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The story of Qi Shi Ma: Online discussion and community engagement in urban China
Unformatted Document Text:  - 5 - society and state, in which the public organizes itself as the bearer of public opinion” (Habermas, 2006, p. 73). The public sphere has three requirements: general accessibility, elimination of all privileges, and discovery of general norms and rational legitimation. (Habermas, 2006). Ideally, informed, rational, and logical public debates would lead to public agreement and decision-making. The notion of deliberative discourses is closely related to the idea of the public sphere. Rational-critical arguments are the core for deliberative communication (Dahlberg, 2001). For a democratic utopia, public decisions and community building are based on deliberative discourses (Camaj, Hong, Lanosga, & Luo, 2009). Habermas (2006) was optimistic about the bourgeois public sphere where newspapers are used for private individuals against public authority. He also criticized the weakening critical functions of the media when they serve the interests of large organizations and partisan politics. The discussion about the public sphere continued when the Internet was at its beginning stages of diffusion. It was seen as the platform on which users were able to get information about public affairs or policies as well as to express personal opinions or objections (Bowen, 1996; Grossman, 1995; Jones, 1997; McChesney, 2000; Wriston, 1992). Researchers believed the Internet was able to decrease media organizations’ power to dominate public agendas (Bimber, 1998). However, scholars also argue that, in reality, online discourses are dominated by a few, and the knowledge gap of managing and processing information has not yet been bridged (Hill & Hughes, 1998; Melucci, 1994). Fragmented and anonymous discussions online do not guarantee rational and civil deliberations. For example, Johnson and Kaye (2007) found that political blogs were dominated by men. Singer and Gonzalez-Velez (2003) found that online newspaper Online discussion and community engagement in urban China

Authors: Liu, Zhengjia.
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- 5 -
society and state, in which the public organizes itself as the bearer of public opinion” 
(Habermas, 2006, p. 73). The public sphere has three requirements: general accessibility, 
elimination of all privileges, and discovery of general norms and rational legitimation. 
(Habermas, 2006). Ideally, informed, rational, and logical public debates would lead to 
public agreement and decision-making. The notion of deliberative discourses is closely 
related to the idea of the public sphere. Rational-critical arguments are the core for 
deliberative communication (Dahlberg, 2001). For a democratic utopia, public decisions 
and community building are based on deliberative discourses (Camaj, Hong, Lanosga, & 
Luo, 2009). Habermas (2006) was optimistic about the bourgeois public sphere where 
newspapers are used for private individuals against public authority. He also criticized 
the weakening critical functions of the media when they serve the interests of large 
organizations and partisan politics. 
The discussion about the public sphere continued when the Internet was at its 
beginning stages of diffusion. It was seen as the platform on which users were able to get 
information about public affairs or policies as well as to express personal opinions or 
objections (Bowen, 1996; Grossman, 1995; Jones, 1997; McChesney, 2000; Wriston, 
1992). Researchers believed the Internet was able to decrease media organizations’ power 
to dominate public agendas (Bimber, 1998).  However, scholars also argue that, in reality, 
online discourses are dominated by a few, and the knowledge gap of managing and 
processing information has not yet been bridged (Hill & Hughes, 1998; Melucci, 1994). 
Fragmented and anonymous discussions online do not guarantee rational and civil 
deliberations. For example, Johnson and Kaye (2007) found that political blogs were 
dominated by men. Singer and Gonzalez-Velez (2003) found that online newspaper 
Online discussion and community engagement in urban China


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