Which way up? Drawing and reading maps of the blogosphere

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Which way up? Drawing and reading maps of the blogosphere

  1. 1. which way up? drawing and reading maps of the blogosphere Ignite Conference 2008. Tim Highfield. t.highfield@qut.edu.au
  2. 2. which way up? drawing and reading maps of the blogosphere Ignite Conference 2008. Tim Highfield. t.highfield@qut.edu.au Blogosphere maps may be created in various formats and reflect different research purposes. However, they are important materials for visualising such aspects as blog networks, the popularity of sites, or blog demographics. As with ‘traditional’ maps, visualising unknown or digital spaces such as the blogosphere helps researchers to see what is being studied, and how different sites interact with each other. With a large number of blogs online, in different languages, on different topics, through different platforms, the map also depends on the limits placed on the study. Mapping, in general, does not imply complete accuracy, relevance, or authority. Section of a map of the French political blogosphere, created by RTGI (2007).
  3. 3. which way up? drawing and reading maps of the blogosphere Ignite Conference 2008. Tim Highfield. t.highfield@qut.edu.au Maps are not definitive nor accurate. Mapping deals with social constructions, not “depictions of an objective reality.” (Etherington 2007, 1) Even mapping ‘known’, physical territories can be problematic and subjective. However, it does make the mapping of unknown spaces such as the blogosphere more viable and promotes awareness of any limits to the map. Top left : Mercator projection Right : Peters projection Bottom left : Winkel Tripel projection
  4. 4. which way up? drawing and reading maps of the blogosphere Ignite Conference 2008. Tim Highfield. t.highfield@qut.edu.au A map reflects its intended purposes and functions, the information the cartographer wants it to convey. Maps of actual physical space may have few, if any, links to the actual geography being depicted. Maps of online spaces can take any of a variety of forms, reflecting functions, demographics, cartographic capabilities, or tools used. Top : map of the London Underground train network, designed for clarity and ease rather than geographical accuracy. Bottom : geographically correct map of the London Underground, using colour scheme from official map and added as an overlay to Google Maps data for the London area.
  5. 5. which way up? drawing and reading maps of the blogosphere Ignite Conference 2008. Tim Highfield. t.highfield@qut.edu.au The predecessors of blog maps: mapping the internet Map of the internet, by the Opte Project (2003). Rather than attempt to show the content or themes of online sites, maps of the internet often take a topological format, depicting the structures behind the internet. Maps may draw upon data such as links, hardware connections, routers, IP addresses, or traffic. Organisation is based on algorithms rather than geography.
  6. 6. which way up? drawing and reading maps of the blogosphere Ignite Conference 2008. Tim Highfield. t.highfield@qut.edu.au Maps of the internet, by Lumeta Corporation (right, 2008) and Cheswick and Burch (bottom, 1999). The 2008 map looks at the IPv6 internet, the succeeding format to the current IPv4 addresses. The 1999 map data was gathered through following links between routers, focussing on the topology of the internet rather than its content. The colour coding reflects the different IP addresses depicted.
  7. 7. which way up? drawing and reading maps of the blogosphere Ignite Conference 2008. Tim Highfield. t.highfield@qut.edu.au <ul><li>Depicting blogspace </li></ul><ul><li>Distinct links between the virtual and the physical </li></ul><ul><li>Such maps are useful for visualising the demographics of bloggers, such as the spread of blogs across countries and between cities. </li></ul><ul><li>However, it does not show links between blogs, types of blog, or any aspect of the online characteristics of blogs (although at least some of these could be added to any such map). </li></ul><ul><li>Map of the geographical distribution of U.S. blogs, from Lin and Halavais (2004). </li></ul>
  8. 8. which way up? drawing and reading maps of the blogosphere Ignite Conference 2008. Tim Highfield. t.highfield@qut.edu.au Depicting blogspace 2. Defiantly fictional spaces through traditional cartographic styles. Munroe (2007): Map of online communities. [“Do not use for navigation”] Although a comic map, with such features as the ‘Bay of Angst’, it is still useful in describing the types of communities and platforms online, and their respective (estimated) popularity or prominence. Even with internet structures and sites, including blogs, changing rapidly, making maps of these spaces inaccurate quickly, if not immediately, they provide important snapshots of online content.
  9. 9. which way up? drawing and reading maps of the blogosphere Ignite Conference 2008. Tim Highfield. t.highfield@qut.edu.au Druaux (2007): Cartographie diablement subjective et approximative de la blogarchie francophone. Depiction of 200 French language blogs, ranked the highest by the author from a list of over 3000 eligible blogs, with their presence and size on the map based on the number of comments and the frequency of posts over a set period. Data was collected by hand, sites organised thematically.
  10. 10. which way up? drawing and reading maps of the blogosphere Ignite Conference 2008. Tim Highfield. t.highfield@qut.edu.au Depicting blogspace 3. Mathematically: networks, nodes, hubs, and edges. Hurst (2006): Map of the blogosphere. Each node represents a blog, with the size of the node dependant on the number of links to that blog. Organisation is based on the links between blogs (both one-way and reciprocal are depicted) and clusters featured through the amount of interlinking between members.
  11. 11. which way up? drawing and reading maps of the blogosphere Ignite Conference 2008. Tim Highfield. t.highfield@qut.edu.au Adamic and Glance (2005): Visualisation of (part of) the U.S. political blogosphere. Data was collected for 1494 political blogs in February 2005. Each blog was categorised as either liberal (blue) or conservative (red), with the size of each node dependant on the number of links coming into the site. Edge colours reflect links between sites: blue for liberal-liberal, red for conservative-conservative, orange for liberal-conservative, and purple for conservative-liberal. The map effectively highlights the ideological clustering amongst (U.S.) political blogs.
  12. 12. which way up? drawing and reading maps of the blogosphere Ignite Conference 2008. Tim Highfield. t.highfield@qut.edu.au RTGI (2007) and linkfluence (2008) created public, searchable maps of the political blogospheres surrounding the French presidential election in 2007 ( top ) and the 2008 U.S. presidential election ( bottom ). High level of detail, allowing users to search, zoom, view different link structures (in-link, out-link, reciprocal), and particular categories (analysts/media, conservative, liberal), as well as view blog trends and discussions of major political figures. Particularly useful for the links across ideologies, and the size of each particular category. The comparison between the two-party U.S. map and the more varied French political landscape is also noticeable.
  13. 13. which way up? drawing and reading maps of the blogosphere Ignite Conference 2008. Tim Highfield. t.highfield@qut.edu.au Depicting blogspace 3a. Mathematical and issue-based. Rather than attempting to depict the entire blogosphere or a specific subset (e.g. political blogs, sports blogs), maps look at the discussion networks for a particular theme or issue. Bruns (2007) investigated the networks discussing the David Hicks case, featuring blogs from Australia and the U.S. Tools such as IssueCrawler (used above) take a list of seed sites and follow links to create a visualisation of the network. While the automated process means the map does not have to be manually organised and created, there is little customisation possible and the data gathering itself can be problematic. Issue-based maps are useful in depicting temporary phenomena or specific conversations, although isolated from the overall blogosphere context.
  14. 14. which way up? drawing and reading maps of the blogosphere Ignite Conference 2008. Tim Highfield. t.highfield@qut.edu.au For my research, the linking behaviour is crucial to the study, making the third approach most relevant. However, a combination of wider network and issue-based maps may be ideal for combining two aspects of blog interactions. Visualisations created using ManyEyes from data collected manually. The top 100 French political blogs for May (ranking obtained from wikio.fr) were accessed, each site linked to in a blogroll noted, and then connections were mapped. Top : all sites appearing in at least two blogrolls. Bottom : blogroll links between blogs ranked in the top 100.
  15. 15. which way up? drawing and reading maps of the blogosphere Ignite Conference 2008. Tim Highfield. t.highfield@qut.edu.au The tools used can create vastly different maps from similar data. ManyEyes visualisations can be manipulated to change the layout of the diagram. With IssueCrawler not differentiating between blogroll links, in-post links, or other links on blogs, the visualisation looks different to the ManyEyes manual, blogroll-only map. The need to distinguish between links is important for these maps as the presence of different links influences the data being used. The changing rankings, as well as behaviour and activity by the blogs used, means that the data used changes often and may make maps quickly out-dated. Map of the top 100 French political blogs (August rankings) in IssueCrawler.
  16. 16. which way up? drawing and reading maps of the blogosphere Ignite Conference 2008. Tim Highfield. t.highfield@qut.edu.au Conclusions Mapping spaces such as the blogosphere is an important process and reflects different functions or purposes. In creating a map of the blogosphere, navigation is generally not the intended use of these visualisations. Instead, the purpose is to depict just what is being researched, providing a visual aid for both researcher and reader or user. Even within spaces with arbitrary boundaries and ever-changing data, maps provide a snapshot of what the territory was like at a particular time. In mapping an unknown space, clearly noting the limits of the map is important. Mapping also provides information on what is not found in that space, or what is yet to be explored. The map both orients the researcher or the user and suggests new directions for further work. While different approaches may be used to mapping the blogosphere, for my research a combination of network and issue-based maps provides the ideal format for investigating information flows amongst political blogs.
  17. 17. which way up? drawing and reading maps of the blogosphere Ignite Conference 2008. Tim Highfield. t.highfield@qut.edu.au References Adamic, L., & Glance, N. (2005) The political blogosphere and the 2004 U.S. election: Divided they blog. http://www.blogpulse.com/papers/2005/AdamicGlanceBlogWWW.pdf Bruns, A. (2007) Methodologies for mapping the political blogosphere: An exploration using the IssueCrawler research tool. First Monday . 12(5). Druaux, C. (2007) Cartographie diablement subjective et approximative de la blogarchie francophone. Ouinon.net . http://www.ouinon.net/documents/cartoblog2.1.pdf Hurst, M. (2006) Mapping the blogosphere. http://datamining.typepad.com/gallery/blog-map-gallery.html Etherington, N. (Ed.) (2007) Mapping colonial conquest: Australia and southern Africa . Crawley, W.A.: University of Western Australia Press. Lin, J., & Halavais, A. (2004) Mapping the blogosphere in America . Paper presented to Workshop on the Weblogging Ecosystem at the 13th International World Wide Web Conference, 18 May, New York. www.blogpulse.com/papers/www2004linhalavais.pdf Munroe, R. (2007) Map of online communities and related points of interest. xkcd . http://xkcd.com/256/ MapTube [Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London] Geographically correct London Tube map. http://www.maptube.org/map.aspx?mapid=140 linkfluence. (2008) Presidential Watch 08 . http://presidentialwatch08.com/ Lumeta. Internet mapping project. http://www.lumeta.com/ Opte Project. http://www.opte.org/maps/ RTGI (2007) Blogopole. http://blogopole.fr/ Additional maps obtained through Transport for London [ http://www.tfl.gov.uk ] and the Wikimedia Commons [the various world map projections | http://commons.wikimedia.org ]. IssueCrawler: issuecrawler.net Many Eyes: services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes More information and current projects can be found at andthentheworld.wordpress.com

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