Streamer-Interface-Viewer Entanglement

An Analysis on the Discursive and Affective Live-streaming Chatroom Interface


  • Zhen Ye Erasmus University Rotterdam



livestreaming, interface, gender, user, social media


In China, the live-streaming industry has a distinctive model of cultural production: showroom live-streaming. It is often adopted by social media platforms to complement other social networking activities. This study reveals the ways in which social media platforms (specifically, Douyin and Momo) design their showroom livestreaming interfaces and affordances to normalise and commodify the affective interactions between female streamers and their male viewers and to establish a gendered power relationship. Using the walkthrough method during two stages of the apps (entry to live-streaming chatrooms and the everyday use of live-streaming chatrooms), this study analyses various affordances regarding their functional, sensory, and cognitive impacts on users. This research thereby demonstrates that the live-streaming interface design constructs two types of subject positions. The ideal user is constructed as a heterosexual male, who is empowered through the consumption of virtual gifts; in contrast, the interface nudges the female streamers to conduct emotional labour and deliver implicitly sexualised performances to maintain an affective relationship with viewers.


Bannon, L. J. (1995). From human factors to human actors: The role of psychology and human-computer interaction studies in system design. In R. M. Baecker, J. Grudin, W. A. S. Buxton, & S. Greenberg (Eds.), Readings in human–computer interaction (pp. 205–214). San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann.

Berger, J. (2008). Ways of seeing. London, UK: Penguin Books.

China Internet Network Information Center [CNNIC]. (2020). Th e 45th China Statistical Report on Internet Development. Retrieved from:

China Internet Watch. (2020, May 28). Social dating app Momo MAU down 6% in Q1 2020. Retrieved 27 November 2020, from:

Craig, D., & Cunningham, S. (2019). Social media entertainment: The new intersection of Hollywood and Silicon Valley. New York: NYU Press.

Cunningham, S., Craig, D., & Lv, J. (2019). China’s livestreaming industry: Platforms, politics, and precarity. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 22(6), 719–736.

Drucker, J. (2011). Humanities approaches to interface theory. Culture Machine, 12, 1–20.

Galloway, A. R. (2012). The interface effect. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Gibson, J. J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Boston: Houghton Miffl in.

Hochschild, A. R. (2003). The managed heart: Commercialization of human feeling. Oakland: University of California Press.

Kavka, M. (2014). A matter of feeling. In L. Ouellette (Ed.), A Companion to Reality Television (pp. 457–477). John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Kaye, D. B. V., Chen, X., & Zeng, J. (2020). The co-evolution of two Chinese mobile short video apps: Parallel platformization of Douyin and TikTok. Mobile Media & Communication, 2050157920952120.

Kozinets, R. (2015). Netnography: Redefi ned (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.

Light, B., Burgess, J., & Duguay, S. (2016). Th e walkthrough method: An approach to the study of apps. New Media & Society, 20(3), 881–900.

Liu, S., Lu, Y., Liang, Q., & Wei, E. (2010). Moderating eff ect of cultural values on decision making of gift giving from a perspective of self-congruity theory: An empirical study from Chinese context. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 27(7), 604–614.

Markham, A., & Buchanan, E. (2012). Ethical decision-making and Internet research: Recommendations from the AoIR Ethics Working Committee (Version 2.0). Retrieved from

Meisner, C., & Ledbetter, A. M. (2020). Participatory branding on social media: The affordances of live streaming for creative labor. New Media & Society, 1461444820972392.

Mulvey, L. (1975). Visual pleasure and narrative cinema. In L. Mulvey (Ed.), Visual and Other Pleasures (pp. 14–26). London: Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Nagy, P., & Neff , G. (2015). Imagined affordance: Reconstructing a keyword for communication theory. Social Media + Society, 1(2).

Norman, D. (1999). Affordance, conventions, and design. Interactions, 6, 38–42.

Rushton, R. (2009). Deleuzian spectatorship. Screen, 50(1), 45–53.

Scarlett, A., & Zeilinger, M. (2019). Rethinking affordance. Media Theory, 3(1), 1–48.

Scheibe, K., Fietkiewicz, K., & Stock, W. (2016). Information behavior on social live streaming services. Journal of Information Science Theory and Practice, 4, 6–20.

Stanfill, M. (2014). Th e interface as discourse: The production of norms through web design. New Media & Society, 17(7), 1059–1074.

Sun, L. (2020, December 5). 4 reasons Momo’s high-growth days are over. MSN Money. Retrieved 22 December 2020, from:

Swader, C. S., Strelkova, O., Sutormina, A., Syomina, V., Vysotskaya, V., & Fedorova, I. (2013). Love as a fictitious commodity: Gift-for-sex barters as contractual carriers of intimacy. Sexuality & Culture, 17(4),


Szita, K. (2020). New perspectives on an imperfect cinema: Smartphones, spectatorship, and screen culture 2.0. NECSUS_European Journal of Media Studies, 9(1), 31–52.

Taylor, T. L. (2018). Watch me play: Twitch and the rise of game live streaming. Princeton University Press.

Thomala, L. L. (2020, July 27). China: Live streaming market size 2018-2020. Retrieved 4 October 2020, from Statista website:

Zhang, X., Xiang, Y., & Hao, L. (2019). Virtual gifting on China’s live streaming platforms: Hijacking the online gift economy. Chinese Journal of Communication, 12(3), 340–355.

Zou, S. (2018). Producing value out of the invaluable: A critical/cultural perspective on the live streaming industry in China. TripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society, 16(2), 805–819.




How to Cite

Ye, Z. (2021). Streamer-Interface-Viewer Entanglement: An Analysis on the Discursive and Affective Live-streaming Chatroom Interface. MedieKultur: Journal of Media and Communication Research, 37(70), 131–150.