Understanding the popularity and affordances of TikTok through user experiences

Schellewald, Andreas. 2023. Understanding the popularity and affordances of TikTok through user experiences. Media, Culture & Society, 45(8), pp. 1568-1582. ISSN 0163-4437 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

In this paper I discuss the affordances and popularity of the short-video app TikTok from an audience studies point of view. I do so by drawing on findings from ethnographic fieldwork with young adult TikTok users based in the United Kingdom that was conducted in 2020 and 2021. I trace how using the app, specifically scrolling through the TikTok For You Page, the app’s algorithmic content feed, became a fixed part of the everyday routines of young adults. I show how TikTok appealed to them as a convenient means of escape and relief that they were unable to find elsewhere during and beyond times of lockdown. Further, I highlight the complex nature of TikTok as an app and the active role that users play in imagining and appropriating the app’s affordances as meaningful parts of their everyday social life. Closing the paper, I reflect on future directions of TikTok scholarship by stressing the importance of situated audience studies.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):



algorithms, audience studies, digital culture, scrolling, TikTok

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


11 October 2022Accepted
21 March 2023Published Online
November 2023Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

22 Mar 2023 09:45

Last Modified:

22 Nov 2023 14:26

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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