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From teahouses to websites : can Internet bulletin boards construct the public sphere in China?

Wu, Yan. 2007. From teahouses to websites : can Internet bulletin boards construct the public sphere in China? PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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Abstract

The Internet has been viewed as a revolutionary means for including individuals in public deliberation on an equal basis. However, there is insufficient empirical work on applications of computer mediated communication to public deliberation under non-democratic social circumstances. This thesis explores the potential of computer-mediated communication in constructing the public sphere in post-Communist China and focuses on the current affairs discussion on Qiangguo Luntan (QGLT), one of the most popular Internet bulletin boards in China. The production-content-reception study shows that: 1) Internet bulletin boards in China are not 'online dissident avenues' without administrative surveillance. In addition, self-censorship works in a long-term and covert way in restraining the democratic potential of online discussion; 2) Internet bulletin boards enable ordinary Chinese to have their identities as politically activated citizens constructed in cyberspace. Their enthusiasm in voicing differentiated political standpoints proves that online public opinion could enrich the political discourse in China, and has the potential of leading to tensions between the public and the state; 3) QGLT SARS postings display the growth of a public critique that ventured to touch upon a taboo issue that was originally banned from public discussion. Non-localized and dialogic forms of communication among the users have created an alternative form of publicity outside the mainstream media's agenda and could potentially check the government's policy-making. The Internet may work to undermine public deliberation by increasing inequalities of access, fragmenting public discourse, and accommodating non-progressive rhetoric. Nevertheless by enlarging the scale of civic participation, advancing alternative and oppositional public discourses, and tackling problems at a global level, Internet bulletin boards could make a significant contribution to the construction of an alternative public sphere representing divergent political views. In summary, under the articulated forces of commercialisation, democratisation, and globalisation, the virtual public sphere in China today has been put in tension between democratisation and degeneration.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
ISBN: 9781303175107
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2016 23:12
URI: http://orca-mwe.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/54320

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