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New Study: Left More Likely to Make Blogging a Group Affair

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, April 28 2010

Credit: "A Tale of Two Blogospheres: Discursive Practices on the Left and Right"

Research that finds that liberal and political blogs are equally polarized might be missing out on an important, even mitigating, factor: how much those blogs encourage participation, are open to hearing from a range of in-house voices, and engage in collaborative actions like online fundraising. That's a gist of a new study from researchers Yochai Benkler, Aaron Shaw and Victoria Stodden that was put out by Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society this morning. The Nation's Ari Melber did a deep dive on the study, including an interview with Benkler on what a "sociological" perspective on blog research adds to our understanding.

The report looked at snapshot of the "top 155 political blogs" on the right, center, and left take over a two-week period back in 2008. "Overall, 42 percent of the conservative blogs in the survey were run by one author," writes Melber, "while 20 percent of the liberal sites were solo shows." With blogs like Daily Kos, MyDD, and Crooks and Liars on the left side of the ledger, liberal blogs were more likely to allow user diaries and bump content from diaries up the front page than blogs on the right were, with sites like Instapundit and Michelle Malkin among the right-leaning blogs under consideration.

Melber notes that the study's authors consider a number of different explanations for their "Tale of Two Blogospheres," including demographics and "psychological typology," to explain what they found to be the sociology of the political blog world. I'll humbly offer what might be called an anthropological cause: learned behavior and modeling. Many early liberal blogs were, for whatever reason, group blogs. And when authors and diarists spread out across the rest of the web, they took the expectation of participation -- and the software that makes it possible (such as Scoop, SoapBlox, and Drupal) -- with them.

The study is here, Melber's write-up is here, and Melber's interview with Benkler is here.

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