Talking About and Beyond Censorship: Mapping Topic Clusters in the Chinese Twitter Sphere

Shiwen Wu, Bo Mai


As a social media platform officially blocked in mainland China, Chinese Twitter has turned into an alternative and transnational digital space. Through the perspective of alternative spaces, this study explores the views and attitudes of Chinese Twitter users toward Internet censorship and how Chinese Twitter is generated and maintained as an alternative digital space. We applied latent Dirichlet allocation and identified 5 distinctive thematic clusters characterizing this alternative space, which spanned three types of activities: sharing technical knowledge, expressing political opinions, and disseminating alternative news items. Users employed spatial markers in their discussions to distinguish the Chinese Twitter sphere from other spaces. To maintain Chinese Twitter as an alternative digital space, sharing technical knowledge and information is as important as political resistance. Although it is a transnational digital space, the Chinese Twitter sphere is influenced by Chinese culture and takes advantage of it.


Chinese Twitter, alternative space, Internet censorship, topic modeling

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