Conference Agenda

P52: TikTok
Saturday, 21/Oct/2023:
10:30am - 12:00pm

Session Chair: Zoë Glatt
Location: Wyeth A

Sonesta Hotel


Trending Resistance: A study of the TikTok #deinfluencing phenomenon.

Lucia Bainotti

University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, The

Starting from January 2023, a new trend gained momentum on TikTok: It is called #deinfluencing, and it collects a series of videos which criticise the consumerist logic of the influencer industry and its tendency to overconsumption, as well as the platforms’ architectures that further fuel these processes. This contribution aims at investigating the #deinfluencing trend on TikTok to analyse to what extent it represents a form of resistance to issues of overconsumption and consumerism. I argue that the deinfluencing phenomenon is an example of how forms of resistance are becoming “trending”, that is, not only currently popular or widely discussed online, but also increasingly intertwined with the affordances and algorithmic nature of TikTok. The empirical research is based on a digital method approach and qualitative data analysis techniques. After collecting data from hashtags such as “#deinfluencing” and “#antihaul”, a content analysis aimed at highlighting the emerging themes in the trend has been performed. The results show that the deinfluencing trend is composed of three main categories of content: resistance; consumerist reappropriation; and trend-surfing. Ultimately, the analysis of the deinfluencing trend shows the different ways in which resistance becomes “trending”, meaning intertwined and progressively mitigated by the logic and architecture of TikTok. It is exactly in the trending nature of these forms of resistance that lies the highly controversial and potentially problematic nature of deinfluencing: a form of resistance to and through the platform’s logic, as well as to and through consumption.


Tom Divon1, Moa Eriksson Krutrök2

1The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel; 2Umeå university, Sweden

Since February 2022, TikTok has been flooded with images depicting the travesties of the war in Ukraine, such as bombed apartment complexes, food shortages, and casualties. War-related content has been gaining widespread reach on TikTok, garnering worldwide attention and propelling content creators to unprecedented heights of celebrity. As a result, a new type of content creator emerged – war influencers. This study connects the practices of war influencers and historical and contextual developments of war photography (Patrick, 2015), citizen journalism (Allan and Thorsen, 2009), and influencer culture (Gómez, 2019). We analyzed 800 videos created by eight Ukrainian users over the span of one year, starting from the full invasion of Ukraine using mixed methods. This study finds the emergence of two forms of war influencers: the first is celebrities as war influencers who pivoted their digital labour into advocacy in times of war. The second is war influencers as ordinary users who grow into fame out of anonymity in times of war. Those users are politically motivated to attract public notice to their sites of trauma, injustice, or struggle by leveraging the powerful mechanism of exposure and dissemination of platforms. While celebrity-war influencers are privileged with crowd attention that migrates from their offline legacy, user-war influencers depend solely on algorithmic amplification to make their testimony visible. Focusing on the second, we identify several platform vernaculars utilized by war influencers to share content and gain popularity: memetic forms of content creation and feature-based interactivity (i.e., Q&As and live sessions).

What do "sides" of TikTok mean anyway? BookTok, assemblages, and the curation of taste

Jessica Maddox, Fiona Gill

University of Alabama, United States of America

In speaking of subcultures that exist on TikTok, the term “side” has emerged to describe different communities on the app. One side in particular, BookTok, is the center for all things reading and book fandom. BookTok has had immense implications for the publishing industry, from a recent Barnes & Noble Booksellers BookTok creator convention, to tables found in all major retailers and indie shops advertising books that are “popular on BookTok.” This work draws on Actor-Network Theory, which emphasizes the importance of non-human technological entities (such as platform infrastructure, algorithms, and governing policies) in cultural interactions and human activity. Studying BookTok from an Actor-Network Theory perspective also means considering how human culture and non-human technological agents on TikTok may have implications for the publishing industry and the types of content produced on the app. To examine how BookTok functions as a node within Actor-Network Theory, and how its tastes are created, circulated, and negotiated, we analyzed the top 150 videos hashtagged #BookTok in September 2022. Four themes emerged: the dominance of the recommendation video; a hierarchy of users; varied genres of books; and the interpolation of a young, white, woman user.


Natalie Kerby1,2, Salvatore Romano2, Miazia Schueler1,2, Davide Beraldo1

1University of Amsterdam; 2AI Forensics

The present paper showcases a research tool that makes data for a global, cross-national analysis of TikTok available to and navigable by the research community. Next to justifying the necessity for this approach and providing an overview of to the tool, the paper illustrates its potential by presenting the analysis of a dataset comprised of daily snapshots of TikTok’s homepage collected over 4 months from 197 countries and territories in the world. Our results shed light on which content is prioritized by TikTok on a global scale, and introduces the notion of ‘platform-mediated proximity’ - i.e., the clustering of countries according to patterns of co-recommendations promoted by the platform. Preliminary results obtained on a subset of the data suggest that TikTok’s cross-national content prioritization patterns generate forms of platform-mediated proximities that, in most cases, follow geographical lines of clustering at the regional level, with notable and interesting exceptions.

Dear baby gays: Investigating the sociotechnical practices of older LGBTQ+ TikTok users

Stefanie Duguay, Özgem Elif Acar, Hannah Jamet-Lange

Concordia University, Canada

Much scholarship and public discourse alike focus on TikTok’s widespread uptake by young people, including LGBTQ+ youth. However, LGBTQ+ people on the platform often experience challenges relating to visibility and censorship. As users of a variety of ages have joined TikTok’s youthful population, this paper explores the sociotechnical practices of older LGBTQ+ TikTok users as they emerge from, and are shaped by, the platform and its user cultures. It does so through an analysis of older LGBTQ+ TikTokers’ videos and metadata, gathered through novel methods for configuring research accounts to serve up this content to the For You page. Once the accounts were trained to deliver this content through TikTok’s personalized algorithmic curation, videos were collected for one hour per day over a duration of approximately 4 weeks for each account. Preliminary visual and textual analysis of videos indicates recurrent themes related to constructing identities that intersect age with sexual identity, giving advice, sharing about personal experiences and queer history, and circulating counter-discourses against homophobia and transphobia as well as messages of solidarity with targets of discrimination. Analysis of how these users negotiate TikTok’s affordances also indicates that platform’s features, policies, and dominant user practices permeate and shape older LGBTQ+ TikTokers’ self-representations, such that the platform and modes of paying attention to it have become a central element of their content.