Robert Ackland is a Research Fellow in the Research School of Social Sciences at The Australian National University. A major part of his research activity is at the intersection of information science and empirical social science, with a main focus on developing new methods for quantitative analysis of social and economic phenomena on the Internet. As part of an Australian Research Council Discovery Project, Robert has designed and built new research software, uberlink, that is being used for studying the existence and impact of organisational networks on the World Wide Web.
Mapping the U.S. Political Blogosphere: Are Conservative Bloggers More Prominent?
Weblogs are now a key part of online culture, and social scientists are interested in characterising the networks formed by bloggers and measuring their extent and impact in areas such as politics. However, researchers wishing to conduct quantitative social science analysis of the blogging phenomenon are faced with the challenge of using new methods of data collection and analysis largely derived from fields outside of the social sciences, such as the information sciences. This paper presents an overview of one new approach for collecting and analysing weblog data, and illustrates this approach in the context of a preliminary quantitative analysis of online networks formed by a sample of North-American “A-list” political bloggers. There are two aims to this paper. First is to assess (using different data and methods) the conclusion of Adamic and Glance (2005) in their paper titled (“The political blogosphere and the 2004 U.S. election: Divided they blog”) that there are significant differences in the behaviour of liberal and conservative bloggers, with the latter forming more dense patterns of linkages. We find broad support for this conclusion, and empirically assess the implications of differences in conservative/liberal linking behaviour for the online visibility of different political messages or ideologies. The second aim is to highlight the role of web mining and data visualisation in the analysis of weblogs, and the opportunities and challenges inherent in this new field of research.
Keywords: webmining, network analysis, data visualisation
Read the complete paper (.pdf 482KB)