social media notes #1: TikTok audios

TikTok is “a highly musical version of social media because it works based on endlessly repeated snippets of audio.” On TikTok, users can make videos using popular audios as a type of template.

TikTok audios themselves become “memes” which -in their endless repetition and use as an intelligible creative starting point- are ultimately more significant that any visual cues that a user will find repeated on the platform.

Part of what makes TikTok compelling is that audio is very intimate and therefore emotionally engaging. Audio sticks in human memory and creates a nostalgic feeling. For example, some popular TikTok audios are the most emotive moment of a contemporary song. Endlessly repeated, these snippets can put the user-listener in a trance-like state.

Audio is primal. As humans we can “reproduce” audio naturally and instinctively by speaking, singing or humming. Reproducing a visual -as in a scene or picture- is much more challenging and abstract.

TikTok has taken this fundamental component of human culture -reproducing audio- and automated it. I’ve already called TikTok audios “memes” but I think that might understate things. What are they though? Poetry? Incantations? Chants? War cries? Maybe something entirely new.

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