Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Blogging and the Knowledge Gap

Not all bloggers are created equal, according to a new study in The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication.  As the author concludes:
Consistent with knowledge gap hypothesis, bloggers with higher SES tend to produce more political knowledge and have more social power than lower-SES segments. Moreover, even among filter bloggers who produce more political knowledge, SES, gender, and print media use are associated with their social influences. This structural inequity within the virtual political space mirrors existing material and legitimized reality in U.S. politics.

The author breaks bloggers into two groups -- filter bloggers and personal journals -- and examine a knowledge production gap.  So, in reality, this is a knowledge gap study. 

Most "political" or "news" bloggers are reactive; that is, they offer mediated content, the stuff they've taken from news sites and added "value" or opinion or spin or whatever you choose to call it, depending I suppose on whether you agree or disagree with their partisan point of view.  But sometimes they offer unique or original knowledge, the most famous being Rathergate.

This study notes that personal journals far outnumber "filter blogs," and the author notes lots of other blogs exist.  What's interesting for me are the tables where the author shows what factors predict engaging in one kind of blog versus the other.  Read 'em yourself for details, but the results show knowledge being produced on the Internet by pretty much demographically speaking the same folks who generate knowledge in the MSM: older, better educated folks.  TV watching is positively associated with "personal" blogging but not "filter" blogging, which is kinda interesting.  Gotta watch TV to fill in that personal blog, I guess.

And for those of you with a partisan bent, I end with the following, which I find fascinating:
Overall, liberal bloggers have more incoming links while Republican bloggers have more daily hits. This finding looks odd at a first glance. However, it indicates a subtle difference between incoming links and hits. Whereas incoming links from other bloggers represent the popularity of a blog in the blogosphere, daily hits demonstrate the actual number of visits a blog has and its reach in the general cyberspace. The hits a blog receives come not only from other bloggers or other content producers, but from other Internet users who may or may not engage in online authoring. This suggests that liberal bloggers are more powerful in the blogosphere while Republican bloggers have more power throughout the Internet.

Full cite: Lu Wei, Filter blogs versus personal journals:
Understanding the Knowledge Production Gap on the
Internet.  Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication
14 (2009) 532–558.

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