Moving Beyond Count-based Approach:

Understanding Hong Kong Nationalism with Topic Network

Justin Chun-ting Ho

University of Edinburgh



  • Facebook page of key nationalist organisations in Hong Kong
  • 8,783 posts, average of 70 characters per post, mostly Chinese but also English

Why Facebook?

Why Facebook?

  • An important platform of political communication (Michael Chan, Hsuan-Ting Chen & Francis L.F. Lee, 2016;
    Hsuan-Ting Chen, Michael Chan & Francis L.F. Lee, 2016;
    Francis L.F. Lee & Joseph Man Chan, 2015; Gary Tang & Francis L.F. Lee, 2013)
  • A major channel of mobilization during the Umbrella Movement (Paul S. N. Lee, Clement Y. K. So & Louis Leung, 2015)
  • All nationalist groups use Facebook


A mixed method approach of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Computational Text Analysis

Why Mixed Method?

Critical Discourse Analysis

  • Close analysis of language
  • Revealing the discursive struggle and unveiling the strategies employed by the nationalists to construct the nation.

Challenges of CDA

  • Unsystematic manner of applying analytical procedures

    (Koller & Mautner, 2004; McEnery & Wilson, 1996)
  • Unable to deal with large corpus
  • Sampling could be problematic

Computational Text Analysis

  • Systematic analysis of large-scale text collections (using computer progarmmes)
  • Draws on techniques from natural language processing, information retrieval, and machine learning
  • Augmenting close reading, not replacing
    (Read Grimmer and Stewart (2013) for the pitfalls of Text Analysis)

Topic Modeling

Count-based Approach


  • Texts serve different purposes
  • Count-based approach assumes all texts matter to the discourse equally
  • Abundance is not equal to importance

Topic Network Approach

Topic Network Approach

  • Concepts within a discourse do not exist in isolation, they are dependent on each other in various ways
  • Discourse as network phenomenon
  • Centrality to identify core concepts that unite different concepts into a coherent whole

Thank You!

Twitter: @justin_ct_ho
Github: justinchuntingho