This thesis explores various aspects of the online Bulletin Board System (BBS) world as they relate to the possibilities of the public sphere in China. It addresses two major questions: what has BBS brought to China where traditional media primarily serve as the mouthpiece of the government? And, why are Chinese netizens, especially younger generation, particularly enthusiastic about this online platform? Through a full- dimensional view into BBS’S information communication mechanism and BBS users’ identities, social behaviors and values, we investigate the pros and cons of BBS in terms of its potential to contribute to cyberdemocracy in China. The Introduction addresses research motivations, critical questions, and research goals. It also provides an overview of China’s Internet landscape and a brief review of Chinese BBS studies. Chapter One walks through the history and development of BBS in China, and analyzes the demographics and online behavioral patterns of BBS users. Chapter Two looks into the distinct information communication mechanism of BBS as well as BBS regulation and censorship in China. Chapter Three looks at a cohort of BBS users, exploring who are using BBS in China, why they are enthusiastic about this online community, and what are their distinct identities, social behaviors and values. The Conclusion makes explicit the relevance of these developments to the ongoing growth of the Chinese Public Sphere.
About Liwen Jin
Liwen Jin works for a Boston-based innovation design consultancy, Continuum, as their head of Greater China Marketing. As the original designer of Reebok Pump, Swiffer, and MIT Open Laptop Per Child, Continuum draws upon deep expertise, human awareness, and global awareness to develop products, services, and experiences that improve people's lives across the world. With her role she travels often between Shanghai and Boston to bridge business and cultural gaps between the two offices.