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Mapping the Australian Political Blogosphere

abstract The blogosphere allows for the networked, decentralised, distributed discussion and deliberation on a wide range of topics. Based on their authors’ interests, only a subset of all blogs will participate in any one topical debate. Even within such debates, there will be an uneven distribution of participation based on a variety of sociocultural factors:

- the time available for any individual blogger to participate,
- the blogger’s level of interest in the topic,
- the blogger’s awareness of other blogs discussing the topic (which they link and respond to),
- the blogger’s status amongst their peers (which may determine how aware others are of the blog, and thus whether they will read, comment on, link to, or respond to the blogger’s posts),
- the quality of the blogger’s writing and contributions,
- the blogger’s specific interests in the topic (which may lead them to focus on particular aspects of the wider topic),
- and additional factors including the blogger’s political ideology, gender, age, location, sociodemographic status (to the extent that these are evident from the blog), as well as the language they write in.

In combination, these factors mean that networked debate on specific topics in the blogosphere is characterised by clustering (Barabási, Albert & Jeong, 1999; Newman, Watts & Strogatz, 2002; Watts, 1999). For any one topic, there are likely to be one or multiple clusters of highly active and closely interlinked blogs, surrounded by a looser network of blogs which are less active contributors to the debate and are less densely linked to it. Individual clusters in the topical debate may be able to be distinguished according to certain factors: for example, their topical specialisation (focussing on specific sub-topics of the wider debate) or their shared identity (e.g. a common national, ethnic, or ideological background).

Such blog-based debate is difficult to conceptualise under the general terms of the Habermasian public sphere model (which as formulated depends on the existence of a dominant mass media to ensure that all citizens are able to be addressed by it; see Habermas 2006); at a smaller level, however, it may be possible to understand networked discussion on specific topics in the blogosphere to constitute what may be described as a public spherule (Bruns, 2008). Rather than seeing networked political debate in terms of the operations of a public sphere, we can think about a group of topical discussion clusters of sufficient size and interconnection providing a substitute for their participants. It may be that when layered on top of one another, the public spherules on various topics of public interest can stand in as a replacement for the conventional public sphere (whose existence is undermined by the decline of the mass media as mass media; see (Castells, 2007). This networked public sphere would necessarily be more decentralised than the conventional, Habermasian model of the public sphere.

Our project aims to develop a rigorous and sound methodology for the study of this networked public sphere.
type conference paper (English)
project Blog Mapping
name of conference Web Science Conference 2009 (Athens, Greece)
date of conference 18-3-2009
title of proceedings Proceedings of the WebSci'09: Society On-Line
page(s) 5
publisher Web Science Research Initiative, University of Southampton (Southampton)
review double-blind review
citation Bruns, A., Kirchhoff, L., & Nicolai, T. (2009). Mapping the Australian Political Blogosphere. In Proceedings of the WebSci'09: Society On-Line, pp.5. Southampton: Web Science Research Initiative, University of Southampton.