Live streaming; the next big thing?

On: September 22, 2016
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About Zoe Versteegen


Recently, I discovered the live stream button on my Facebook page. I have heard about the applications Periscope and Meerkat with which you can live stream your own content: “Periscope and Meerkat are services that enable users to broadcast live video to a large number of viewers using their mobile device” (Siekkinen, Masala and Kämäräinen 1). Apparently also Facebook now wants to offer this service of live streaming to their users. The Independent brought it like this: “The company is said to be ‘obsessed’ with encouraging people to livestream through the app, and is even going so far as to swap it for one of its most important features”. It becomes clear that Facebook sees live streaming as something we definitely should use in our daily lives. I would like to look at this phenomenon via the concept ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ media, the design of the application and how it can be used. Why could live streaming be the next big thing?

One thing I found especially interested was the fact that Facebook changed their interface design on the mobile application. The change of design is shown on the first screen you see, when you open Facebook on your mobile phone. From this can be concluded that it is not a small change in design for the use of the application. In figure 1 is shown where the live stream button is located. The picture is a screenshot of my own Facebook-account when I open the application. In the top you see three options which Facebook offers you to choose from: live, photo and check-in. On the place of ‘live’ used to stand ‘messages’, which is also an often used option for the Facebook application. With these changes Facebook is really convincing people to use live streaming with putting this button on the front-page, next to all the important functions it has to offer. With one click on the live stream button the application makes contact to your mobile phone camera and you are ready to stream.


Figure 1

This brings us to the second point I want to make: without our mobile phone with high-solution camera devices on it, live streaming could never be realized. So would new technologies drive us towards live streaming our lives? In the text Camera phone images, videos and live streaming: a contemporary visual trend David argues: “Camera phone videos are a kind of cinema: a real-life cinema, which takes people from their everyday existence into a perception of being in the middle of an unfolding sequence of events, however tedious they may be” (96). We are having the possibility to tell our stories with images instead of words. Live streaming applications are making it possible to create our own cinema videos about our own lives.

We can also bring up the question if live streaming is in terms of McLuhan a ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ medium. In Rivulet: Exploring Participation in Live Events through Multi-Stream Experiences is discussed whether live steaming is a ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ medium: “In the context of live streaming, Hamilton et al. describe live video as hot. It is high fidelity and affords the sharing of rich live experiences, but alone offers little opportunity for participation. Conversely, text chat is cool, affording much greater opportunity for participation through a lower fidelity medium” (Hamilton et al. 33). From this we can conclude that live streaming has a high fidelity and offers low participation (Hamilton et al. 33). Live streaming is an easy way and quick way to tell your story without having to type it all out. Users on Facebook can lay back and watch live video like cinema. This indeed causes little opportunity for participation. The participation that is possible for users is to give, the so called, Facebook ‘likes’ and place reactions under the live videos. This last option is, for example, giving people the opportunity to ask questions at the live streamer. As I said before, with the Facebook live stream function we can express ourselves with images instead of text. This gives us the opportunity to show our emotions even more via facial expressions. Via communication with text, emotions can easily be misunderstood. This could be a reason why Facebook thinks that live streaming is the next big thing that we users want.

We can see from this that new technologies, here for example, The Facebook application and the mobile camera phone drives us to use live streaming. It offers a new form of communication, but about this phenomenon a lot more research could be done. For example, we should look at the way how live streaming is influencing journalism or the film-industry. I am still not sure if we are ready to live stream our daily lives, I am certainly not, but it is slowly moving in that direction. It is certainly not strange that Facebook is changing his design and is joining the trend of live streaming.



David, Gaby. “Camera phone images, videos and live streaming: a contemporary visual trend.” Visual Studies 25.1 (2010): 89-98.

Hamilton, William A., et al. “Rivulet: Exploring Participation in Live Events through Multi-Stream Experiences.” Proceedings of the ACM International Conference on Interactive Experiences for TV and Online Video. New York: ACM, 2016. 31-42.

Siekkinen, Matti, Enrico Masala, and Teemu Kämäräinen. “Anatomy of a Mobile Live Streaming Service: the Case of Periscope.” arXiv preprint arXiv:1605.04270 (2016): 1-7.

The Independent. 2016. The Independent. 7 April 2016. <>.

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