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Streaming your Identity: Navigating the Presentation of Gender and Sexuality through Live Streaming

Abstract

The digital presentation of gender and sexuality has been a long-standing concern in HCI and CSCW. There is also a growing interest in exploring more nuanced presentations of identity afforded in emerging online social spaces that have not been thoroughly studied. In this paper, we endeavor to contribute towards this research agenda in yet another new media context -- live streaming -- by analyzing female and LGBTQ streamers’ practices to present and manage their gender identity and sexual identity. Our findings highlight streamers’ gender representation and sexual representation as a demonstration of controlling their own bodies, an awareness of the audiences and the resistance to their expectations, and an exhibition of the affordances and power structure of the specific online social space. We extend existing studies on live streaming by exploring the understudied gender identity and sexual identity aspect of the streaming practices. We also highlight the less audience/performance-oriented but more self-driven aspect of digital representations and the importance of affirmation and empowerment in this process. We add nuance to the existing HCI/CSCW studies on gender and sexuality by investigating a highly dynamic, interactive, and multilayered self-presentation mechanism emerging in live streaming and point to the need for potential new lenses to analyze technology-supported identity construction.

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Notes

  1. Twitch Unity was an inclusivity initiative created by Twitch that allowed streamers and viewers to associate their streams and usernames with the event.

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Acknowledgments

We thank our participants and the anonymous reviewers. This work was supported by the Mozilla Foundation and the National Science Foundation under award 1849718 and 1841354.

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Correspondence to Guo Freeman.

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Freeman, G., Wohn, D.Y. Streaming your Identity: Navigating the Presentation of Gender and Sexuality through Live Streaming. Comput Supported Coop Work 29, 795–825 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10606-020-09386-w

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Keywords

  • Gender
  • Sexuality
  • Self-presentation
  • Livestreaming