Date of Award

Summer 8-12-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Baotong Gu

Second Advisor

George Pullman

Third Advisor

Ben Miller

Abstract

With growing popularity of the use of social network sites/services (SNSs) throughout the world, the global dominance of SNSs designed in the western industrialized countries, especially in the United Sates, seems to have become an inevitable trend. As internationalization has become a common practice in designing SNSs in the United States, is localization still a viable practice? Does culture still matter in designing SNSs? This dissertation aims to answer these questions by comparing the user interface (UI) designs of a U.S.-based SNS, Twitter, and a China-based SNS, Sina Weibo, both of which have assumed an identity of a “microblogging” service, a sub category of SNSs. This study employs the theoretical lens of the theory of technical identity, user-centered website cultural usability studies, and communication and media studies. By comparing the UI designs, or the “form,” of the two microblogging sites/services, I illustrate how the social functions of a technological object as embedded and expressed in the interface designs are preserved or changed as the technological object that has developed a relatively stable identity (as a microblogging site/service) in one culture is transferred between the “home” culture and another. The analysis in this study focuses on design elements relevant to users as members of networks, members of audience, and publishers/broadcasters. The results suggest that the designs carry disparate biases towards modes of communication and social affordances, which indicate a shift of the identity of microblogging service/site across cultures.

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