In today’s digital age, internet platforms are reshaping the way culture and entertainment are distributed. In particular, platforms like TikTok, with its powerful algorithms and globalised influence, are changing how we consume and understand music and art. Nowadays, more and more songs by kpop artists like Jung Kook, New Jeans are appearing on international charts such as Billboard, apple music, etc. There are also more and more Kpop videos in TikTok. The purpose of this blog is to explore how TikTok has provided a boost to the globalisation trend of Kpop (Korean pop music) through its unique internet mechanisms, such as big data personalised recommendations and platformisation effects. First, we will delve into how we can provide tailor-made Kpop content to users by analysing their data. Then, we will examine how TikTok has leveraged its global user base to create a cross-cultural and cross-language stage for Kpop. In the process, we will see that the internet is not just a communication tool, but it has the ability to redefine and shape global cultural phenomena.
Big data personalised recommendations help Kpop go global
Tiktok’s big data personalised recommendation system is shaping Kpop’s global distribution path. The core concept behind this recommendation system is “collaborative filtering”, which analyses the browsing and interaction history of a large number of users to predict what individual users are likely to like, and Koren, Bell, and Volinsky point out in their study that Netflix’s recommendation system is based on this collaborative filtering technique to recommend movies to users, which greatly improves the viewing experience and satisfaction of users (Koren, Bell, & Volinsky, 2009). filtering technique to recommend movies for users, which greatly improves their viewing experience and satisfaction (Koren, Bell, & Volinsky, 2009). Similarly, TikTok uses this technique to ensure that Kpop content finds the most appropriate audience based on users’ preferences and interaction history.The process looks like ：
- Users interacting with or sharing content from a particular Kpop artist or group on TikTok
- TikTok ‘s algorithm captures this trend of user interaction
- The algorithm recommends related or similar Kpop content to the user based on the user’s interactions and preferences
- Users’ connection with Kpop is strengthened and Kpop artists and groups get greater exposure
Returning to our argument, TikTok’s big data personalised recommendation system, through the concept of collaborative filtering, ensures that Kpop content is quickly and accurately disseminated to its target audience across the globe, thus greatly accelerating its global reach and impact.
TikToks’s platform-based nature is accelerating Kpop’s global spread
Nowadays, with the further deepening of the global Internet, platformisation has become a new mode of communication in the cultural industry. Especially in the field of music, this model has provided unparalleled assistance to Kpop. And TikTok, as a representative contemporary internationalised platform, is the main source of this boost. One of the key academic concepts of platformisation is the ‘network effect’. In short, the network effect describes how the value of a product or service increases with the number of its users. As described by Chaffey et al. (2019), this is the core reason for the rapid growth of many social media platforms. Each time a user joins, the value of these platforms to other users increases.
Like the dance challenge post by NewJeans and V, when millions of users across the globe participate in a Kpop group’s dance challenge, this not only enhances Kpop’s presence on TikTok, but also strengthens the bond between Kpop and its global fan base. In summary, it is the network effect on the TikTok platform that provides a solid foundation for Kpop’s global spread and acceptance. On such a platform, Kpop has not only been showcased, but has also received in-depth interaction with its global fans, truly realising the cross-border dissemination of culture.
TikTok’s algorithmic bubble effect may be limiting cultural diversity
What is algorithmic bubble?
In the digital social media ecosystem, while algorithms provide users with a customised content experience, this has also been controversial. In particular, critics have focused on the phenomenon of “information cocooning”, also known as the algorithmic bubble effect, which describes how users are often framed in information environments that correspond to their pre-existing interests and opinions. Such environments may reduce their exposure to different or opposing viewpoints.
What’s the harm?
Pariser (2012) argues in The Filter Bubble that excessive personalisation can lead to further fragmentation of society and impede the exchange of different cultures and viewpoints.For the context of TikTok and Kpop, this means that while Kpop fans are able to consistently receive their favourite content, other cultural phenomena that are different from Kpop may be marginalised. This over-personalisation may not only limit users’ access to multiculturalism, but may also affect the development and diversity of Kpop itself.
Although TikTok has helped globalise Kpop to a certain extent, we still need to be cautious about the platform’s algorithmic recommendations to ensure that we do not lose the breadth and depth of cultural exchange while enjoying personalised content.
Over-reliance on digital platforms may create instability in culture like Kpop
In the case of YouTube, for example, the platform has tweaked its recommendation algorithms and monetisation strategies on a number of occasions, which has led to many content creators facing a drop in revenue and changes in traffic. Kpop could face similar risks if it becomes too dependent on a digital platform such as TikTok.
What‘ s next？
As the role of digital platforms in the cultural industry has gradually increased, reliance on these platforms to disseminate content seems to have become a necessity. However, this reliance is not without risk. Especially when we consider the instability of platforms, such as shrinking traffic, policy changes or other unpredictable variables. Gillespie (2010) explores how digital platforms act as cultural intermediaries, filtering, sorting and recommending the content on them. This gives the platform enormous power, but also means that when platform decisions change, there can be huge impacts on the content and creators on the platform.
Rebuttal’s point of view
The Multi-Faceted Spread of Kpop: It’s Not Just TikTok
When discussing the algorithmic bubble effect, while the algorithms of platforms such as TikTok may make it easier for certain users to fall into an information cocoon, Kpop’s global reach is not entirely dependent on a single platform. In fact, Kpop relies on multiple platforms for promotion and distribution. For example, YouTube, the world’s largest video-sharing platform, provides a huge audience base for Kpop MVs and dance practice videos; music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music have also increased the accessibility of Kpop music.
More Than Just an Algorithm’s Choice
Kpop is much more than just music. Fashion, dance, music production, variety shows and even the daily lives of idols have become the focus of fans’ attention. This diversity of content ensures that Kpop is able to attract and maintain a wide variety of audiences, thus reducing the risks associated with algorithmic changes on a single platform.
The Multifaceted Global Appeal of Kpop
In this article, we explored how TikTok has facilitated Kpop’s global reach, especially through big data personalized recommendations and platform effects. TikTok’s algorithm accurately captures user preferences, enabling Kpop content to quickly find its target audience. As an international platform, TikTok provides Kpop with a stage that transcends national boundaries. However, there are criticisms suggesting that algorithmic personalization might lead to the “filter bubble” phenomenon, limiting cultural diversity, and highlighting the risks of over-relying on a single platform like TikTok. In contrast, the rebuttal argues that Kpop’s globalization doesn’t solely depend on TikTok but employs a multi-platform strategy, including YouTube and Spotify. Moreover, the allure of Kpop lies in its diverse content, from music to fashion, ensuring its widespread appeal and influence beyond the constraints of any single platform’s algorithm.
Beware online “filter bubbles.” (2011). Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles” | TED Talk. Retrieved October 8, 2023, from https://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.
Chaffey, D. (2011). Internet marketing: Strategy, implementation and practice. Prentice Hall/Financial Times.
Koren, Y., Bell, R., & Volinsky, C. (2009). Matrix factorization techniques for Recommender Systems. Computer, 42(8), 30–37. https://doi.org/10.1109/mc.2009.263
Lomas, N. (2021, July 7). YouTube’s recommender AI still a horror show, finds major crowdsourced study. TechCrunch. https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/07/youtubes-recommender-ai-still-a-horrorshow-finds-major-crowdsourced-study/
Pariser, E. (2012). The filter bubble: How the new personalized web is changing what we read and how we think. Penguin Books.
Sun-hwa, D. (2022, May 20). How did TikTok become main marketing tool for K-pop?. koreatimes. https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/art/2023/10/398_329223.html