In Search of Reason-centered Discussion on China’s Twitter: The Effects of Initiating Post and Discussion Format on Reasoning
Reason-centered discussion of politics is an important route toward improving the quality of public opinion. This study examined predictors of reason-centered online discussion, including the use of a debate format with two sides displayed as opposing columns, as well as various characteristics of the post that initiates the discussion. A content analysis was conducted to examine 6,360 reply posts in 291 threaded discussions on Sina Weibo, one of China’s most popular venues for online discussion. Results showed that debate format is greatly associated with a higher reasoning level of the corresponding threaded discussion, with opinion presence and multiple viewpoints playing a role as well. Moreover, debate format can elicit differences in the effects of initiating posts on the overall reasoning level of a threaded discussion. Implications for online discussion in the virtual sphere are discussed.