Audio Templates as Identity and Intimacy on TikTok

It is the last day of Digital Intimacies 6 (#DigInt20), and today my collaborator and friend D. Bondy Valdovinos Kaye and I presented some initial thoughts form our project on ‘Audio Templates as Identity and Intimacy on TikTok’.

In this post, we have put together a TikTok playlist for folks to peruse, whether to venture deeper into the world of ‘audio memes’ on TikTok or to groom your algorithm with our ‘starter dough TikToks’.

In our talk and paper-in-progress, we consider what we are calling ‘the audio turn in memes’, wherein sounds have become the dominant element in a trajectory of memes. We considered how copyright and branding of memes are being mapped over to the genre and ecology of sounds, and looked at some TikTok creators who have utilised catchphrases, iconic exaggerations of accents and tonalities, and soundtracks to ‘brand’ their content and persona:

1) @yoleenadong, 21 November 2020

2) @fash, 10 November 2020

3) @funcolle, 7 December 2020

These follow from various legacies of ASMR, sensual POVs, voice acting, and perhaps even phone sex and podcasting. We are now at the stage of our research of sorting through our empirical data and diving into the various scholarship on sound and intimacy, to inform our analysis. Here are some TikToks in various audio-intimate genres:

1) @satisfying..x..lips, 7 October 2020

2) @asmr, 1 December 2020

3) @readchoi, 22 November 2020

4) @withakerika, 1 December 2020

We consider a definition of ‘audio meme templates’ and at least four of their functions, based on a forthcoming paper by yours truly in Cultural Science Journal.

Case study one looks at how TikToks rely on the lyrics of specific songs to tell a story:

1) @palmparadisee, 18 August 2020

2) @iammarksmith, 27 August 2020

Case study two looks at TikToks that consider the musical and rhythmic shape of a tune to advance a story line:

1) @dingusclown, 23 March 2020

2) @thesun, 17 November 2020

Case study three looks at TikToks that complement or juxtapose audio memes against video content and textual captions:

1) @_whorelando, 23 July 2020

2) @mycosymbiote, 29 July 2020

And case study four looks at TikToks that use audio memes to organize and streamline content into specific silos:

1) @absofacto, 13 July 2020

2) @absofacto, 15 July 2020

In our preliminary analysis, we identified a few modes through which audio on TikTok is used to convey identity and intimacy, but in our short 12min talk for #DigInt20, we focused on four emergent points.

Point one focuses on accidental virality, where TikTok creators feel or are unable to control the expressions of their identity or how they are seen online:

1) @inoxiasounds, 19 November 2019

2) @coopij, 20 July 2020

Point two focuses on asserting ownership, where TikTok creators attempt to reclaim or reconnect to misattributed or viral sounds and audio:

1) @kungfou, 23 May 2020

2) @annacledening, 28 July 2020

Point three focuses on locking audio, where TikTok creators who were concerned about their voices and sounds being used without their permission strategised over circumvention strategies:

1) #400charlotte, 16 July 2020

2) @nimllz1, 13 September 2020

And point four focuses on what we’re calling ‘the audio turn in memes’, where duet and stitch chains on TikTok now rely on performances and remixing of sound over images:

1) @violentbroccoli, 22 November 2020

2) @felonious_skunk, 8 December 2020

Thanks for your interest in our project + We hope to bring you further updates on our paper soon. /Crystal & Bondy

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