CPSA 2009 - Constitution of Representative and Reliable Web-based Research Samples: Th…


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Paper presented at the 2009 Canadian Political Science Association Conference

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CPSA 2009 - Constitution of Representative and Reliable Web-based Research Samples: Th…

  1. 1. Structure of the Presentation 1. State of Internet and Social Media Use; 2. Parameters and Objectives; 3. Contextualization; 4. Defining the Blogging Population; 5. Web-based Sampling Strategies; 6. Discussion.
  2. 2. State of Social Media Use • Evolution and intensifying use of Web 2.0 tools; • Reconfiguration of the political communication, mobilization and persuasion environment in the last twenty (20) years: Information:  Production;  “Coproduction”;  Dissemination;  Acquisition. Social relations:  Temporality;  Directionality. Public deliberation processes Sources; Xenos and Foot, 2008; Kushin and Yamamoto, 2009; Foot and Schneider, 2006; Kushin, Kitchner et al., 2009; Bode, 2008.
  3. 3. State of Social Media Use • Rising importance of the Internet: 2004: 88% of Web 2007: 78% of citizens December 2007: 74% of users believed the Web are active Internet citizens are Internet was part of their “daily users; users; media routine”; 2008: “Important Low levels of Internet December 2008: 74% of source for current penetration: citizens went online for affairs and political Underdeveloped various reasons information for digital infrastructure; 55% for political Canadians”. Web content information and consumption commentary; behaviour. 38% for information 2007: 28% used the dissemination and Web for political discussion information; Sources; Small, 2008; Fallows, 2004; Madden, 2006; Jones and Fox, 2009; Smith, 2009; CEFRIO, 2008; ISQ, 2009; Clavet 2002;.
  4. 4. State of Social Media Use • Enduring presence of a digital divide in many Western countries; • Impact of the upcoming “generational succession”:  Growth of connectivity levels and Internet-related knowledge;  Diversification and potential intensification of online politicking activities:  Technologies provide “attractive ways” to be politically-engaged;  Rising importance of informal political communication, mobilization and persuasion ways. Sources; Schlozman, Verba et al., 2009; Delli Carpini, 2000; Hargittai and Hinnant, 2008; Bennett, Wells et al., 2008.
  5. 5. State of Social Media Use • “Meteoric” growth of social media platforms in the last five (5) years:  Blogs;  Social networking “services” (SNS);  Status updating (microblogging) tools. • Production of an increasingly large body of scientific work:  Social relations and identity formation;  Education.  Politically-oriented activities • Social media platforms still an “understudied” phenomenon. Sources; Gaines and Mondak, 2008; Ellison, Steinfeld et al., 2006; Kampitaki, Tambouris et al., 2009; Caverlee and Webb, 2008.
  6. 6. Parameters and Objectives • Few studies on methodological challenges of studying Web- based social media platforms; • “Slow pace of academic publishing” not keeping up with constantly-evolving objects of study. Objectives of the presentation 1. Overview of the challenges of studying Web-based social media platforms; 2. In-depth characterization of several concerns linked to the constitution of representative research samples through non-probabilistic, or decentralized, strategies; 3. Advantages and pitfalls of viral sampling. Sources; Foot and Schneider, 2004; Kankowski and Van Selm, 2008; Karfp, 2009; Boyd and Ellison, 2007; Ahn, Han et al., 2007.
  7. 7. Parameters and Objectives • Presentation based on previous work on Quebec-based political bloggers; • Politics-oriented blogs:  Increasing importance since 2001:  Dislike and discontent of conventional media;  Decline of “institutionalized forms” of political participation.  Four (4) distinct functions on the political scene:  Potential influence on agenda-setting processes;  Source of original reporting;  Arena of political discussion;  Communication between citizens and government. Sources; Johnson and Kaye, 2004; Mariën, Hooghe et al., 2008, Sweetser and Kaid, 2008; Siapera,2008; Wallsten, 2007.
  8. 8. Contextualization • Social media research situated within the broader Internet- research framework; • Development of new investigation techniques adapted to the nature of the Web:  Multidimensional; Deep structural  Deterritorialized; transformations  Constantly-evolving. • Internet research “located in the interplays of online, onground and technical research spheres”; • Eclosion of an aphysical space for scholars to “rethink assumptions and categories” Sources; Dahlberg, 2004; Foot and Schneider, 2004; Maczewski, Storey et al., 2004; Baka and Scott, 2008; Morris and Ogan, 1996.
  9. 9. Contextualization • Influences to conduct Internet research: “Push factors”: “Pull factors”:  Constant need  Novelty; to redefine  Facility; methodological  Flexibility; approaches Researcher  Accessibility;  Etc. Challenges:  Development of mixed, or hybrid, approaches (triangulation);  Visualization of findings;  Sampling processes. Sources; Nancarrow, Pallister et al., 2001, Livingstone, 2004; Walther, Gay et al., 2005; Jankowski and Van Selm, 2008.
  10. 10. Defining the Blogging Population • Structural characteristics of the blogosphere:  Identification of political blogs: Political blogs Personal blogs Blogosphere Celebrity blogs Different formats; Different objectives. “Blawgs” Blogging refers “[...] to a wide range of disparate activities that are problematically grouped together” Sources; Karpf, 2008; Sweetser, Golan et al., 2008, Trammell, Williams et al., 2006; Hookway, 2008; Sweetser and Kaid, 2006.
  11. 11. Defining the Blogging Population • Structural characteristics of the blogosphere:  Identification of political blogs: Quantitative keyword Bloggers’ assessment of analysis of their content their publications Fatally flawed? Other techniques:  Consideration of formal and informal public directories;  Exploration of political blogs’ blogrolls;  Content analysis of conventional media’s coverage. Sources; Wallsten, 2005; 2007; Giasson, Raynauld et al., 2009; Park, 2009; Hargittai, Gallo et al., 2009; Gruszczynski, 2009.
  12. 12. Defining the Blogging Population • Structural characteristics of the blogosphere:  Constant restructuration of the political blogosphere:  Rapid expansion since 2004;  Blogs’ level of activity; Certain social media platforms are plagued by poor levels of retention. Difficulty to produce comprehensive and up-to- date repertoire of the political blogosphere  Potentially geographically-specific nature of projects. Sources; Gruszczynski, 2009, Schmidt, 2007; Martin, 2009; Wallsten, 2005; Perseus, 2004; Halavais, 2002; Hargittai, Gallo et al., 2008.
  13. 13. Defining the Blogging Population • Quebec-based French-speaking political bloggers: • Consideration of two (2) unscientific indexes of political blogs; • Approximately 125 Quebec-based political bloggers in April 2008. Sources; Giasson, Raynauld et al., 2008; 2009.
  14. 14. Web-Based Sampling Strategies • Methodologically- questionable sampling techniques used by researchers:  “Tentative”; Random identification and  “Not lacking creativity”. selection processes: “After browsing blogspace for a while”; “randomly [...] selected weblogs”. • Probability sampling highly problematic (“if not impossible”): Problem with the identification of the population. Sources; Bar-Ilan, 2005; Calvert and Huffaker, 2005; Wallsten, 2005; Gruszczynski, 2009; McKenna and Pole, 2008; Munger, 2008.
  15. 15. Web-Based Sampling Strategies • Non-probabilistic sampling techniques are the only “feasible” or “appropriate”:  Avoid “small and isolated clusters”;  Other strategies do not adequately portray the decentralized and unpredictable nature of Web-based social flows;  Extensively used for weblog research.  Difficult to produce a truly representative research sample of bloggers; • Impact of data-gathering techniques (Web-based surveys): • Easy to circulate; • Low costs (printing, shipping, etc.); • Data collected can be easily managed. Sources; Johnson, Kaye et al., 2008; Porter, Sweetser et al., 2008; Ahn, Han et al., 2007; Herring and Paolillo, 2006; Wallsten, 2005.
  16. 16. Web-Based Sampling Strategies • Quebec-based French-speaking political bloggers:  Online survey available from April 15th 2008 to May 1st 2008 inclusively;  58 questions unevenly distributed in seven sections:  Constitution of the research sample was twofold:  Selection of 22 A-list political bloggers;  Non-probabilistic viral dissemination Research sample approach for the circulation of the  56 respondents; survey:  73% of A-list  Through A-list bloggers; bloggers  Through conventional responded; media representatives  71% recruited (journalists). through the viral procedure. Sources; Vergeer and Hermanns, 2008; Jankowski and Van Selm, 2008; Scheidt, 2008; Wallsten, 2008; Sweetser, 2008.
  17. 17. Web-Based Sampling Strategies • Possible detrimental impact of viral sampling strategies:  Fragmentation of the online political audience;  Politically-homogenous and highly partisan nature of online socio-political networks;  Potential research agenda of respondents; • Sampling as possible research results: • Indicator of the socio-political behavioural profile of certain Web-based political communities. Sources; Johnson, Kaye et al., 2008; Porter, Sweetser et al., 2008; Ahn, Han et al., 2007; Herring and Paolillo, 2006; Wallsten, 2005.