Symbolic convergence theory and analysis of online discussion


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Presented at the Asia-Pacific Conference on Computer-Aided Qualitative Research

24-25 February 2011, Macau SAR

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Merlien Institute

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Symbolic convergence theory and analysis of online discussion

  1. 1. Symbolic Convergence Theory andAnalysis of Online Discussion QUALITATIVE RESEARCH IN WEB 2.0 ASIA-PACIFIC, Macau, Feb 25, 2011 Wu Mei, PhD Associate Professor Department of Communication University of Macau
  2. 2. ObjectivesConceptualizing the nature of online discussion as atransitional and dynamic content which is createdthrough an individually initiated networkof interactive group communication;Demonstrating how Symbolic Convergence Theory(SCT) analysis is conducted in uncovering aninteractive process of rhetoric vision creation amongonline discussants;Evaluating the application of computer-aidedqualitative research tools in the SCT analysis
  3. 3. Dynamic content Online discussion is a particular type of mediated-content generated through a variety of social media: Individually generated Improvised Interactive Open inference Transitional Dynamic
  4. 4. In contrast, this type of content is differentfrom other mediated content known astraditional mass media content which Institutionally generated Well structured Non-interactive Controlled inference Fixed Static
  5. 5. Analyzing dynamic content Methods commonly used in analyzing traditional media content Quantitative: Content analysis Frame analysis Qualitative Discourse analysis
  6. 6. Symbolic Convergence Theory (SCT) SCT is often used in analyzing group communication It describes dynamic tendencies in the systems of social interaction It focuses on the symbolic and shared process of group discourse in generating meanings It uncovers fantasy themes collectively created and entertained in group discussion
  7. 7. Symbolic Convergence Theory (SCT) Setting User User Character Rhetoric User Vision Action User Sanction Agent User Fantasy Theme User User
  8. 8. Case study 1 Debating China-India Relations on the Internet: Netizens’ Dialogue for Constructive International Politics Focusing on the first cross-country online debate on Sino-Indo relations, the “Sino-Indo Internet Users Debate Contest”, which was organized by Global Times, one of the most popular newspapers in China on Dec 1, 2009, the study applies Fantasy Theme Analysis (FTA) and identifies two rhetoric visions and related key elements in the debate including: fantasy themes, setting themes, action themes, plotlines etc
  9. 9. First Sino-Indo Internet UsersDebate ContestIt was launched at20:00 on Dec 1,2009 by GlobalTimes (GT), one ofthe most popularnewspapers inChina. The debatelasted for 2 hours.21 debaters spokewith 123 postings.
  10. 10. Debate structure Moderators, debaters and participants: Super Moderator Sergeant Debaters Participants can only speak in another thread set specifically for the audience Rules of the Debate Contest: Insulting words are forbidden If any debater insults others seriously, well directly cancel his qualification; Only contents on the debate topic are permitted; Members who are not debaters are not allowed to post in the "Debate contest thread“
  11. 11. Debate structureTwo additionalplatforms at thesame time: Special Thread for Debate supporters 【中印网友友谊辩论 Chinese translation (中印网友辩论赛火 翻译贴)
  12. 12. Partners or competitors The theme of the debate: Are China and India competitors or partners? By lot, the Chinese team was for “Partners” The Indian team for “Competitors” Three debaters: Luke, Victor Cao and Tarunraju were awarded the “Best Debaters” prize after the debate.
  13. 13. Argumentation structure Partners Supportive argument (Chinese) Opposing argument (India) Commonness Cooperation occurs only in Long history of civilization Strong/Weak; Equally Strong Suffering under western domination Economic ties have a negative impact on India Developing countries China is hostile to India Rising opportunities Cooperation means India giving Cultural/technological exchange in history up part of its land Common tasks (domestic): better life Cooperation is costly for India for their own people Cooperation likes a marriage Common responsibilities (world): better world which needs treaties Common interests Common enemies India needs Chinas cooperation to develop the economy For the purpose of catching up with developed countries Cooperation is a world trend Win-win situation
  14. 14. Argumentation structure Competitors Supportive (India) Opposing (Chinese) Constructive No time & energy for competition is good competition Competition is a Vicious competition driving force is bad Competition is Other powers will exciting take advantage of Healthy competition the competition is good between China and India Win-lose situation
  15. 15. Contentions and defense Indias contention (of China) Chinese defense China fears Indias rise Not fear of India if India rises peacefully Blocking ADBs loan to India It involves a disputed region Kashmiri visa Supporting Pakistan No interference in Kashmiri Gwadar Port Chinas opposition at NSG Rumours Opposing Indias seat at No other UNSC permanent UNSC as a permanent members support it member China also accommodating Not treating India equally as Initially stopped the 1962 India treats China war Tibet vs Kirshmiri Tibet-Xinjinag vs Pakistan Support Beijing Olympics
  16. 16. Contentions and defense Chinas contention (of Indias defense India) Supporting Dalai Dalai Lama is a Lama who’s refugee, and India engaged in sabotage does not permit him against China to stage political Used by US to activities against contain China China in India. Housing terrorists Not signing the Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT or NNPT)
  17. 17. Fantasy Theme AnalysisChinesedebaters Sanction Master Rhetoric vision Fantasy theme Setting Characters Action Agent AnalogueChina and India are likebrothers in a family. Itsnatural that a China and Indiapartnership between have a lot in Harmony, peace,the two will benefit both common Ancient history China, India Buddhism in China win-win Social, practical Sugar operation, China, India papermaking to India Westerners China and India suffered Modern history (villains) under western domination China, India as developing Current stage countries Both are rising Westerners Happy to see China and (villains) India fight and both fail Partnership beneficial for both Bilateral trade China, India Growth in trade volume Economic Improvement for peoples development China, India lives
  18. 18. Fantasy Theme AnalysisIndian debaters Sanction MasterRhetoric vision Fantasy theme Setting Characters Action Agent AnalogueChina has an Reciprocalego which is relation,threatened by China is hostile mutualIndia to India UN China Chinas objection respect Social NSG China Chinas objection ADB China Chinas block Pakistan China Chinas support China issues Kashmiri China different visa Not allow him to India is more launch political accommodating Tibet Dalai Lama activities Beijing Olymincs India Support Not support Tibet/Xinjiang India separatists forces
  19. 19. Key words and phrases Chinese debaters Indian debaters Two sincere brothers Asymmetric in a family partnership Two poor brothers Hostile Indian friends Threat Chinese ego Team work situation Weaker competitor Solve our conflicts in a They are wrongly friendly manner feeling threatened by a small power China is always reaching out with an olive branch Peaceful rising
  20. 20. Images: Chindia?
  21. 21. Case 2 Rhetoric visions of China during Beijing Olympics in discussions of online communities of ASEAN countries Singapore Malaysia Thailand
  22. 22. Symbolic Convergence Analysis Fantasy Type China is a cruel despot who enslaves its people and fools the whole world with lies to glorify China itself. lip-synch Fake ethnic children Forced gym training Junior gymnasts training in Setting Open Ceremony Open Ceremony China Theme The “Birds Nest” The “Birds Nest” 1. The red-dressed girl as 1. Young gymnasts as casualty 1. The fake ethnic children a fake singer were commiserated 2. China as the liar was Character 2. The real singer as a 2. China as the devil was criticized Theme casualty was supported accused 3. People of the world were 3. China as the liar was 3. America was hero compare fooled with China criticized China fakes: the little girl China fakes: that the ethnic play in the open ceremony China forced children to take Action children in the open was not the real singer in the gym training to cultivate Theme ceremony were not real order to glorify China gymnasts ethnic people itself. Sanction Value of truth Value of truth Human right Agent Table 1: the constructed fantasy type
  23. 23. China fakes
  24. 24. Fantasy theme 1 The China rejectsSetting Theme The Olympics arena for table tennis China-born Singaporean athletes as China’s rejects wereCharacter Theme abominated for their “avarice” China-born athletes got an Olympic medal for Singapore. But it was considered as a “fake medal”. Netizens didn’t like Action Theme those China-born athletes because they were thought had no any adherence to Singapore. Their motivation is just money. Sanction Agent Loyalty to nation Table 2: fantasy theme I
  25. 25. Fantasy theme 2 China is Competitor Singapore government’s National economic Setting Theme investment to imported foreign development talents 1. The imported Chinese 1. Chinese migrants as athletes as enemy competitors were shown Character Theme 2. Local athletes should be hostility given more support 2. China as potential enemy Chinese immigrant athletes China and Chinese migrant seized the resources of local is showing a stronger and athletes. It makes local stronger power in effecting Action Theme netizens feel angry and the economy of the country. worried about it It makes local people worry that they may “take over” the country. Sanction Agent The due rights and welfare of the nationals Table 3: fantasy theme II
  26. 26. Fantasy theme 3 China is the cultural root 1. Family ancestry places in China Setting Theme 2. The migration of Chinese in the earlier time 1. The father or grandfather generations of local ethnic Chinese who came from ChinaCharacter Theme 2. Chinese immigrants in earlier times in general The father or grandfather generations of netizens came from Action Theme China, settled and lived there for generations in SE Asia. Sanction Agent Respect parents & cultural roots Table 4: fantasy theme III
  27. 27. Fantasy theme 4 Chinese are “Jews of the East” 1. No concrete place but throughout the SE Asia Setting Theme 2. The historical development of SE Asia. 3. The development of the country today and before 1. China as an investor brought in wealth and chance 2. Chinese migrants as constructors of the country, hard Character Theme working and brilliant 3. China and Chinese are avaricious. They are enemies who seized the resources of local people. 1. Chinese migrants contributed a lot to the economic development of SE Asian countries Action Theme 2. China cooperates with SE Asia and makes huge investment to this area. The ability of making money Avarice is villainous. China is great. China and Chinese Sanction Agent and Chinese are dangerous. can help locals for better development. Table 5: fantasy theme IX
  28. 28. CAQDASWe found it difficult to use currently availableCAQDAS tools for such interactive analysisas they are all based on dealing with longfiles, but not one line messages.
  29. 29. Nvivo example: Initial data is organized as Cases Individual posting a case? For interactive content, it is infeasible and unnecessary to have every posting organized as a case Individual user as a case? This will eliminate the initial interactive pattern of discussion in the primary data. To study dynamics, it is important to retain the data in its initial interactive pattern Postings in one standard period as a case? It does not make sense for further analysis in Nvivo We finally used Excel to conduct the analysis
  30. 30. Q&AThank You
  31. 31. Presented at the Asia-Pacific conference on Computer-Aided Qualitative Research 24 & 25 Feb 2011, Macau SARFor more information about our upcoming conferences Please visit: