Digital Communities

Kinetic - An Exploration of Storytelling Media and the Impact on Fan Engagement

The music industry is rapidly changing, with technology affecting music production, consumption, and promotion. Digital storytelling has demonstrated a drastic impact on the success of music artists and their work, affecting relationships and environments between artists and audiences to become more dynamic. Parasocial interaction, or the false friendship between media characters and media users, has been a trending topic especially relevant in media studies. Past research has demonstrated the importance of parasocial relationships and how they can greatly impact audience engagement. However, previous works have traditionally focused on mediums such as television and radio, leaving an opportunity for further research to analyze digital mediums and the niche of the music industry. This research asks the question: “Do digital storytelling experiences affect the relationship between artist and audience in the music industry?”. Specifically, it aims to interrogate parasocial interaction at the developmental stage between media figures and media users and various media consumption outcomes of identification, similarity, affinity, and imitation.
About the Author
Kelvin Li

Kelvin Li is a creative strategist with 7 years of experience in content creation and marketing. From advertising, graphic design, brand development, user experience design, creative direction, fashion design, and most recently fashion styling, Kelvin has worked in various industries such as advertising, public relations, and now the innovation sector. Being interested in opportunities that happen at the intersection of creativity and business, his marketing career started as a part-time social media strategist for a yogurt cafe, then moving into social media and content creation in advertising for Samsung. Making a decision to explore fashion, he then transitioned into public relations in fashion and lifestyle, ultimately making his way to work in marketing for the Fashion Zone, Canada's leading fashion and technology incubator. On a different path, Kelvin started his career as an entrepreneur as a fashion designer who printed silk screens on blank clothing while he was in university. His interest in fashion and product led to the development of Ki Made Inc, an award-winning fashion brand who initially started as a transformative clothing company, but is currently working on innovations in merchandise.

About the Project

Kinetic - Thesis and Production Demonstration

Inspiration for Research

The digital world and digital technologies have put us into a new age of technological change where digital has changed the game, especially in the case of music and entertainment.

The current landscape of the music industry continues to experience growth with the advent of new technologies, with companies such as Spotify are providing unprecedented access to music to their current 108 million paying subscribers in quarter two of 2019. This means that consumers have access to a vast amount of music like never before, making the connection between artist and audience that much more important.

The popularized usage of digital media in storytelling has demonstrated a drastic impact on the success of music artists and their work, affecting relationships and environments between artists and audiences to become more dynamic. However, the effects and outcomes of media exposure are complex. 

This led to the development of my research study titled Kinetic, "An Exploration of Storytelling Media and Content Experiences and the Impact on Fan Relationships".

About the Study

Under the supervision of Dr.Louis Etienne Dubois at Ryerson University, we created a research study that focused on analyzing the relationship between media effects and mediums, asking the question, “Do digital storytelling experiences affect the relationship between artist and audience in the music industry?”. 

Media consumption is complicated, as it can lead to various outcomes between media characters and audiences. The study analyses the audience’s experience in the dimensions of parasocial interaction, identification, affinity, similarity, and imitation.

Parasocial interaction is the sense of false friendship between media characters and media users, which is an illusionary relationship between spectator and performer. Identification is the mechanism that influences the audience to feel like they are on the inside of the story, and feel like the events are happening to them. Similarity refers to the judgment of objective and perceived similarity between character and viewer. Affinity is described as the liking or depending of something. Imitation is described as the desire to be like or behave like a character.


The objective of the study was to analyze the impact of digital storytelling media on various media outcomes between music artists and audiences. I wanted to see how different digital media influenced various media consumption outcomes.

The experimental study was designed to examine the influence of digital storytelling on various media consumption outcomes of the audience. Across four different conditions (i.e. media), as well as a fifth control condition. No prior experience with digital storytelling was required as this study did not focus on media expertise, but rather on anyone exposed to digital media. The experiment used virtual conferencing to administer the study, with a digital survey for participants to fill out at the end of the experiment.

Phases of Development

There were two main activities for the study, the first to produce the storytelling content, and the second to execute the study and analysis. To develop the content, I partnered with Alexander Farrow, better known as Red Farrow, a music artist and producer from Toronto. The second part was to conduct the research study and analyze the data.

Media Stories

The study had 5 conditions, where we created media in text, photography, videography, and virtual reality as a 360 degree story experience. The stories were based off an interview script with Red Farrow where he talks about his journey into music and about his song, "Home".

1. Text Story

A text-based story featuring the interview was published onto Issuu.

2. Photo Story

A photo-based story featuring the interview and various locations and outfits of Alex's that was published onto Issuu.

3. Video Story

A video-based story featuring the interview, footage of Alex's life, and archival media was produced.

4. Virtual Reality Story

A virtual reality story featuring a stitched sequence of 360 degree footage, including a live performance of the featured song, was produced using the platform Mobfish.


Watch my thesis presentation to find out what my study showed!

The Opportunity: Kinetic - Connected Merchandise

What the study taught me is that storytelling media does have a positive influence on various relational dimensions between audiences and artists, which led to the development of Kinetic, a connected merchandise platform. 

What is Connected Merchandise?

Kinetic is a connected merchandise platform that features a physical product, such as apparel, with an embedded piece of connective technology, such as a near-field communications tag, that connects users to a digital experience, such as a digital VIP fan portal.

Technical mockups of samples for connected merchandise

The Digital

The digital experience is where Kinetic really comes to life. The content can be fully customized, bringing audiences to content such as immersive virtual reality experiences, behind the scenes content, special digital downloads, and access to exclusive digital engagements. Please visit the Kinetic demo site here.

What this means for fans is that they are able to:

  • Access to exclusive content like videos, text, photo, and virtual reality
  • Interactive and engaging relationship with the artist
  • Digital community with other fans

And the implications for artists are that they are able to:

  • Direct communication channel with engaged fans
  • Commercialized platform
  • Ability to analyze fan data to learn about their audiences


The future of the music industry is one that will be dominated by those who are best able to capture the attention and retain the devotion from their fans. Kinetic is a step forward in helping artists solve this problem, because even in a digital world, it will still be about people.

I believe that now, and in the future, relationships will still be the key to winning, and this study discovered unique differences between media and outcomes.

If you would like to get in touch with me about my research, please find me on Linkedin.

November 2019 was when I submitted my first research grant application, and it was one of the toughest applications I have ever prepared. I came into the Masters of Digital Media program with a pre-existing concept of connected merchandise that I have been researching for my clothing company, Ki Made. To support the development of this idea, I developed a 2-part research study to analyze the feasibility of connected merchandise. The first study focused on the digital media and storytelling, and the second study focused on the development and comparison of connective technologies in merchandise. When the COVID announcement was made, I instantly had to re-think the schedule and process of my study. Both studies were originally designed to be in person, with participants coming in person to experience the various media, and to experience the different technologies. But with COVID, I luckily was able to convert the first experiment online, but the second experience that featured the physical connected merchandise products could not be delivered. COVID was definitely a test of flexibility, versatility, and effort, because things were not easy to handle. I am excited that I was able to find some supportive data and significant figures, but I also wish I had the chance to create different versions of connected merchandise, and to really bring that concept to life.