A Balkanized Blogosphere?

I just completed a study, titled “ A Balkanized Blogosphere? ”. With same-sex marriage as a topic, I examined the degree to which blog posts connected to others with different points of view. Along with the study, I have posted my full data set and the scripts I used to analyze it.

My interest was not same-sex marriage itself: although I’ve stated my opinion before, the issue appears to me to be all but resolved in Canada. My concern is rather the strengths and weaknesses of blogs: the strengths so that unwarranted attacks can be rebutted; the weaknesses so that we do not blindly accept the medium as good, and so that we can attempt to remedy the problems.

The big surprise was the dominance of the mainstream media as a the most common source of quotes and a target of links. Links between blogs were significantly rarer; quotes from other blogs rarer still.

Posts were much more likely to link to those they agreed with than to their opponents. This was not unexpected, but disappointing. On the other hand, comments and links did often provide different perspectives on the issue.

I found a number of absolutely fascinating posts, ranging from Catholic exegesis to mathematical reason and personal experiences. Some of these posts were positively delightful to stumble across (some, on the other hand, spewed hate). I believe this diversity is one of the most valuable contributions of the blogosphere; however, such posts were rare. Rants, regurgitation of news stories, and polemics for those of like mind were much more common.

Several other results emerged:

  • I found twice as many posts by men as by women.
  • Opponents of gay marriage were scarce: proponents outnumbered them 3-to-1.
  • Despite ongoing media coverage of gay marriage in Canada at the time, the posts were overwhelmingly American. The rest of the world was absent.

Although same-sex marriage per se was not my subject, many of my results are specifically applicable to that issue. I counted frames, that is the occurrence of perspectives used for understanding and debating the issue. Of these, government intervention – legal cases, constitutional issues, etc. – were the most prominent, followed by religion, morality, and equality (see the protocol for opperational definitions of these frames). One particular frame, love, showed up in both sides of the debate, but was virtually absent from linked media coverage.