Friday, August 1, 2014

Study of the Chinese Internet

Geremie R BarméGreetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Professor Geremie R Barmé, Director, of the Australian Centre on China in the World, where is is opening "Studying the Chinese Internet" (研究中国互联网/ 研究中國互聯網).  A small group spent yesterday learning social network analysis today, using the free open source NodeXL and VOSON software. Today'ss presentations discuss the results of using such research.
Professor Barmé mentioned an article he co-authored in Wired magazine in 1998, where they coined the term: The Great Firewall of China".

Day 1 (Thursday 31 July) – Small group training in social media analysis
Instructor: Dr Robert Ackland, Guest lecturer: Prof Jonathan Zhu
Day 2 (Friday 1 August) – Research presentations
9.00 Welcome

9.15-10.30 Keynote presentation

“Charting the Landscape of Chinese Social Media: What We Know and What We Don’t Know from Existing Research”, Professor Jonathan Zhu, Web Mining Lab, City University of Hong Kong
中国社会化媒体研究的已知与未知 / 中國社會化媒體研究的已知與未知
Professor Zhu commented that while the Chinese Internet was heavily controlled domestically, the government also allows (and encourages) the companies to be publicly listed on Western stock exchanges. Also he commented that as these companies are listed on sock exchanges, their reported statistics are likely to be accurate, due to strict commercial law (as an example, Weibo has to report more accurate user numbers). However, he said these were less insightful than consultant's analysis and academic papers (which might be less accurate).
Tencent earns most revenue from e-commerce, other leading sites from advertising. China has 632M Internet users, 83% mobile, with a 47% penetration rate (but there may be less than 100M active social media users). Instant messaging is most popular, blogs second most popular (Professor Zhu is sceptical of this figure), then microblogging and BBS. He commented BBS were still a livery source of discussion in China.
Professor Zhu  commented that much of the literature about the Internet in China is based on case studies and is anecdotal, rather than being statistical (what in social science is called "qualitative"). He gave as an example "The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online" ( Guobin Yang, 2011). Also he commend that many studies have been by computer scientists and may be unknown to social researchers. Hopefully he has seen my paper. ;-)
Professor Zhu used Hasswell's 5W model of communication to categorise research on Chinese social media. The studies primary dealt with the communicator and audience, not content, media, or effects. The studies showed that media professionals, the elite and government officials are important sources of information on Chinese social media. One interesting finding was that police were early social media users.
What receives less mention are "grassroots" opinion leaders (as they are usually anonymous), e-marketeers and foreign individuals and entities.What was not mentioned was what role government entities marketing as something else play. The DARPA is studying Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC). In terms of content,
Professor Zhu said the conventional view shown in research was the contentious nature of the content and the strong censorship presence by government. But he commented most social media is used for entertainment not political comment and it is not clear how much censorship is self-censorship. He commented that some early research showed that 20% of posts were jokes, whereas only 3% were political commentary.
In terms of media, Weibo has been compared with Twitter in many academic studies.However, other platforms have not been studied, even though they are at least as popular as Weibo (but harder to get data about).
Professor Zhu pointed out that most researchers concentrate on the active users, who are probably only 12% to 20% of Chinese Internet users. He said this impacted on the ultimate question about the Internet in China: what effect does it have?

10.30-11.00 Morning tea

11.00-12.30 Paper session 1

“A Web Analysis of HIV Information Delivery in China”, Dr Robert Ackland, Australian National
University and Dr Jiaying Zhao, Australian National University
爱滋病信息的传递 :
基于网络的分析 / 愛滋病信息的傳遞 :
“Predicting Depressed Individuals with Suicide Ideation Using Social Media Data”, Jin Han, Australian
National University
微博社交网络抑郁用户识别 / 微博社交網絡抑鬱用戶識別
“Analyzing Events in Chinese Microblogs”, Dr Lexing Xie, Australian National University
社交网络上的新闻事件分析 / 社交網絡上的新聞事件分析

12.30-1.30 Lunch

1.30-3.00 Paper session 2

“Preliminary Analysis of Muslim Networking on the Chinese Web”, Dr Wai Yip Ho, Hong Kong Institute of
Education and Dr Robert Ackland, Australian National University
中国穆斯林网络的初步分析 / 中國穆斯林網絡的初步分析
“Multiple Identity Formation via Social Media by Professional Chinese Immigrants to Australia”, Dr Jerry
Watkins, University of Canberra and Dr Chong Han, University of Western Sydney
社交媒体上的多重身份构建:以澳大利亚中国技术移民为例 /
“Human Flesh Searching in the Greater China Region”, Dr Lennon Chang, City University of Hong Kong
分析大中华地区人肉搜索之现象 / 分析大中華地區人肉搜索之現象

3.00-3.30 Afternoon tea

3.30-4.30 Paper session 3

“Institutional Analysis of Chinese Internet Governance: Some Tentative Thoughts”, Ryan Manuel,
Australian National University
关于互联网体制与管理若干问题的分析 / 關於互聯網體制與管理若干問題的分析
Ryan outlined some of the complexity of China's Internet regulation system. There are multiple ministries involved in Internet regulation, under the central secretariat. He argues that large Internet companies will do well out of this, as they can take much of the cost of the implementation of central censorship requirements off local government. The major Chinese Internet companies have close party connections. It would seem to me that the Chinese system for Internet regulation is an adaptation of the system used for conventional media. In addition to censorship there are state paid posters of material (as well as the "Water Party" commercial Internet PR companies).
“Internet Use in China: Citizens, Consumers, and Social Consumption in Chinese”, Dr Michael J. Jensen, University of Canberra and Wei Si, University of Canberra
因特网在中国的应用 :
公民 ,
消费者与社会消费 / 因特網 在中國的應用:公民,消費者與社會消費
Wei Si described an image based interface for a social media application, changing from something text based (which looked like Facebook to me), improved user acceptance. One thing which occurred to me was how much China's Internet user behaviour was influenced by using a mobile device first. Most Australian users will have used a PC interface for Internet use before moving to a mobile device.

4.30-5.00 Wrap up

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