A new trend hitting Twitch and YouTube
By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor
Roughly translated, “benkyou douga” is Japanese for “study clips.” For those unaware, it is the new Korean and Japanese livestream trend in which you watch someone study in real-time.
This type of stream can also be called “Issho ni benkyou shoyou,” which translates to a friendlier “Let’s study together.” However, I’m not talking a study group or “study along with me” type of setup—which implies interaction between the streamer and the audience. Most of these livestreams are silent and feature users simply reading a book or taking notes for hours on end.
Despite their relatively basic content, these livestreams have an impressive following. One pioneer of the genre, a Korean man known as Bot-No-Jam, has garnered an impressive 320,000 YouTube subscribers since starting to livestream himself studying for a state exam last April. Bot-No-Jam never speaks but will sit and read on camera for up to six hours at a time. Other popular streamers in this genre—such as Japanese YouTuber Hajime Shacho—don’t really deviate from this method. They may read or take notes, but they almost never interact with their viewers despite it being a live broadcast.
Honestly, when I heard of this trend, my first reaction was: First there were mukbang (livestreams of people eating copious amounts of food)—now we have benkyou douga. What is with people wanting to watch others do mundane tasks? Really, I have yet to find an answer. The logic behind this baffles me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see the appeal.
I will admit, I watch a lot of livestreams. As a writer who also works a day job outside of the nine-to-five, I tend to spend a lot of time alone. When taking breaks—which is important, so don’t short-change yourself—I will often put on a livestream so that I have background noise while I work on plot notes or research things for an article. The users I follow on Twitch tend to be pretty varied—I have everything from Overwatch players to horror game streamers, artists, and costume makers. What I put on depends on my mood and my level of concentration. I will admit, a few of them are mostly silent broadcasts—but that’s part of the appeal. Users who don’t talk aren’t distracting. However, these streams I watch still have something visually stimulating to look at.
Some online publications have speculated that these types of livestreams might hold an ASMR element to them. ASMR stands for “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response” and is another popular YouTube genre—though these videos tend to be prerecorded. The intent of ASMR is to use certain sounds or repetitive noises to cause a tingling sensation in the body. Not everyone experiences this reaction to this type of stimulation, but for those affected, they find the sensation incredibly relaxing. Among the sounds that cause this response are pages turning and the scratching of pens—hence the association with benkyou douga.
However, I find it more likely that people enjoy the companionship offered—or rather, the reminder that there are other people in the world. It’s the same idea as inviting someone over to “co-work,” or going to a public place to read or study. Often you don’t end up talking but it is nice to have someone there, and sometimes you can be more productive than when you’re alone. I’m not sure why, but I’m not going to question it. Whatever works for you.