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Blogs and Blogging

A New Tool for Mapping Communities of Blog Commenters

The final speaker in this session at AoIR 2009 is Anatoliy Gruzd, whose focus is on the communities of blog readers, and how such communities of people discussing shared issues across different blogs may be discovered automatically - that is, how the social networks connecting them may be identified. This is important not least because of the massive growth in online information - we need to develop better tools to extract salient material from this overload of content, and to do so, knowing the social context is paramount.

Blogging the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

Daisy Pignetti is the next speaker at AoIR 2009, and focusses on the post-Hurricane Katrina blogosphere. She calls this Disaster 2.0, with events such as the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York as Disaster 1.0 (a time when many users had substantial difficulty accessing the Internet, and had to employ smart, lateral strategies in order to work out what was going on). In the aftermath, citizens of the US came together online to share their stories and perceptions of the event, and this led to substantial change.

During Katrina, television coverage was substantially hindered by the catastrophe itself - journalists couldn't get to the scene of the event itself, due to the flooding, and at times said that they 'just didn't know' what was happening; the Net, by contrast, performed much better in covering the event and helping with emergency relief. For the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the paper's blog actually became the paper as the printed paper couldn't be delivered, of course; the site became an information centre for disaster relief, and many other such sites emerged as well. One site that was developed mapped the flooding depth onto Google Maps, in fact.

Where Did the @ Come From?

The next speaker at this AoIR 2009 blog research session is incoming AoIR Veep Alex Halavais, presenting a paper co-authored with Helen Martin. He begins, though, by referencing previous work of a researcher recording graffiti in New York City: this was done as a way of tracing how people make use of emerging workarounds. In the 1970s, bathroom wall graffiti was the equivalent to what is now blogging, Alex says, so us bloggers today are essentially writing on bathroom walls. Tracking this provides a trace of how people work around their lack of access to participation and voice in the mainstream media, of how they manage to make their ideas heard regardless.

Bloggers as Opinion Leaders in the Transformation of Israeli Politics

Wow, it's the last day of AoIR 2009 already... This morning I'm in the session on blogospheres, which begins with Carmel Vaisman. Her interest is in how bloggers influence political contexts, beyond the conventional and somewhat clichéd framing of bloggers as citizen journalists or political activists - what she wants to do, then, is to track blogging practices in order to understand what political impact they may have. This is in the context of the Israeli blogosphere in this case (and Carmel is a political blogger herself in Israel, and in that role has been in contact with political organisations who are building connections to the political blogosphere).

Approaching the Networked Public Sphere

The next presentation at AoIR 2009 is by Hallvard Moe, who begins by noting that the public sphere is still a useful concept It exposes us to expressions, opinions, and perspective we would not otherwise have chosen in advance, and provides a range of common experiences for citizens. But how do online media impinge on this - do they segment and polarise the public sphere (as suggested by people like Cass Sunstein), or provide more connections between and access to different ideas (as per Yochai Benkler's networked public sphere)?

Themes in French Political Blogging during 2009

The final speaker this morning at AoIR 2009 is my PhD student Tim Highfield, who focusses on the French blogosphere and uses much the same methodology as in our joint paper. His work focusses on a dataset of French blog and mainstream news media posts from some 450 sites throughout 2009, and out of this identifies what events and topics are driving discussion. Sites in his sample were identified through searches on relevant search engines as well as on specialist blog aggregators such as the French Linkfluence.

Overall, this particular study, which focusses on blogs, now takes in some 23000 posts from 148 active blogs over 221 days, out of some 165,000 posts when you also include the mainstream news media. Because the French political environment is multi-party, these blogs cluster into a number of groupings, rather than just a broad 'left' and 'right' category.

Themes in the Australian Blogosphere during the Victorian Bushfires and Utegate

OK, I'm up next at AoIR 2009, as part of a blog concept mapping double-header with my brilliant PhD student Tim Highfield. Here's the Powerpoint - hope the audio recording works out, too... and the audio is attached now, too.

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Israeli and Lebanese War Blogs during the 2006 Conflict

The next speakers in the blogging session at AoIR 2009 are Muhammad Abdul-Mageed and Priscilla Ringrose, whose focus is on war blogging. Such blogging addresses the exceptional communication demands during war situations, and war bloggers in warzones can meet these needs speedily and with authority. This also reflects a continuing shift in the media overall. The focus of this paper is on the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon, where western media profiled (English-language) Israeli and Lebanese blogs.

So, the bloggers here belonged to two oppossing, warring nations,and espoused different ideological positions; how were they chosen and what positions do they reflect? What demographics, structural features, thematic, regional, and political positioning do they exhibit? According to which parameters were they selected? The study analysed all posts from 40 blogs (20 Israeli, 20 Lebanese) during the 34-day war in June and August 2006, which were found using search engines, media outlets, and blogs. Blogs had to be based in Lebanon or Israel, had to have at least five posts during the 34 days, had to be in English, had to have at least one hit in the global media, and had to be single- or group-authored rather than blog fora.

The State of the Field in Blogging Research

Relief: my stomach seems to be the right way up again, and the horrible headache from yesterday is gone, too. Just in time for the second day at AoIR 2009, which begins with the blogs session that has both my paper (with Tim Highfield, Lars Kirchhoff, and Thomas Nicolai) and Tim's paper in it. More on those soon, but we begin the morning with Anders Larsson, who provides a review of current research on blogs and blogging. Technorati has now indexed some 133 million blogs since 2002, and there has been wide research interest in blogs as well - from a focus on politics in blogs to communication processes among individuals and more recently an interest in the organisational and professional uses of blogs.

Bloggers and the Networked Public Sphere in Singapore

The final speaker in this first session at AoIR 2009 is Carol Soon, who shifts our focus to Singaporean political bloggers. Political blogging and related forms challenge conventional top-down communication flows, of course, and in doing so also undermines established entities' authority in information dissemination. What follows is a diversification of political participation in the networked public sphere - and in the Singaporean context, then, who are the key players here?

The networked public sphere can be seen as an autopoietic system,in which flows of communication and relationships are self-organising, move from the bottom up, freely within clusters and in a self-determined fashion. This challenges systems which traditionally hold more powerful positions - and hyperlink analysis can be utilised to examine the flows of information in this changing environment. Such flows may involve conventional political parties, but also civil society groups (which in Singapore particularly challenges the established system).


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