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The story of Qi Shi Ma: Online discussion and community engagement in urban China
Unformatted Document Text:  - 15 - reality. Second, the online forum allowed a variety of opinions to be expressed. The local newspaper focused on descriptions of the accident and announcements of official news from the police and the city government, as it worked as an organ of the local government (Qiu, 2000). In newspaper stories, the driver was covered as an individual, and the public discussions of the accident were not mentioned at all. On the forum, more themes were covered on both individual and social levels. On the individual level, the driver was blamed and the victim was mourned. On the social level, questions about the government’s performance and dissatisfaction about the social structure were expressed. Zhou et al (2008) found that political topics held only small amounts of online discussions in their study. However, in this case, discussions concentrated on questioning authority, which included administrative powers, justice processes, technical specialists, and high economic classes. Obviously, compared with traditional mass media, online forums showed the power of gaining “political weight” (Papacharissi, 2002, p. 23). Online discussions allowed people from more social backgrounds to be heard in public. On the newspaper, besides the related persons, only government as a collective body was covered. However, on the online forum, people with various identities were heard, such as witnesses, university students, residents in the city, traveler. Although it was impossible to verify every user’s identity and background, voices from more social classes were heard than on traditional mass media. However, the online discussions also indicated the Internet’s limitations of being a public sphere, as previous research suggested (Papacharissi, 2002; Zhou et al, 2008). The existing social structure shaped the discussions. Consistent with Zhou et al’s Online discussion and community engagement in urban China

Authors: Liu, Zhengjia.
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background image
- 15 -
reality.
Second, the online forum allowed a variety of opinions to be expressed. The local 
newspaper focused on descriptions of the accident and announcements of official news 
from the police and the city government, as it worked as an organ of the local 
government (Qiu, 2000). In newspaper stories, the driver was covered as an individual, 
and the public discussions of the accident were not mentioned at all. On the forum, more 
themes were covered on both individual and social levels. On the individual level, the 
driver was blamed and the victim was mourned. On the social level, questions about the 
government’s performance and dissatisfaction about the social structure were expressed. 
Zhou et al (2008) found that political topics held only small amounts of online 
discussions in their study. However, in this case, discussions concentrated on questioning 
authority, which included administrative powers, justice processes, technical specialists, 
and high economic classes.  Obviously, compared with traditional mass media, online 
forums showed the power of gaining “political weight” (Papacharissi, 2002, p. 23). 
Online discussions allowed people from more social backgrounds to be heard in 
public. On the newspaper, besides the related persons, only government as a collective 
body was covered. However, on the online forum, people with various identities were 
heard, such as witnesses, university students, residents in the city, traveler. Although it 
was impossible to verify every user’s identity and background, voices from more social 
classes were heard than on traditional mass media. 
However, the online discussions also indicated the Internet’s limitations of being 
a public sphere, as previous research suggested (Papacharissi, 2002; Zhou et al, 2008). 
The existing social structure shaped the discussions. Consistent with Zhou et al’s 
Online discussion and community engagement in urban China


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