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Private and Public on Social Network Sites

Differences and Similarities between Germany and China in a Globalized World

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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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VIII. Conclusions and Discussion

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As the final part of this dissertation, Chapter VIII describes the research goals and summarizes the main results of my study. I will conclude with a discussion on the limitations of this research and offer some suggestions for further studies.

8.1 Summary of Research Goals

This dissertation concentrates on the exploration of the boundary between “the private” and “the public” on SNSs based on the sociability framework. Analyses and investigation of the roles of social norms and influences, benefits, and risks/costs, on the behaviors of SNSs users had been conducted through an examination of models that were constructed on the basis of SET, SPT and CPMT. In tracing the social traditions that have influenced the historical definitions of private and public, this dissertation is especially interested in the ways new communication technologies influence the subjective experiences of the division between “the private” and “the public”; particularly how this boundary differs, or is similar, across countries. In my quest for a satisfactory answer, I constructed several representative models of the German and Chinese societies, and used them to perform a comparative study on the digital differences and similarities in the contexts of globalization and mediatization. My study deals with three specific objectives:

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