Framing and Mis-Framing in Micro-Blogging Sites in China: Online Propagation of an Animal Cruelty Campaign

Framing and Mis-Framing in Micro-Blogging Sites in China: Online Propagation of an Animal Cruelty Campaign

Yuanxin Wang (Temple University, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1963-8.ch005
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Abstract

Micro-blogging is a popular, continuously developing form of communication that allows users to update their current life status in short posts around the clock with targeted websites and platforms. A significant blogosphere has developed in China where the prevailing micro-blogging websites comprise Internet coverage of issues not covered by mainstream media. This research will examine heavily shared and discussed blog posts on a popular micro-blogging website in China during an anti-animal cruelty campaign. The comments section of the blog posts will also be analyzed to identify discrepancies between the frames set by the bloggers and the perceptions by their audiences.
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Introduction

The concept of micro-blogging became popular with the emergence of Tumblr and Twitter in 2006 (Li, Hoi, & Chang, 2010). The basic elements in such connected social network communities (aka blogospheres) include individual postings, comments, and articulated connections through hyperlinks, replies, or re-tweet (share or repost in Chinese blogging sites) between (micro) blogs from networks of interconnected texts (Schmidt, 2011). A typical micro-blogger has tens if not hundreds of friends in his or her network, which may translate to hundreds of micro-blog updates every day. Therefore, the medium holds the potential for powerful information flow.

Micro-blogging, a platform for Web-based and mobile applications that allows users to exchange small elements of their life status, has experienced rapid growth and gained popularity worldwide. Compared to traditional blogging, micro-blogging allows for more instant and flexible communication due to its real-time news-update function and multiple tools for exchanging ideas with immediacy. Schmidt (2011, p. 160) defined blogs as “frequently updated websites that display content in reverse chronological order.” Single blog entries have unique URLs and can be linked to individual users, rather than to the site as a whole.

Micro-blogs differ from blogs in that micro-blogs are limited in the number of characters in a single post and in the aggregated size of audience (Ho, Li, & Lin, 2011). For example, the popular U.S. micro-blog site, Twitter, limits each post’s length to 140 English characters. One of China’s prominent micro-blog sites, Sina.com, requires its users to post no more than 140 Chinese characters in each post. Micro-blog users explicitly establish connections among themselves by “following” or “being followed by” other users and by explicitly referring to other users by replying to or “re-tweeting” (i.e., “forwarding”) their posts (Schmidt, 2011, p. 160).

Micro-blog data provide a useful resource for studying the dynamic flow of change or exchange of information due to micro-blog’s embedded timeline (Ho, Li, & Lin, 2011). Marolt (2008) suggested that blogs should be perceived as a conscious and intentional effort to alter perceptions in and of everyday life: Bloggers express their opinions and produce shared meanings, and they may inspire societal transformation resulting in (perceived and actual) changes in their everyday lived realities. In China, because mainstream media is under heavy censorship from the central government, and because the general public usually does not have access to information that may be perceived by the government as a threat to public security, blogging sites have become a major channel for ordinary people to voice their concerns about sensitive issues (e.g., political and environmental issues) and to make an effort to facilitate changes in their daily lives.

Research examining micro-blogging is relatively slim compared to studies addressing other Internet-based new media. Due to the early inception and development of blogging sites in the U.S., most studies on blogging have examined the topic in the U.S. Nonetheless, micro-blogging technology has prospered in China due to its huge netizen (Internet users) population and the prevalence of Wi-Fi availability in public areas. Yet only limited amount of published research examining micro-blogging in China exists. The lack of research may be partially due to the political pressure from the Chinese government, which has attempted to block and delete sensitive words, controversial posts, as well as diverse viewpoints on blogging sites (Yu, 2007). This study fills a gap in the literature by offering a close look at micro-blogging in China. This paper explores how micro-blogging messages originating in China are initiated, designed or tailored, and distributed to a large audience, and how its audience perceives the micro-blog messages.

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