Digital archive: an internet that never forgets

'Creators are revamping forgotten lexicon and characters of old culture'

GleeTok has me asking, with nothing ever die now?

In the larger framing of the world, TikTok is still an infant. A little baby platform, not even got its big teeth yet. But while the content evolution on TikTok has been vast, rapid and new, recently a lot of what’s being made is not new, but just surfacing old. Actually, TikTok’s whole set-up of splicing, stitching, editing and recreating has made it the perfect breeding ground for reliving old fandoms. Is this the legacy of millennials on TikTok? De-fibrillating the cultural references of their childhoods, and bringing them back to life in their feeds? Some of the content is actually great. Take Kerrmama’s total frame by frame recreation of classic noughties music videos, or demi devito’s reimagining of Pretty Little Liars and Glee through a 2024 cultural lens. Creators are lovingly revamping the forgotten lexicon, knowledge, and characters of old culture, imbuing new value onto the dated.

But linger, as apparently I do, on this too long and you end up down a rabbit hole. GleeTok, GossipGirlTok, VampireDiariesTok (iykyk). Shows that were culturally garbage-adjacent when they came out, and have aged like milk. Before, they’d have been lost to obscurity. Maybe you might have some old episodes downloaded on your iTunes that you’d keep for a rainy day, but only a select few would be on the fan forums reliving old episodes. But now it’s all there for everyone to see, episode re-uploads, deep fan fiction… often shakily recorded from a laptop.

The good(ish), (definitely) bad, and the (completely) ugly

Discovery media just means that nothing dies anymore. Is that good for art and culture? I don’t know. But it does post an interesting world for brands… a world in which nothing is forgotten holds both potential riches and huge misfortune. We’re already seeing an internet that never forgets, one that holds brands to account for missteps. This has huge benefits in pushing the climate agenda and keeping accountability for consistency between words (-washing) and action. But this same world can make people cautious to stand out, to take risks beyond paths already trodden. I see the consistent use of ‘unhinged’ social media tones of voice like this.

Brands want to be social-first and bold and fit in, but only once they know it’ll land

There’s no erasure or forgetting. But beyond just brand accountability it’s interesting as routes in for audiences. We’re told time and again that we need to ‘move at the speed of culture’ and that ‘things are changing faster than ever’. The doom scrolling and climate anxiety and perma-crises, we’re flurried up into a frenzy trying to keep up and stay ahead and anticipate and Web3 and global expansion and and and…

But there’s corners of the internet, big and small, that are still poring over that scene from Gilmore Girls from twenty years ago; and having the same laughs over intonation in Twilight; and who still believe the 2000s were the best era for music. And this isn’t just people from that time, it’s introducing new fans to the old. Making a weird circle where past, present and future meet. A digital archive, held in time, made and remade.

Maybe there’s a zag for brands to join some of us in the past, too.

Featured image: Gossip Girl

Kate Knowles, Freelance Strategist

Kate Knowles is a freelance strategist and former senior strategist at Weirdo. She has over six years experience working in strategy, with extensive experience planning campaigns for FTSE100 brands and disruptive startups alike. Passionate about inclusion and allyship, she participates in volunteering and mentorship.

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