All Abstracts > Multiple Discourses of Gene Editing on Social Media: A Case Study of Chinese Gene-Edited Human Babies
Multiple Discourses of Gene Editing on Social Media: A Case Study of Chinese Gene-Edited Human Babies
Authors | Affiliation:
Xing Zhang | National University of Singapore; Weiyu Zhang | National University of Singapore; Anfan Chen | University of Science and Technology of China
Panel 2C | China’s techno-social realities and futures
Gene editing increasingly constitutes a globalized issue in science communication, yet the topic is relatively understudied in the Chinese context. Taking the world’s first case of gene-edited human babies scandal occurred in China as a key node, this study examines online discourses of gene editing engaged by multiple social actors (i.e., government, scientists, journalists, and laypeople) on one of the most popular social media in China (i.e., Weibo) within a two-year period. A content analysis of 2,074 unique Weibo posts was done in terms of frames, emotions, and metaphors. The analysis reveals that social media have opened up new spaces for various social actors to form diversified and interactive discourses of the gene editing issue. Also, empowered by social media, a more participatory public engagement with science (PES) has emerged online and become an influential way to shape online agenda and policy decisions. Finally, the results indicate that scandals can serve as a trigger for significant changes in public attitudes and opinions about controversial gene-editing technologies. This study provides an opportunity to understand how the globalized issue of gene editing is discussed in the comparatively free Internet setting beyond the Western context, and to explore how multiple social actors react and interact when globally controversial technologies such as human gene editing are first put into practice.
About the authors
Xing Zhang is a graduate student at the Department of Communications and New Media, National University of Singapore. Her research focuses on crisis communication, science communication, and social media.
Weiyu Zhang is Associate Professor at the Department of Communication and New Media, National University of Singapore. Her research focuses on civic engagement and ICTs, with an emphasis on Asia. She is the author of the book “The Internet and New Social Formation in China: Fandom Publics in the Making”. Her current project is to develop and examine an online platform for citizen deliberation.
Anfan Chen is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Science Communication and Science Education, University of Science and Technology of China. His research focuses on computational communication, science communication, and new media.