Multi-Modal Crisis Discourse and Collective Sensemaking on TikTok

Christy Khoury, Alexander Owen-Smith, Una Joh, Yiran Duan, Jeff Hemsley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An explosion at the Port of Beirut resulted in over 200 fatalities and displaced many more. Hundreds recorded and thousands shared the event, sparking discourse across social media. We provide a mixed-methods analysis of 26 TikTok videos about the port explosion. Our study involved a semiotic analysis of the videos and a content analysis of the related 21,150 comments. The discourse surrounding the explosion extends a growing body of literature on the role of TikTok in disseminating crisis-related information. We use a collective sensemaking framework to investigate how TikTok contributes to the understanding of an event. The authors find that Middle Eastern content creators contributed more to collective sensemaking about the event than non-Middle Eastern creators. We additionally examine the current state of collective sensemaking on TikTok and provide platform implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-212
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • Beirut
  • Content Analysis
  • Crisis Informatics
  • Multimodality
  • TikTok

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • Library and Information Sciences


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