How to Tame

Ellen Simpson, Andrew Hamann, Bryan Semaan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


As our social worlds increasingly shift online, many of the technologies people encounter are mediated by algorithms. Algorithms have become deeply embedded into people's online lives, often working to tailor and personalize their routine encounters with the world. How does one domesticate, or make one's own, an algorithmic system? One of the goals as people adopt new technologies is to weave them into their everyday routines, establishing a pattern of use in order to make that technology their own. In this paper we focus on people's experiences domesticating the short-form video sharing application, TikTok. Through an interview study with 16 LGBTQ+ TikTok users, we explore how people's routine experiences with TikTok's For You Page algorithm influence and inform their domestication process. We first highlight people's motivations for adopting TikTok and the challenges they encounter in this initial acquisition phase of domestication. After adopting the platform, we discuss the challenges people experience across the final three phases of domestication: objectification, incorporation, and conversion. We find that though they enjoy TikTok, our participants feel that they are never fully able to domesticate TikTok. As they are never able to fully control their digital selves, and thus integrate it into their routine lives, TikTok is in constant misalignment with their personal moral economy. We discuss the implications of domesticating algorithmic systems, examining the questions of whose values shape the moral economy created by and through people's uses of algorithmic systems, and the impact of nostalgia on the domestication process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3492841
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
Issue numberGROUP
StatePublished - Jan 14 2022


  • algorithms
  • domestication
  • moral space
  • nostalgia
  • tiktok

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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