Vicariously Experiencing it all Without Going Outside: A Study of Outdoor Live Streaming in China

Zhicong Lu, Michelle Annett, and Daniel Wigdor. 2019. Vicariously Experiencing it all without Going Outside: A Study of Outdoor Livestreaming in China. In Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, Vol. 3, CSCW, Article 25 (November 2019). Presented at CSCW 2019

  12 Sep 2019


The livestreaming industry in China is gaining greater traction than its European and North American counterparts and has a profound impact on the stakeholders’ online and offline lives. An emerging genre of livestreaming that has become increasingly popular in China is outdoor livestreaming. With outdoor livestreams, streamers broadcast outdoor activities, travel, or socialize with passersby in outdoor settings, often for 6 or more hours, and viewers watch such streams for hours each day. However, given that professionally produced content about travel and outdoor activities are not very popular, it is currently unknown what makes this category of livestreams so engaging and how these techniques can be applied to other content or genres. Thus, we conducted a mixed methods study consisting of a survey (N=287) and interviews (N = 20) to understand how viewers watch and engage with outdoor livestreams in China. The data revealed that outdoor livestreams encompass many categories of content, environments and passersby behaviors create challenges and uncertainty for viewers and streamers, and viewers watch livestreams for surprising lengths of time (e.g., sometimes more than 5 continuous hours). We also gained insights into how live commenting and virtual gifting encourage engagement. Lastly, we detail how the behaviors of dedicated fans and casual viewers differ and provide implications for the design of livestreaming services that support outdoor activities.