Major Papers

Author ORCID Identifier : Hongwei Ma


Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL), thematic content analysis, TikTok, promotional strategies, debt attributes, dominant narratives


This research employs Thematic Content Analysis (TCA) to examine the downplayed debt attributes of Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) services, focusing specifically on the contrast between official narratives and critical discourse on TikTok. The study investigates how BNPL companies in North America employ promotional strategies on their official websites and in press conferences to downplay the debt aspect of their services. It further explores the role of TikTok as a platform for public discourse that challenges these dominant narratives surrounding BNPL debt attributes and breaks knowledge hegemony. By analyzing samples from BNPL service providers' websites and press conferences, the study identifies the strategies used to control official discourse and shape public perception. Additionally, it analyzes TikTok videos under relevant hashtags to understand how influencers critically evaluate BNPL services and employ counter-discursive strategies. The findings highlight the hidden intentions of BNPL services in North America, questioning whether they offer free money or intentionally designed debt traps. The study also reveals the burden-shifting phenomenon, exposing the misplaced responsibility within BNPL services. Furthermore, it explores the potential of the BNPL phenomenon to facilitate overspending and expand risky consumer finance that may lead to a personal debt crisis. This research contributes to the understanding of the political economy of communication, consumer finance, and media studies by shedding light on the power dynamics, dominant narratives, and knowledge hegemony surrounding BNPL services in North America. The insights have implications for policymakers, consumers, and scholars, providing valuable perspectives on the discourse surrounding BNPL and its implications for society.

Primary Advisor

Vincent Manzerolle

Program Reader

Kyle Asquith

Degree Name

Master of Arts


Communication, Media and Film

Document Type

Major Research Paper

Convocation Year