Big data study shows how online expression varies across China

By Shan Jie Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/31 19:58:39 Last Updated: 2016/8/31 20:03:39

Photo: IC

Have you ever wondered if the people in your city are getting you down? If they're really negative and work-obsessed or if it's just your imagination? Perhaps you want to move somewhere where people are more laid back, but don't know where to go?

The "Zhongshan Index 2016," a study of netizens in cities across China that analyzed what they express online and how they do it, might be able to help you.

For instance, it showed that residents of Heze, East China's Shandong Province topped the positivity ranking, while Web users in Ganzhou, East China's Jiangxi Province were judged to be the most negative.

Netizens from South China's Guangdong Province were found to be the most likely to discuss their work, while those from the prosperous city of Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province spent more time talking about leisure than people from other places, the report said.

Experts said such studies, which use big data, could be used in academic studies and marketing, and called for further study on the topic.

Random selection

The Zhongshan Index 2016 blue paper was released on August 15 jointly by the Chinese Netizen Social Mentality Research Lab at Sun Yat-sen University, the Association of Cyber Culture of the city of Zhongshan, Guangdong and the Guangzhou Big Data and Public Dissemination Research Base.

The index, involving hundreds of thousands of people, is based on data collected from 2,000 to 5,000 random netizens from 100 randomly chosen cities in China, surveying Net users' behavior on China's most popular online social platforms WeChat, Sina Weibo and Baidu Tieba.

At the end of the report, the sample cities were labeled with different characteristics, such as "cold," "emotional," "balanced" and "active."

"The local environment, customs, climate and other elements might form the characteristics of residents, but in terms of this report, the connection between the cities and their Web users' emotions may also be caused by other issues," Zhu Wei, deputy director of the Research Center of Law of Communication at the Beijing-based China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"For instance, people from Hangzhou discuss leisure topics most in the report, which may be because there were potential commercial projects regarding tourism or something similar during that period," Zhu said.

Zhu's opinion was echoed by the director of the study, He Lingnan, deputy chief of the big data and communications lab at Sun Yat-sen University.

"Actually, we cannot simply explain the findings about netizens' online expression, because we have currently only studied it from the angle of communication, but we need more data and further studies from local experts who understand the variety of societies and cultures covered," He told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Better understanding

"Urbanization and Internalization are the two main trends of the age. Nowadays, when rural people join the life of the city they join the Internet there," He noted.

"Understanding the mentality of urban netizens will help modernize network administration and adjust the social mentality," said Zhang Zhi'an, director of the study and president of the School of Communication and Design at Sun Yat-sen University, Zhongshan-based news website reported on August 15.

"The Zhongshan Index could help managers from different regions understand local netizens, which could improve the communication between them," He said.

As long as the sources of the data are reliable, the combination of big data and analysis of netizens' behavior could help in other ways also, such as estimating crime rates or spotting the particular medical needs of different regions, Zhu said.

Newspaper headline: Netizen nation

Posted in: Society

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