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The story of Qi Shi Ma: Online discussion and community engagement in urban China
Unformatted Document Text:  - 4 - The Forum 19lou.com began in 2001 and was hosted by Du Shi Kuai Bao until December 2009, when the forum became an independent web-hosting company. The name literally means the 19 th floor, because the original office of the forum was located on the 19 th floor of the Hangzhou Daily Newspaper Group building. As of December 2010, there were 9 million registered users on 19lou.com, with a total of 1.12 million visitors per day. The usage rate is increasing about 300% every year (19lou.com, 2010). Users discuss and exchange information about the city on the forum, including food, cars, real estate, education, jobs, finance, online games, and travel. Researchers are interested in China’s online forums because they are a major kind of virtual public space in China (Li, 2010). CNNIC’s (2010) survey showed that 30.5% of 420 million Chinese-speaking net users engaged in various online forums. This study chose this car accident as the topic because the fatal accident and public outrage. These two local media platforms provided the community members with communication channels and allowed researchers to gain rich information to understand the public discussions of community affairs in urban China. The conceptual foundation Public discussions about local affairs are fundamental for democratic development. Dewey (1927) once said, “Democracy must begin at home, and its home is the neighborly community” (p. 386). Civic communication and public deliberation are the basis for a democratic society. To achieve this, a public sphere is expected to connect individual citizens’ private domain with the larger society and form a public body (Habermas, 1989). The concept of “public sphere” was defined as “a sphere which mediates between Online discussion and community engagement in urban China

Authors: Liu, Zhengjia.
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- 4 -
The Forum 19lou.com began in 2001 and was hosted by Du Shi Kuai Bao until 
December 2009, when the forum became an independent web-hosting company. The 
name literally means the 19
th
 floor, because the original office of the forum was located 
on the 19
th
 floor of the Hangzhou Daily Newspaper Group building. As of December 
2010, there were 9 million registered users on 19lou.com, with a total of 1.12 million 
visitors per day. The usage rate is increasing about 300% every year (19lou.com, 2010). 
Users discuss and exchange information about the city on the forum, including food, cars, 
real estate, education, jobs, finance, online games, and travel.  Researchers are interested 
in China’s online forums because they are a major kind of virtual public space in China 
(Li, 2010). CNNIC’s (2010) survey showed that 30.5% of 420 million Chinese-speaking 
net users engaged in various online forums.
This study chose this car accident as the topic because the fatal accident and 
public outrage. These two local media platforms provided the community members with 
communication channels and allowed researchers to gain rich information to understand 
the public discussions of community affairs in urban China. 
The conceptual foundation
Public discussions about local affairs are fundamental for democratic 
development. Dewey (1927) once said, “Democracy must begin at home, and its home is 
the neighborly community” (p. 386). Civic communication and public deliberation are 
the basis for a democratic society. To achieve this, a public sphere is expected to connect 
individual citizens’ private domain with the larger society and form a public body 
(Habermas, 1989). 
The concept of “public sphere” was defined as “a sphere which mediates between 
Online discussion and community engagement in urban China


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