The popular rise of Chinese microblogging tools has proposed new challenges and opportunities for both Chinese authorities and Chinese Netizens. This project explores how microblogging tools, exemplified by Sina Weibo, positions itself within the greater Chinese online sphere, and what limitations and possibilities can be identified within the content diffused across such a network.
By applying a theoretical framework of the public sphere, Sina Weibo is argued to be a space that favors interaction across social and geographical boundaries within an easy to use infrastructure. Due to high-speed and a saturated format of posts of text, image and video, microblogs have a potential to spread information in small but meaningful packages.
A content analysis of 281 posts regarding the Wenzhou train crash, and five leaked media directives regarding the same incident, identified microblogs to have an important yet limited agenda-setting function; important as it offers a meaningful alternative to traditional media outlets who remain more deeply subdued by content regulating directives, but limited in lack of significant offline consequences being observed, as well as overall issues of trustworthiness affecting the quality of content.
As part of the same controlled and censored sphere as other off- and online media, Chinese microblogging applications are unsurprisingly discovered to have a clear limitation in overt censorship like blocking and removal of content. Nevertheless are microblogs also identified to offer high levels of flexibility within its controlled frames, where diverse and balanced expression on a variety of topics.