Participation in Online Action in the Context of Social Risk Events in China

TitleParticipation in Online Action in the Context of Social Risk Events in China
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Zhou, X., Y. Deng, and Y. Gu
Affiliation (1st Author)School of Journalism and Communication, Wuhan University
Section or WGInternational Communication Section
DateThurs 27 June
Slot CodeINCT1a
Slot Code (Keyword)INCT1a
Time of Session9:00-10:30
Session TitleGlobal communication, conflict and social change
Submission ID5553

As China is undergoing the rapid social transformation, the Internet has become a tool through which Chinese people can not only express their opinions on public issues, but also change the process of certain events by taking online collective action. The development of online action in China is closely related to social risk events due to the losing control of power, the imbalance of rights and obligations, the anomie of morality, and the estrangement of the nature and people (Chen, 2009). Given the lack of institutional channels for ordinal Chinese people to protect their own rights and interests, participating in online action becomes one of the uninstitutional ways to achieve their goals. Previous research both inside and outside China primarily focuses on the factors impacting on online action, such as types of issues and participants' attributes (personal capitals, skills, knowledge, capacities, and past experience in participation, etc.) (Libecap, 1994). Scholars also point out that participants in online action are often stakeholders, tending to be involved in public events for their own interests with an influence on the modes and purposes of participation (King, 2008). Yet few studies have directly linked the forms of online action to different types of social risk events, particularly in the case of China.To bridge that gap in the literature, the current study aims to present Chinese netizens' attitudes toward online public events, especially social risk events, how and why they take online action, and examine how the ways in which they participate in online action with different purposes are related to different social risk events (as shown in the figure below), which are categorized in this study into four types such as economic risks (unemployment, poverty, income gap, inflation, labor disputes, ect.), political risks (corruption, policy changes, ect.), social risks (ethnic problems, social security, population mobility, urban and rural differences, family changes, ect.), and environmental risks (natural disasters, pollution, ect.). The primary objectivity of this study is to see whether different types of social risk events are internally linked to different ways for Chinese netizens to participate in online action.A questionnaire survey, available at, a professional questionnaire website in Chinese, will be conducted. The URL will be spread out via e-mail, weibo, BBS, QQ, and other instant messengers to invite Chinese Internet users to fill up. The questionnaire consists of five parts: 1) the general patterns and purposes of internet use; 2) the ways in which Chinese netizens acquire social risk information, and how much attention they pay to each type of social risk events; 3) the reasons for respondents to participate in online action in terms of each type of social risk events, which will be measured on a series of statements with a 5-point Likert scale; 4) the ways and modes of online action participation, and the degree of involvement in different types of online action; and 5) the demographic profiles of respondents. A series of statistic analysis such as t-test, ANOVA, factor analysis and multivariate regression will be run. The quantitative results will be analyzed with a close look at some recent important events in China.

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