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Contested Chinese dreams of AI? Public discourse about artificial intelligence on WeChat and people’s daily online


Zeng, Jing; Chan, Chung-Hong; Schäfer, Mike S (2020). Contested Chinese dreams of AI? Public discourse about artificial intelligence on WeChat and people’s daily online. Information, Communication and Society:Epub ahead of print.

Abstract

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become a prominent public issue, particularly in China, where the government has announced plans to turn the country into a global AI power. This study analyses public discourse about AI in China through the conceptual lens of public spheres theory and counter-public spheres. It compares the official AI narrative on People’s Daily Online with public discussion about AI on the social medium WeChat, where we assumed that official views would be challenged. Using a combination of qualitative and computational methods, 140,000 AI-related articles published between 2015 and 2018 were studied. Findings reveal that AI-related discourse on WeChat is surprisingly similar to that on People’s Daily Online. That is, it is dominated by industry and political actors, such as government agencies and technology companies, and is mostly characterized by discussions about the economic potential of the technology, with strongly positive evaluations, and little critical debate.

Abstract

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become a prominent public issue, particularly in China, where the government has announced plans to turn the country into a global AI power. This study analyses public discourse about AI in China through the conceptual lens of public spheres theory and counter-public spheres. It compares the official AI narrative on People’s Daily Online with public discussion about AI on the social medium WeChat, where we assumed that official views would be challenged. Using a combination of qualitative and computational methods, 140,000 AI-related articles published between 2015 and 2018 were studied. Findings reveal that AI-related discourse on WeChat is surprisingly similar to that on People’s Daily Online. That is, it is dominated by industry and political actors, such as government agencies and technology companies, and is mostly characterized by discussions about the economic potential of the technology, with strongly positive evaluations, and little critical debate.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Communication and Media Research
Dewey Decimal Classification:700 Arts
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Communication
Social Sciences & Humanities > Library and Information Sciences
Uncontrolled Keywords:Artificial intelligence, WeChat, science communication, public sphere, counter publics
Language:English
Date:12 June 2020
Deposited On:07 Oct 2020 14:24
Last Modified:08 Oct 2020 20:00
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:1369-118X
Additional Information:This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Information, Communication and Society on 2020, available online: http://wwww.tandfonline.com/10.1080/1369118X.2020.1776372
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2020.1776372

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