Weibo Offers an Alternative Olympic Narrative

//CGCS presents Part 2 of our post-Olympic Games special report on the implications of Social Media permeation at the 2012 London Olympic games.This time, we get an in depth look at Weibo – a microblogging platform from inside China that stands separate from state-controlled media. For Lee Humphreys with part 1, click here.

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微博奥运新式传媒

//CGCS提供在2012年英国伦敦奥运会社交媒体贯穿全程的奥运特别报告。这次我们将深入观察微博,一种中国的异于官方传媒的微博客平台。如果您想阅读Lee Humphreys撰写的关于奥运会的第一部分,请点击这里

董乐硕是2011-2012CGCS的访问学者,清华大学传播学专业硕士,中国农业大学媒体传播本科。她给我们提供第二部分的讨论:

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既北京2008年奥运会举办一年后,2009年微博急速增长,并成为中国最流行的社交网络之一。现在很多知名传媒网站如新浪和腾讯有超过千万的微博注册用户。当你想到这上千万的用户时,他们通过这个社交网站(直译为微博)在2012年奥运会时产生了一亿两千万条消息。他们不仅仅在分享伦敦奥运的信息,同时也发表自己的言论。这上亿的消息更体现了不愿意服从政府媒体而选择新的传媒方式的勇气。由政府控制的主流媒体给中国人民提供了“为国争光”的运动员庆祝和奖励的平台,而微博则提供了另一种表现奥运会的方式。

通过一个备受争议的奥运会问题,微博用户就一个真正的运动员角色应该是什么的问题交换了他们的观点。国家掌控的媒体以给运动员施加压力而出名,要求运动员应以国家的获奖为利益的前提,而不去考虑个人的兴趣发展。在8月7号,当著名跨栏选手刘翔没有获得110米跨栏的冠军时,微博参与者们加入了讨论

刘翔引起微博用户同情

当翔的妈妈在奥运会时被媒体采访关于她儿子在奥运会表现时受到了国际的关注。这个世界冠军的妈妈解释说,她理解她的儿子像其他的中国奥运会运动员一样,是国家的儿子,他们只有在整个比赛结束后才可以回家。之后她向中国同胞道歉她的儿子没有在奥运会中取得胜利。在短短的140个字中,这条微博向大家分享了作为国家支持的运动没有办法获得像正常人一样作为一个家庭成员角色的鲜为人知的一面。

当刘得在最后一刻因为受伤的部位而退出比赛时,他受到了主流媒体的指责,说他让国家失望。这些言论让微博用户愤怒,并用手机和电脑表现出来。微博上有一条信息“请把刘翔还给他妈妈”被转发了上千次通过一个更谨慎的方式来表达和讨论这些问题,有一个更好,更清晰的方式来表达对运动员的尊重和人性的关怀。

赢取金牌的意义也同样在微博上被提及;在中国奥运会唯一的意义就是取得金牌。那些受训多年仅仅只取得银牌或者铜牌的运动员受到不尊重,甚至是冷落。然而翔这一事件,因为在伦敦没有获得胜利而受到了网上漫天的同情和支持。中国一个摔跤选手吴景彪对着一个中央电视台无法控制的哭了,并因赢取银牌“让祖国丢脸”而道歉。景飙的言论引起了上千条关于重新反思自我价值实现和国家荣誉之间的关系的讨论。

谈话和讨论可以推动改变

当17岁的举重选手周俊因比赛失利而被省报成为“国家的耻辱”时,事态变得更个人化。这篇文章因被微博而家喻户晓,使群众愤怒。最终让这家报社最后在网上公开道歉如果没有社交媒体的影响力和互联网的力量,个人的力量和价值恐怕不会被认可。

当中国传统的传媒认为奥运是一种爱国集体主义教育的教科书时,微博则提供了另一种讨论形式:表现他人的想法和观点。特别是在中国主流声音被中国政府所属的媒体所控制时,社交媒体像微博提供了另一只讨论和谈话的方式,为中国上万的人们打开了一个接触信息和知识的大门。然而,在中国主流传媒越来越复杂的控制下,比如说已经实行了好几个月的微博的实名注册方式,让人对中国新的传媒方式提供信息的持久性感到了担忧。

//乐硕是中国北京清华大学新闻传播学院的博士,国际传播和对比媒体学习专业。她的研究兴趣是公众外交,对比媒体政策和国际互联网管制。她现在是宾夕法尼亚大学安尼伯格传播中心国际传播学习中心的访问学者。在CGCS,她从事过于美国中国公众外交的研究,同时特别关注对中国对外的媒体政策。她已经在中国很多知名的学术期刊上发表了论文,包括国际传播期刊,中国媒体人,和新闻研究导论。

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Leshuo Dong was a CGCS visiting scholar from 2011-2012, and currently holds a MA in Journalism from Tsinghua University, and a BA in media communication from China Agricultural University. She provides us with the second part of this discussion:

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Since exploding in 2009, one year after the Beijing Olympic Games, Weibo has become one of the most popular social networking sites in China. Now, several leading protocol sites in China, like Sina and Tencent, have over three hundred million registered Weibo users. The social media site (which translates literally to microblog), generated just under 120 million posts during the 2012 games – an astonishing number when you think about the millions of networked people in China. Not only were they sharing news about the London Olympics, but opinion as well. Moreover, scattered among the millions of posted status updates were the critical voices that chose to not echo state media coverage. Mainstream, state controlled media offered Chinese citizens the official discourse of cheers and celebration over Chinese athletes ‘winning honor for the country’, while Weibo addressed alternative ways of looking at Olympics.

As one of the more tumultuous discussions on Olympic-related issues, many Weibo users exchanged their views on what an athlete’s role truly should be.  The state-owned media is known for placing immense pressure on Olympic athletes, demanding that Olympiads put state honor before individual interest. On August 7th, after the famous Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang failed to win the 110 meter race, Weibo participants reacted en masse.

Liu Xiang stirs Weibo users

Xiang’s mother garnered international attention when interviewed about her son’s involvement in the games. The world champion’s mother explained that she understood her child, like other Chinese Olympic athletes, was a “son of the state” and that they would only be reunited after the games were over. She then asked her fellow Chinese citizens for forgiveness in the event that her son lost in the Olympics. Within 140 Chinese characters, this Weibo post shed some light on a lesser known side of being a state sponsored athlete- not being able to fulfill a normal role as a family member.

When Liu had to withdraw from competition at the last moment because of an injured tendon, he was met with the mainstream Chinese media blaming him for letting down his country. These statements angered Weibo participants, who took to their cellphones and computers. A post on Weibo reading “please give back Liu Xiang to his mother” was forwarded tens of thousands of times.   With a more deliberative way to address and discuss these issues, there is a stronger and clearer call for respect and humanity of the athletes.

The value of winning a gold medal has also been deliberated on Weibo; the Olympic culture in China places winning a gold medal as the only worthwhile achievement. Athletes that have walked away with silver or bronze medals after years of intense training go greatly underappreciated or even ignored. Xiang’s case, however, led to an outpouring of online sympathy and support for athletes who have fell short of reaching the top in London. Wu Jingbiao, a Chinese weightlifter, sobbed uncontrollably to a National TV camera and apologized for ‘shaming the motherland’ even after winning a silver medal. Jingbiao caused thousands of commenters to rethink and question the relationship between self-fulfillment and state honor.

Discourse and discussion can lead to change

The shift was perhaps more personified by the outburst of a female weight lifter, 17-year-old Zhou Jun, who was tagged as a “national disgrace” by a provincial newspaper after she failed to succeed.  This piece was forwarded so many times on Weibo that the paper later apologized after  the firestorm of indignation raged across the Internet. Without the increasingly influential social media wave and the power of the networked, the value of trying one’s best would not have been recognized for its own merit.

While those traditional narratives in China saw the Olympics as a sublimely teachable moment about nationalism, patriotism and collectivism, Weibo seems to have provided an alternative discourse: addressing other values and ideas, especially in China where the mainstream voice is usually dominated by state-owned media. Social media like Weibo provide alternative discourse and narratives, opening the gate for millions of people to access more information and ideas. However, with more and more sophisticated state control over social media — for example, the new real-name verification and registration regulation of Weibo has already been implemented for months — there should be concern about how long and how far social media in China will be able to go in terms of providing an alternative story.

//Leshuo is a PhD candidate specializing in international communication and comparative media studies at the School of Journalism and Communication at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. Her research interests lie in public diplomacy, comparative media policy and global internet governance. She is currently a visiting scholar at the Center for Global Communication Studies at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. At CGCS, she works on China’s public diplomacy in United States, with a special focus on China’s “going out” media policy. She has published several papers in leading Chinese academic journals, including the Journal of International Communication, Chinese Journalist, and Introduction to Journalism Research.

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