’Keep scrolling’: User-platform relationships on TikTok

’Keep scrolling’: User-platform relationships on TikTok

Mobile with Tiktok app

«’Keep scrolling’: User-platform relationship on TkTok» is a research project about users and platforms. Based on ethnography, qualitative interviews and content analysis, the project will produce knowledge about use and user cultures on TikTok. The project combines Science and Technology Studies (STS) with internet studies for a critical analysis of TikTok as technology, culture, and practice.

In a short space of time TikTok has emerged as one of the most popular platforms in the world with over one billion active users per month. In Norway TikTok is one of the five most used social media platforms with 1.2 million registered users, and with 20% of Norwegians over 18 using it daily. Even so, we still know little about what it means to “use TikTok”: What do you actually do when you use TikTok? What meaning does use hold and why do people want to spend time on the platform? What knowledge and skills are involved – and are new knowledges and skills being developed through use? What kind of use is the platform encouraging – and do users follow these directions?

These are some of the questions to be explored in the project “User-platform relationships on TikTok”. The goal of the project is to develop knowledge about the ways users negotiate with the platforms design and politics.

Research on TikTok has shown that the platform has supported the emergence of a new attention economy, new and complex relationships to algorithms, new collective identities as well as critical analysis of how knowledge and information flows on the platform. There is however much work to be done in understanding the meaning of the platform and how new logics and practices on the platform is shaping users and society.

The research project pursues several interests:

  • Meaning: What meaning does use hold?
  • Everyday life: How is TikTok integrated into the routines and patterns of everyday life?
  • Platform: What kind of use does the platform design and politics cater to?
  • Affect: What emotions are created trough use? What role does emotions have for use?
  • Memetics: How is memetic logics shaping use and content?
  • Community: How is community created on the platform?
  • Methods: How to study a technology with personalized and algorithmically curated content?

Key theories for the project is script (Akrich, 1992) and domestication (Sørensen & Lie, 1996). Both theories focus on user-technology relationships, the first about directions in the design and the latter about how everyday life shapes technology appropriation. 

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