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Private and Public on Social Network Sites

Differences and Similarities between Germany and China in a Globalized World


Jingwei Wu

This book explores the boundary between «the private» and «the public» on Social Network Sites based on the sociability framework. The author analyses the roles of social norms and influences, benefits, and risks/costs, on the behaviors of SNSs users through models based on Social Exchange Theory, Social Penetration Theory and Communication Privacy Management Theory. She reviews different notions of «the private» and «the public» and selects the sociability framework to investigate the distinction between private and public. The author uses this theoretical framework to conduct online surveys and interviews with selected SNSs users in Germany and China and concludes that the clear boundary of «the private» and «the public» on SNSs is a result of acts of disclosure and/or withdrawal of personal information and political opinions. Globalization and mediatization contribute to similarities among different countries but do not erase the differences in their respective boundaries.

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V. Proposing Models of the Boundary Between “The Private” and “The Public” on SNSs


In chapter III, I applied SET, SPT and CPMT to explain the motivations behind the disclosure of personal information and the expression of political opinions. In accordance with our previous discussion, social norms and influences, social benefits and costs/risks are three theoretical basics that account for the mechanisms of boundary management on SNSs. In this chapter, I will construct two models that help to explain the influential factors of boundary management. One of these models pertains to self-disclosure, while the other to political expression. I will then contextualize these two models in a digital world to explore the digital differences and similarities between Germany and China.

5.1 Proposing a Model for Self-disclosure

To construct a model for self-disclosure on SNSs, several key factors of SET, SPT and CMPT must be taken into consideration so as to determine the best way to represent the cost-benefit approach of self-disclosure. These key factors are:

– social norms and influences: social influence that tempts an individual to use SNSs and to disclose information

– social benefits: perceived reciprocity and trust

– social costs/risks: perceived risk believes and anonymity.

As my discussion on the boundary between “the private” and “the public” pertains specifically to SNSs, the usage and size of SNSs play an important role in guiding online self-disclosure and political expression. Hence, these factors will be included in the models. ← 101 | 102 →

Figure 6: Variables and Hypothesis for The Model of...

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