Communicative Forms on TikTok: Perspectives From Digital Ethnography

Andreas Schellewald


TikTok is an app that allows people to create, share, and consume short-video content. Although only available internationally since 2017, it has already been downloaded more than 2 billion times and has around 800 million active users. Public interest in the fleeting and seemingly random video clips that TikTok hosts is high. In fact, it has grown steadily since the time of the Twitter-owned short-video app Vine that ended its service in 2016 with only a quarter of TikTok’s current userbase. However, despite this steady growth in popularity, observations and theorizations of short-video apps like TikTok remain lacking. In this article, I thus seek to address this lack by critically discussing how to study short-video communications from the bottom up and by presenting the results of an exploratory investigation into TikTok and its communicative forms. Doing so, this article contributes to opening a space for serious engagement with this burgeoning yet understudied element of digital culture in the future.


TikTok, short-video, forms of communication, digital ethnography, digital culture

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