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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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This dissertation is not only my hard work, it is also an achievement filled with encouragement, support, love and appreciation. Five years ago, I embarked on an arduous climb up a steep and challenging mountain that was my doctoral research. It was the most demanding period of my academic life, but I was extremely lucky to have all of the following people who have held my hand throughout the entire journey:

Firstly, I would like to thank primary supervisor, Prof. Dr. Klaus Beck. He is the reason I came to Berlin for my doctoral studies. Every word he spoke to me brimmed with encouragement. When I was struggling to make ends meet concurrently with trying to complete my dissertation, his encouragement provided me with endless strength. His works in the field of Computer Mediated Communication, Communication Theory and Communication Sociology offered a lot of inspiration for my dissertation. His patient guidance, detailed comments and goodwill are very much appreciated. I am also grateful to Prof. Dr. Martin Emmer, my secondary supervisor, for tolerating my strange writing style, patiently helping me refine my ideas, offering fresh suggestions, and directing my theoretical concepts to operationalized surveys.

Next, I am also grateful to the professors and colleagues at New York University (NYU), where I was fortunate enough to be invited by Prof. Rodney Benson for an academic exchange program. There, he provided me with a lot of useful literature and suggestions. His courses on communication theory are...

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