As the blogs are gaining respect, understanding how they work will be empowering them as an effective media source. In my post -
it is obvserved that the advertising potential of the blogs has sent wake-up calls to the movers and shakers : the MoneyMakers, thereby further validating the blogs' worth. This project is just in it's infancy but is very interesting in it's findings. It seems there are valid reasons that we congregate in small communities with shared ideology, if you extrapolate this data to include small forums, bbs' and chat rooms and other local communities. I look forward to the project being expanded as more blogs are included.
My Insularity The Decembrist
Eszter Hargatti at Crooked Timber has a post about her study on "Cross-Ideological Conversations Among Bloggers."
She is trying to test Cass Sunstein's theory, in Republic.com, that internet politics forms isolated communities of shared ideology, rather than broad conversations among people with different viewpoints.
It's a fascinating study, and she shows that there is a high-degree of cross-ideological conversation among the 41 political blogs she studies, although much of it involves invoking the other side for purposes of "straw-man" arguments.
Crooked Timber :: link
Cass Sunstein in his book Republic.com
talks about the potential for IT to fragment citizens' political discussions into isolated conversations. Borrowing from Negroponte, he discusses the potential for people to construct a "Daily Me" of news readings that excludes opposing perspectives. Sunstein argues that for democracy to flourish, it is important that people continue to have conversations with those in disagreement with their positions. However, he is concerned that with the help of filtering out unwanted content people will fragment into enclaves and won't be exposed to opinions that challenge their positions. The book is an interesting read, but it does not offer any systematic empirical evidence of the claims.
I have been working on a project this past year with Jason Gallo and Sean Zehnder on empirically testing Sunstein's thesis. We are doing so by analyzing cross-linkages among liberal and political blogs. You may recall that about two months ago Lada Adamic and Natalie Glance came out with a report on "The Political Blogosphere and the 2004 U.S. Election". My first reaction was one of panic. Here we had been working on our project for months and someone else came out with the results first. However, a closer read made me realize that our project has some unique elements. And if nothing else, seeing that project has made us more careful and critical in our work showing that more research in an area can be fruitful, because hopefully it inspires the agenda to move forward in a productive manner.
Our work has focused on addressing two questions. First, we are interested in seeing the extent to which liberal and conservative bloggers interlink. Second, we want to see what kind of changes we may be able to observe over time. Sunstein's thesis suggests that we would see very little if any cross-linking among liberal and conservative blogs and the cross-linking would diminish over time. We go about answering these questions using multiple methodologies. We counted links and calculated some measures to see how insular the conversations are within groups of blogs. We also did a content analysis of some of the posts in our sample. We continue to work on this project so these are just preliminary findings.
At this first stage, we report on findings from three week's worth of posts on 41 blogs (20 conservative, 21 liberal). We classified the blogs ourselves for political affiliation based on their content. We sampled a week of posts from June 2004, October 2004 (the week before the elections) and March 2005. It may not sound like much, but these 41 blogs posted over 5000 entries during these three weeks (5214 to be precise) including over 900 links to each other (excluding links on blogrolls).
Overall, it would be incorrect to conclude that liberal bloggers are ignoring conservative bloggers or vice versa. Certainly, liberal bloggers are more likely to address liberal bloggers and conservative bloggers are more likely to link to conservative bloggers. But people from both groups are certainly reading across the ideological divide to some extent.
There are numerous methodological issues to consider with this type of a project. I don't want this post to get unwieldy so I have not gone into details. Please do not assume that just because I did not mention something here we did not consider it. Chances are we did consider it and addressed it in some manner. Of course, we may have missed some issues and certainly welcome feedback.
crookedtimber.org :: link