Theories of Value in Evaluations of Category Spanning: Evidence From a Live Streaming Platform
How do categories constrain strategic choice and valuation? Numerous studies by economic sociologists and organizational theorists document the tendency for audiences to penalize offerings that span multiple categories. A prominent explanation for this observation, prototype theory, casts the penalty as an invariant behavioral tendency. This explanation is problematic because it cannot account for variation in demand for categorical purity. At the same time, recent studies have found that that audiences sometimes place a premium on categorically impure offerings, but these studies suggest that audiences value categorical impurity for its own sake and do not provide sufficient bounds on the range of categorical combinations that should be observed or valued. The theory of value approach is a recent alternative to prototype theory that can account for variation in the demand for categorical purity and suggests logics of categorical combination, but evidence for it has been scarce to date. By leveraging the range of producer strategies found on a leading video live streaming platform focused on video games, my preliminary results suggest that the theory of value approach can be used to identify categorical combinations that are more or less coherent and that these help explain which combinations will be valued by audiences.
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