Investigating VTubing as a Reconstruction of Streamer Self-Presentation: Identity, Performance, and Gender

by   Qian Wan, et al.

VTubers, or Virtual YouTubers, are live streamers who create streaming content using animated 2D or 3D virtual avatars. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of VTuber creators and viewers across the globe. This practise has drawn research attention into topics such as viewers' engagement behaviors and perceptions, however, as animated avatars offer more identity and performance flexibility than traditional live streaming where one uses their own body, little research has focused on how this flexibility influences how creators present themselves. This research thus seeks to fill this gap by presenting results from a qualitative study of 16 Chinese-speaking VTubers' streaming practices. The data revealed that the virtual avatars that were used while live streaming afforded creators opportunities to present themselves using inflated presentations and resulted in inclusive interactions with viewers. The results also unveiled the inflated, and often sexualized, gender expressions of VTubers while they were situated in misogynistic environments. The socio-technical facets of VTubing were found to potentially reduce sexual harassment and sexism, whilst also raising self-objectification concerns.


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