Research Themes

The TikTok Cultures Research Network prioritises six research themes that relate to ongoing research activity among members. These themes also serve to inform future events, collaborations, and initiatives.

Digital Production & Economies

Making content on TikTok is made easy through the platform’s wide array of video creation features, but turning such content into profitable streams and returns can be much more challenging. This research theme looks at the production cultures and economies of TikTok, from small businesses and influencer marketing, to the Creator Fund and incentive programs designed to support specific groups of users.

The Subaltern & Subcultures

TikTok is home to a kaleidoscope of communities from around the world who congregate in silos and form niches, but also connect with other groups through various practices. This research theme focuses on how subaltern cultures and subcultures come into being on TikTok, and critically investigates the dynamics of marginalized groups and peoples especially in the Global South.

Race & Ethnicity

TikTok creates opportunities for important dialogues about race and ethnicity to take place. However, it also has the potential to allow the festering of racial violence and harm through the use of stereotypical filters and trends that promote stereotypes, downplay platformed racism, or allow online abuse to flourish. This research cluster explores the intersections of technology, race, and ethnicity to understand how these issues emerge and evolve on TikTok.

Gender & Sexuality

TikTok is a space for identity discovery and negotiation, where groups can come together and share expressions and experiences of their gender and sexuality. This research theme seeks to understand how we present our gender identities, how we navigate relationships, and how sexuality is mediated on TikTok.

Governance & Politics

Since its debut, TikTok has undergone widespread scrutiny regarding the optics and politics of governance and policies on the platform. This has included threats of firmer regulation, inquiries by governments, and even outright bans in some parts of the world. As a ‘political football’ being tossed back and forth in ideological debates, this research theme considers the history, evolution, and future of TikTok’s political, platformed, lateral, and vernacular governance.

Methodologies & Pedagogies

An important starting point for anyone interested in doing TikTok research is to determine how best to approach the platform, given its innovative features and challenging backend interface. This research cluster tackles practical questions of TikTok research by exploring and pioneering novel methods used to study TikTok developed by leading researchers, including many members of the TikTok Cultures Research Network.