TikTok and the Public Sphere: Examining the Structure of Online Discourse
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What does the word public mean to you? In relation to private, the public offers a world outside of your individual life; it is its own sphere of society. The public sphere refers to the space that contains the public’s communication, discourse, and debate. Ideally, this could be an equal place where the public could communicate its needs to the government. In reality, the public sphere is often dominated by a particular group of individuals who control the conversations and discourse within the sphere. Now, in the age of the Internet the public sphere has seemingly been implemented online. Social media platforms make virtual meeting grounds a new space for deliberation. The structure of these online spaces seem to be similar to the structure of the public sphere: a space for the masses, circulating discourse, and relatively equal. Yet, even online exclusions are made so that some voices are valued more than others. This paper seeks to analyze the platform TikTok, observing if it is comparable to the public sphere. Results indicate that while TikTok shares certain qualities that define a public sphere, there are still issues concerning exclusions, privacy, and algorithms.