While the term digital encompasses anything with numerical digits, media refers to a method of transmitting information. Digital media can be created, viewed, distributed, modified, listened to, and preserved on a digital device, this allows for faster and more versatile communication, but can also lead to data security issues. In the expanding world of technology, peoples increasing online presence has led to the development of trends that focus highly on protecting privacy and consumer consent for example ‘Apple’ asking permission for other applications to use your data, the development of artificial intelligence and the creation of new opportunities for income. Live streaming has contributed to the development of new relationships formed between streamers and viewers in a time of isolation due to covid. Often seen as a new way to connect with people with similar interests without physically being in the same location, has led to the formation of online communities with key leaders.
Asia dominates the online streaming industry, with over 2 million internet users from the 4.8 million users globally. As the world shuts down during a pandemic, millions have turned to live streaming as a form of income, this has evolved into the “gig economy”, with services such as Up live and Lamour being developed, increasing in popularity on a global scale.
In this week’s seminar, we looked at Hao Wu’s People’s Republic of Desire (2018) which highlighted the concept of digital transactions, defined as online transactions that take place through an online medium, ignoring the need for tangible aspects to make a transaction. The documentary looks at the ever expanding industry of online streamers in Asia. Focusing on the lives of those who use streams as a source of income and economic benefit, providing details on the hardships and pressure put on them to be the most liked. This documentary highlighted how people were able to significantly improve their living conditions through this new source of income, emphasising the extensive opportunities they are given to obtain financial abundance and status.
As mentioned by Athique (2019) money appears as an integer or processing unit, its value can be determined within a set of social exchanges. Financial transactions occur online and act as an agreement between the buyer and seller, in the context of online streaming this refers to the viewer/fan and the online personality. Technology gives those that are in ownership of money greater control and influence, the creation of virtual money has led to enthusiasm towards crypto currency in Asia. Leading to a significant amount of digital heists, occurring through hacking which is an issue that has evolved from digital transactions. The documentary highlights the control and influence streamers have over their audience, as well as emphasising the ease in which digital transactions occur. For example, the influencers are constantly asking for donations and purchasing votes to nominate them as the most popular, or best online personality, consumers do this as they idolise the personality and enjoy seeing people doing the things they cannot do due to financial limitations. The documentary also indicates how the fans have power over the streamers due to financial interactions. As the streamers rely on the votes and donations from their fans, the fans gain a sense of power as well, this is often shown when fans demand the streamers to do certain acts which at times are ethically questionable.
For me personally, the idea of online transactions with the context of providing live steamers with financial funds is something I would not do. Factors such as a lack of security and confidence of where the funds are going especially concern me however I can see how fans would want to support the live steamers as it is essentially paying for a form of entertainment and belonging.
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Bray C, Qu. T, 2021. South China Morning Post, Live streaming is the gig economy of the pandemic era, Uplive says. [online] Available at: <https://www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/3138685/millions-turn-livestreaming-earn-living-during-covid-19-pandemic> [Accessed 30 July 2021].