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Accepted Paper:

Medical ‘experts’ on social media: the techno-cultural authority of ADHD TikTok  
Deanna Holroyd (The Ohio State University)

Long abstract:

According to social media users’ comments, the recent increase in social media content detailing the symptoms and experiences of living with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has led to many users self-diagnosing with the disorder. This paper interrogates how content creators have become credible experts about ADHD, and how TikTok has become a voice of authority in the self-diagnosis of ADHD. Conducting a digital ethnography, I analyze ADHD TikToks and the technological infrastructures/assemblages surrounding the TikTok app, to delineate how expertise about the neurodivergent mind is created on TikTok. I demonstrate how content creators create videos that cultivate sentiments of trust, intimacy, and relatability, while also adopting visual and discursive norms from other trending TikTok content, and from more traditional visual media content. In doing so, ADHD content creators generate authority by conforming and contributing to a set of coproduced content standards that ensure their videos are deemed viewable and relevant by viewers and the algorithm. Contrary to traditional understandings of authority, I find that medical expertise on TikTok is not produced by individuals or institutions, but rather by content creators’ collective performativity of everyday lived experiences, and their engagement with the supporting technologies of the TikTok app. To account for this shift in how expertise are mediated in our digital mediascape, I build on theories of social, cultural, and algorithmic authority, to offer a theoretical framework of ‘techno-cultural authority’. I ultimately argue that the techno-cultural authority of ADHD TikTok challenges traditional authority figures and disrupts conventions of Western medical expertise.

Traditional Open Panel P208
Expert no more? Digital technologies and the transformation of expertise
  Session 1