Political blogging on the right and the left

A tale of two blogospheres: Discursive practices on the left and right

From American Behavioral Scientist

As presidential candidates from both parties gear up for the big day in November, more and more people are turning to political blogs to provide them with the latest news on the election-front. This study examined the differences among top political blogs from the right and the left and found that left-wing blogs encourage more user participation, present more opinion-related content, and were more likely to rally their readers to action. Researchers analyzed 155 top political blogs from a 2-week period in early August 2008. They first determined which blogs represented ideologies from the left and which represented ideologies of the right. They then applied a coding scheme to analyze blog structure, the incorporation of user activity, authorship, calls to action, and overall content from both types of blogs. The authors wrote, “The left is more egalitarian in opportunities for speech, more discursive, and more collaborative in managing the sites. The right is more individualistic and hierarchical, with its practice consisting more of pointing to external stories than of engaging in discussion or commentary.” They conclude “In effect, readers on the right are treated more as traditional media consumers: They play a relatively passive and marginal role in producing the primary content,” wrote the authors. “Users on the left have a more active, productive role, blurring the production-consumption distinction and, through this, increasing the probability that the left wing of the blogosphere incorporates a wider range of views than a more centralized model.”

Abstract

In this article, the authors compare the practices of discursive production among top U.S. political blogs on the left and right during summer 2008. An examination of the top 155 political blogs reveals significant cross-ideological variations along several dimensions. Notably, the authors find evidence of an association between ideological affiliation and the technologies, institutions, and practices of participation. Blogs on the left adopt different, and more participatory, technical platforms, comprise significantly fewer sole-authored sites, include user blogs, maintain more fluid boundaries between secondary and primary content, include longer narrative and discussion posts, and (among the top half of the blogs in the sample) more often use blogs as platforms for mobilization. The findings suggest that the attenuation of the news producer-consumer dichotomy is more pronounced on the left wing of the political blogosphere than on the right. The practices of the left are more consistent with the prediction that the networked public sphere offers new pathways for discursive participation by a wider array of individuals, whereas the practices of the right suggest that a small group of elites may retain more exclusive agenda-setting authority online. The cross-ideological divergence in the findings illustrates that the Internet can be adopted equally to undermine or to replicate the traditional distinction between the production and consumption of political information. The authors conclude that these findings have significant implications for the study of prosumption and for the mechanisms by which the networked public sphere may or may not alter democratic participation relative to the mass mediated public sphere.

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Article details

Shaw, A., & Benkler, Y. (2012). A Tale of Two Blogospheres: Discursive Practices on the Left and Right American Behavioral Scientist, 56 (4), 459-487 DOI: 10.1177/0002764211433793

     
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