This is Understanding TikTok – your weekly TikTok update. My name is Marcus. Sorry for being quiet last week. Too much stuff on the plate. That is why i will run off to a little vacation 🌋. See all of you back end of April.
Today we talk about:
🪱 From Dances to Dangers
🍊 Jiiiif in the Library
📚 The TikTok Bibliography
🇺🇦 Ukraine Status Update
But first, let’s recap the last couple of days concerning the war and TikTok.
⚡ The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation has done a tremendous job visualising the different TikTok For You Pages of two artificial accounts from a Ukrainian and a Russian city near the border: Worlds Apart. Recommended! Thx Henner for the link.
⚡ A lack of Ukrainian language content moderators, makes it trickier for TikTok to spot false information, according to an AFP article. TikTok told AFP that it has Russian and Ukrainian speakers, but did not say how many, and said it had added resources specifically focused on the war but did not provide details.
⚡ Social media users are sharing an edited, poor-quality video of bodies in the streets of Bucha, Ukraine, falsely claiming it shows them moving, reports AP on April 5. When i searched for Bucha and Butcha on TikTok that day the edited video was among the top four videos recommended. It was the top search result on April 6.
⚡ I wrote about the Memeification of Zelenskyy in #73. A couple of days ago i saw the filter “Zelenskiy in the sky”. Currently there are 238 videos using the filters that adds a digital dancing version of the Ukrainian president to your TikTok video.
⚡ The Ukrainian organization Visit Ukraine “with the informational support of the State Agency for Tourism Development” uploads a constant stream of motivational propaganda videos to the platform, including animals (compare #73) or dancing soldiers.
🪱 From dances to dangers
Let’s talk about Huggy Wuggy, toddlers, teachers and a respectable disinformation campaign organized by Meta involving a Republican strategy firm and clueless journalists all over.
Stop blaming TikTok (for everything), i wrote in #63: there are A LOT of simplistic narratives about numerous challenges that have been linked to TikTok despite little evidence showing they were on the app. It gets even better as Taylor Lorenz and Drew Harwell have found out for The Washington Post a week ago (Facebook paid GOP firm to malign TikTok).
Quote: Employees with the firm, Targeted Victory, worked to undermine TikTok through a nationwide media and lobbying campaign portraying the fast-growing app, owned by the Beijing-based company ByteDance, as a danger to American children and society, according to internal emails shared with The Washington Post. The firm worked to e.g. spread rumors of the “Slap a Teacher TikTok challenge” in local news, touting a local news report on the alleged challenge in Hawaii. In reality, no such challenge existed on TikTok. Again, the rumor started on Facebook, according to a series of Facebook posts first documented by Insider.
The combination of moral panic + people not understanding the tech + clickbaity headlines is a bad one, tweets Casey Fiesler. Here is a tiny observation from Germany, Europe. A lot of these stories found their ways into the media ecosystem around here with not only small but major media companies reporting about these “dangers”. One reason: a lack of TikTok literacy among many journalists. So next time you report on the next TikTok craze sweeping schools, you better make sure if these “trends” do exist at all.
By the way. TikTok has given the app a 12+ rating. So maybe you should not let your toddler play with it. This will be my one and only educational advice ever. Promise. But this Guardian-article about British TikTok Toddlers is just too wack. Not sure about Huggy Wuggy’s take on that.
🍊Jiiiif in the library
You might know Giphy from the Instagram Stories feature. Yeah, sure. Giphy is an American online database and search engine that allows users to search for and share short looping videos with no sound that resemble animated GIF files.
Yep, TikTok has partnered with GIPHY on a new video creation tool called ‘TikTok Library’. But wasn’t Giphy acquired by Meta for $400m in 2020? Yes. But UK regulators partially blocked the deal. So now TikTok. The company hopes that this will make it easier for creators to access entertainment content and participate in trends (Techcrunch).
To use the feature, TikTok users will tap the new “Library” icon on the vertical sidebar in the app’s camera screen. Creative possibilities. Yes. The Possibilities Are Endless. Besides that TikTok is testing a “watch history”.
📚 The TikTok Bibliography
There is an ever growing number of publications on TikTok. I think i started recommending TikTok books in November 2020 (#21) when i covered Matthew Brennan’s Attention Factory, followed by several mentions of Chris Stokel-Walker’s TikTok Boom (#41, #52).
TikTok studies began to appear in academic journals in 2019, with 13 articles published that year, according to Zeng, Abidin and Schäfer. As of April 2021, 122 scholarly publications analyzing TikTok are in the Scopus database – claimed to be the largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature. One year later there are 419. I just checked.
The TikTok Cultures Research Network just updated the bibliography. It is obviously pretty long. But two published books stand out and on top. Both are by Trevor Boffone – a Houston-based educator, writer, and producer. He is a lecturer in the Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program at the University of Houston. And he has just published Boffone, T. (Ed). (2022). TikTok Cultures in the United States. Oxford: Routledge.
Featuring an array of scholars from varied disciplines and backgrounds, this book uses TikTok (sub)cultures as a point of departure from which to explore TikTok’s role in US popular culture today. It includes amongst others articles on Charli D’Amelio, and the Construction of Whiteness, Trans TikTok, Baby Witches and #JewishTikTok.
Do you by any chance remember a video format called Fifty People One Question? It was passed around when DSLR cameras still where a thing. Hunter Prosper (4.3M followers 105.5 likes) made me remember. He has momentum now and is a “creator on the rise”. I don’t know. It is not my cup of tea. I’d always prefer Davis’ What’s Poppin?
World’s major museums resist TikTok surge—with a few notable exceptions, writes The Art Newspaper. The article itself focuses a bit too much on the follower count. I’d rather check out Uffizi Galleries yet again. Oh, and The Good TikTok Creative talks about Tate Modern. I wrote about museums in #42.
To be honest i had absolutely no idea about TikTok in Turkey. Thanks to Fatima Çelik a colleague from Deutsche Welle, i now know of these two accounts: Politican Mustafa Sarıgül. Please watch this pure performance. And then there is user @melibendeli a famous actress and trans person. If you can recommend others please let me know.
Are Gen Z’s social media influencers changing the face of progressive political activism — or just finding new ways to carry water for the White House? Well, i guess the answer depends on who you ask. I still have not managed to read this article. Inside the Progressive Movement’s TikTok Army. Is it good?
I am happy to discuss Political Activism and WarTok during the Influencing against the system conference, organised by Rose Luxemburg Foundation in Berlin, May 13-15. Come. Armageddon. Come.