Vignesh Swaminathan Reaches Bay Area Urbanism Fanatics With His Viral Tik Tok Presence – Best American Indian Magazine | San Jose California

Before amassing nearly 700,000 followers and more than 20 million likes on ICT Tac, Vignesh Swaminathan avoided social media.

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What started as a way for him to post dance videos for fun between Zoom calls has become an internet celebrity, but Tik Toker, 30, a civil engineer and chairman of the city’s sustainability commission of Cupertino, declared his recent rise to glory. was far from perfect. Swaminathan – known to his Tik Tok audience as “Mr. Barricade” – posts a combination of videos explaining the bike paths he has designed in Bay Area cities alongside typical dance videos from the platform, attracting a diverse audience of average Tik Tok users and urban planning fanatics.

Swaminathan is CEO and President of Carrefour Lab, a transportation company that develops infrastructure and performs urban work around the Bay Area. He also held several political roles as Member of the Citizen Advisory Committee and Chairman of the Citizen Watch Committee for the Valley Transit Authority, but still finds time to interact with his Tik Tok audience and educate them about the city planning work he does.

This residential street was converted to a one-way street with an on-street pathway by Vignesh’s Firm Crossroad Lab. This is a vital segment that connects two trails, with no through traffic. A pilot project took place for 2 months before the paint and poles were installed. A next phase will consist of raising the path and adding plantings. This phased approach with outreach is the best way to get community-focused projects.

“I hopped on Tik Tok to understand the app a bit and have a place where I can be myself and not really think about work,” he said.

Swaminathan said that during his time on the platform, he also faced racist internet trolls and repeated suspensions due to Tik Tok community guidelines. But he said that wouldn’t stop him from using his platform to educate his audience about urban planning, sustainability and anti-racism.

Swaminathan said that due to mass reports of internet trolls, Tik Tok’s automatic ban banned and reinstated his account several times throughout the summer. He said he used Tik Tok audio which was also popular among users who disliked its content, which led him to struggle with the platform’s auto-ban system. Swaminathan said the system also disproportionately controls minority creators.

“It’s been known that creators from minority backgrounds get more reports than others, and Tik Tok made a statement saying they were trying to work on the fact that there are a disproportionate number of banned minority group accounts,” did he declare.

Swaminathan said he has always dealt with a lot of racism in the comment sections of his videos, and said he has always had commenters responding to his content with racist jokes and stereotypes.

“For me, what was frustrating was that they were using my face to teach others how to be racist towards people who looked like me,” he said.

But Swaminathan said the platform has many benefits, the main one being that he has developed a following of people who are passionate about his work. His comment sections are also often filled with high school and college students expressing that his videos have inspired them to pursue a career in a similar industry.

“I feel very blessed and motivated by all the comments I see,” he said. “It took me a while to mentally learn to filter out all the hateful comments and focus on the positive.”

Swaminathan said he even gets recognition from his Tik Tok fans when he is out in public and many of his fans tell him that he has helped them develop their career aspirations in urban planning or civil engineering.

@mrbarricade

🚸We designed this #quickbuild #curbextension set up in #gilroy #under construction #public works #cattracking #Urban Design #crosswalk #peds

♬ original sound – MrBarricade

Looking ahead, Swaminathan said he plans to stay on the app – despite its recent suspensions from the platform – and continue to use it to educate its viewers.

“I feel like I understand the culture of Tik Tok pretty well. I’m saying this as a 30-year-old man, but I feel like I understand pretty well where it’s kind of a place where I can just be myself,” he said.

He also said he wanted to work on planning issues at a senior level in government after being invited by some political groups to run for mayor of Cupertino in the previous election cycle. Although he then declined the offer, Swaminathan said he was interested in continuing his work in government while developing his social media career in the meantime.

“There are a lot of sides to city government and I’ve chosen a career path that allows me to keep learning and never stop learning,” he said.


Isha Trivedi is a journalism student at George Washington University. She enjoys reading and listening to podcasts in her (limited) free time.