MOTIVATIONS AND EXPECTATIONS FOR VIRTUAL GIFT-GIVING IN DOUYIN LIVE STREAMS
Keywords:live streaming, virtual gifts, short-video app, parasocial interaction, qualitative interviews
Mobile live streaming recently advanced as popular form of content creation for streamers on short-video apps like Douyin and TikTok to make money through virtual gifts from viewers. Virtual gifts are primarily used to reward streamers for their content or performance in a live stream, yet on Douyin social aspects seem to be more crucial for virtual gifting. We are looking at three types of live streams by young male hosts (= streamers) on Douyin to analyze the motivations of female viewers to watch and make virtual gifts to the hosts and to explore resulting power relations between hosts and viewers. We conducted 12 semi-structured interviews with female of all three live streams who sent virtual gifts to hosts. We find female viewers send virtual gifts, for example, because they wanted to make the host happy or to help them achieve an assigned virtual gifts task. We did not find aspects of power imbalances regarding the monetary or social value of virtual gifts. While interviewees do not expect anything from the hosts in return for their virtual gifts, they appreciate online gestures, like a host blowing a kiss. In contrast, we observed viewers send virtual gifts to help a host win a live stream competition which holds implicit expectations. Overall, we find female viewers of male-hosted Douyin live streams mainly use virtual gifts as a social means of appreciation and support for friendship in a parasocial online interaction.