Asymmetrical Online Dialogue

Online platforms such as Twitch.tv allow people to broadcast their voice and video to the public. It also allows those watching to communicate with them in the form of text. This communication is almost live (with delay of around 15 seconds) and facilitates real time dialogue, as opposed to forums and comment sections such as on YouTube, in which the dialogue happens in turns which may take very long to respond to.

However, this sort of dialogue is asymmetrical, in that the delay and type of response of the public are different than those of the broadcaster. Live chats also have limitations, such as when there is a limit to how long one’s message can be, especially if the broadcaster is not exclusively having a dialogue with this one person. This could be because it takes the caster a long time to read multiple messages if they are engaged in multiple conversations. It could also be because there are too many messages being sent too quickly, and the messages of an individual chatter may be lost and never read by the broadcaster. Repeating your messages to avoid this might be seen as spamming by moderators or other chatters, particularly if the broadcaster actually read the message but chose to ignore it.

The transmission delay, as well as the extra time it takes to type out a text response as opposed to speech, also mean that chatters will have a considerable delay in responding, but the broadcaster also has to wait the same amount of time to read their responses. This could therefore be argued is an equal issue for both parties.


Meanwhile the broadcaster is essentially unburdened other than having to wait for responses, and having to maintain multiple conversations. They have priority of speech though, as they are the focus of attention that everyone else is listening to. This means that they can deliver whatever message they like and take the time to explain it, while a long text message takes a long time to write, a long time to read, and may get considered as spam, or lost in the rest of the text messages.

This makes dialogue more difficult, since the broadcaster has an easier time doing so than a chatter. A chatter might give a message with a reasonable length, but might need extra time and messages to properly justify it or respond to the broadcaster’s counter arguments. If the chatter makes a mistake in their message, such as a typographical mistake or a Freudian slip, or simply uses the wrong term, or is ambiguous and the caster misinterprets it, it takes extra time for the chatter to tell the broadcaster they made a mistake and to correct it, during which the caster might go on with the discussion not knowing that they’ve taken it in the wrong direction. This could entirely derail an argument that requires some focus. It could also make other chatters or the caster make assumptions about the argument or the chatter.

The sheer amount of people that can be in a chat means that the caster can see multiple points of views, which is a good thing, however it also means that any chatter who wishes to say or explain something that requires extra effort to explain or justify will have a hard time getting across their complete argument for the broadcaster to understand.

This means that platforms such as Twitch are unsuitable for discussions between an individual and large groups of people. To be fair, such dialogue is also difficult with an individual and a group in person, but there are still issues even between smaller groups on online platforms because the conversation is asymmetrical, favoring the caster and at the detriment of chatters. I’m not sure what the solution to this is. If one can be found, it might facilitate healthy discussion between a larger group of people with different views.

Online sites allow dialogue between many people, but at the moment still make it hard to have a proper argument.

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