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The story of Qi Shi Ma: Online discussion and community engagement in urban China
Unformatted Document Text:  - 16 - study (2008), arguments on the forum showed low levels of complexity both in terms of quantity and quality. There were only two posts in direct opposition to each other, and the debate did not continue further. There was no debate between those in power and those not, even though netizens addressed large numbers of questions and queries to the government and those holding power in the social structure. The conflicts among different social groups were not negotiated on the forum. Narratives on the forum also showed intense emotion. The two posts that got the most follow-up posts were factual description themed. Deeper analysis of this case did not draw the largest amount of public attention. Also, subsequent posts were several sentences in length. Some were just symbols and several words. Many were demanding the death penalty for the driver. None were related to decision-making (Habermas, 1989). Instead, they were irrational releases of emotion. In addition, forum users relied on content from mass media rather than using their own words to address the social meanings of the accident. The demands theme focused on requiring administrative authorities, such as the mayor and the secretary of the Communist Party’s Committee in the city, to reinvestigate the accident. At least two posts calling for a public gathering were deleted by the forum monitors. Therefore, those online discussions did not lead to actual political participation or the formation of a public sphere (Papacharissi, 2002, 2009). Conclusion and limitations Results give evidence of the social media’s playing a role in democratic development in China. On one hand, compared with traditional mass media that were used for the authority’s one-directional informing, the social media provided the public Online discussion and community engagement in urban China

Authors: Liu, Zhengjia.
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- 16 -
study (2008), arguments on the forum showed low levels of complexity both in terms of 
quantity and quality. There were only two posts in direct opposition to each other, and the 
debate did not continue further.  There was no debate between those in power and those 
not, even though netizens addressed large numbers of questions and queries to the 
government and those holding power in the social structure. The conflicts among 
different social groups were not negotiated on the forum. 
Narratives on the forum also showed intense emotion.  The two posts that got the 
most follow-up posts were factual description themed. Deeper analysis of this case did 
not draw the largest amount of public attention. Also, subsequent posts were several 
sentences in length. Some were just symbols and several words. Many were demanding 
the death penalty for the driver. None were related to decision-making (Habermas, 1989). 
Instead, they were irrational releases of emotion. 
In addition, forum users relied on content from mass media rather than using their 
own words to address the social meanings of the accident. The demands theme focused 
on requiring administrative authorities, such as the mayor and the secretary of the 
Communist Party’s Committee in the city, to reinvestigate the accident.  At least two 
posts calling for a public gathering were deleted by the forum monitors. Therefore, those 
online discussions did not lead to actual political participation or the formation of a 
public sphere (Papacharissi, 2002, 2009).
Conclusion and limitations
Results give evidence of the social media’s playing a role in democratic 
development in China. On one hand, compared with traditional mass media that were 
used for the authority’s one-directional informing, the social media provided the public 
Online discussion and community engagement in urban China


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