“Microblog, A Public Sphere?”: An Examination of Opinion Expression about “Snowden Affair” on Twitter and Sina Weibo

“Microblog, A Public Sphere?”: An Examination of Opinion Expression about “Snowden Affair” on Twitter and Sina Weibo

Shaohai Jiang (Texas A&M University, USA)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9879-6.ch002
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Abstract

Based on Habermas' public sphere theory, this chapter examined netizens' opinion expression about the “Snowden affair” on two microblogging websites, Twitter and its Chinese counterpart, Sina Weibo. The results indicated that on Sina Weibo, netizens were more likely to express their opinion and particularly show their attitude towards Snowden. However, their voice was quite homogenous, mostly supporting him. On Twitter, netizens had diverse attitudes towards Snowden, and the news reports on Twitter covered far more topics. However, Twitter users prefer forwarding news to directly expressing their own opinion. And the US government did not have active engagement on Twitter. Thus, in both democratic and authoritarian contexts, microblogging has some important elements of public sphere, although it might not be absolute. We cannot ignore the communicative power of microblogging to promote cooperation and mutual understanding, which is significant in the democratic process and civil society in both China and the US.
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Political Microblogging: Twitter Vs. Sina Weibo

Among all social media, microblogging has a particularly democratic power to facilitate public opinion due to its open and widely-connected structure. Dissimilar to other social media, such as Facebook, the microblogging is not restricted in in-network audiences. Instead, postings on the microblog can be readily seen by all the users globally, creating a platform for easy responses and comments in a vibrant online context for public discourse (Kim, 2011).

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