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Javnost - The Public, Vol. 15 - 2008, No. 2

Measuring political debate on the Chinese Internet forum

, pages: 93 - 110

This paper addresses the methodological issue of how to quantify and measure seemingly chaotic, crude and impulsive online interactions in Chinese Internet forums, which have played an increasingly important role in shaping the country’s political spectrum. It introduces an integrated research methodology, designed and developed specifi cally in a four-year project conducted by this author on the Chinese Internet forums, the fi rst of its kind which scrutinises the interactive content of 14 major political forums in China and overseas over a one-year period, consisting of over 450,000 postings. Using commercial and self-developed online content analysis tools, this methodology features a series of computer-assisted data collection, quantitative analysis, and qualitative approaches. It investigates fi rst from a wide range of mega data extracted online to capture the general dynamics of the Chinese Forum. It then focuses on the selected categories of text data to delineate the linkage of global connectivity among forum networks and reveal the spectrum of discourse and pattern of deliberation. The paper, which conceptualises Chinese Internet forums as discursive public spaces mediated by the new online conversational media, aims to establish a series of applicable methods to study the publicly accessed interactive content of online political talk in the global network of the Chinese Internet.

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