I did rudimentary analysis, and got some insights too.  But I feel like my insights are all over the place, and I’m having a hard time to synthesize them into a killer thesis.  The following are my lists of evidence and insights, and some half-baked thesis.  If you have time to read my post and give some feedback, I’d really appreciate it, especially during this stressful end of semester.

The avatar:
Users can personalize their avatar.  It is part of identity construction. People use their favorite anime characters, own drawings, and show their personal tastes in avatar.  They change avatar often too.
QQ respects and preserves a rich identity as possible.  Compare to MSN, where avatar is reduced to an email address when a person is not online, QQ still shows the avatar, nickname and the personal signature or status when a person is offline.
(social) boyfriend and girlfriend often use a pair of avatars.  The collection of avatar pairs are shared on the college forum, or xiaonei(like facebook).  The changing of avatar, especially the paired ones, will prompt a conversation.
The profile:

The profile is organized as a card, which is opened by clicking avatar.  The information on the card is organized into tabs, containing all kinds of information from birthday, lunar birthday, horoscope, etc.  There is also status area and personal description area people change all the time.  There is also a area where people can describe you.  And all the descriptions are presented as a colorful word clouds.
The profile is also a self-identity construction.  People show their favorite quotes, lyrics, or their beliefs in the personal description.  Other people help you construct identity too. Because it is not anonymous, the descriptions of others are mostly positive or humorous.
People secretly explore the profile of others a lot.  Especially when one crashes on somebody, he/she will check the other person’s profile all the time to see the updates on status or descriptions(there are posts on college forum talking about this) and also will look up the horoscope to see if they match, or infer personalities from the horoscope.
Status/signature:
The words people can see without opening the profile card.
It is part of self-identity construction too.
Compare to Twitter, it is not for public conversation, but rather private self-expression.  However, the change of status often prompts online conversations.  It is also a source of gossip.  People often write something personal but ambiguous, their friends often infer what is happening in their real life.
Dialogue window:
When you get a message, unlike gtalk, it won’t directly popup.  It protects privacy in dorms since people look over shoulders all the time.
The customization of your text is also part of self-expression.  You can change typeface, font, and color as you like.
There are lots of built-in emoticons, and supports imported emoticons. I suspect the emoticons are influenced by anime a lot.
Seen as invisible:
You can choose to appear as invisible. You can also choose appear invisible as soon as the person is online.  Or appear as invisible except to who and who.  This reflects the complex interpersonal relationship.
People ask each other are you there very often. If people are asked this when they appearing invisible, they will assume it is something urgent or important.
1 to 1 chat:
1 to 1 chat is exclusive, can get into very personal
People use it together with group chat to plan out strategy of how to behave in group chat.
Sometimes two people are chatting with the same person, and the middle is usually helping one to get some information/thoughts of the other one, or some other mediating work.
Group chat:
It is used for group meeting, announcement, and group chat. It replaces emails, physical meeting.
People build temporal group just to gossip…
Chat record:
Help with gossip, people copy paste record and share with others
Sentimental value: people often go back to see some deep conversations, even several years later.
The block, Delete function:
Reflect real-world relationship, but does not do so as obvious as facebook, where if I got delete, I won’t be able to see the person’s profile…that hurts.
The sound, flashy jumping avatar:
When you get a message, the avatar jumps, and be-be-be make sound non-stop until you open it. Hard to ignore a message, it is like saying “heyhey, I’m talking to you”
Bond with cellphone:
There is a function for you to bond QQ with cellphone so that you can access QQ from your cell phone.  This shows how people are addicted, attached, dependent on it.
Icon of QQ:
It is a cute penguin, Casual, not for workspace, young people

Insights:
QQ constructs a rich social space.
QQ allows rich presentation of personal identity
QQ has huge impact on real-world face-to-face interaction
QQ is where interesting social interaction going on while people are actually silent at the surface and not co-located in the same place.
QQ provides a space where people can interact others in a certain way that they cannot in real-world.

thesis:  QQ constructs a rich social space with its various functions, but at the same time the paralleled social space-face-to-face interpersonal interaction is silenced by QQ, in a typical Chinese college campus culture.

Well, thesis…thesis…thesis..any idea? Please?

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