My specific interests in digital communication, information and media are closely connected with my major—planning and public policy. In today’s digital era, Internet has played an increasingly important role. Digital information and media have a great impact on so many aspects in our daily life, ranging from economics to politics. What I am particularly interested in the realm of digital communication is the use of social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Sina Weibo (Chinese social media similar to Twitter). Nowadays, more and more people rely on their social networking media to gain information, especially for young people. Based on my own experiences, I have seldom read newspapers or watched TV to get the latest information since I started to use these social networking sites. It is just unnecessary to watch TV or listen to the audio to gain information anymore because almost all the information can be found on social media. Social networking sites provide the most convenient and entertaining way for everyone to gain information. For example, on Twitter, the hashtag, trend and numbers of favorite can tell you what the heated topics are in a couple of seconds. Whatever kind of information, ranging from entertainment to international events, is flowed on the social media, it seems that everyone has the access to the information and everyone has the right to share his/her own thoughts.
The power of social media cannot be overvalued when more and more people regard it as the main source to gain information. It is obvious that there is a reason behind every piece of message flowed on the networking sites. People who distribute the information on the social networking websites are intended to take advantage of social media to achieve their personal purposes. One simple example can be commercial advertisement. We all can see that there are hundreds of thousands of advertisements posted on social media and that they are shown in various kinds of ways—some are explicit while others might be more hidden. I am interested in figuring out how individuals and firms intentionally use the social media to promote their own ideas and what techniques they might use to publicize their products. I am also interested in the way public relation practitioners use to achieve their purposes and how they use the social media tools and communication technology to promote brands.
I am interested in how to make use of social media tools in public relation practices not only in individuals and firms level but also in governments and countries level. Not until I came to the United States, I realized that there is a huge difference between messages flowed on Chinese social networking websites and those on American social media. It turns out that information on Chinese social media has been carefully selected before being sent out on Internet. Any information against the government or Chinese Communist party has been deleted. On American social media, I have read information that is prohibited in China. Differences in regulations on information, censorship and political systems have led to the differences between American social networking sites and those in China. I am interested in figuring out the reasons behind these differences and how they are connected in political aspect. This phenomenon reminds me of the significance of emphasizing transparency, accuracy and democracy when it comes to sharing information on social media. Social media is supposed to be a platform where every citizen has the access to various kinds of information and the right to express individual thoughts. If individuals, firms and even governments intentionally post the selected information for their own purposes, it is unfair to ordinary citizens because they should have the right to know about the truth. It is impossible to ensure that information can be posted in a neutral way without any bias but at least various kinds of information from different interest groups should be allowed to be posted transparently and fairly. Thus, ordinary people can decide what to believe and create their own understandings of what is right and what is wrong.
3 Research Paper
1, “Censorship and deletion practices in Chinese social media”
The keywords of this article are “Internet censorship”, “Micro-blogs” and “China”. This article focuses on the research question that is about message blocking and deletion especially in political area. The method is to collect large amounts of data and use some case studies to figure out the differences between Twitter and Weibo under different censorships. They have found out that certain sets of terms lead to a higher likelihood for message’s deletion and that message deletions and blockings vary in different geographical areas. This article helps me to better understand what kind of messages has a higher likelihood for deletion and figure out why certain terms are more sensitive.
2, “PR practitioners’ use of social media tools and communication technology”
The keywords of this article are “social media”, “communication technology”, “Internet” and “World Wide Web”. The research question is to ask public relation practitioners about how they perceive and take advantage of social media in public relation practices. Their methods are to conduct an online survey to collect opinions on the power and usage of social media tools. And they have found out that practitioners have adopted six different social media tools professionally and that “they are slower to integrate more technologically complicated tools that cater to a niche audience (e.g., social networks and virtual worlds)”. Through this article, I gain a better understanding on how public relation practitioners intentionally choose certain communication technology to achieve their purposes. This article is helpful in revealing the connection between public relation practices and social media usage.
3, “Does social media technology promote democracy?”
The keywords of this article are “censorship”, “online social networks”, “democracy” and “social change”. The research question is about whether or not social media can serves as a tool to promote democracy in today’s digital era. The method that the author used is to analyze several cases and use some examples in real life to see how social media promotes or prevents democracy. The findings are that the owners of the social media sites can control the kind of information flowed on the Internet and that the messages on these sites can have a great impact on young people’ understandings of the society. This article reveals that although social media helps to promote democracy in some way it can also get in the way “because it lacks transparency and any safeguard of the quality and message of content”. This article fits into my topic and helps me to better understand what factors might affect how information is distributed on Internet.