Active vs. Passive Audiences – How different are Twitch and YouTube really?

In the current age of popular In the current age of popular culture and the way the population consumes media, the divide between “passive” and “active” audiences has become more apparent. An “active audience” suggests that the audience members are participating in thought and taking the ideas of the content to create personal and social opinions. Passive audiences are considered to be people who casually and non-critically absorb information, essentially perceiving the subject as fact. Realistically speaking, it is too simple to label someone who consumes any media as an active or passive listener as there are many factors of each that overlap each other. For example, the viewing experience of cable television has been drastically changed since its introduction to Australia in 1956. During these times, people would typically watch closer to the screen as they were much smaller and with as little sound as possible. Thanks to the advancements and addition of other potential distractions, such as mobile phones, it is much more common to passively indulge in a wide range of media on television.

Author: Mohamed Hassan

Take YouTube, the biggest public video publishing website, for example. It’s easy for a viewer to become involved and engage with the media by leaving comments for example. However, it’s just as easy for the consumer to become a passive listener by playing videos in the background, such as ASMR and Lo-fi music, in the background while working/resting. With easy access to an average of 500 hours of new content per minute and the video on “anywhere, anytime” aspect, it is easy for a consumer to choose what they want, when they want, how they want to watch it. On the opposite side, Twitch, one of the biggest live streaming platforms, focuses on broadcasted media. Twitch encourages the audience to interact by having donations and subscriptions, with “Chat” often bouncing off the streamer to keep the flow of the stream. However, the conversation-like content still contains passive audience members called “lurkers” who simply listen/watch the content and do not interact. It’s important to compare these platforms, as they have very much become two sides of the same coin when it comes to the way media is produced and released.

As someone who has participated in all four of the forms of consumption mentioned above, I personally found participating in Twitch chat culture the most enjoyable. I’ve always found it quite captivating being able to give real time feedback/responses to the creators’ content/questions and has always helped create a feeling of a strong community. making it every easy to pop into a stream of a day and relax. Most of the drawbacks come from toxicity within chat as it’s common to have hecklers making multiple accounts to harass creators, along with people unintentionally engaging in toxic parasocial relationships.

“…It’s just there’s a very vocal minority of people that hijack something like that, and it’s the same thing with chats […] there are just some people that take over and make that become the public perception.”

Charlie aka moistcr1tikal speaking about toxic communities and /r/livestreamfails in an interview with Dr. K

I think it’s important for all content creators to set their boundaries within a community as they both can be damaging to both the creator and the viewer because it can easily snowball into much better drama or personal concerns. Overall, YouTube and Twitch are different at face value, however both provide adequate insights and needs for both active and passive audiences.

REFERENCES:

Kobiruzzaman, M. M. 2019, “Active and Passive Audience Theory, Example, Definition, & Difference,” Newsmoor.com

National Archives of Australia, 1956, “Introducing television to Australia, 1956 (Fact Sheet 115),” National Archives of Australia (NNA)

Kinolibrary, 2016, “1950s People Watching Television, Excited, Family, Early TV,” Kinolibrary

Ceci, L. 2022, “Hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute 2007-2020,” Statista.com

moistcr1tikal, Charlie, 2020, “Talking With penguinz0 | Dr. K Interviews,” Dr. K Interviews

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