Research Seminar Series | Understanding the quality of civic debate and coherence on social media hashtag networks: Twitter and Weibo


4:30 PM - 5:30 PM

HS436 & Tencent Meeting


  • Time: 16:30-17:30
  • Date: 19 October, Thursday, 2023
  • Venue: HS436, Tencent Meeting


In media and communications studies, one perspective on social media networks is how they have great potential to bring people together, to create communities across networks of hashtags, forums and platform. Groups of people formerly isolated, fragmented or voiceless, now have space to share ideas, come together and be shared. Optimistic interpretations of this process see the potential for vastly increased civic participation, raising the democratic process. Some studies, looking closer at some of the viral feeds where this occurs, suggest that beneath the surface there can much less coherence. Feeds based on hashtags can carry a range of views and interests, often linked by some kind of ‘affective’ moral binding, and where there is very little actual interaction and responsiveness to others. And such networks can be dominated and colonized by different levels of influencers.



Gwen Bouvier (PhD, University of Wales) is a Distinguished Professor at Shanghai International Studies University, Institute of Corpus Studies and Applications. Her main research interests are digital communication and civic debate on social media. Professor Bouvier's publications have drawn on critical discourse analysis, multimodality based on social semiotics, and online ethnography. She is the Associate Editor for Social Semiotics and Book Review Editor for Discourse & Society. Her latest publications include the book Qualitative Research Using Social Media, Routledge 2022 and the articles ‘Visually representing Cervical Cancer in a government social media health campaign in China: moralizing and abstracting women’s sexual health’ (Visual Communications, 2023); ‘Where Neoliberalism shapes Confucian notions of child rearing: influencers, experts and discourses of intensive parenting on Chinese Weibo’ (Discourse, Context and Media, 2022); and ‘#Stand with women in Afghanistan: Civic participation, symbolism, and morality in political activism on Twitter’ (Discourse and Communication, 2023).

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