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In Search of Australian Blogs: Determining the Extent of the Contemporary Australian Blogosphere

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Paper by Axel Bruns and Jean Burgess, presented at ANZCA 2010, Canberra, 8 July 2010.

Paper by Axel Bruns and Jean Burgess, presented at ANZCA 2010, Canberra, 8 July 2010.

Published in: Education, Technology

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  • 1. In Search of Australian Blogs: Determining the Extent of the Contemporary Australian Blogosphere
    • Axel Bruns, Jean Burgess ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation Brisbane, Australia
    Image by campoalto
  • 2. Understanding Blogs
    • Blog research to date:
      • qualitative studies of blogging genres, communities, and practices (e.g. Uses of Blogs , 2006, eds. Bruns & Jacobs)
      • quantitative studies of blog networks (e.g. issue-based or national)
    • Standard methodology:
      • find relevant blogs (search, Technorati, specific blog platform, etc.)
      • identify links (on current page)  crawl to linked pages  repeat
      • capture (scrape) text and other details (not always included)
      • plot link network structure, correlate with blog content patterns
    • Big questions:
      • structure of online publics – topical and other networks in the blogosphere
      • growth, decline, or stable equilibrium in the population of bloggers?
      • patterns of flow and dissemination of information
  • 3. Key Problems
    • Technology limitations:
      • crawlers and scrapers often lack sophistication
      • need to distinguish:
        • posts – comments – ancillary / functional texts
        • discursive links – blogroll links – functional links
      • want to slice data in different ways:
        • select blog activity for specific days, weeks, months
        • select blog content and links for specific blogs or blog clusters
    • Analytical limitations:
      • patterns of interlinkage tell only part of the story
      • maps provide only a temporary snapshot
      • want to understand:
        • what clusters have in common
        • and how they change over time
        • later: crossover to Twitter , Flickr , YouTube , etc.
  • 4. Our Approach
    • Process stages:
      • data gathering and processing
        • track large number of (broadly) political Australian blogs through RSS feeds
        • scrape blog content for newly posted entries
        • separate blog post content from ancillary materials / separate discursive links from other link types
        • (grow master list of blogs as required)
      • content analysis
        • combine extracted blog post content (per blog, per cluster, per timeframe, …)
        • automated analysis to identify key themes and keywords
        • currently using Leximancer
      • network analysis
        • combine extracted link information (overall, per timeframe, per cluster, …)
        • automated network mapping to identify lead blogs and clusters
        • currently using Gephi
      • combined analysis
        • e.g. comparative content analysis for lead blogs and clusters in the link network
        • e.g. correlation of blogosphere patterns with external factors (parallel themes in mainstream media, etc.)
    • 2009: Australian political blogs as test case
    • 2010-12: ARC Discovery Project (Axel Bruns and Jean Burgess)
  • 5. Content Analysis: Individual Blogs
  • 6. Content Analysis: Political Blogosphere 4-5 August 2009 (graph: Tim Highfield)
  • 7. Blog-Based Online Publics in Australia
    • Finding Australian blogs:
      • from political blogs to Australian blogs in general
      • defined as blogs in Australia, by Australians, and/or about Australia
    • Approach :
      • drawing on existing Australian blog directories (e.g. OzBloggers.net )
        • self-nominated lists, often outdated – no comprehensive list
      • harvest and cross-check lists (active? Australian?), some initial classification
      • conduct network crawls from harvested population, add more blogs
      • repeat until… ?
    • Comprehensive ?
      • no hope of finding all Australian blogs
      • focus on blogs with at least some degree of visibility
      • appropriate for study of online publics
  • 8. Early Observations
    • Publics in the Australian blogosphere:
      • key blogging themes:
        • maternity
        • food
        • marketing
        • expats
        • religion
      • identity and location not always clear, but:
        • Melbourne and Sydney > Brisbane > Perth and Adelaide > rest of the country
        • around 50%:50% male/female (+ one pet)
        • many sea/tree/lifechangers
      • next steps:
        • crawling out from here to extend these populations
        • find additional blogs and crawl their networks to fill in obvious thematic gaps
        • programmers
        • self-help
        • politics
        • arts & crafts
        • academic
  • 9. Next Steps
    • Map the Australian blogosphere:
      • long-term map of frequent interlinkages, clusters of blog communities
        • how isolated or interconnected are these online publics?
      • Short-term maps of ad hoc networks around current events and themes
        • (how) do they respond to key events – e.g. Gillard’s takeover?
      • Trending topics and correlations with mainstream media
        • how do themes and topics change over time?
      • Patterns of information flow, structures of dissemination and influence
        • who passes on information within/across clusters?
    • Extend to other online publics:
      • Twitter , Flickr , YouTube – what can we track, what publics do we find?
      • How are these spaces interconnected?