Don’t Call Me Resilient

EP 16: TikTok is more than just a frivolous app for lip-synching and dancing

Episode Summary

In today's episode, we take a look at how TikTok can be used as a tool to educate and has been a space for sharing information during major events in the last two years.

Episode Notes

TikTok is perceived as a highly addictive video sharing platform with a lot of lively music and dance videos that encourages participation and replication: think macarena times 100 million. For many people it sounds like frivolous waste of time.

But  the app has revealed itself to have more depth than initially meets the eye.

TikTok can be a place to learn, become politically aware and even discover new things about yourself.

Scrolling through, you can find a science lesson on climate change from Bill Nye the science guy. You can find lessons on Indigenous languages. How to dress for your body type. Or up to date news and election coverage.

While the app definitely has its downsides – its upsides are worth paying attention to. On this week’s episode of Don’t Call Me Resilient, we explore how TikTok is helping its users build strong communities, and also how the app’s algorithm is treating marginalized folks and their stories. 

Producer Haley Lewis speaks with Jessie Loyer, Indigenous librarian from Mount Royal University and TikTok micro-influencer about TikTok’s potential as a tool for education. And Vinita chats with Crystal Abidin, associate professor in the School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. She is the founder of TikTok Cultures, a global TikTok research hub. Also joining the conversation is Jas Morgan, assistant professor of English at Toronto Metropolitan University and facilitator of the Digital Wahkohtowin & Cultural Governance Lab.

Show notes:
https://theconversation.com/tiktok-is-more-than-just-a-frivolous-app-for-lip-syncing-and-dancing-podcast-182264

You can listen to or follow Don’t Call Me Resilient on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to your favourite podcasts. We’d love to hear from you, including any ideas for future episodes. Join The Conversation on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok and use #DontCallMeResilient.

Episode Transcription

Vinita: [00:00:02] Ow, ow, ow, ow. From The Conversation, this is. Don't Call me Resilient. I'm Vinita Srivastava. [00:00:09][6.5]

Crystal: [00:00:11] TikTok is one of those great spaces for you to know how much you don't know. From accidental discovery, from coincidence, or the magical delivery of the algorithm. [00:00:21][10.0]

Vinita: [00:00:24] TikTok is the world's most downloaded app. For those of you under the age of 30 or with kids, you definitely know what I'm talking about. For others, TikTok is a highly addictive video sharing platform with a lot of lively music and dance videos that encourage participation and replication. Think Macarena Time's 100 million. It all sounds a little bit frivolous and silly, right? But the app has more depth than initially meets the eye. TikTok can be a place to learn, become politically aware, and even discover new things about yourself. Scrolling Through, You Can Find a science lesson on climate change from Bill Nye The Science Guy. You can find lessons on Indigenous languages or follow the culinary stylings of the best plant based chefs. While the app definitely has its downsides, its upsides are worth paying attention to. Today, I'll talk to two guests whose research looks at TikTok and its potential to educate and spark change. But first, we're going to hear from our producer, Haley Lewis, who spoke with Jessie Lawyer, an Indigenous librarian and TikTok micro influencer. [00:01:32][68.4]

Haley: [00:01:36] Hi, my name is Haley Lewis. I'm the culture and society. [00:01:38][2.1]

[00:01:39] Editor here at. [00:01:39][0.5]

[00:01:39] The Conversation and one of the producers on Don't Call Me Resilient. [00:01:42][2.4]

Jessie: [00:01:43] Hi, my name is Jessie Lawyer. I'm Cree and Métish and I'm a member of Michel First Nation. My TikTok is Indigenous librarian and I use TikTok to give short lectures on Indigenous librarianship. [00:01:57][14.2]

Haley: [00:01:58] Can you break down your process of coming up with a TikTok? [00:02:00][2.4]

Jessie: [00:02:01] When I was teaching an Indigenous librarianship class at the U of A and we were all having a bit of zoom fatigue and I didn't want to give them really long lectures. I just wanted something short and sweet. So I thought, I'll throw it on TikTok. I kind of thought of the 25 people that were in my class, my watch them and like my friends. So how long after hosting lectures just for your class did one really pop off? I was surprised by the interest in it. The way I use TikTok was maybe more looking at like absurdist inside joke Indigenous tech that I would say was the third week of classes where I had a TikTok where I was speaking about citation. Anyone who has been in university knows that is the bane of our existence. And I referred to citation of practises like APA and MLA as academic hazing. That really struck a chord with a lot of people. How many followers do you have now? I have 28.5 thousand followers. [00:03:04][63.3]

Haley: [00:03:05] What does it feel like to be an Indigenous librarian influencer? [00:03:08][2.8]

Jessie: [00:03:10] It's like a micro-influence. Yeah, for me it's like that intersection of two things. I think a lot about Indigenous presence and digital spaces. Even before I had this account, I wrote an essay for Canadian Art about Indigenous tech talk. I thought it was so cool how youth seem to have access to it, where there is less of an obstacle, the ways that they could do video production so seamlessly no matter where they were. Yeah, I think a lot about where Indigenous people are in digital spaces and how we're perceived. And so that essay, I think, could challenge some people's ideas about Indigenous education. So often people are getting beads and feathers, you know, the pageantry rather than the day to day life or the complexity of what our lives look like. So there's that component of it and then the sort of nerd component of it too. There are some people doing some really amazing stuff on TikTok, explaining it in such clear, understandable ways. Bite-sized. We do attack this big, messy problem that affects us all. What sort of impact has this had on your students? Being able to learn from you on TikTok? My students have mixed opinions about it. They're library students, so they think about privacy. TikTok is also a really questionable platform. It's reading all of our preferences. You know, the fact that the algorithm offers us up almost exactly what we want. That is an exchange of privacy. For some of them, that's front and centre. This idea that TikTok is a platform that is kind of at its core a little bit unethical as library students, technology is really their friend. It's a tool. We decide how we want to use it and it's a way for us to step into a different community of people. And so I'm excited for them to sort of have that experience. [00:05:06][115.3]

Haley: [00:05:07] So your followers have exploded from just the 25 students in your class. Has the subject matter of your tech talks also changed? [00:05:13][6.1]

Jessie: [00:05:14] I really wanted to make my own focus or they didn't want it to take over my life. Right in the bio, it says lectures from okanaw'maskinahikanew librarian. Now, that being said, Indigenous librarianship is way more than just books, right? It's looking at, you know, our material culture and talking about the way that that is information literacy. To being able to read a wampum belt is a particular kind of information literacy that a lot of Indigenous people would have. Same with even thinking about Regalia. Powell Regalia mean something specific to us. Outsiders just see it as like, oh, my gosh, so many like beads and feathers. But we can look at that and say, Oh, that's a roach. You know, we can understand the different parts of regalia. And so I think about the ways that it's different from other librarians that are really focussed on books. I'm interested in Indigenous knowledge systems broadly and that includes way more than the printed word. Yeah, I had the TikTok where I was talking about a particular article. This is Eve Tuck and Wayne Yang's article. Decolonisation is not a metaphor. It reminds us that we can't just use decolonisation as sort of a word for all the things we want to do to make our societies better. At its core, decolonisation is about the repatriation of Indigenous land and life, and people were really opposed to that idea. People had a lot of emotional responses to it and I was really surprised at the way that people were interacting with it because to me it's one of the conversations to remind us this TikTok is not decolonising, it's an educational space, but it's not doing the process of like going out and harvesting or of water protection or any of those things that are so important that are actually moving for decolonisation. But it was really interesting to see the way people interacted and just how fired up they got. By and large, the community of people that are part of my talk anyways are really lovely. There's wonderful librarians that are sort of shocked that this wasn't part of their education or part of their professional practise. The group that I love with all my heart is Indigenous people who are like, Oh my gosh, you are articulating something that I've known my whole life. It's so nice to have that community of people around me, all these native nerds. Yeah. And like being able to share your experiences in a way that other people can relate to is so powerful. They see the way that these processes of colonialism are the same, you know, in Canada and the U.S. and Europe with Sami people, you see it in like Fiji or Tonga, all of these amazing knowledge systems that have been like experiencing epistemic side for years. People are all over the world involved in resurgence. They're involved in reclaiming those traditions, strengthening those knowledge systems. It's so exciting. [00:08:06][172.1]

Haley: [00:08:07] We talked about how your students feel about your tiktoks, but how has creating and teaching on TikTok impacted you? Being in an audience of that many people is something no human beings should have to do. We weren't built to be interacting with that many people, so it is overwhelming at times. And I would say that I'm a relatively small account. There are people who have millions of followers. I can't imagine what that feels like. My work as a librarian has always focussed on thinking about how do we build care into our practices with not only our students but the materials in our care, that sort of relationality that exists and it's coming from a particularly like Cree perspective. The concepts of one go through and are really present in my work. And then I also am really protective of not only myself but the other people that are involved and of Indigenous knowledge too. There are some things that shouldn't be shared on TikTok. I'm very careful about. The ways that I talk about our knowledge is because so often people want to commodify that. As much as I care about strengthening our knowledge systems, I want that to happen in a way that it's protected and that the people who hold that knowledge are not spread really thin or being taken advantage of. So I try to be very thoughtful and in how I'm sharing that information. [00:09:30][82.8]

Haley: [00:09:31] You have to be when your class grows from 25 to 25000. [00:09:34][3.1]

Jessie: [00:09:35] I come from a small town just outside of Edmonton. And so, like, how are all these people finding me? You know, like, I get how TikTok works, but it is also like, you guys really want to hear about this nerdy stuff. All right, let's go. There is like a long history of Indigenous librarians all over the world pushing back against sort of the whiteness of librarianship and really working to restore our knowledge systems. I'm glad if I can do like a little bit of that on this platform. [00:10:03][28.8]

Haley: [00:10:04] You give them like a little nugget and then they can go do their own research. [00:10:07][3.1]

Haley: [00:10:08] Yeah. Go talk to your own elders. Go talk. To their own knowledge keepers. Do your research. It's the starting point. [00:10:15][6.7]

Vinita: [00:10:17] That was don't call me resilient producer Haley Lewis talking to Indigenous librarian Jessie Lawyer about the educational use of TikTok. That's something my two guests today have studied a lot. Crystal Abidin is a professor in the School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Enquiry at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. She's the founder of TikTok Cultures, a global TikTok research hub. And yes, Morgan is an assistant professor of English at Toronto Metropolitan University. They are the facilitator of the digital walkathon and cultural governance lab there. Welcome to you both. So I'm going to jump right in. And I'm just going to say that a lot of people of my generation think that TikTok is a waste of time. And I'm just wondering what you might say to that. [00:11:06][48.8]

Crystal: [00:11:06] Crystal I remember a time growing up where I transit it physically from the dial up modem, where if you picked up your phone, your parents yelled at you too. When we transit it to wi fi and Buck's phone and then wi fi and wireless form, and even in those times, the refrain was always, this is just for entertainment. It's for fun. Even as work became very much disparate in the home, people do a lot of freelancing. And then we had the plague. And all of a sudden, everything that was thought of as recreation and additional luxury became bread and butter for billions of people around the world. So for me, when we think about new technologies, the uptake is always slow when we discard it as something from your entertainment. But the beauty of human cultures is that we can always find our way through these streams and values to make something enjoyable, a very integral part of our lives and for society. So, for instance, a lot of the people in my parents generation think of TikTok as a video platform to consume content for fun, and that works perfectly fine for me as a researcher because if you think it's just fun and entertainment, it also means that on the sidelines you're passively absorbing lots of content about social justice issues around the world. You're looking at trans kids, Indigenous kids tell you about a day in your lives. You're hearing about politics in the form of a viral dance. And if pursuing this as entertainment or frivolous fun allows you to lower your barriers of entry and your trust to go and explore in that space, that's perfectly fine with me. [00:12:48][101.9]

Vinita: [00:12:49] You know, it's funny because I have two kids and I was sitting with them at the kitchen table and this is about two years ago, which means my kids were pretty young, ten or 11, and I sat them down with the intent of explaining to them what the Black Lives Matter protests were about. And they said, Oh, Mama, we know all about that. We know all about George Floyd. We know all about Black Lives Matter, and we know all about the protests. And they said, how? And they said TikTok. That's where we learnt everything. So it was a really kind of awakening moment for me when I realised my kids are really learning a lot from this platform. I have to admit before that I did think it was all about dance. What about you? Yes. What would you say to somebody who says that this is all just like about dancing and lip synching and fun and games? [00:13:34][45.1]

Jas: [00:13:35] One of the technologies that Indigenous youth are using to tell their stories is TikTok. And so we're thinking about digital co-authorship and how do we make people who have been imposed upon them make them not become objects of studies, but co-authors and co contributors to digital projects that are scholarly. And this is where the TikTok lab came from, this idea of, I don't want to study TikTok creators. I want to be digital co-authors alongside digital creators. I use those videos to teach Indigenous perspectives in my own courses and then also we use Indigenous TikTok as a platform for our researches. So for my students, my grad students, they create reviews, for instance, of Indigenous literatures and other forms of allyship and support for Indigenous studies and Indigenous scholars in the lab. And this idea that it is low culture is really funny to me too, because TikTok, all these youth, they have better soft editing skills than I have after an MFA degree in studio art. It's a revolutionary technology because you need to know so much about soft editing and video editing skills. It is actually this facet of high culture in a way, but it's being degraded because youth and Black folks and Indigenous folks and trans folks and queer folks are predominantly using it to share their narratives with people who are like them. [00:14:52][76.5]

Vinita: [00:14:52] So is that what first kind of drew you to the app like you thought, well, there's an opportunity for me here or at a personal level. What first drew you there? [00:15:01][8.5]

Jas: [00:15:02] What first drew me there was Indigenous TikTok and all the narratives from Indigenous people that were coming out that were so recognizable to my own culture and what. Competing. I exist in an academic discipline that is really experiencing a settler colonial crisis. But when I open up TikTok, I just see face after face of people who I know to be from a part of an Indigenous peoples, just from the way they talk, the way they carry themselves, the ideals they have. What brought me there was really this sort of mutual recognition and this community building just a space by us. For us. [00:15:36][34.0]

Vinita: [00:15:37] That sounds very exciting. Crystal, on a personal level, what do you feel first drew you to that platform? [00:15:43][6.0]

Crystal: [00:15:44] A personal story. I am very close to my nieces. I have dozens of them, but three in particular are very precious to me. And they are my gateway to the very scary world of the Internet. With a capital I, we are about a good 12 to 22 years apart. They educate me every day on our exchanges and I found out about TikTok through them, just through spending time with them. Prior to that though I was already researching East Asian digital media professionally, so that's the more proper story. And I had already been using DAU in the sister app that came a year prior to TikTok. I'd also already been looking at musical.ly the predecessor app that was eventually bought over and merged into TikTok. So following that natural progression, looking at East Asian apps. When TikTok came about, I started a research project tracking its origins in 2018, and then I felt very exasperated by virtue of it having been found it by a Chinese corporation. Almost all the headlines I was seeing, almost every journalist query I was getting was about national security or very orientalist discourses about whether or not we should fear foreign technology. Even though I am from East Asian descent, partly from my mother's side, and that from you is worrying because we don't have the same questioning when apps just grow overnight from Silicon Valley. Even though Facebook in recent years now meta has come under extreme scrutiny for very horrible experiments, we don't have nearly the same type of language ethnocentrism when we talk about other apps, and that was what drove me to consolidate my efforts, put together a network of scholars based in the Asia Pacific region. And in October 2020, thanks to several rounds of funding, we launched a TikTok Cultures Research Network, which has been growing out of the Asia-Pacific region and slowly globalising. We are primarily a group of nerds. We all live on different social realities and different sides of TikTok, which is why it's important to send ethnographic scholars out there to find out the lived experiences of people in these spaces. The main thing we want to do now is to capture minoritarian voices. I think the time is over, us just being so tired, or in TikTok parlance, just so over it with wanting to find space in a white man's world, when in reality we have minoritarian values and we can carve out spaces of our own to us, our own intellectual questions to make meaning out of these apps for ourselves, even if we are not legible to anybody else. [00:18:23][159.6]

Vinita: [00:18:24] Our producer, Haley, she's a self-described TikTok connoisseur. She tells me that TikTok has sights. And I'm wondering, what does she mean by that? And also, what side of TikTok are you on? [00:18:38][13.2]

Jas: [00:18:38] This is a very good question. I will say that. So I'll let you know that one that I feel comfortable letting you know that I'm on. I'm definitely an Indigenous TikTok I'm definitely on trends TikTok queer tiktok lesbian TikTok the only one Black TikTok like a general activist TikTok I kind of circulate around ah like social justice issues. TikTok fashion I find them often that TikTok food. TikTok I don't know what that says about me, but I get a lot of food. [00:19:02][24.2]

Vinita: [00:19:04] What about you, Crystal? What side or what sides are you on? It sounds like sides. [00:19:07][3.5]

Crystal: [00:19:08] I have several TikTok sites because I research it professionally from my job and I have a forthcoming book on TikTok in youth colleges. But as a private citizen I also use TikTok on different devices because I enjoy the internet and I don't want my work to damage my enjoyment of the internet. So outside of my professional capacity and my private TikTok, in addition to several intersections with yes these days and spending a lot of time on I sing TikTok cupcake I sing so beautiful, so delicious. Especially at three in the morning when I am trying to fall asleep. I'm also on very esoteric pet TikTok these days I'm very much enjoying looking at capybara s they look very comfortable. So for me it's a bit of like slowing down my professional TikTok consumption and the day where I'm looking very tightly at minorities, at queer young people, at activist TikTok, but mostly a lot of to do with activism from East Asian people looking at anti-Asian. Racism. So daytime. TikTok, a night-time. TikTok from me to different spaces. [00:20:15][66.6]

Vinita: [00:20:16] I think unlike other social media platforms, TikTok does introduce you to new people. I'm now getting the same types of feeds, but in theory, each time you open the app, it exposes you to content that you normally wouldn't seek out. And I'm wondering, is it a place to learn? Does it work like that? [00:20:34][18.8]

Jas: [00:20:35] So yes and no. I definitely think it works as a teaching tool and I use it as a personal learning tool. I use it as a teaching tool for my students. But I have noticed the algorithm. Once it gets a handle on what you like, it won't shock you and won't throw too many curveballs. And there is something happening with the algorithm. Now that there's a creator fund in America and there is more commercialism involved in the business of tech talk and advertisements. So yeah, my feed definitely is different. There's more, and I would say the content is more polished. I definitely think I'm not getting exposed to as many new creators as I used to, and in fact, I'm having to get referrals about new creators to check out and actually going directly to their page as opposed to them showing up on my FYP. [00:21:22][47.6]

Vinita: [00:21:23] You said FYP. Yeah. Maybe you can explain what that is for people who don't know. [00:21:27][4.1]

Jas: [00:21:28] So the for you page is the page that immediately comes up on TikTok when you open the app and it's just a steady stream of content that you can flip by scrolling upwards and it just gives you video after video after video is a content stream that is supposedly directly curated to your interests, what you've liked, how you've interacted with post on an app. [00:21:45][17.6]

Vinita: [00:21:46] My 12 year old daughter used to learn a lot from that. The makeup tutorials that weren't really makeup, but actually somebody talking about the Black Lives Matter movement. She used to learn a lot from there and she said, now it's really switched to a lot of cat videos, like she gets cat cat stuff all the time. So every once in a while she deletes the app on her phone because she gets really frustrated by it. So I'm wondering about this algorithm. How do you manipulate it? Can you manipulate it? You know, is it different than other social media algorithms? [00:22:16][30.1]

Crystal: [00:22:17] We need to keep in mind that TikTok response to what technologists like to call micro interactions, meaning the split seconds it takes for you to flick to the next video before finishing this 10/2 one two split seconds. It takes for you to click into it, create a profile, check out who's commenting, expanding on comments. All of these very small decisions that you're just making passively almost on autopilot. Most don't register on the app as interest and it immediately impacts what is going to be given to you next step in the stream. So this is a very hyper sensitive algorithm that we're talking about here. The second thing to keep in mind about the TikTok algorithm is what I like to call the core plus one. Yes. Is absolutely right. And that once you've correctly or right will be groomed. The algorithm, nothing ever really looks very, very out there for you, except when TikTok cannot differentiate tone. So I may be looking at videos on women talking about domestic violence and anti domestic violence, but the algorithm may very well also show me men who are pro domestic violence or just contents that are similar, just slightly differing in tone or in stance. That's a very tricky thing. We need to remember that the app is here to continuously expand our interests. So if I'm interested in cats, every now and then, it's going to show me a creature similar to a cat. Like a puppy. That is the plus one. And if after a while I enjoy that content, I am now the cat and puppy TikTok person. It might then every now and then throw me another plus one, maybe baby chicks. So four limbs to two limbs and wings. And from there on, it's expanding my visual repertoire. It's expanding my appetite and grooming me to fall under more and more categories so that I am introduced to more creates, more silos and more subcultures over time and def. I never get bored. [00:24:18][120.7]

Vinita: [00:24:19] I mean, The New York Times said it can read your mind. So it seems like it's sort of predicting what it thinks that you might be interested in or it's reminding you of something that you were interested in. Marginalised creators are also talking about this idea of being shadow banned and I'm wondering if we could talk a little bit about what that means and if Tock is changing in this way as it actually shadow banning marginalised activists? Yes, maybe you could talk a little bit about that. [00:24:47][27.9]

Jas: [00:24:47] So creators would say yes. Based on that, I am inclined to believe the creators. I first experienced this discussion about shadow banning around the Black Lives Matter movement that were happening in 2021, when Black creators in America and Canada were making rightfully very critical posts about the structures of power in America and Canada. And they were noting even. Creators who had large followings were getting very few views. And so this is where this question came up of, well, is TikTok suppressing certain kind of posts at this time? Namely, posts about Black activism around Black Lives Matter. And since then, this conversation about shadow banning has expanded. I think it's come into Indigenous TikTok too. Folks will talk about how their content is being shadow banned because it's appearing on Indigenous TikTok really well for like a couple of months and then suddenly they'll get 50 views or 200 views. So what is happening with the algorithm here? Why are these creators being punished? Shadow Ban has also become this interesting crutch too. So there's also this conversation about are people actually being shadow banned or are they just not getting any views? [00:25:51][63.9]

Vinita: [00:25:52] Or are they just like, you're not liking my stuff, guys? [00:25:54][2.3]

Jas: [00:25:54] Yeah. [00:25:54][0.0]

Vinita: [00:25:56] So is it a real thing? Do you know if it's a real thing? Crystal Shadow. Banning this idea of being shadow banned. [00:26:01][5.7]

Crystal: [00:26:03] I should first preface that I am trained as an anthropologist, and I study technology by way of understanding how cultures of people and groups of people experience these technologies. So even if there are no documents to prove this, at least no public ones, I should say. And even if the big tech companies have justifications for why, you know, Farah is a genius who is very viral makeup video calling out descent young genocide was magically deleted and she was magically been and then magically reinstated because of a quote unquote glitch. Very convenient. I am very inclined to believe the people who are experiencing and using these apps every day. I think another thing we really do need to keep in mind though, is that social justice is very cool on TikTok. In the same way, it was the coolest thing you could pursue on the likes of Tumblr and with the younger generation of young people who are becoming increasingly active, literate and enthusiastic about pursuing very personal ethos and social justice causes. We need to remember that the flip side of this is that it can also become a popularity contest. What this means is that there's a lot of bandwagon ing on TikTok where people as yes as intimated, who are not Indigenous, who might not know a lot about a minority group, who might not actually know about the realities of a specific social issue, are very encouraged to speak about it because they know that that's going to get them viral, that's going to get them in someone's FIP and it takes up space from the actual activists and people in these minoritarian groups who might have something they want to say and want to share. So unfortunately, the way we are doing attention on TikTok is driving that sort of hyper competition that sometimes fosters bandwagon. [00:27:53][110.9]

Vinita: [00:27:55] Is there some way that users can help to counter what you're talking about, this idea of bandwagon ing? Is there some way that as a user you can help to manipulate your own or you page so that you are getting the content that you want to get? [00:28:10][14.8]

Crystal: [00:28:10] It's quite difficult to know when you see a TikTok for the first time if it's the original, which is why it was such a big deal that young people were fighting over credits and asking for tips and asking to be acknowledged. There's a whole conversation, especially about Black youth in the US who were creating these massively viral dances and then having these works of art copied by young white women to it, then eventually clinch book deals or appearances on television over them. It was not just about copying art. It was literally about who gets to own a space and who gets rewarded for their visibility in these spaces. There are still other people who then go on these campaigns where they put up kicked up lectures and talking head style, telling people, if you're on these hashtags that I've checked, you've probably seen Person X talking about Issue Y in that manner. And I just want you to know that's not right. Other people you can check out instead. And this specific example, I think it's great because it's not just making space for the people who have things to say. It's not just holding space for them to say these things. It's literally fighting and wrestling the space away from others who have occupied the bandwagon for too long. And while it may seem very trivial and very small, I see this happening a lot amongst people who are in middle school, upper grade school. This might be the smallest of ways they feel they can intervene and partake in small politics. Everyday politics is a conversation. And this is also for me as an anthropologist of Internet culture, is an amazing display of the media literacies that they know that these are the silos, the underground back channels that they can use to talk to each other, even if the algorithm is doing them a disservice at that time. [00:30:01][111.0]

Vinita: [00:30:02] It sounds very hopeful and like a lot of young people on TikTok are very active. And you talk about everyday politics, this idea of everyday resistance that. They're sort of pushing their ideas. They're holding people accountable to make sure that folks get their due and their credits. What about you? Yes. I know that you started to post about mini lectures or mini ideas. [00:30:24][21.6]

Jas: [00:30:25] I definitely think it's the approachable format. There's like standard formats for how you make different content in different videos. It's really easy to jump in and just like view your FIP and then recreate some standard formats for creating videos. TikTok really is. It's a platform for appropriation, definitely. And I think about who Indigenous Tik-Tok is for, namely, and I do believe that there is like this political ethos around the temporalities that we are creating TikTokTok. BTikTokTok is still a business. There's still many data sovereignty scholars who are discussing the algorithm and the politics of it and what information they have about us and what information they keep about us. The creators who have the most followers on the app are still predominantly white young women, youth who are appropriating Black culture and Black dance trends. And we've also talked about TikTok a lot in the community as an app that has been used for grooming young children, older men stalking young girls on the platform. So I definitely am thinking about how I can have safe conversations with my children about how they should use the app and be interacting with folks. And I believe it is a good tool for connecting with audiences that you want to. But when it comes to this educational aspect, I think a lot about how a lot of the educational content is really driven towards folks who are not a part of Indigenous communities. So a lot of this Indigenous content will be folks in regalia trying to educate white folks about Indigenous issues instead of content that is specifically driven by and for Indigenous peoples. So I have this love hate tension, I guess with the educational aspects of TikTok. I definitely want it that way for teaching, for learning. But I also I wouldn't prescribe that to any other Indigenous content creator because I think there's a younger generation who's really railing back at representation online and who thinks representations are for. [00:32:14][109.0]

Vinita: [00:32:14] What do you think makes TikTok a good place to learn and teach Crystal? [00:32:17][3.3]

Crystal: [00:32:18] In the same way I use a lot of social media before TikTok is often a starting point for conversations for case studies. Given that I take an ethnographic approach, I often ask my students to go and make social media content because by living in that role or the space of a creator of a person who needs to be legible on the app, you get to understand your life just a little bit more. So making content, socialising, research on TikTok is another. I always encourage my students to use social media as a way for self-discovery as well, not just in the airy. Social media is my therapy kind of self-discovery, but self-discovery as in TikTok is one of those great spaces for you to know how much you don't know from accidental discovery, from coincidence, or the magical delivery of the algorithm giving you a new plus one each time. And it's okay to not know everything. It's also good to be open minded, to learn from others where equally out there to discover things for ourselves. [00:33:17][59.7]

Vinita: [00:33:19] We've been talking a lot about young folks and being the age that I am, I actually do get on the for you page. I'm been getting a lot of older women lately, like I've been getting some older makeup tutorials for older women kind of videos and like where are these coming from? So I think it is kind of interesting to talk about age. Is there space for older folks on TikTok? Is there room for us being educated as well? [00:33:44][25.7]

Crystal: [00:33:45] If you curate your feet enough, there are lots of other varieties of TikTok cultures outside of the youth. For instance, there are lots TikTokTok cultures. They're not even in English. There is a whole sector of kit talk where it's babies roleplaying with each other. Some parents are using it as parental education and how to care for your child, how to make friends. Although don'TikTokTok is another space that I venture into by default of my research. For one, we see a lot of elderly people accidentally go viral and become overnight celebrities without even knowing it. I have playlists of elderly people working the apps and then failing maybe in a 3/2 selfie and never, ever coming back on the app ever again. And I've got millions and millions of followers and views that they don't know about. They're also lots of elderly TikTok us who feature every now and then on the feats of you TikTok account owners who might not know that they are the cool grandparent on the app that people idolise and adore and the grandchild is probably profiting off to follow us said it's growing. They're a very, very popular variant of this dad or the mom. In my world of research, it's the Asian dad who is very against the stereotype and loving and calm, or the Asian mom who is extremely the stereotype and telling you to get off the app and study and go and get that a and be a doctor. Elder TikToktok is variety so as. At end of virality, people occupy hashtags like above 40, above 50, above 60. To carve out spaces for themselves. One of the parents I interviewed, who's got a daughter who's a viral TikTok, tells me that she's friends with other parenting talkers who are they're getting hits and views because they're testing the app ahead of their child. And she tells me they use that period of the pandemic to expend energy to figure out what TikTok is. So, you know, as long as mom's there and mom's getting all the wolf whistles and cat calls and knows how terrible that space can be, then mom knows how to take care of the children who are also on that app in the household. [00:35:48][123.0]

Vinita: [00:35:49] That's why I got on TikTok. I'll be honest, but I'm going to get on there first and then I'll explore the territory and you can jump on after me. There's everything, you know, book talk, native TikTok where TikTok Black TikTok Indigenous TikTok You know, it sounds like there's a subculture for many things. And I'm wondering about this idea of community building. Is it something that you still believe in as a place for building community? Sounds like you do. But I just want to check in again about that. This idea. Maybe you start with. Yes, I do. [00:36:23][34.4]

Jas: [00:36:24] I'm seeing temporalities of Indigenous thought and being in life that I've never experienced on social media before. And it's brought me into whole new networks of Indigenous peoples that I never met as an urban Indigenous person. I don't believe there is an aspect of community to Indigenous tik-tok. That said, I think like any social media platform, I think there is going to be conflict. We started an Indigenous TikTok in this place where we were all dressed in regalia and we're trying to educate non-Indigenous people is that we're people, we exist, we live now, we're not extinct or this dying people that you imagined in your history books. And now there's different kind of conversations happening, how this construction of the perfect activist native person who's so embracing their culture and so attuned to their cultural knowledge, maybe it is dehumanising in some aspects and Indigenous peoples are complex peoples because we are peoples of today. And so while there is conflict happening and there is sort of a divide about this presumed holistic community of Indigenous Tik-Tok, and we're realising that Indigenous TikTok isn't a monolith, we aren't all the same. And there's complexity here. There's diversity here. That sounds good. [00:37:27][62.9]

Vinita: [00:37:27] To me, actually. That kind of a conflict, it's important. It's good to challenge each other. I think that is part of building community. What do you think, Christel? Do you feel hopeful about this idea of building community on TikTok? [00:37:39][11.4]

Crystal: [00:37:39] I think the conflict that yes points to is evidence that people are invested in that space. So there is a self-selection there. You don't get riled up over something you don't care about. And I say this as a person who is a certain of many music groups and who belongs to many fandoms and secret pockets of the Internet. You care about the most minute things and you fight to death about the details. At the same time, though, I think we don't want to place too much optimism in what we perceive of community in the traditional sense online. Because on TikTok a community could be a hashtag. Do you still call it a community when people don't talk to each other, but they're just hanging out in the same space and depositing content. So the idea of community is very different from back in the day. Given that I'm a millennial where you say hang out on a forum every day and share your thoughts of people who return to that space everyday, or chat rooms or boomers in a Facebook group where they check in with each other every day on TikTok community can be a lot more touch and go. It can be just based on what you put out then content. Not so much how you focus on each other as creators. Once again, back to the original point. It's really two posts that really drive a lot of the activity there over the persona or the people. So in the same way communities are born overnight, it's also very easy for them to disappear. [00:39:04][84.7]

Vinita: [00:39:08] That's it for this episode of Don't Call Me Resilient. Crystal and Jas, thank you so much for sharing with us not only what sides of TikTok you're on, but also about your research and how you use it to both educate and learn from your students. We'd love to hear what you're thinking after that conversation. Are you going to give TikTok a try now? I'm on Twitter at. Right, Vinita. That's at w-r-i-t-e-v-i-n-i-t-a. And don't forget to tag our producers @conversationca. Use the hashtag, #DontCallmeResilient. And if you'd like to read more about TikTok and its educational powers, go to the conversation icon. We have all kinds of information in our show notes with links to stories and research. Finally, if you like what you heard today, please help spread the love. Tell a friend about us or leave us a review on whatever podcast app you're using. Why don't call me resilient is a production of the conversation can. This podcast was produced with the Grant for Journalism Innovation from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The series is produced and hosted by me Vinita Srivastava. The producer on this episode is Haley Lewis. Our other producers are Vaishnavi, Dien Decker and FOLARIN O'Donnell. Our sound producer is Lygia Navarro. Reza Dahya is our sound designer. Jennifer Moroz is our consulting producer. Lisa Varano is our audience development editor and Scott White is the CEO of The Conversation Canada. And if you're wondering who wrote and performed the music we use on the pod. That's the amazing Zaki Ibrahim. The track is called Something in the Water By. [00:39:08][0.0]

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