social media

Social Media Research Proposal Review

In my initial research project proposal it’s possible I made some assumptions about both the methodology of autoethnography, and the core concepts behind the research itself. Below is a list of the possible assumptions involved in initial account:

  • In my initial post I assumed that Chinese social media was/is used exclusively, or at least “primarily” used by the Chinese population.
  • Those who have grown up in another culture can formulate an objective opinion/comparison through personal collection of data/first hand use only.
  • By analysing platforms created for another language in English, it is still possible to develop an accurate understanding of the culture without losing its nuances to the language barrier.
  • Assuming there is a comparison to be made at all between western social media and Chinese social media, it could be that they are almost identical, or used in very similar ways. This would render the comparison between the two a lot less interesting, and in a way void the meaning behind the research itself.

Further reading and research:

  • relational ethics – implicates itself heavily in this particular research project as it focuses primarily on social media; a means of connecting with others and building relationships. A common critique of the autoethnographic approach to writing is the ethical concerns and responsibilities surrounding the building of relationships for such projects. Researchers often create friendship and other relational ties with people which not only aid their inquiry but are also a simply by product of cultural immersion. This can lead to questions of how deeply can a researcher implicate their ‘friends’ in their writing and whether their relationship must be treated with a kind of sanctity or whether it can be mined for crucial information. In order to potentially avoid questions of relational ethics, I have chosen not to interview or personally engage with other users of these platforms, not to mention communicating with the vast majority of users on Chinese social media would require some knowledge of the Chinese language. Although this raises other concerns about the quality of my observations and whether they accurately represent the culture, I have instead chosen to use the literature to inform me. However, due to the nature of the research project this is not disadvantageous to an approach of this kind, as it is primarily a comparison between one’s known cultural experiences and one’s unfamiliar cultural experiences and how these differences in culture manifest across a range of social media platforms.

Despite these overwhelming assumptions, the autoethnographic approach still utilises a crucial methodology to develop and understanding of the culture through an immersion in it. It is through this approach that I believe I will gain the most data and knowledge to back up my research.

Researching China’s Social Media Platforms

Outline the scope of the individual research project and draw on the autoethnographic literature to indicate how the methodology will inform the investigation.

In my individual research project I’d like to look into a few different angles of social media. I’m going to look at Chinese social media, in particular their equivalences to western social media platforms, and more broadly, how their social media space differs from the west’s. To do this I plan to do a few things to help myself understand the platforms, primarily this will be using an autoethnographic method in that I will personally attempt to sign up to all the leading social media platforms and document my experience, possibly even record myself at the same time.

Source: login page

Source: login page google translated into english

In Brad Crawford’s documentary “100 Yen: The Japanese Arcade Experience” he often makes the comparison between the ‘traditional’ arcade scene and the ‘up-and-coming console generation’. To compare my personal research project to this documentary, social media platforms in China, like Weibo, Renren and Tencent are primarily used by Chinese citizens, or at least Chinese speaking people, that is they survive, and were developed off the culture surrounding the platform. Similarly Japanese arcades were created in Japan, to entertain the Japanese people, the culture surrounding the platform has kept it active, and when the culture changes, so must the platform.

  • Some reasons for autoethnography in my project/signing up to the social media platforms – to better understand the differences in approaches, execution and culture of the platforms and thus be able to better compare it to western social media platforms

–  To create an informed first hand experience of the new (to me) platforms. Subsequently, I will do some data collection to help be able to compare statistical data between the different cultures.

– To look into how a culturally driven service i.e. they tailor the product to the users change between vastly different cultures, cross cultural difference in standards and emphasis on communication in the case of the social media platforms.

– Without actually using the platform, you can’t compare it to an adequate standard. Such a social, diverse and changing environment – would not benefit from a static research method – this point lends itself to the nature of technology and social media in general i.e. to keep up with peoples lives in ‘real time’.

– Generate a personal opinion from personal use.

To use a different approach to analyse the different media platforms would surely leave out important details and intricacies in how exactly the platforms are used, for what purpose they are used, and who exactly uses them. Observing such a social and culturally involved activity would not do the analysis justice when comparing it to western media which I have extensive experience in. Likewise to use purely statistical data analysis on the different social media platforms would leave out the important social differences and thus the analysis would lack a human aspect. This is why using an autoethnographic approach to the research benefits the analysis/comparison most, as it provides a means to comparing the two cultures, and opposing media platforms to a similar standard.

Just look at the Renren homepage, if I didn’t know any better I’d say it’s some kind of scam page out to steal my data.

Source: Renren homepage

Source: Renren homepage


Crawford, B. (2016). 100 YEN: THE JAPANESE ARCADE EXPERIENCE [English subtitles]. [online] YouTube. Available at: [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016].

Ellis, Carolyn; Adams, Tony E. & Bochner, Arthur P. (2010). Autoethnography: An Overview [40 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1), Art. 10,

Reflecting On The Usability of Sina Weibo

So as I wrap up my investigation of Chinese social media and my autoethnographic experience of having a Sina Weibo account, I think it’s important to discuss the usability of the site and my response to this in light of my research. To reflect on the experience, I felt it would be beneficial to explore how I went about responding to the features of the platform and how it was used by those in China, and compare this to my Australian experience of social media platforms, namely Twitter and Facebook.

Initially I found the entire experience of using Sina Weibo disorientating and frustrating due to my severe lack of understanding of Mandarin, however once I looked past the language barrier I began to find aspects of the site familiar to Facebook and Twitter. As noted by Chao, the creator, he aimed to make Weibo’s interface more closely related to Facebook’s to increase its “stickiness”, meaning users would be more likely to stay on the site longer than if he decided to replicate Twitter’s interface (Epstien 2011). In my own experience, I find that I definitely spend longer on Facebook than Twitter and choose to access Twitter through the Tweetdeck app rather than the site because I feel that’s how I can get full functionality out of the platform. I felt that the functionality of Sina Weibo was much more similar to Facebook due to its sidebar, top bar, private chat feature and comment system, however I found the way people chose to use it was more closely related to my use of Twitter.

Gao et al (2012) conducted a comparative study of the users’ of Sina Weibo and Twitter providing some insight into these differences between usage, however I could not find any comparison between Sina Weibo and Facebook usage despite the common description of Sina Weibo as being a hybrid version of Facebook and Twitter. One significant point of difference in usage was the time in which users of the site were most active. Gao et al found that Sina Weibo users posted 19% more messages per day on the weekend, whilst Twitter users posted 11% less messages during the weekend, which I believe aligns with my own use of Twitter and is reflective of each country’s differing lifestyles (p. 98, 2012).

In terms of actual usability of the platform and its technical features, it is once again more closely related to Twitter (see Breaking The Barrier). The use of hashtags, I found on Sina Weibo to be quite annoying, however later I found out that the platform had the ability to perform ‘double hashtags’, which enables hashtags to integrate better with the text and in hindsight I now see that (Ghedin 2013).

Overall, I feel like I have achieved my aim, which was to investigate Chinese social media using the methodology of creating a Sina Weibo account. Through investigating the sign up process, governance, technology and usability of Sina Weibo through an autoethnographic perspective, I feel I have learnt quite a lot about the social media use in China and am able to inform an Australian audience about this topic through a research report.


Epstien, G, 2011, ‘Sina Weibo’, Forbes, 3 March, viewed 12/10/14, <>

Ghedin, G, 2013, Understanding Sina Weibo: Hashtags, VIP Hastags and More, Digital In The Round, article, 4 July, viewed 6/10/14,

Gao, Q, Abel, F, Houben, G.J & Yu, Y 2012, ‘A Comparative Study of Users’ Microblogging Behavior on SIna Weibo And Twitter’, Unknown, pp.88-101.

The Birth of Sina Weibo

Differing from the creation of Facebook and Twitter, these being the most used social networking sites in the Western world, Sina Weibo was established as a spin-off from another already successful company, rather than a start-up. Sina Weibo was created and owned by Sina Corp, China’s tenth most grossing Internet Company, earning 620m yaun in renvenue in 2012 ( 2013). Sina Corp is a multimedia online company that owns sites and and now social network site, giving users access to both professional and user generated content ( 2009).

Sina Weibo’s main competitor is Tencent Weibo, which is owned by China’s top ranked Internet company Tencent Holdings, with Tencent Weibo having 580m registered users and Sina Weibo having 556m ( 2013; wearesocial 2014). Tencent Holdings isn’t the direct competitor for Sina Corp, however after the buzz created by Sina Weibo at its launch in August 2009, directly after the blocking of Twitter, Tencent Holdings chose to leverage its user base to create its statistically more popular social network Tencent Weibo (Epstien 2014).

“Chao hopes his Weibo’s market-topping success will one day remake Sina…into a dominant social networking platform like Tencent” (Epstien 2014).

The premise behind the creation of Sina Weibo was to create something that replaced Twitter and the Chinese Twitter clone Fanfou, but wasn’t Facebook as China already had RenRen. Charles Chao, Sina Corp’s CEO, came up with Sina Weibo just at the time when the government most feared microblogs, however it was approved and this fact arguably contributed to its success (Epstien 2014). Also much like its Western counterparts, Sina Weibo is free to use, given that I was able to sign up for an account without any prompt for money, however you could argue your cost is your privacy, as it is with most social network sites, the data you place on the site can be mined by marketers and developers through the sites API (Bamman et al 2012). However it is important to note that Chinese citizens don’t have the same concept of privacy or freedom that us in the Western world do, so whilst we as users of Western social networks have an issue with Facebook owning our content (even though we signed it away upon registering), Chinese users don’t seem to have the same qualms, rather they have found ways to avoid being censored through memes and jokes (Anti 2012). Interestingly, the opposite has happened, and the rise of weibo has changed the Chinese mindset and enabled them to have a public sphere and realise the importance of freedom of speech, whilst Western users of social networks have come to realise what it’s like to have that birth right taken away from them (Anti 2012).


Anti, 2012, Behind The Great Firewall of China, online video, June, TED Talks, viewed 5/10/14, <>

Bamman et al, 2012, ‘Censorship and deletion practices in Chinese Social Media’, First Monday, vol. 17. No. 3-5, viewed 12/10/14,, 2013, Top 10 mobile internet companies in China for 2013,, viewed 12/10/14, <>

Epstien, G, 2011, ‘Sina Weibo’, Forbes, 3 March, viewed 12/10/14, <>

Sina, 2009, SINA,, viewed 12/10/14, <>

wearesocial, 2014, Social, Digital & Mobile in China 2014′, wearesocial, viewed 4/9/14 <;

Sina Weibo + Censorship

As most people are aware the Communist Party of China governs China, and as part of this regime “The Great Firewall of China” heavily censors the Internet in China. In terms of social media, this firewall has entirely blocked any web 2.0 site that originates outside of China and simultaneously the Chinese government has managed to clone each site for its country’s use. As Michael Anti states in his TEDGlobal talk, “On the one hand, he wants to satisfy people’s need of a social network, which is very important; people really love social networking. But on the other hand, they want to keep the server in Beijing so they can access the data any time they want”.

Sina Weibo is the clone of Twitter and was founded just one month after Twitter was blocked in China, and just like Twitter it has become the newest media platform enabling people to interact with eachother in a public sphere (Anti 2012). If it hasn’t been on Weibo than it hasn’t happened. However there are some limitations to this given that the government monitors and censors content on Weibo, which is achieved in many ways. The first was the attempt to fully implement of the ‘real name’ policy in March 2012, which requires users to put in their full name, phone number and identification number and enables the government better control over what people say due to being able to track them down easier (Robertson 2012, Ghedin 2013). When I signed up to Sina Weibo I was also required to put in my phone number, however due to my name being English I was suggested names that contained Chinese characters, of which I chose Melissa精彩, which means ‘Melissa Wonderful’ in English, implying that I somewhat bypassed the ‘real name’ policy because of my English name. I was still able to sign up without an I.D number, implying that the strength of the ‘real name’ policy is still rather weak. Interestingly, Facebook has also now implemented a ‘real name’ policy, however it only succeeded to discriminate against those in the LGBT community (Montgomery 2014).

The second way that the Chinese government and Sina Weibo have restricted the free speech of its users is through introducing a ‘user contract’ in May 2012 that runs on a points system (Russell 2012). As a user I was given 80 points when I signed up, and have a maximum of 100 points according to Russell, which will be retracted for bad behaviour, and once you have reached 0 points your account will be deleted. Upon finding out about what the points system was for, I tried to search for the user contract, but I was unable to find it. Instead I have found a translated version to read here. My inability to find it may have been due to my language barrier, either I was given the option to read it and didn’t realise or it does not appear on the translated page. The user contract contains several clauses, many of which restrict what can be posted on Sina Weibo, although Michael Anti points out that Chinese users have found ways around this by using memes, puns and humour, which would explain why in my experience of my home page that most things trending seem to appear to be jokes or humour. is a Tumblr page that has been developed to track what is blocked on the site for a Western audience.


Anti, 2012, Behind The Great Firewall of China, online video, June, TED Talks, viewed 5/10/14, <>

Ghedin, G, 2013, Understanding Sina Weibo: Hashtags, VIP Hastags and More, Digital In The Round, article, 4 July, viewed 6/10/14,

Montgomery, K, 2014, ‘Facebook Apologizes For Discriminatory “Real Name” Policy’, Valleywag, 10 January, viewed 6/10/14,

Robertson, A, 2012, ‘Sina Weibo users near March 16th deadline to verify identity’The Verge, 12 March, viewed 6/10/14,

Russell, J, 2012, ‘Sina Weibo to introduce ‘user contract’ on May 28 as China’s microblog crackdown continues [Updated]’, TNW, 9 May, viewed 6/10/14,


Breaking the Barrier

Sina Weibo is best described to a Western audience as a hybrid version of Facebook and Twitter, and over the next few weeks I set out to find out why. In my previous post, Melissa精彩, I discussed the signup process I went through to gain a Sina Weibo, this week I’m going to report back about my first week using the social networking site.

One of the founding features of Twitter is its limit on how many characters you can tweet, this being 140, which is also a feature on Sina Weibo. I wrote my first weibo (which literally means microblog in English) using a translated version of the site, assuming that it would turn my English characters into simplified Chinese once posted, because of the Chinese orgins of the site, but it did not. Despite the site not translating my posts, I thought I would of received the equivalent amount of characters in English, but this was not so. 140 Chinese characters allows the user to be significantly more expressively than 140 English characters as you are not forced to abbreviate like I often am on Twitter, which implies by using English I would be significantly limiting my weibo capacity (Gao, Abel, Houben and Yu 2010).

Having realised that my posts didn’t translate, I decided to explore and see if I could find any other accounts that used English, my results were negative, however I left my post in English along with my biography, which also didn’t automatically translate, to experiment. A few days later and I have received zero likes on my post, despite 59 people having read it. I also only gained 4 followers, and all the private messages I received were still in Chinese (this feature being more closely linked to the Facebook feature). Even upon discovering that there were other Australian accounts on the site, I still feel like an outsider, as they have taken to using Chinese, so this suggests I really should also.

Last week I also downloaded the Sina Weibo app to my phone, presuming when I found out it was English that it may actually translate certain things. I was mistaken and the only thing it enables me to do is navigate around the app because those are the only elements in English. All notifications, posts and messages are still in Chinese, so it’s a lost cause for me use it, not knowing an ounce of Chinese. Interestingly, the partial English interface for the site only eventuated last year, whilst the app has been around since April 2011 (Custer 2013).

So next week I’m going to give up attempting to use the app except to examine posts in Chinese, and try using Google Translate to translate my posts and see if that enhances my popularity and experience on Sina Weibo. I also intend to start mapping out my research report, which I have decided  will be an investigation of Chinese social media through the methodology of Sina Weibo.


Custer, C 2013, ‘Sina Weibo Launched an English Web Interface, But Why So Little So Late?’, TechInAsia, 10 January, viewed 11/9/14, <>

Gao, Q, Abel, F, Houben, G.J & Yu, Y 2012, ‘A Comparative Study of Users’ Microblogging Behavior on SIna Weibo And Twitter’, Unknown, pp.88-101.

Let’s talk online dating…

Thinking about online dating I found a study on Japan that examines the experiences of past and present members of a popular Japanese online dating site. This is used to explore the extent to which Western-based theories of computer-mediated communication and the development of online relationships are relevant to the Japanese online dating experience (James Farrer, 2009). So I began to think about western online dating versus eastern online dating…

Now, we all know about Tinder and exactly what Tinder is for. I began to think about social networking and how in Australian cultures it has moved from Facebook (used to connect with people you know) to Tinder (used to connect you with people you don’t know). Interesting concept and made me think that surely there is an Asian equivalent.

Meet Me is a sort of Tinder equivalent (not sure if its applicable on a mobile device) but it’s tagline is “where new friends meet”.

meet me

Here is a advert for ‘Meet Me’…


It is interesting to note that online dating is prevalent in all cultures. Although I found that apparently Meet Me is used for more of an ‘ego boost‘ rather than actually ‘looking for love‘. I find it interesting that there would be such a site where people post photos of themselves and find a sense of satisfaction when COMPLETE RANDOMS RATE THEM A 10. Kind of makes me think that it’s a bit of a joke. Once I found this I did a Google search of “Asian online dating”… I didn’t exactly get what I was after it was more of a result of LOOKING FOR ASIAN LADIES not ASIAN as in the continent. I continued my search and came up with a site called ‘Paktor‘.


This is an app, you are able to pick your distance – your photos are on priviate until you both like each other – and you are able to chat once you’ve been matched (much like Tinder it seems – I wonder which came first!).



James Farrer, 2009 “Online dating in Japan: A test of social information processing theory”. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 16 October 2014].

I just love music, okay?!

After discussing with my Digital Asia class this week about the actual aims of our own investigation into different aspects of Asian culture in a digital sense being to investigate from an autoethnographic level, I found that I needed to restructure the way in which I have been going about and recording my research as a whole.

This week I have thoroughly researched what it means to be successful in the practice of autoethnography, and I established an appropriate definition by my understanding – ‘the way that an author studies and in turn discusses a certain culture’s relational practices, values, beliefs and shared experiences to assist outsiders better understand the culture, while relating this back to the author’s own past opinions, stereotypes and experiences’.

I primarily decided on this definition through Carolyn Ellis’ (et. al) article ‘Autoethnography: an Overview’ from 2011.

In terms of my research topic, the alternative music genre in Thailand, and different artists’ experience with various social media platforms, this autoethnographic perspective will be entirely relevant, due to the high interest I personally have into alternative music.

Ever since I can remember, I have had an immense interest in music, along with my entire family. I am a fan of almost any genre under the alternative umbrella – indie pop, garage rock, heavy metal, hardcore, punk – with my favourite at the moment being Australian stoner pop (it seems that this is an official thing now – Dune Rats anyone?).

In addition to this, I have a high interest in the way that the music industry works, not only here in Australia but around the world.

It’s also fascinating to discover how different countries interact with one another in terms of their own industries.

For the remainder of my research, I aim to look into the social media practices of artists from Thailand, while also contrasting the actual music content with that of Australian artists who may be similar. It will be interesting to find similar artists, and discuss my experience of the two – do I like one more than the other? Why might this be?

After finally fully understanding the basis behind autoethnography as a research methodology, I think I will be able to reach the full potential that comes with my research topic!


After much discussion, research and deliberation I have finally nutted out what I’m going to focus on for my autoethnography, and how I’m actually going to make Chinese social media autoethnographic. Autoethnography is explained as an approach to research that describes and analyses personal experience in order to understand cultural experience (Ellis, Adams & Bochner 2011), and in order to have a personal experience of the cultural experience of Chinese social media, I have created a Sina Weibo account. I have decided to use this account to investigate Chinese social media first hand and create a research report that aims to teach an Australian audience about social media in China, and more particularly about the platform Sina Weibo. Over the next few weeks I will be documenting my experience of the site, any challenges that occur and how the site and my interactions with it differ from my own Australian experience of social media.

I chose to create an account on Sina Weibo as it has 559million subscribed users worldwide, and 129m in China, making one of the most popular (wearesocial 2014). Also there is an English version of the app, which will allow me to have a more realistic experience of China’s social media landscape with 73% of Weibo users accessing the site through mobile devices (wearesocial 2014). The app itself is just an English interface, meaning it doesn’t actually translate the posts, so to actually read posts on the site I need to use Google chrome and its translation feature on my laptop. The signup process was relatively similar to that of Twitter, however I found the verification code harder to crack than normal. Also due to the emphasis placed on the use of mobile devices, I was required to enter my mobile number to gain another verification code via text. The extra emphasis placed on security I assumed could be attributed to the level of internet security China exhibits due to its extreme censorship, or it could just suggest that our social media sites are not so secure.

My name on Sina Weibo is Melissa精彩 , this was suggested and I translated the characters and they mean wonderful, so for the next five weeks I will be known to Sina Weibo users as this. Language and my location became a barrier to my sign up experience as not all writing translated and often Australia was not listed as an option. I had to put an area code in front my phone number, Google the characters for gender, translate my name to Chinese characters for the site to recognise it as a ‘real name’ and put my school as ‘other’ due to no Australian schools being listed, despite it being an option on the initial sign up page, which suggests that there is very few Australian users of the site. However, I made it through and my profile can be viewed here. Feel free to check up on account and give me some feedback on my progress, or even better create an account and join me for the journey.


Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1.

wearesocial, 2014, Social, Digital & Mobile in China 2014′, wearesocial, viewed 4/9/14 <;

The Yers – Thailand’s Indie music scene


The Yers are an alternative post-punk revival five-piece band from Thailand, formed in 2003. They are very traditional in terms of the way in which they choose to communicate with their fans and the general public using digital technologies, as well as promoting their music.

The band does not have its own website, rather operating through their record label, ‘Genie Records’ which is a primarily Thai label that features the Yers.

After exploring this website to get a feel for the way in which The Yers are represented online, I discovered that the website was almost identical to Western record labels online – it featured tabs for artists; blog; store; music; and news. Although the site was written in Thai, there were English translations provided for me underneath – without me having to manually change the language.

I believe it to be very smart of Genie Records in doing this – it allowed them to break the language barrier that often exists between Western and Asian communities, and also gives the bands featured on the label the opportunity to be discovered by those who may be located in different areas or markets.

In saying this however, the band does have an official Facebook page that is updated regularly with news, music and communications from the band, primarily written in Thai. It features essential information fans need to know, as well as shared photos and videos to get a feel for what the Yers are attempting to promote as a group.

It is interesting to note that although the band is quite active in terms of Facebook use, there is little to no activity on other social media platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram. Although the band does have an official Twitter account, they have not made a tweet in over a year – this shows that they obviously prefer Facebook as their preferred method of communication with their fans and communities around the world.

It would be interesting to delve into this matter further – WHY do some celebrities or groups favour some platforms over others? Is it because of the different functionalities across the varieties? This is something that I would like to explore during the progress of my personal research project into alternative Asian music artists.