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Dances, Duets, and Debates: Analysing political communication and viewer engagement on TikTok

Dances, Duets, and Debates: Analysing elite political communication on TikTok

Speaker: (opens in a new window)Natalia Umansky (University of Zurich)

Co-authors: Christian Pipal (UZH), Johannes Gruber (UvA), Aleksandra Urman (UZH), Jason Greenfield (NYU)

Wednesday, November 8, 14:00–14:45 (Irish time)

Please register (opens in a new window)here to receive the link and password to the online meeting and information on the room at UCD.

Abstract: TikTok has emerged as a powerful player, revolutionising the way political elites interact with society online. Serving as the international version of its Chinese sister app, Douyin, TikTok was launched in 2017. Despite its relatively recent release, TikTok has amassed a staggering two billion downloads to date, making it one of the most downloaded and fastest-growing apps of the last decade. Known for its viral dance and singing trends, as well as amusing clips that typically last only a few seconds, TikTok has turned into a new venue for ideological formation and political activism. Yet, despite extensive research focusing on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, TikTok's distinct platform-specific languages and features have received limited attention from the PolComm literature. This paper addresses this gap by developing a novel empirical strategy to analyse political communication from audiovisual data. Building on two original data sets that contain TikTok videos by politicians and political parties, we produce both qualitative and large-scale computational analyses of images, text, and audio content to explore how political elites in Europe and the U.S. employ this platform. Our findings provide valuable insights into digital political communication on emerging platforms like TikTok and the role of multiple message modalities in harnessing online attention and engagement.

About the speaker: Natalia Umansky is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Political Science at the University of Zurich and the Digital Democracy Lab. Previously, she was an Iseult Honohan Scholar at University College Dublin and the Connected_Politics Lab, where she obtained her PhD in Politics and International Relations. Her research applies Computational Social Science, including quantitative text analysis, network analysis, and computer vision to study the social media sphere and answer questions related to International Relations and Political Communication.