Deliberating in the Chinese blogosphere : a study on hotspot Internet incidents
The concept of deliberation, both theoretically and empirically, was examined in the Chinese blogosphere by content analyzing Internet blog posts and comments, associated with sixty hotspot incidents in China from 2007 through 2009. Measurements of analytic and social processes were made and the factors that affect these processes were examined to identify deliberative patterns in the blog posts and comments. The findings suggest relatively substantial deliberative outcomes in the blog posts about the incidents, especially relating to the analytic process. Two variables were examined with respect to the factors that determine deliberation: an incident’s category (non-threatening, threat to performance, and threat to legitimacy) as classified under the command and control system, and information availability (news availability and total information availability) about the incident. Findings support the theoretical framework proposed in the study and suggest the following logical sequences: Firstly, the Chinese command and control system is a significant factor in explaining deliberative outcomes about incidents that can be categorized according to their level of considered threat to the system. An incident that was considered to be at a higher level of threat linked to a higher level of deliberation. Secondly, the command and control system also determines the information availability of an incident but in a negative way— incidents with higher threat levels have lower levels of information availability. Thirdly, information availability, in turn, predicted deliberation on its own—higher levels of information availability link to lower levels of deliberation. Moreover, information availability functioned as a moderating variable between the command and control system and the deliberative outcomes. Posts that were associated with non-threatening and threat to performance incidents, with higher levels of information availability, tended to have a lower quality of deliberation. Posts associated with incidents that were a threat to legitimacy, with lower level of information availability, yielded similar deliberative patterns that were of relatively high quality.