Livestream Experiments: The Role of COVID-19, Agency, Presence, and Social Context in Facilitating Social Connectedness

Frontiers in Psychology 12:647929 (2021)
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Musical life became disrupted in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many musicians and venues turned to online alternatives, such as livestreaming. In this study, three livestreamed concerts were organized to examine separate, yet interconnected concepts—agency, presence, and social context—to ascertain which components of livestreamed concerts facilitate social connectedness. Hierarchical Bayesian modeling was conducted on 83 complete responses to examine the effects of the manipulations on feelings of social connectedness with the artist and the audience. Results showed that in concert 1, where half of the participants were allowed to vote for the final song to be played, this option did not result in the experience of more agency. Instead, if their preferred song was played (regardless of voting ability) participants experienced greater connectedness to the artist. In concert 2, participants who attended the concert with virtual reality headsets experienced greater feelings of physical presence, as well as greater feelings of connectedness with the artist, than those that viewed a normal YouTube livestream. In concert 3, attendance through Zoom led to greater experience of social presence, but predicted less connectedness with the artist, compared to a normal YouTube livestream. Crucially, a greater negative impact of COVID-19 (e.g., loneliness) predicted feelings of connectedness with the artist, possibly because participants fulfilled their social needs with this parasocial interaction. Examining data from all concerts suggested that physical presence was a predictor of connectedness with both the artist and the audience, while social presence only predicted connectedness with the audience. Correlational analyses revealed that reductions in loneliness and isolation were associated with feelings of shared agency, physical and social presence, and connectedness to the audience. Overall, the findings suggest that in order to reduce feelings of loneliness and increase connectedness, concert organizers and musicians could tune elements of their livestreams to facilitate feelings of physical and social presence.



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