Katherine McClintock

#Cottagecore #Japandi:

Aesthetic Categories within TikTok’s Filter Bubbles and Their Impact on Interior Design

the future of residential interior design? TikTok is a video-sharing social media platform, distinguished by its personalised exploration feature, called the “For You” page (FYP). The FYP is a nearly infinite feed of videos curated by an algorithm that tracks the user’s behaviours, from which it infers preferences of video style and content. It displays videos that the user is most likely to engage with by using machine learning that detects user behaviours, such as the time spent watching before swiping to the next video or the number of replays (Chu, Deng & Mundel, 2022). Although the user is free to subscribe to as many TikTok “creators” as they wish, as well as use the search tool to watch and explore specific topics, the default feed is the FYP, an algorithmically curated, informationally isolated space. This echo-chamber phenomenon is called the “filter bubble”. While general filter bubbles exist universally - i.e. liberal versus conservative - each user has their own, highly specific filter bubble which is created based on what the algorithm identifies as their interests, aesthetic style or even their stance in particular debates.

An important aspect of filter bubbles is their visual language: a user may be offered videos about topics that are new to them if their visual aesthetic aligns with that of the content they engage most with. I call these visual languages “aesthetic categories”. Interior design is a domain that makes aesthetic categories very apparent as it pertains to specific trends, styles, eras and even lifestyles. Analysing interior design through the lens of aesthetic categories reveals the way the TikTok algorithm interprets the discipline, and in turn, the context in which users are exposed to interior design. This allows me to trace TikTok’s reciprocal digital and physical impacts on interior design.

As TikTok’s network effect continues to grow, its influence gains traction, not only for its users, but also, more widely, in the disciplines that creators post about. As a practical and artistic discipline, interior design is a prominent teller of how these impacts can manifest in the physical world. Throughout history, the advent of new technologies - from photography and film to the internet and AI - has consistently been a key subject of criticism for the negative impacts they have on society. However, Gallese (2020) argues that these developments have expanded the potential for creative expression
in artistic and digital media representations of the world around us. I think Gallese makes a strong point when asserting that the fear and discomfort surrounding new technology must not cloud the possibilities of progress and innovation. As architectural historians - such as Colomina (1996) and Carpo (1998) - have demonstrated, technology plays a key role in the production and dissemination of architecture and architectural information. In turn, design develops in parallel with technology. To understand where the future of design is headed, we must examine who is involved in current interior design. Today, anyone with access to a smartphone and the internet has access to designs from around the world and through time. By creating communities according to aesthetic categories, rather than the types of people behind the videos, the algorithm allows anyone to contribute to the discussion and participate in the exchange of design ideas.
Gallese (2020) discusses the concept of the “trans-aesthetic world” that characterises our present time, where artistic capitalism has emerged as a dominant force. He suggests that art has become closely intertwined with the market and the pursuit of profit, “art-for-market” (p.62). “Today [the] aestheticization of the world means that artistic activities and the systematic search for beauty, pleasure, strong emotional involvement and entertainment pervade all social practices. The digital disintermediation of perception and the creation of meaning managed by the new digital mediascape, which is strongly based on embodied emotions, boost the trans-aesthetic model, making it pervasive and marking a radical change in daily practices and habits affecting the way people relate to the world, perceive it, and inform their decisions thereupon.” (Gallese, 2020, p.62) Moreover, Gallese (2020) argues that aesthetic experience can be seen as a form of mediated intersubjectivity. In this context, the symbolic object, work of art, or in this case, the video acts as the mediator between the creator and the audience. By engaging with digital media, people can have shared understandings, emotional resonance and subjective interpretations of the work (Gallese, 2020). This is because the aesthetic experience is influenced by humans’ oscillation between their physical, pragmatic perceptions and imaginative, representational perceptions of reality (Gallese, 2020). Based on my findings, aesthetic categories are a space where these two perspectives become indistinguishable, as creators can fill in the gaps between the two through their videos. This shared digital space for visual media offers creators the opportunity romanticise their lives and bring to life dreamt-up representations of the space they inhabit. It has been proven that in the digital era, representation is in and of itself a part of reality. Interior design, as the physical changeable mediator between the representation and reality, is a means for concretising these romanticised perspectives. And because interior design on TikTok is able to innovate through its engagement with the wider public, it has democratised design and allowed it to reach a more elevated standard.