My Research on Reader Comments

I have uploaded my recently-completed Ph.D. thesis, Comment Space, which examines reader comment discussions on online news sites. I have also written a non-academic description of some of my analysis and findings.

Comments are important. A large proportion of Internet users read and write comments in response to news stories. Comment discussions are some of the few spaces where citizens with little in common take part in fierce arguments about political issues that affect us all. And studies have found that comments can influence readers: sometimes more than the articles they respond to.

I have developed techniques and technology for analyzing reader comment discussions to discover the sometimes unexpected things that are said, and to try to assess which arguments and points of view are most popular or have the most resonance. Commenters say things—sometimes important things—that journalists seldom do. I argue that some of the most widespread views about comment discussions, such as the idea that they should be like communities, are unhelpful.

Following my thesis research, I continue to examine comment discussions about important or interesting news topics. I have posted one such analysis. I intend to add more in the future.