Automating Platform Spectators: Algorithmic Montage and Affective Scroll in TikTok


Algorithmic automation of visual culture opens an interesting discus- sion of the negotiation of agency and circulation of affect between the user and the network. On audiovisual platforms, the algorithmic proce- dure is looped into the demands of attention economy, keeping the user watching. Taking TikTok as the main case study due to its compelling assemblage of surveillance tactics tailored to techno-embodied modes of spectatorship, this paper questions how platforms renegotiate the user-spectators’ agency and produce new modes of watching and expe- riencing images. I investigate algorithmic montage and affective scroll as TikTok’s key attention capture and instrumentalisation devices, built into the lacunae of behavioural opportunity and capitalising on the affective drive of the moving image flow. I argue that users should be seen as user-spectators whose agency undergoes a double negotia- tion, as users who can interact with the platform and as spectators who are subjected to specific modes of attention capture; their agential dis/empowerment is, therefore, contingent and framed by the specific epistemic and aesthetic affordances of the platform governmentality. Considering the role of algorithmic montage and affective scroll leads to new insights in how algorithmic surveillance simultaneously partici- pates in the aesthetic and temporal figuration of platform spectatorship and conditions the tactics of resistance to the algorithmic logic.

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Preferred Citation
Anikina, Alexandra: Automating Platform Spectators: Algorithmic Montage and Affective Scroll in TikTok. In: Digital Culture & Society, Jg. 7 (2021), Nr. 2, S. 119-138. DOI:
 author = {Anikina, Alexandra},
 title = {Automating Platform Spectators: Algorithmic Montage and Affective Scroll in TikTok},
 year = 2021,
 doi = "\url{}",
 volume = 7,
 address = {Bielefeld},
 journal = {Digital Culture & Society},
 number = 2,
 pages = {119--138},
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