The Professionalization of Play: Examining the convergence of play and labour in online video content creation

Maria Törhönen

Research output: Book/ReportDoctoral thesis


The way in which we approach work and our free time has changed rapidly during the last few decades. The increasing digitalization of our everyday lives and routines, and the development of innovative digital platforms and solutions, has made it possible for us to merge our work and leisure and even turn our leisure into work. This merger of leisure and work can be seen in the emergence of concepts and ideas such as online peer-to-peer trading and resource sharing on digital platforms, but it can also be examined in the way we immerse ourselves into social media formats and casually turn our social media consumption into media production through simple interactions such as posting, sharing media content, and commenting. The modern consumer of digital and social media has rapidly turned into a prosumer of content, a consumer who also produces, and through sophisticated, platform developed incentive programs and changes in our digital economy, these activities are also taking more professionalised forms.

This dissertation will examine the increasing convergence of our labour and leisure lives through the activities of video content creators, in whom this new marriage of work and, playful leisure is representatively present. The dissertation will specifically focus on the behaviours, motivations, and practices of private individuals as video content creators and their effect on the professionalization of these activities, through five studies. The dissertation will utilize theoretical and conceptual understanding from media studies, social psychology, and game research and is primarily based on quantitative data and both on inductive and deductive research approaches. The first study of the dissertation examines the existing literature on the topic of professionalised and commercialized video content creation, which provides an insight into the topic. The second and third studies of the dissertation aim to elucidate the behaviours and perceptions of the content creators by examining the ways in which the perceptions of the activity as either leisure or labour affects the activity and its outcomes, and the actor’s motivations to generate video content online. The fourth and fifth studies examine the practices of video content creators by examining the formulation of popularity in video content creation and the practices of the most popular video content creators on the video sharing platform, Twitch.

The findings of the dissertation reveal various professionalised aspects through the examination of the behaviours, motivations, and practices of video content creators, and also underline the significance of the recreational nature of the activity. The findings of study two discovered that work-oriented video content creators had the highest activity levels and outcomes (e.g., income) from the activity, of the examined groups (work-oriented, play-oriented and playbour-oriented), while the play-oriented content creators were also found to gain good outcomes from their activities with the least amount of effort and the longest tenure from the activity. Similarly to study two, the findings of study three indicated that extrinsic motivations to create video content, such as income and career development, were associated with weekly activity levels of a content creator, while continued engagement with the activity was seen to be related to intrinsic motivations such as enjoyment, and social interaction.

The findings of studies four and five also discovered strategic practices and tools that can be associated with the more professionalised aspects of video content creation, including a new category of tools used purely for revenue generating purposes (such as donation and subscription links and pop-ups). The findings also emphasized more intrinsically significant aspects of the activity, such as the importance of social interaction and the relatability of the online persona. Based on these findings, it could be argued that specific behaviours, motivations and practices of video content creators are associated with the professionalised aspects of the activity, but the intrinsic nature of the activity seems to remain as a significant contributor in the continued engagement in the activity as well as an instrument for increased authenticity and relatedness for video content creators.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTampere
PublisherTampere University
ISBN (Electronic)978-952-03-2036-2
ISBN (Print)978-952-03-2035-5
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Publication series

NameTampere University Dissertations - Tampereen yliopiston väitöskirjat
ISSN (Print)2489-9860
ISSN (Electronic)2490-0028


  • conflicts
  • experiences
  • institutional arrangements
  • institutionalization
  • public services
  • service ecosystems
  • systemic change


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