On 23 July, two high-speed trains crashed in suburban Wenzhou, causing 40 deaths and igniting nationwide criticism on the Great Leap Forward of the Chinese Ministry of Rail (MOR) on high-speed trains (HGT). Is this accident eroding Chinese people’s confidence in the adoption of high technologies? How does the flooding of information in Weibo (Chinese version of Twitter) change people’s conception of high-tech utilities widely applied in life?
So far there have been few studies analysing science communication processes in social media like twitters both in China and in international community. Although there are surveys testing people’s attitude on high-tech, these surveys are not linked to some highly-impacting events like the HGT crash. The situation cannot meet demands from the rapid development of social media – China’s Weibo users alone have surpassed 200 million – as well as the fact that social media, particularly twitter, tend to be a perfect database for learning about people’s real sentiments because tweets are very short – a maximum of 140 characters – so users have to express their opinions and beliefs about a particular subject very concisely and often spontaneously.
Based on this situation, we design a novel research method to investigate people’s attitude on high-tech in the Weibo world when HGT accident forms a strong impact. In this study, we will select all tweets under themes related to the HGT accident and analyse the contents of tweets among them which are retweeted for more than 20 times – retweeting more than this number will be considered as popular tweets. Then we will identify whether these popular tweets show positive, negative, or irrelevant attitudes on both HGT and high-tech.
We will record the percentage of each attitude towards high-tech and compare this with the previous national surveys based on random questionnaires to show whether the HGT accident has an impact on people’s attitude on high technologies. Although the comparison takes place between different groups of people, we deem it legitimate because both the previous surveys and the analysed popular tweets represent general public sentiments about high-tech.
Then, we will make content analysis to show the factors causing people’s attitude towards high technologies in this contexts, and demonstrate whether the anti-HGT attitude is linked to the inclination to question high technologies in general.
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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Accidents and high-tech
Exploring the impacts of China’s high-speed train crash on people’s attitude on high technologies in social media

Hepeng Jia   China Science Media Centre, Beijing, China

Jun Yan   Journalism and Information Communication School, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China

Yang Mo   Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

On 23 July, two high-speed trains crashed in suburban Wenzhou, causing 40 deaths and igniting nationwide criticism on the Great Leap Forward of the Chinese Ministry of Rail (MOR) on high-speed trains (HGT). Is this accident eroding Chinese people’s confidence in the adoption of high technologies? How does the flooding of information in Weibo (Chinese version of Twitter) change people’s conception of high-tech utilities widely applied in life?
So far there have been few studies analysing science communication processes in social media like twitters both in China and in international community. Although there are surveys testing people’s attitude on high-tech, these surveys are not linked to some highly-impacting events like the HGT crash. The situation cannot meet demands from the rapid development of social media – China’s Weibo users alone have surpassed 200 million – as well as the fact that social media, particularly twitter, tend to be a perfect database for learning about people’s real sentiments because tweets are very short – a maximum of 140 characters – so users have to express their opinions and beliefs about a particular subject very concisely and often spontaneously.
Based on this situation, we design a novel research method to investigate people’s attitude on high-tech in the Weibo world when HGT accident forms a strong impact. In this study, we will select all tweets under themes related to the HGT accident and analyse the contents of tweets among them which are retweeted for more than 20 times – retweeting more than this number will be considered as popular tweets. Then we will identify whether these popular tweets show positive, negative, or irrelevant attitudes on both HGT and high-tech.
We will record the percentage of each attitude towards high-tech and compare this with the previous national surveys based on random questionnaires to show whether the HGT accident has an impact on people’s attitude on high technologies. Although the comparison takes place between different groups of people, we deem it legitimate because both the previous surveys and the analysed popular tweets represent general public sentiments about high-tech.
Then, we will make content analysis to show the factors causing people’s attitude towards high technologies in this contexts, and demonstrate whether the anti-HGT attitude is linked to the inclination to question high technologies in general.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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