Virtuality and Vulnerability: The Queer Performances of Chinese VTubers

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2023

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Abstract

VTubers, short for “Virtual Youtubers,” refer to online content creators who have animated avatars and a persona associated with their avatars in live streams and videos. Facilitated by motion-capture, facial recognition, and live2D technologies, VTubers first emerged in Japan around 2016 and later developed into a global industry, reaching millions of audiences in Asia, Europe, and North America. As the performers behind the VTubers (“zhong zhi ren”) stay anonymous, the audiences are attracted to the VTuber personae that not only fulfill audiences’ fantasy and also feel authentic. However, investing in a virtual relationship also raises many questions: how should we understand the disjuncture between the VTuber persona and the performer’s own identities? What opportunities and/or concerns emerge from such disjuncture? In this thesis, I analyze cases of Chinese VTubers to examine the VTuber-audience relationship and the dynamics between the performer, the avatar, and the VTuber persona to explore the queer potential of VTubing in China.

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He, Xuanye (2023). Virtuality and Vulnerability: The Queer Performances of Chinese VTubers. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/27861.

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