Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS



Project ID: 338478
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Netherlands

Mid-Term Report Summary - AUTHORITARIANISM2.0: (Authoritarianism2.0: The Internet, Political Discussion, and Authoritarian Rule in China)

The Internet is often regarded as contributing to political engagement by giving citizens the opportunity to engage in political talk and assess conflicting ideas. Critics have conversely emphasized the Internet’s potential to damage deliberative ideals by facilitating exposure to like-minded views, encouraging incivility, or decreasing satisfaction. This project investigates which social media facilitate political engagement and why. Focusing on interactivity as the defining characteristic of social media platforms we explain how the technological design contributes to environments that facilitate or hinder the expression of views on public affairs. The project also seeks to explore how netizens experience discussion in those settings and whether and how those experiences matter for political engagement.

The project has four central scientific objectives: The first objective is to explore what kinds of people engage in online discussions and differences between active and passive participants. The second objective is to understand how the technological settings that create the conditions for online discussion differ from each other. The third objective is to assess how active and passive participants see the diversity and disagreement in the discussion in these settings. The fourth objective is to assess whether citizens take action upon online political discussion depending on how they see it.

This research investigates these objectives in the context of China, focusing primarily on differences between the WhatsApp-like Wechat, the Twitter-like social media services Sina Weibo, and Baidu Tieba. These social media platforms provide three of the largest social media platforms in Chinese cyberspace. Based on qualitative and quantitative research methods we find that the interactivity on social media platforms is maximized towards one core function, which has important implications for how users experience these platforms. Wechat and Tieba promotes the formation of opinions, while Weibo facilitates the spread of opinions and issues across social groups and other platforms. More broadly, we have found that more active users tend to use social media for social purposes while passive users primarily use social media in order to gain information. Social media provide opportunities for politically less sophisticated users to become more engaged in public affairs.

Reported by

Follow us on: RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube Managed by the EU Publications Office Top