Date of Award

August 2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Erin K. Ruppel

Committee Members

Mike Allen, Nancy Burrell, Taesop Lim

Keywords

Fandom, Online Communities, Parasocial, Streaming, Twitch.tv, Uses and Gratifications

Abstract

Advances in media consumption and viewership have expanded the use of virtual communities such as streaming platforms (e.g., Twitch,tv, Azubu.tv, YouTube Gaming, AfreecaTV) and the ways individuals satisfy individual and social gratifications within these communities. Further, the connection viewers make with streamers as both fans and parasocially (i.e., a perceived friendship with media figure) has a number of implications for the communities that support them. This dissertation tested fandom and parasocial relationships (PSR) as mediators of the relationship between sense of community (SOC) and gratifications. Users of streaming platforms (N = 624) were surveyed regarding the gratifications they seek from streaming platforms, their fandom and PSR with their favorite streamer, and their sense of community on the site. Mediation analysis showed that PSR and fandom mediated the relationships between SOC and the gratifications of relaxing entertainment, expressive information sharing, and escapism. In other words, viewers for whom these gratifications were more salient reported higher PSR and fandom, and higher PSR and fandom predicted higher SOC. Unlike PSR, fandom mediated the relationship between SOC and the gratifications of cool and new trend and companionship. There are a number of theoretical and practical implications of PSR and fandom as they relate to gratifications and SOC. Specifically, the social nature of streaming platforms provide new opportunities for media consumers to satisfy individual and social gratifications. Additionally, the swings in popularity of microcelebrities on streaming platforms aligns well with traditional celebrity worship research (i.e., popularity dictates who receives special promotion). Streaming platforms provide opportunities for the building and maintenance of relationships comparable to previous research on streaming platforms. Ultimately, the streamer acts as the mechanism that enables to relationship between gratifications and SOC for stream viewers.

Available for download on Thursday, March 30, 2017

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