Online Public Deliberation in China: Evolution of Interaction Patterns and Network Homophily in the Tianya Discussion Forum

Rony Medaglia, Yang Yang

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    Internet discussion platforms in China provide a hugely interesting and relevant source for understanding dynamics of online discussions in a unique context. Adopting the theoretical lens of public deliberation, this paper investigates the evolution of patterns of similar-minded and different-minded interactions over time on a Chinese online discussion forum. We analyse the content and reply networks of 18,000+ messages on four highly debated topics on the Bulletin Board System (BBS) platform Tianya. Findings provide nuanced evidence to the phenomenon of increased network homophily over time, mitigated in discussions where the difference between opinion sides is smaller, and participants have positive opinions. Providing empirical foundation for testing and refining the tenets of public deliberation in the unique socio-cultural and institutional environment of China, this study lays ground for future investigation on independent variables for understanding dynamics of online discussions, and for studies comparing cases across different contexts.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalInformation, Communication & Society
    Issue number5
    Pages (from-to)733-753
    Number of pages21
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    • Online discussion
    • Public deliberation
    • Network homophily
    • China
    • Tianya
    • Discussion forum

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