Mass Ornament, Exploded: TikTok Dance Challenges as Mass Culture

06 Apr, 2024

Mass Ornament, Exploded: TikTok Dance Challenges as Mass Culture

Alum Renée Pastel has published "Mass Ornament, Exploded: TikTok Dance Challenges as Mass Culture" in The Velvet Light Trap!

The Velvet Light Trap is a journal devoted to investigating historical questions that illuminate the understanding of film and other media. While VLT maintains its traditional commitment to the study of American film, it also expands its scope to television and other media, to adjacent institutions, and to other nations' media.

From the abstract:

This article argues for an understanding of TikTok dance challenges through the lens of Siegfried Kracauer's concept of the "mass ornament," the aestheticization of deindividualization. Tracing the emphasis on individuality in discussions of TikTok—an internet-based app reliant on user-created, algorithmically recommended content—I revisit the difficulty of defining mass media in the contemporary transitional time period's network logics of dispersed attention, in order to consider the ways in which dance challenges on TikTok can be seen as an appeal to a mass culture despite the simultaneous fragmentation of audiences through niche content. Reading TikTok dance challenges as algorithmically dispersed mass ornaments allows for a new appreciation for the remassing of viewers and users alike, by understanding the dispersion of the mass ornament in presentation but not in effect. Ultimately, I argue that without recognizing the lingering dimensions of mass appeal in apps like TikTok, we lose the possibility for mass audiences to confront their aestheticized form at a cultural level and thereby lose the hope of contending with the deindividualizing effects masked by surface-level personalization.

Read the article here!