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Social Media Pop Cultures

Colourful poster for TikTok event with animated images of people

The Social Media Pop Cultures Programme is CCAT’s newest node, dedicated to critically assessing the history, function, and design of popular culture in social media spaces and pop culture vernacular native to social media, and to scrutinize academic approaches to the phenomenon, paying special attention to digital media in the Asia Pacific region.

This Programme focuses on (1) how popular culture theories, logics, structures, and industries have mapped onto social media spaces; (2) how the ubiquity of social media sensibilities, systems, practices, and trends have impacted pop cultures around the world; (3) as well as how social media pop culture artefacts (such as memes, folklore, chain mail, viral videos, internet celebrities, and influencers), and in various formats (such as texts, images, gifs, and videos) allow for a layer of plausible deniability wherein users can disperse and dispel organised efforts as mere entertainment or humour, in an act of subversive frivolity.

This Programme is also the home of the TikTok Cultures Research Network (TikTokCultures.com), a portal for scholarly resources, research projects, and events that connects networks of qualitative scholars of various disciplines from around the world. TCRN was founded by A/Prof Abidin in October 2020, and is supported by a consulting panel of APAC-based Founding Members and international Key Regional Members.

Program Leader

Associate Professor Crystal Abidin, Principal Research Fellow & ARC DECRA Fellow, Internet Studies, MCASI

Researchers

Dr. Jin Lee, Research Associate, MCASI

Dr. D. Bondy Valdovinos Kaye, Research Associate, MCASI

Ms. Poh Yu Ting, CCAT Associate

Projects

TikTok Syllabus Report, Forthcoming 2021

TikTok and Social Movements Special Issue, Forthcoming 2022

TikTok Methodologies Special Issue, Forthcoming 2022

Cultures of TikTok in the Asia Pacific, Forthcoming 2022

Recent Publications

Abidin, Crystal, and D. Bondy Valdovinos Kaye. 2021. “Audio memes, Earworms, and Templatability: The ‘aural turn’ of memes on TikTok.” Pp. 58-68 in Critical Meme Reader: Global Mutations of the Viral Image, edited by Chloë Arkenbout, Jack Wilson, and Daniel de Zeeuw. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures. <Chapter in Book>

Abidin, Crystal. 2021. “Singaporean Influencers and COVID-19 on Instagram Stories.” Celebrity Studies (Online first). DOI: 10.1080/19392397.2021.1967604 <Journal article>

Abidin, Crystal, and Jing Zeng. 2021. “‘OK Boomer’: how a TikTok meme traces the rise of Gen Z political consciousness.” The Conversation, 20 August <Op-ed>

Zeng, Jing, and Crystal Abidin. 2021. “#OkBoomer, time to meet the Zoomers’: Studying the Memefication of Intergenerational Politics on TikTok.” Information, Communication and Society (Online first). DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2021.1961007 <Journal article>

Abidin, Crystal, and Jing Zeng. 2021. “Subtle Asian Traits and COVID-19: Congregating and Commiserating as East Asians in a Facebook Group.” First Monday 26(6). DOI: 10.5210/fm.v26i7.10859 <Journal article>

Harlig, Alexandra, Crystal Abidin, Trevor Boffone, Kelly Bowker, Colette Eloi, Pamela Krayenbuhl, Chuyun Oh. 2021. “TikTok and Short-Form Screendance Before and After Covid.” The International Journal of Screendance 12 (2021). DOI: 10.18061/ijsd.v12i0.8348 <Journal editorial>

Abidin, Crystal. 2021. “Activism in Singapore in the Digital Age: Influencer Cultures, Meme Factories, and Networked Virality.” Pp. 49-55 in Singapore Perspectives: Politics, edited by Natalie Pang, Shamil Zainuddin. Singapore: Institute of Policy Studies. DOI: 10.1142/9789811225734_0008 <Chapter>

Zeng, Jing, Crystal Abidin, and Mike S. Schäfer. (Co-editor). 2021. Research Perspectives on TikTok and Its Legacy Apps: Introduction. International Journal of Communication 15(2021). <Special Issue>

Abidin, Crystal. 2021. “Mapping Internet Celebrity on TikTok: Exploring Attention Economies and Visibility Labours.” Cultural Science Journal 12(1): 77-103. DOI: 10.5334/csci.140 <Journal article>

Savic, Milovan, and Crystal Abidin. 2020. “The Politics and Optics of the TikTok Ban.” Points, Data & Society, 18 September <Editorial>

Abidin, Crystal. 2020. “Pivot to coronavirus: How meme factories are crafting public health messaging.” The Conversation, 28 July. <Editorial>

Abidin, Crystal. 2020. “Meme factory cultures and content pivoting in Singapore and Malaysia during COVID-19.” The Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) Misinformation Review 1. DOI: 10.37016/mr-2020-031 <Journal article>

Recent Events

TikTok and Social Movements, 20 September 2021.  Link to TikTok Cultures Research Network website.

The TikTok Cultures Research Network held its fourth virtual event TikTok and Social Movements on 20 September 2021 organised by founding members Dr Jin Lee, Associate Professor Crystal Abidin, and Dr D. Bondy Valdovinos Kaye. The event was a half-day online Symposium (on Zoom) to showcase emergent research on the potentials, promises, pitfalls, and parameters of such social movements on TikTok. The event featured a keynote delivered by Dr Ariadna Matamoros-Fernández (Queensland University of Technology).

  1. TikTok and Social Movements Keynote: Discussing and Assessing Harmful Humor on TikTok delivered by Dr Ariadna Matamoros Fernández (QUT)
  2. TikTok and Social Movements Session 01: Advocacy & Platforms
  3. TikTok and Social Movements Session 02: Gender & Sexuality
  4. TikTok and Social Movements Session 03: Politics & Playfulness
  5. TikTok and Social Movements Session 04: Grassroots & Community

TikTok Methodologies, 19 July 2021.  Link to TikTok Cultures Research Network website.

The TikTok Cultures Research Network held its third virtual event TikTok Methodologies on 19 July 2021 hosted by founding members Associate Professor Crystal Abidin, Professor Patrik Wikström, and Dr D. Bondy Valdovinos Kaye. The field of digital media research is rapidly expanding to include innovative and exciting TikTok research. As one of the most widely used digital short video platforms around the world, TikTok is a key social arena to study global youth culture, creativity, professionalization, and activism. This event was a critical forum for discussion on TikTok research frameworks and methodologies from emerging voices in the field. This two-hour virtual event took place via Zoom and featured two panel discussions with a diverse array of TikTok researchers. 

  1. TikTok Methodologies Introduction and Session 01 “Conceptualising a TikTok Project”
  2. TikTok Methodologies Session 02 “Operationalising a TikTok Project” and Conclusion

TikTok & Youth Cultures in the Age of COVID-19, 29 March 2021.  Link to TikTok Cultures Research Network website.https://tiktokcultures.com/covid-19-event/

The TikTok Cultures Research Network held its second virtual event TikTok & Youth Cultures in the Age of COVID-19 on 29 March 2021 hosted by founding members Associate Professor Crystal Abidin, Dr D. Bondy Valdovinos Kaye, and Dr Andy Zhao. TikTok has become one of the most widely used short video platforms around the world, with millions of new users joining during the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020. The platform is now a key social arena for global youth culture, creativity, professionalization, and activism. This event is an open forum for discussions on how digital cultures are evolving in the wave of a global pandemic and the massive uptake of TikTok by diverse groups of people during this time.This two-hour virtual event featured one research presentation and two panel discussions with a diverse array of panellists including TikTok influencers, media industry professionals, and academics. 

  1. TikTok & Youth Cultures in the Age of COVID-19 Introduction and Welcome to Country.
  2. TikTok & Youth Cultures in the Age of COVID-19 Session 01: How are young people messaging COVID-19 on TikTok?
  3. TikTok & Youth Cultures in the Age of COVID-19 Session 02: How has COVID-19 impacted the landscape and culture of TikTok?
  4. TikTok & Youth Cultures in the Age of COVID-19 Session 03: What is the future of TikTok for youth engagements?
  5. TikTok & Youth Cultures in the Age of COVID-19 Closing statement and thanks.

Cultures of TikTok in the Asia Pacific, 7 December 2020. Link to TikTok Cultures Research Network website.https://tiktokcultures.com/cultures-of-tiktok-in-the-asia-pacific/

A/Prof Crystal Abidin, Prof Michael Keane, and the Centre for Culture and Technology at Curtin University hosted a virtual symposium on Cultures of TikTok in the Asia Pacific in December 2020. This event was 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 focused on the cultures of TikTok (including but not limited to the platform, players, and politics) throughout the Asia Pacific Region. This half-day virtual symposium took place via Zoom on 7 December 2020 featuring presentations from thirty contributors from around the world and a keynote delivered by Associate Professor Haiqing Yu (RMIT). 

  1. TikTok Cultures in the Asia Pacific Keynote: TikTok and Platform Geopolitics delivered by A/Prof Haiqing Yu (RMIT).
  2. TikTok Cultures in the Asia Pacific Session 01: Platforms and Pedagogy
  3. TikTok Cultures in the Asia Pacific Session 02: Gender and Class
  4. TikTok Cultures in the Asia Pacific Session 03: Popular Culture
    • Due to technical issues only one video from this session is available. 
  5. TikTok Cultures in the Asia Pacific Session 04: Regional Cultures
  6. TikTok Cultures in the Asia Pacific Session 05: Anxieties and Learnings

Grants

Influencers and Cultures of Social Justice, Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) Grant Success Panel Development Funding (June–December 2021)

Bubble Tea Pilot Project, MCASI Research Budget Allocation (June–December 2021)

TikTok Cultures Research Network Expansion Support, Strategic Research Investment from Faculty of Humanities at Curtin University (May–December 2021)

COVID-19 Messaging and Youth Engagements on TikTok, Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and Wenner-Gren Foundation Rapid-Response Grants on COVID-19 grant (September 2020–February 2021)

Social Media Influencers as Conduits of Knowledge in Australia and Asia, Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA), DE190100789 (July 2019–June 2022)