New publication: Voice, power and connectivity in China’s microblogosphere

My article ‘Voice, power and connectivity in China’s microblogosphere: Digital divides on SinaWeibo’ has just been published in a special issue on the Chinese internet in the journal China Information, July 2014, Vol. 28, No. 2, pp. 168-188.

Abstract

This article addresses the issue of who has a voice on microblogs in China and what having a voice in the age of social media actually means. In theory, microblogs have a low threshold and are easy to use, thus enabling more Chinese citizens to articulate their concerns as well as paving the way for interactivity among different groups of people. In reality, however, not all citizens are as likely to use microblogs or be heard through them. Although microblogging practices have spread from the technology-savvy early adopters to broader groups in society, one should not assume that microblogs have helped bridge the information gap among China’s ICT users, or empowered everybody in equal measure. This article discusses the demographics of microblog users, addressing diffusion patterns, number and range of followers, as well as topics discussed and how these are shaped by microbloggers of different socio-economic status. It makes use of and synthesizes existing surveys and previous studies in the field, while also building on this author’s qualitative and ethnographic research on journalists and migrant workers. The article also addresses the 2013 crackdown on opinion leaders on microblogs and its implications for public debates and connectivity on social media.

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