CMP fellow and Peking University professor Hu Yong spoke recently with The Beijing News about the impact of microblogging at this year’s “two meetings” of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress. Hu Yong calls microblogs a “new form of broadcasting” and argues that the medium has four basic characteristics.
The Beijing News: You have observed the development of the Internet for a long time. How do you view microblogs, this new type of communication tool?
Hu Yong: Microblogs are a new form of broadcasting, and I think they have four basic characteristics. The first is speed. This represents the new direction of Web development. Traditional media all grapple with the issue of news cycles. Newspapers, for example, make news calculations on a daily cycle. But microblogs are not limited by this as they belong to the instantaneous medium of the Web . . .
Second, they are fragmented. This has a major impact on thinking. In the past, mass media distributed information from the center to the periphery. For example, when a news story breaks in a certain place, media must send journalists to the s scene to report. Those reports are then published [in the newspaper], and then they are subsequently run online. The media that break the story are the “center.” But today there might be microblog users at the scene of the story, and they can transmit information instantly. People who were unknown or insignificant might now become the center of the information [dissemination process], having a powerful influence.
Third, they are direct. There is no mediator, so they are very direct . . . For example, making statements through the traditional media has required going through layers of intermediaries. Now microblog users can go directly into their topics . . .
Fourth, is their micropower (微动力). In my view, micropower is nothing more than each individual taking responsibility. “Micro” is about every ordinary citizen. “Power” is about translating language into action. Through “micro-information” and “micro-conversation” we can together exercise “micropower” and influence the development of conscience in Chinese society.