One Social Movement, Two Social Media Sites: A Comparative Study of Public Discourses
Social media have become central places where public discourses are generated, sustained, and circulated around public events. So far, much research has examined large-scale dissemination patterns of prominent statements, opinions, and slogans circulated on social media, such as the analysis of keywords and hashtags on Twitter regarding a political event. However, little attention has been paid to understanding how local socio-cultural-political conditions influence the formation and development of public discourses on social media. To explore this question, we analyzed public discourses about Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement on two distinct social media sites, Facebook and Weibo, the largest micro-blogging service in China. Facebook topped Hong Kong citizens’ usage of social media sites, while Weibo’s primary user base is mainland Chinese. The social movement and these two social media sites provide a unique opportunity to explore the commonalities and differences between social media discourses generated by two different cultures. Using grounded theory and discourse analysis, we reveal how people on two sites reasoned about the many incidents of the movement and developed sometimes similar but other times strikingly different discourses. We trace the links between different discourses and the socio-cultural-political conditions of Hong Kong and mainland China. We discuss how this study may contribute deeper understandings of public discourses on social media to the CSCW literature.