Miscellaneous (한 + EN)

"Connective Effervescence"

2021-02-27 10:08
In earlier media regimes, with theater, opera, and political speeches and debates taking place live, audiences were active and involved. The audience member was constantly bombarded with boos and cheers, shouted slogans or laughter. The mass media era of the 20th and early 21st century entailed the “pacification of the audience.” People became accustomed to consuming broadcast media in their own homes, and their perception of the role of the audience changed.

Streaming chat represents a return to a more active audience, to a re-orientation of the experience of being an audience member.


The primary purpose for many commenters is thus better understood as collective expression than anything approaching persuasion, let alone deliberation. A useful metaphor is that of a fan at a sporting event: there is an expectation of yelling or otherwise vocally responding to the focal action. The goal is partially to antagonize your opponents and hearten your allies, but more directly, to become part of living mass of people, to experience the digital analogue of Durkheim's “collective effervescence.”

Although previous scholars have applied the concept of collective effervescence to describe other forms of digital communication, we argue that the technological affordances of streaming chat make this a qualitatively different experience. Text-based digital media are constrained by the rhythms of writing; the latency is too high to approach the experience of being a live crowd of people. One-to-one (or small group) videos are low latency, but cannot numerically create the crowd experience; bottlenecks in information transmission like internet bandwidth, screen definition and audio quality mean that even our advanced communication technology cannot replicate the live crowd.

Streaming chat around a focal broadcast accomplishes both low latency (frequent updates) and distinguishable actors (hundreds of distinct text posts): short bursts of emotion that allow each commenter to perform their role as part of the crowd, thereby experiencing what I call “connective effervescence.

... The tectonic shifts in the bedrock of digital politics—the hardware, software and user skillbase stacks—means that the feed will be replaced by the stream.

— Munger, K. (Feb 8, 2020). Streaming chat and connective effervescence.