The Digital Public Sphere in WeChat: On the case of College Daily controversy on WOA Platform

Research output: Other contribution


To explore the role of social media in the contemporary public sphere, this study is designed to investigate the digital public sphere emerged on WeChat’s Official Account Platform (WOA Platform). Through the theoretical lens of four-element social media logic, this study probes into the entanglement between digital
technology and public participation in terms of programmability, popularity principle, connectivity tactic, and datafication mechanism. By employing digital ethnography as the research scheme, and discourse analysis as the analytical instrument, this study dissects the controversy-triggered public sphere on WOA
Platform. Focusing on the case of “College Daily controversy” inflamed on the platform, this exploration departs from the “controversy page”, to investigate the newly-launched function of the platform in the techno-cultural phenomenon “controversy”. As to address the role of social media in the public participation,
this study is unfolded from perspectives of ordinary users, official accounts, and the public intellectual. In specific, the study explores: 1) how ordinary users make sense of “College Daily controversy” with the “controversy page” and WOA Platform’s search engine; 2) how official accounts participate in the
“controversy” with discursive practices on the platform; and 3) how the public intellectual, as exemplified by Leung Man-tao, is enabled to perform and practice in the “controversy” on the platform. Drawing from the results, this study also proposes a “participation-triggering mechanism” as a part and parcel factor in addition to the four-element social media logic. It argues that the public participation on WOA Platform entangles users’ participatory practices with data-driven algorithms underlying the digital public sphere
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages83
Publication statusSubmitted - 2020


  • Digital public sphere
  • Public Intellectual
  • Chinese social media
  • WeChat
  • Controversy


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