Digital financial transactions
Digital Asia – Digital financial transactions
When watching the documentary directed by Hao Wu in 2018, ‘People’s Republic of Desire’, I was enlightened by the advanced system of digital financial transactions within Asia. Through this documentary’s exploration of the media industry of livestreaming I discovered the complexities involved between the live-streamer, their audience and the digital currencies that drives the connection between them. Although a lot of live-streamers do have a passion for their job of livestreaming and connect with their audience, it is hard to ignore the substantial amount of money rewarded for this online profession. With this recognition, it makes one question whether the intentions of these live streamers are driven by money.
Athique and Baulch express that the global market in Asia consists of lightning speed transactions of purely electronic money (2019, p. 11). Also, these transactions imply changes not only to the systemic nature of money but also social aspects in Asia (Athique & Baulch 2009, p. 12). This documentary shocked me, especially when seeing how quickly the fans were sending (electronically) money to their livestream idols. A particular scene in the documentary displayed a fan with the username “Duke” sending a live-streamer $500,000. This shocked me and demonstrated how much money these fans are spending on the live-streamers, to gather live-streamers attention and praise from other fans.
Another interesting point brought to attention by researcher Athique and Baulch (2019, p. 13) is that online presences such as Instagram influencers and live-streamers have learnt to use their online profiles as a commodity (a symbolic commodity). This enables them to monetise their popularity, which was demonstrated in the documentary during an online yearly live-stream competition. This competition titles a winner based on the live-streamer with the largest number of votes; votes are bought and submitted by fans. Therefore, the financial transaction occurs when the fans pay to support their favourite live-streamer.
When watching the documentary, it was apparent that the financial transaction held social value to it. The fans send love and praise to their idol through money and they see this transaction as an act of social connection. But in contrast to this social value in the financial transactions, there is also a sense of loneliness. The famous live-streamer Shen Man expressed in the documentary that she recognises “that people worship you if you are rich, but nobody cares about you if you are poor”. Paired with this sad explanation, she also discusses how she feels pressure to maintain this career to earn substantial amounts of money for her family. This raises the concern that there are ramifications to this online occupation, and it may damage one’s self-worth.
Overall, it is clear that this intense and fast paced form of digital transactions are only going to continue changing the societal and economic structure of Asia.
Athique, A & Baulch, E (eds) 2019, Digital Transactions of Asia, Routledge, New York.
People’s Republic of Desire 2018, documentary, Tripod Media LLC & Indpendent Television Service, Asia, directed by Hao Wu.