Co-organized by the Journalism and Media Studies Centre and Society of Hong Kong Studies
Date: Friday, 24 August 2018
Venue: Room CPD 3.28, 3/F, The Jockey Club Tower, Centennial Campus, The University of Hong Kong
Free admission. Registration required. Seats available on a first come, served basis. Please register here.
Digital media platforms are increasingly the places where people engage in politics and with the news. How people talk about public affairs online and act on political matters can potentially shed light on issues of political behaviour, dynamics of public opinion formation, the rise of collective and connective actions, etc. Meanwhile, the study of actions and talks in cyberspace present a range of new methodological opportunities as well as challenges. This symposium brings together researchers who have been engaging in the study of digital media and politics in Hong Kong, China, and the East Asian region to introduce their research projects and/or share their research findings. The aim is to showcase how a variety of available methodological approaches – ranging from conventional surveys to various “digital methods” – can be employed to address issues of theoretical and empirical significance. The symposium shall also provide a platform for interested academics and graduate students to discuss the potential and possible caveats in the study of digital media and politics.
09:30—09:45 Opening Remarks
09:45—11:00 Panel 1 — Research into Media and Politics: From Traditional Survey to Digital MethodsIdentity, ideology, and social media
While Hong Kong is undergoing a status of political gridlock, more de-stratified, fickle compositions of political groups emerged recently, especially after the Umbrella Movement in 2014. The effervescence of discussions on the newly established “Localism” groups emerged on media and politics research, but the comprehension on “Localism” in Hong Kong was often diverse and not holistic. Scholars (say Lam, 2017) have attempted to conceptualize the political label, but popular media still usually linked Localism up with various hodgepodge notions, such as “local consciousness”, “social distance”, “xenophobia”, “HongKonger’s identity”, “populism” and “social justice”. News reports also centered on subjective behavioral response in social movement as so-called “radicalism”, but less focusing on the underlying value system of their supporters and counterparts.
In this survey study, we attempt to understand how the abovementioned notions of social values are construed as contributing the building of “Localism” in Hong Kong. We also probe into the questions on how people of different socioeconomic backgrounds, pattern of social media use, and political perspectives are clustered by these social values, and how these clusters are associated with the discrepancies on the ideology of “Localism in Hong Kong”, so as to refine the concept of “Localism” in the Hong Kong context and have a more detailed grasp on the potential impact of “Localism” in the political sphere.
In most of the developed countries, more than half of the population obtain political information from social media such as Facebook. Previous studies suggest that Facebook users tend to interact only with friends and information sources with the political ideology similar to their own. This phenomenon, namely cyberbalkanization, has been observed globally but is poorly studied. Despite widespread public concern over the claim that cyberbalkanization polarizes public opinion, the relationship has not been tested empirically. This presentation attempts to examine this assertion and explore its mechanism. In order to approach this problem, a two-level hierarchical conceptualization of cyberbalkanization is proposed: Facebook Page-level cyberbalkanization describes page sharing contents mainly from pages with similar political inclination and Facebook content consumers level cyberbalkanization represents users seeking contents preferably from like-minded pages. Social media data were collected during the 2014 Occupy Movement in Hong Kong. A post-sharing network was generated by communication among 1,644 Hong Kong Facebook Pages.
The users who engaged with the sampled pages, such as likers and commenters, were also obtained. A multi-method approach was used to analyze these data. The first study investigates the association between page- and user-level cyberbalkanization. Using network regression approach, we found that two pages share each other’s posts more frequently have more common users. Therefore, page- and user-level cyberbalkanization are intertwined. The second study examines the content shared within and between clusters of pages and to test the possible ‘nasty effect’ (the polarization effect of incivility online content) of cyberbalkanization. A representative sample of shared uncivil contents was manually coded. This analysis revealed uncivil content was significantly more likely to be shared within political clusters but not between them. The two studies substantiate cyberbalkanization may induce opinion polarization via a self-organized ‘divide et impera’ (‘divide and conquer’) mechanism, i.e. page cyberbalkanization segregates users apart (‘divide’ ); users are then further administered by issue-framing using uncivil content by the pages shared within isolated political clusters (‘conquer’).
Understanding this mechanism is helpful to prescribe remedies to mitigate the potential threat of cyberbalkanization to deliberative democracy.
The growth of social media in Asia has provided its citizens important channels of news consumption as well as opportunities for expression about and sharing of the news content. Drawing from Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism Digital News Report data, comparative analyses conducted for Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore showed differing levels of engagement. But, two antecedents consistently influenced level of engagement across the samples: (1) those in like-minded and cross-cutting political networks generally engaged more in social media news, (2) particularly for those who feel efficacious about politics.
11:00—11:30 Coffee Break
11:30—12:45 Panel 2 — Digital Politics in China and BeyondHow repression affects mobilisation, moralisation and social identification on Chinese social media
What role does social media play in Chinese protests, and what impact does repression have on social media usage? This contribution addresses these questions by analysing the relationship between mobilisation, moralisation and violence in nearly 75,000 instances of social unrest in China between 2012 and 2016. Employing a mix of discourse analysis, machine learning and inferential statistics, the study finds that the role of social media in Chinese protests differs from that in protests studied by the comparative literature. First, at the onset of a protest, protesters use social media not for mobilisation, but to create a virtual audience, hoping that their grievance will come to the attention of higher-level authorities. Second, violence is a function of moralisation in the Baltimore protests studied by Moojiman et. al. (2018), whereas moralisation is a function of violence in Chinese protests. Third, Chinese protesters do use social media for purposes of mobilisation, but tend to do so only after meeting with repression. It follows that in contrast to protests events studied by the comparative literature, in Chinese protests repression is a catalyst that converts impassionate narratives into moral condemnations and calls for action.
On a methodological level, the study illustrates how machine learning can be employed to bridge the qualitative-quantitative divide.
Scholarly discussion of whether social media democratize political activism is inconclusive without understanding what exactly is enabled or constrained by the technology in the mass mobilization. To fill this gap, this study demonstrates how Facebook serves as a virtual venue for a large-scale mobilization of connective discourse that accommodates personal expressions about activism and forms a loosely-tied identity about the cause. Data came from Facebook comments on pro and con pages about the 2016 candlelight movement to demand the resignation of then-President Park in South Korea. Using centering resonance analysis, it was examined as to how the words were linguistically organized in the comments. To do so, defined was the structural network of co-occurrence relationships between the words in the same comment. Our network analysis revealed that 1) the comments on anti-Park pages manifested a de-centralized discursive network in its underlying structure of communities compared with those on pro-Park pages; 2) the central words in the comments on pro-Park pages play a greater role in the organizing of discursive networks than those on anti-Park pages; and 3) the connective logic of digital activism enables multi-layered weak-tie networks of discourse to be bridged so that personal action frames are coordinated for identity work.
With the continuous development of computer technology, Sina Weibo becomes an important platform of information spreading and discussion with more than 1,17 hundred million productions of messages per day, it influences the life of Chinese people from all aspects. Since 2008, air pollution has become a serious concern in China, a dedicated name – 雾霾 (wù maí), i.e. “smog” – appeared since then in Chinese medias and has circulated on social networks, especially on Sina Weibo. Thus, in this article we seek to propose a conceptual and methodological framework of multidisciplinary that allows us to discover health issues exposed by smog-related weibo and to investigate: 1) which public health issues are discussed in the smog-related weibo corpus, and 2) how these health issues are distributed geographically, 3) are there some interactive correlations between a relevant region and a certain characteristic health issues? Our methodology based on three complementary models (FCA, Distribution of specific words and Wordcloud of co-occurrences) contributes to proceed a series of study: lexical, discourse and geographic analysis in favour of our observation and exploration. Finally, we had obtained 7 distinct types of relevant health issues, such as respiratory diseases, pulmonary diseases and cancer, which are intensively located in 4 regions: Beijing, Shanghai, Hebei, Tianjin. This study proves that there exists an interactive correlation between a certain type of health issues and its geographic location in regard to the smog problems in China. However, constrained by the absence of publication date, we were not able to proceed the temporal analysis of health issues evolution overtime, this aspect will be studied in our future research with a larger integral weibo corpus.
14:10—14:15 Remarks on the Afternoon Session
14:15—15:45 Panel 3 — Digital Research on Contentious PoliticsIn between collective and connective actions: Issue framing in a social media age
Framing is an essential dynamic in understanding the character and development of social movements. While most existing studies tend to focus on how frames are discursively constructed by movement leaders and traditional mass media, research remains scarce when it comes to the dynamic role of social media in the framing processes, which has become crucial as contemporary protests are increasingly marked by decentralized structure, diffuse leadership and a broad notion of membership. By inferring frames from Facebook page contents throughout the Hong Kong’s 79-day Umbrella Movement in 2014, we deploy text mining techniques to introduce a temporal dimension into analyzing the framing process in a large-scale protest and show how the movement frame can shift within a short period of time. We triangulate the results with qualitative interview and argue that frame shift results not from strategic decisions, contested negotiations or disputes involving movement leaders and the mass media, but from spontaneous and dramatic events that are captured, circulated and amplified in the social media. Our findings thus enrich the understanding on the discursive mechanism that drives collective actions under their decentralized organizational structure and the influence of social media.
Social media has become ubiquitous in modern societies; Hong Kong is no exception. The importance of social media is not only demonstrated by its high penetration rate, but also its important role in political communication. Against this background, this study investigates the construction of discourse around Hong Kong nationalism on Facebook. In particular, the project proposes a mixed approach of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Automated Text Analysis. While CDA has been widely used to study national identity, its difficulty in dealing with large samples and the allegedly unsystematic manner of applying analytical procedures has given rise to certain criticisms. In response, this project supplements CDA with Automated Text Analysis, which allows the use of large samples and systematic techniques to provide a basis for generalization and increase rigour and precision. The techniques of Automated Text Analysis are employed to discern the overall discursive patterns within text corpora, such patterns will then be interpreted with CDA to explore the latent meaning of languages and the power relation that produces such patterns.
The project builds on a classic study of the strategy of civic groups by Gamson (1975) as well as a recent work by Bennett and Segerberg (2012), which provides the theoretical contours for examining new media-driven collective action. We will evaluate the strategies and efficacy of protest groups in the light of their adoption of ICTs. Of particular interest are the implications of ICTs in the shaping and organization of collective action and how ICTs have been used by protest organizations. We examine whether the use of ICTs has led to more decentralized, personalized and expressive engagement. At the same time, we will consider whether ICTs may work against the goals of protest groups since they can facilitate factionalism within the groups, complicate the maintenance of the protest narratives, and encourage low effort, “slacktivist” participation.
This study hypothesizes that the Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement in 2014 increased swearing comments in online political discussions and this effect is a long-term causal impact. In doing so, the present study collected data from all politically related sub-forums in www.hkdiscuss.com, www.uwants.com, and nearly 500 Facebook fan pages in Hong Kong. All public comments posted during October 2011 to September 2017 were scraped. By using an interrupted time series design, this study found that the proportions of political comments with swear words increased by 48%, 32%, and 38% after the 2014’s Umbrella Movement. There were rapid increases during the movement and the percentages remain high after the movement for years, suggesting a long-term impact. The study did not find any significant increase in non-political comments. In addition, this study conducted a relational event model to estimate the contagious effect of swearing. The results suggest that users who received more swearing comments were more likely to post swearing comments to others and those who posted more swearing comments were more likely to receive swearing comments from others. The model results also indicate that the swearing comments were more inclined to occur between out-group users in contrast to in-group users, which implies that online swearing is basically attack-oriented.
15:45—16:15 Coffee Break
16:15—17:45 Panel 4 — Digital Research on Public Opinion and Media DiscoursesAn evolutionary model of opinion diversity: A neural network approach
This study investigates the extent to which opinion diversity evolves among Chinese online communities over the first half of 2018, during which period netizens witnessed the constitutional change in the President’s term limit and expressed their opinions openly on the online platform Sina Weibo. We collected a vast bulk of these posts before they got censored. A novel state-of-the-art approach of opinion modelling is developed to capture different granularities of opinion diversity, including, from concrete to abstract, vocabulary diversity, topic diversity, frame diversity, and ideology diversity. Furthermore, we are going to explore the social evolution of opinion diversity, by answering questions like whether homophilous information consumption will result in homophilous information production, i.e. people who follow many homophilous followees of similar opinions will also post homophilous content..
It is widely known that the use of the Internet for public expression in China is regulated by the Chinese government. Although scholars have discussed the regulation and censorship of the online media contents in China, given the challenges of data collection, only a small number of such studies were conducted based on large quantities of empirical evidence; more so, to our best understanding, current scholarship has not been able to measure censorship in China by systematically examining social media contents on WeChat public accounts, the most popular mobile messaging application for public communication in China. We thus develop the WeChatscope system to “scrap” data from the mobile application interface of WeChat public accounts. Wechatscope aims to extend the systematic and scalable approach of data collection and “big data” analytics to Wechat public account for enhancing our understanding into the role of the platform in content distribution, user engagement, platform intervention, and connectivity enabled by the technology. One application of the data is to provide information of what have been posted on WeChat and which of the posts have been later censored by the platform. In this presentation, I will introduce how the system works and summarize the preliminary data collected from the system in the past few months.
With the 2016 Hong Kong Legislative Council election as the case study, this research investigates the impact of the candidates’ social media campaign on their electoral performance. The data of social media campaign came from the candidates’ Facebook fan page, including the number of engagement and the contents of their posts. The Facebook data were derived by online tools Fanpage Karma and QSearch. The research is composed of two parts. The first part looks into the relationship between the candidates’ Facebook performance, electoral momentum and the vote shares they obtained in the election. The finding shows that there is an indirect relationship between Facebook performance and vote shares via the mediation of electoral momentum. The second part of the study focuses on the interaction between different candidates in their social media campaign. Activities including positive and negative mentioning of other candidates on the respective fan page of the candidates will be covered, and the impact of the interaction on electoral performance will be examined.
17:45—18:30 Round Table
Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong
Founded in 1999, the Journalism and Media Studies Centre (JMSC) of The University of Hong Kong offers professional journalism education at Asia’s premier university with classroom instruction by a faculty of experienced journalists and media scholars and internship opportunities at many of the world’s leading media companies.
Society for Hong Kong Studies
The Society for Hong Kong Studies (SHKS) is a non-profit, non-political, independent professional association based in Hong Kong. Formed in 2017 by more than 230 academics in 21 countries, the SHKS serves as a global platform for the multi-disciplinary and inter-institutional study of Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s relevance to many academic fields goes far beyond its minuscule geographical presence. SHKS is committed to enhancing the international visibility of Hong Kong studies, facilitating intellectual exchanges across academic disciplines, nurturing the research capacity of scholars and students, transferring scientific knowledge to the local and international communities, and developing new scholarships to understand Hong Kong in relation to China, Asia and beyond.
An affiliate of the Association for Asian Studies, SHKS has developed collaborative relationships with other initiatives devoted to Hong Kong Studies. These include the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Studies Initiatives at the University of British Columbia, and the Academy of Hong Kong Studies at the Hong Kong Education University.
- Directions to venue
- A complimentary light lunch and morning and afternoon coffee & tea will be offered to all attendees.
- Please bring your own water bottle to refill at the drinking water station at the venue. Water in small disposable plastic bottles are not on sale on campus.
For enquiries, please contact Benjamin Lam at the Society of Hong Kong Studies, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Free admission. Please register here.