Cultural Politics of User-Generated Encyclopaedias: Comparing Chinese Wikipedia and Baidu Baike
13 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2014
Date Written: 2014
The question of how the Internet affects existing geo-cultural or geo-linguistic communities in relation to nation-states has continued to receive attention among academics and policymakers alike. Language-based technologies and services that aggregate, index, and distribute materials online may reshape pre-existing boundaries of the relationship between users and content, for instance with different language versions of user-generated encyclopaedias or different local versions of search engines. By comparing two major Chinese online encyclopaedias, Baidu Baike and Chinese Wikipedia, this thesis investigates whether the Internet overcomes, shifts, or reinforces boundaries among Chinese language users. The Chinese language provides an excellent case for examining the boundary question. While the Internet can potentially connect the largest number of native speakers around the world, the majority (i.e. those from mainland China) face an Internet censorship and filtering regime that may limit this very potential. Modern Chinese history has also complicated the cultural-political boundaries among the regions of mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
This thesis compares the conditions and outcomes of their respective editorial processes, content features, and users’ reception. Multiple findings emerge from a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods, including content analysis, webometrics, and search engine result visibility tests. These methods show that boundaries are drawn in the process of creating, linking, and searching content on the Chinese Internet. Their geolinguistic extent differs, a phenomenon that reflects the cultural-political division between mainland China and the rest of Chinese-speaking world. Both the findings and methods of the thesis have important implications for research and policy for understanding the globalizing regionalization and nationalization effects of the Internet.
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Keywords: online encyclopaedias; social media; user-generated content; China
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