The Sociology of ‘Streaming’

I've written a piece with Mark Johnson for the Sociological Imagination on the sociology of 'streaming', which can be found in full here.

The popularity of “streaming” – the practice of broadcasting live gameplay across the internet to an audience – is a rapidly growing social and cultural phenomenon. If any readers are in doubt about the contemporary popularity – and indeed the need for sociological investigation – of streaming, David Pearson’s recent piece is quite an illustration. Discussing his children’s engagement with media through platforms like YouTube, he argues that it “follows them everywhere”. He explains that his two children have “developed a habit of living out their lives as if there’s an imaginary camera trained on them, just like their favorite YouTubers”. For context, the fastest growing audience for digital video is children aged 11 and younger, and many of this new generation are growing up as streaming natives. There has been limited research so far on the phenomenon of internet streaming, whether the more general vlogging, the live unboxing of commodities, or gameplay streaming on platforms like Twitch (which has now recently added social eating as a category), or engaged with more theoretical questions about the implications of this culture form. As Pearson’s daughter often interjects in her imaginary streaming: “Don’t forget to subscribe”, a timely reminder that with growing audiences there are increasingly large sums of advertising money involved.