TikTok Newsletter 62

Caught a vibe. Baby are you coming for the ride.


This is Understanding TikTok – your weekly TikTok 🤹 update. My name is Marcus. I had the pleasure to explain the results of my TikTok research for Mozilla Foundation on Breitband, Deutschlandfunk Kultur (german) this week.

TikTok is set to surpass 1.5 billion users 📈  in the next twelve months, says App Annie’s 2022 Mobile Forecast report. App Annie’s predictions have been solid in the past and TikToks cultural influence continues to spread around the world (Social Media Today). Lady Gaga is now on TikTok. Together with a bunch of other world leaders (Digital Diplomacy). And please have a look at these stats (Time spent on TikTok). The chart is from TikTok itself but wow.

This week we talk about:

👩‍🚀 Guardians of the TikTok
🖨️ The Syllabus
🎁 Various Stuff

👩‍🚀 Guardians of the TikTok

Let’s talk about a British daily newspaper. As of February 2020, its print edition had a daily circulation of 126,879. The paper's readership is generally on the mainstream left of British political opinion, and the term "Guardian reader" is used to imply a stereotype of liberal, left-wing or "politically correct" views, says Wikipedia.

The Guardian has suddenly discovered TikTok. Actually that is not entirely true. There are about 338 articles on TikTok on the website, they have a frugal account on the app. And there is a very good Guardian Australia account.

But in recent days someone somewhere has decided to blow up the cultural TikTok reporting with a skyrocketing number of articles on nearly all topics imaginable. There is one on #BookTok. There is another one on TikTok’s wild world of video games. You prefer classical music: Would Schubert have liked cat videos and Squid Game memes? TikTok’s classical music sensations.

The art and artists, anyone? Comedians? Theatre on TikTok. The scrappy have-a-go exuberance of dance on TikTok. You prefer architecture? A strangely alluring cocktail of dad dancing and traffic chat: architecture on TikTok. Or TikTok’s outlandish take on pop (“As anyone with kids who use TikTok will attest, the stuff they start listening to after hearing it in the backgrounds of videos is bafflingly eclectic”). And then there is a deep dive into TV TikTok. With probably more to come.

Was this a collective writing exercise? Penal labor? Training-on-the-job? Or a deeper understanding that TikTok’s cultural influence is massive and not going away anytime soon? Curious to see how this sort of coverage is included in the daily routine. Unfortunately it is not enough to tap your feet into unknown waters once. 

🖨️ The Syllabus

I first covered the TikTok Cultures Research Network in March {Newsletter 35, 🏆 TikTok Academia & Cultures}. Ever since i have mentioned e.g. their great events. Today i want to promote the TikTok syllabus – your go-to resource concerning academic work on TikTok.

The Syllabus contains ten sections, each recommending readings and resources in the categories of: Conceptual Readings, TikTok Readings, Case Studies, and Multimedia Resources.

The quick rise of TikTok and the controversies around it have attracted the interest of a quickly growing scholarly community, write Zeng, Abidin and Schäfer in Research Perspectives on TikTok and Its Legacy Apps:

As of April 2021, 122 scholarly publications analyzing TikTok are in the Scopus database. As informed by a brief bibliometric review of these papers, TikTok studies began to appear in academic journals in 2019, with 13 articles published that year. In 2020, 66 papers were published, and 43 in the first quarter of 2021 alone.

I am in the midst of working through a bunch of articles here. My personal recommendations so far: 💡 Abidin, C., & Kaye, D. B. V. (2021). Audio memes, earworms, and templatability: The ‘aural turn’ of memes on TikTok. In C. Arkenbout, J. Wilson & D. de Zeeuw (Eds.), Critical meme reader: Global mutations of the viral image (pp. 58–68). Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures. ISBN: 9789492302779  💡 Zeng, J., Schafer, M.S., & Allgaier, J. (2021). Reposting “till Albert Einstein is TikTok famous”: The memetic construction of science on TikTok. International Journal of Communication, 15, 3216–3247. DOI n/a.

What else?

🎈Do not miss the chance to listen to Abbie Richards on Tuesday, November 30, 2021 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm EST. Abbie is TikTok Disinformation Researcher, i again and again retweet her over on @tiktoktactics and have been linking to her amazing work in the newsletter too. Abbie will talk about Conspiracy Theories, Extremism, and TikTok on edWebinars. It is a free event and easy to register.

🎈Disney has partnered with TikTok for official text-to-speech voices (The Verge, Nov 12). Disney’s text-to-speech TikTok voices censored words like “gay” and “lesbian” (The Verge, Nov 15): The Verge confirmed that the voice wouldn’t say the words, but it started to do so in a subsequent test minutes later on Monday afternoon…

🎈On TikTok, we’re beginning to see the kind of clickbait the platform facilitates, writes Ryan Broderick for Garbage Day: “Based on what I’ve seen so far, it seems to be high-concept and much more factory produced. Lots of videos churned out over long periods of time based on some outlandish premise. Something outrageous to pull you out of the hypnotic daze of your For You page.” What are we actually talking about: TikTokers Who Have Been “Lost At Sea” For Six Months.

🎈Let’s talk about hair ✂️  It’s no surprise that the look, which is often simply called “TikTok hair” or “TikTok boy hair,” is so popular, writes the New York Times: According to Katherine Schwab, a professor of art history and visual culture in the department of visual and performing arts at Fairfield University, the ancient Greeks and Romans wore a nearly identical hairdo. Okay.

🎈If your hair is okay, we should take care of your clean look, suggests The Cut: The “Clean Look” socializes in the same circles as “model off duty” and “fresh-faced” and is typically worn by “That Girl,” who exudes “main-character energy.” It’s pretty much a no-makeup makeup look worn by a person with a very symmetrical face and great skin (probably achieved with the help of many expensive facials and laser treatments) who is styled and accessorized in a way that looks effortless, “expensive,” and pristine. By the way. If you are into Beauty News and TikTok these days have a look at the massive Dazed coverage these days.

🎈TikTok is experimenting with games. Yet again. Zynga announced its plans to launch a new HTML5-based game, “Disco Loco 3D,” exclusively on the TikTok platform. Zynga. Farmville. That was 2009. What can i say. Disco Loco 3D looks terrible. The trailer has 986 views so far. (Techcrunch)

🎈Gilmore Girls. Have you seen this series explaining Gilmore Girls jokes? I had no idea. Thanks to Jasmine Harris and Dirt i can now share a sentiment with TikTok user tolive4thehopeofitall, “This series has me believing I never once understood a Gilmore Girls joke.”  Boomer content? Well, Gen Z is acting like Boomers right now, writes Magdalene Taylor for Mel.  ᕦ(ツ)ᕤ

Speak soon. Ciao