances in order to attract spectators who economically sustain them; amateur players could perceive their activity as a “second work”. An ethnographic study within an Italian gaming community is in progress. We focus on “Call of Duty: Warzone”, a First-Person Shooter Battle Royale game which requires players to enact organizational efforts in order to reach the in-game objectives (e.g., defeat the enemy team). The study uses i) semi-structured interviews and participant observation conducted in the game environment played by the amateurs, ii-iii) observation of gaming sessions, analysis of online content and semi-structured interviews with reference to streamers and professional, iv) analysis of communication exchanges of all three types of players during the gaming sessions. We expect that players belonging to different categories will enact distinct organizational behaviours and give rise to various organizational structures. A cross-comparison between them, which is missing in current literature, would clarify how different modalities of combining work and play impact on organizational behaviours and dynamics; it could also help both academic and practitioners address the issues faced by current working virtual organizations, by providing insights on how to effectively organize people collaborating from a distance through “best practices” that can be found in games. Preliminary results will be presented at the conference. Since the study is targeted to the Italian context, generalization of the results might be difficult; however, we expect to provide rich insights through the adoption of a qualitative ethnographic approach."
... For instance, YouTube does not allow for the monetisation of videos concerning risk behaviours (e.g. alcohol and drug consumption, smoking) (Bishop, 2018;Burgess, 2012;Törhönen et al., 2019). ...
Full-text available
Professional YouTubers have become highly popular in producing video content through self-mediation. Objective. The present article aimed to study ways in which lifestyle YouTubers construct health practices in their videos within the YouTube media culture. Design. We conducted a narrative and visual analysis across a selection of 15 videos. Results. Results showed that YouTubers’ practices and recommendations for a better life were structured around three themes: Eating to live well; Exercising to live well; Resting to live well and, a fourth cross-cutting theme on Practices aimed at self-development to achieve health and happiness. YouTubers were mainly female presenting, as well as middle/upper-class and white appearing. An overall optimistic tone characterised their health stories, as they delivered personal experiences of success on becoming healthy, happy, and better persons, while encouraging viewers to act similarly. Our findings suggested that YouTubers actively contribute to construct unprecedented definitions of health, enhanced by the social media culture and broader societal logics of healthism and postfeminism. Conclusion. Our study constitutes an original contribution to critical health psychology by examining some of the paradoxes raised by social media influencers like YouTubers regarding health and wellbeing.
... The muddied distinctions associated with merged places and timings of work are taken a step further when activities previously regarded as 'leisure' are monetized (Scholz 2013). For example, 'micro-influencers' have turned everyday domestic and personal activities into work by posting videos on YouTube whose embedded advertisements are watched by many thousands of followers (Törhönen et al. 2019). In a similar vein, in this volume, Willment focuses on travel bloggers who have turned holidaying into entrepreneurial labour. ...
In this introductory chapter, we first outline what we mean by ‘digital work’ and why this creates new methodological challenges. Here we specifically consider the difficulties of observing everyday work practices as they occur often invisibly in silent communion between workers and their devices, in new and various workspaces, across a widely distributed and shifting group of workers, and as they are shaped by the workings of hidden algorithms. Subsequently, we also consider a variety of critical research processes for understanding digital work including: accessing digital data; understanding how context shapes digital data; and the meshing of virtual and embodied research presence. We end the chapter by introducing the four sections of the book—screenwork, digital working practices, distributed work, and digital traces of work—each of which comprises four reflexive accounts of researchers’ experiences in developing methods that can capture digital aspects of work and organization.
... Tending to followers through such means is often linked to increasing the popularity of content creators on YouTube and other streaming services, and growing the dedication of the online community to shared causes (Törhönen et al. 2019a(Törhönen et al. , 2019b. Through P4A, the brothers also outlined what Nerdfighteria needed to do to make the world a better place: create videos, spread them, raise donations through community contributions. ...
Full-text available
Altruistic, prosocial activities intended for social change are essential to the continuance of societies. These activities, however, require time, coordination and re-direction of resources toward communal rather than individual goals. With the prevalence of hedonism in many societies, recruiting participants and getting resources for altruistic, prosocial activities have become challenging. This chapter draws a parallel between playing of (video) games and engagement with altruistic, prosocial activities. We argue that both can and often do involve similar mechanics and psychological rewards. Accordingly, we examine two examples of social change communities that have managed to remain active and affect a level of social change over an extended period of time. The two communities examined, Nerdfighteria and a campaign for the “Bilo family” in Australia, are of similar social purposes, although of different sizes and locality. Through this analysis, we highlight how practices of game-based engagement can be utilized to engage individuals with social change.
Full-text available
Non-human virtual celebrities (NHVCs), including virtual idols, VTubers, and virtual influencers, have gained interest from various business sectors and academic fields. The NHVCs are regarded as virtual fictional characters that are reimagined versions of human celebrities — idols, streamers and Instagram influencers, which employ practices used by conventional celebrities and social media influencers. The aim of this research is to explore the differences between NHVCs and human celebrities (HCs) and the perception of fans, audiences and non-audiences from Otaku and non-Otaku subculture using netnography observation and interview. The main findings from this study are that they are anthropomorphic with the referent of human characteristics, emotions, and behaviours whether they have a persona and identity like humans or not. They emerged in parallel with popular media culture such as J-pop and K-pop, platforms and technology. Their identities are constructed and manipulated like a commodity by the companies and human labours behind them, the existence of the characters is to make a profit for the companies. The results also demonstrate that NHVCs have a limited capacity to draw people in, it is usually restricted to small or niche groups of people. Otaku participants who are already the audience are only interested in anime style characters of virtual idols and VTubers, the content of them was also found to be related to the Otaku subculture, especially game streaming. Likewise, the virtual influencers’ non-Otaku audience is only interested in human-like and comic style characters that are not related to the Otaku subculture. While non-audience participants surprisingly show a low intention of watching or following any NHVCs in the future. This study also examines the NHVCs’ self-presentation and identity construction; authenticity and attractiveness; femininity; relatable; and virtual Labour. Keywords: human celebrities, non-human virtual celebrities, virtual idol, VTuber, virtual influencer, social media
By seeking relationships with advertisers, actively posting social media users become “influencers” in the sense of influencer marketing. As such, they combine content based on personal stories or specific capabilities with third parties’ commercial interests. Unlike research on well-known social media celebrities, in this study we focus on nascent media professionals in the early stages of developing from co-consumers to having their first financial success. We conducted a survey of 3500 such “nano” to “micro” influencers from a leading agency’s German database to identify the principal components of attitudes that extant research proposes as drivers of formal professionalization. To achieve this, we operationalized and adapted theoretical concepts to influencers as a new kind of content creator. Characteristically, professionalization paralleled by reach is driven by a combination of established scales on entrepreneurial orientation, manifest in “proactiveness” and “risk-taking,” as well as a brand orientation, resulting from “market mavenism” and “brand engagement in self-concept.” However, a structural equation model not only suggests that there are additional drivers but also links the identified drivers to personality traits based on the five-factor OCEAN model. Hence, becoming an influencer is to some extent catalyzed by socialization; it requires the ability and willingness to entice an increasingly large followership with unique content, which represents both a challenge and an inspiration for incumbent media organizations.
Microstreamers broadcast their video game play and commentary to small audiences on YouTube and Twitch. To draw a holistic picture of their motivations, this study conducted semi-structured interviews employing two complementary frameworks. A Uses and Gratifications approach showed that social integrative needs predominate – even personal integrative and affective need satisfaction depend on audience. In parallel, a Self-Determination Theory approach demonstrated satisfaction of three fundamental needs: the autonomy of an artist–entrepreneur; the relatedness of a community leader; and skill competence displayed to an audience. Microstreamers are driven to “find their people” online, where, through performance, they “find themselves” anew.
Full-text available
Recently, the skill involved in playing and mastering video games has led to the professionalization of the activity in the form of ‘esports’ (electronic sports). The aim of the present paper was to review the main topics of psychological interest about esports and then to examine the similarities of esports to professional and problem gambling. As a result of a systematic literature search, eight studies were identified that had investigated three topics: (1) the process of becoming an esport player, (2) the characteristics of esport players such as mental skills and motivations, and (3) the motivations of esport spectators. These findings draw attention to the new research field of professional video game playing and provides some preliminary insight into the psychology of esports players. The paper also examines the similarities between esport players and professional gamblers (and more specifically poker players). It is suggested that future research should focus on esport players’ psychological vulnerability because some studies have begun to investigate the difference between problematic and professional gambling and this might provide insights into whether the playing of esports could also be potentially problematic for some players.
Full-text available
Computer games and organizations are becoming increasingly interwoven in the 21st century. Sophisticated computer games connected by networks are turning into spaces for organizing. Therefore, it may not be surprising that conventional organizations are now scrounging these games for novel ways to enhance efficiency. The result is the formation of game/organization hybrids; uneasy recontextualizations of partly incompatible ideas, values and practices. We begin this essay by elucidating what it is socially that makes something a game by exploring the notion's anthropological foundations. We then introduce two examples of actual game/organization hybrids; raiding in computer games and gamification in formal organizations. We conclude by discussing the implications of such hybridization and suggest venues for how organization and management scholars can benefit from studying computer games and theories of play.
Full-text available
“Gamification” has gained considerable scholarly and practitioner attention; however, the discussion in academia has been largely confined to the human–computer interaction and game studies domains. Since gamification is often used in service design, it is important that the concept be brought in line with the service literature. So far, though, there has been a dearth of such literature. This article is an attempt to tie in gamification with service marketing theory, which conceptualizes the consumer as a co-producer of the service. It presents games as service systems composed of operant and operand resources. It proposes a definition for gamification, one that emphasizes its experiential nature. The definition highlights four important aspects of gamification: affordances, psychological mediators, goals of gamification and the context of gamification. Using the definition the article identifies four possible gamifying actors and examines gamification as communicative staging of the service environment.
Ferrer-Conill critically analyses the trend of incorporating playful thinking and game elements within working processes among organizations and businesses with the promise of worker empowerment and self-realization. Focusing on the notion of playbour and gamification of work, this chapter discusses and contextualises practical and theoretical outcomes of adopting technologies that on the one hand promise turning labour into fun and enjoyment, and on the other hand are based on opaque assemblages grounded in exploitation, surveillance and control. Ferrer-Conill concludes that the traditional frictions between work and play are mediated by contradicting labour dynamics embedded in a technological assemblage that attempts to both empower and exploit the employee, whose only choice is to play or revolt.
This study investigates why people choose to watch others play video games, on services such as Twitch. Through a questionnaire study (N = 1097), we examine five distinct types of motivations from the uses and gratifications perspective: cognitive, affective, personal integrative, social integrative and tension release. Information seeking is shown to be positively associated with the amount of hours that users chose to spend on the service, as well as the amount of individual streamers they choose to watch. Furthermore, we find that tension release, social integrative and affective motivations are positively associated with how many hours people watch streams. We also find that social integrative motivations are the primary predictor of subscription behaviour. This study lays the groundwork for understanding the motivations to consume this emerging form of new media in the context of online games and video streams.
Conference Paper
We synthesized the literature on gamification of education by conducting a review of the literature on gamification in the educational and learning context. Based on our review, we identified several game design elements that are used in education. These game design elements include points, levels/stages, badges, leaderboards, prizes, progress bars, storyline, and feedback. We provided examples from the literature to illustrate the application of gamification in the educational context.