Australian Diaspora Cultures on TikTok

Principal Investigators: Crystal Abidin & Denise Woods

Funder: School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry, Curtin University.

Progress: November 2020-Ongoing

Abstract: This project is a pilot research activity to build collaboration between Internet Studies (Abidin) and Mass Communications (Woods) to bring together two budding strengths of MCASI, on Influencer Culture studies and Asian-Australia studies, with the potential to seek future interdisciplinary and School-wide collaborations. Given the global interest on TikTok, and its proliferation among young Australians, our research interests have expanded to include TikTok influencers and Australian culture on TikTok respectively. Further, Australian diaspora cultures on TikTok have been thriving of late, given recent milestone events that have intensified activity on the app, such as the Australian bushfires (Jan20), COVID-19 racism (Feb20), COVID-19 self-isolation (Mar20), anti-racism protests (Jun20). As such, this is a time-sensitive project to scope out emergent cultures, discourses, and practices of Australian diaspora TikTok.


Health #foryou?: Health education communities on TikTok

PI: Clare Southerton

Funder: UNSW Sydney

Progress: April 2020-ongoing

Abstract: This is a qualitative study investigating the circulation of health information and advice on TikTok both from health professionals and laypeople. The study has two key focus areas: sexual health information (with a particular interest in LGBTQIA+ content) and mental health information. Using digital ethnography, visual analysis and discourse analysis, this study examines the intersection of platform affordances and cultures, with existing health education practices to consider what TikTok health education makes possible, as well as the limitations of edutainment.


Cultures of TikTok in the Asia Pacific Symposium

Organizers: Crystal Abidin, Michael Keane, and D. Bondy Valdovinos Kaye

Funder: Creative-Critical Imaginations Seed Funding, MCASI Research & Creative Production Committee, Curtin University; Professor Michael Keane; Australian Research Council

Progress: October 2020–Ongoing

Abstract: This event will be a critical forum for cutting edge research on TikTok, the globally influential short video platform that has captivated international attention and made headlines over the past two years. In particular, this event focuses on the cultures of TikTok (including but not limited to the platform, players, and politics) throughout the Asia Pacific Region. Contributions to this symposium will help pioneer research methodologies for studying TikTok and create further resources for curriculum development and future research.

See event page here.


Covid-19 Messaging and Youth Engagements On TikTok

Principal Investigator: Crystal Abidin

Funder: SSRC Rapid-Response Grants on Covid-19 and the Social Sciences & Wenner-Gren Foundation

Progress: October 2020-ongoing

Abstract: This is a six-month-long intensive ethnographic project investigating how young people are engaging with Covid-19 related messages on the short video app TikTok. It aims to uncover the types of Covid-19 related contents that are being created, circulated, and contested on TikTok via the platform’s repertoire of visual, textual, and audio meme templates. In doing so, the project will help stakeholders (e.g., educators, practitioners, activists, public health services, and the general public) to understand how TikTok has become an important tool for young people to communicate information, convey sentiments, and create community. Specifically, the project will focus on Covid-19 issues including misinformation, hygiene awareness, and racism and xenophobia, following after the legacy of TikTok youth activism during the global climate change rallies, Australian bushfires, and calling out of race-based violence (2019–2020). Utilizing established digital research methods from the social sciences—such as press archival research, digital ethnography, and visual and textual content analyses of social media posts—the results from the study will allow us to understand how the structure and culture of TikTok as a platform enables young people to engage in conversations, activism, and advocacy, by closely surveying the available features and how they are used, circumvented, or subversively reappropriated. This will inform broader understandings of the emergent proliferation of short video app cultures around the world, to improve communication with and targeted messaging towards young people on social media.

See SSRC announcement here.