Saturday, August 19, 2006
The power and politics of blogs in the New York Times
Many readers will find this Adam Liptak story in the New York Times on the legal reaction to the NSA surveillance decision interesting because of the near-unanimity among "legal experts" that the judge's legal reasoning in the case was poor.
Some readers will be interested in the story because, as Ann Althouse points out, it contradicts the NYT editorial from the previous day.
This would seem to be a classic case of bloggers from different ideological stripes using their first-mover advantage to developing a common frame on an event, which is then picked up by the mainstream media.
Saturday, September 17, 2005
What I've been up to this weekend...
I've been playing host to a small conference on the political power of blogging. Although some of the participants got a bit stressed prepping for the conference, on the whole it led to some very stimulating discussions
Ethan Zuckerman has a round-up of some of the papers. And those interested in international relations should check out his blog anyway.
UPDATE: Laura McKenna has some kind words -- "it was quite excellent talking to people whose blogs are part of my daily consumption and who are just as freakishly obsessed as I am."
And Eszter Hargittai has pictures!
Thursday, December 2, 2004
Musings on blogging and scholarship
I believe I am officially the last scholar-blogger in America to point out that Gary Becker and Richard Posner have decided to start a blog together. It's a testimony to their intellectual heft that their "test" post already has sixteen trackbacks. Having participated in workshops with both of them, all I can say is that the rest of the blogosphere is in for a treat.
Henry Farrell makes a keen observation about the legitimation effects of senior scholars taking up blogging:
Hmmm.... this leads to a small problem for Henry and myself. As one of the commenters to Henry's post points out, "I’ve noticed this lack of blogging from big names in my own field of political science." Indeed, perusing Crooked Timber's list of poli sci bloggers, I certainly do not see anyone approaching the stature that Becker or Posner have in their fields. To go further,
[Insert sound of lonely wind blowing here--ed.]
To which I say.... shame on my tenured brethren!! To be sure, a lot of blogging (and some of my blogging) is entirely unrelated to matters of scholarship -- but that doesn't mean it has to be this way. Tyler Cowen has an excellent post in response to Eszter Hargittai on how blogging and scholarship are compliments rather than substitutes. Surely these reasons must be persuasive to
Readers both in an out of political science are hereby invited to suggest which senior political scientist they would like to see start a blog. Must be someone who holds a Ph.D. in political science and holds a full-time tenured position at a Ph.D.-granting institution [Doesn't that impose some ideological constraints?--ed. Feh -- as Jonah Goldberg put it, "wrong and liberal are not synonymous terms."]
UPDATE: Hey, it turns out there is a tenured political scientist at a top twenty institution who's a blogger. Michael Munger -- chair of the department of political science at Duke, former president of the Public Choice Society, a prolific scholar who lists his occupation as "professional wrestler" in his Blogger Profile -- has had a blog since June of this year.
[He also appears to be threatening you with bodily harm--ed. Oh, yeah??!! Like I'm really scared of some newbie, candy-assed, penny-ante North Carolina blogger who calls himself "KGrease"? Bring it on, Duke boy!!! I'm not sure this kind of discourse is going to encourage other tenured faculty to start blogging--ed.]
Friday, November 5, 2004
Blogs, American politics, and international relations
Subscribers to the paper version of Foreign Policy already know this, but Henry Farrell and I have an article on the blogosphere's influence on world politics and foreign affairs in the November/December issue. It's entitled "Web of Influence," but actually I like the teaser on the cover even better: How Blogs Have Changed the World. Here's the abstract:
Go check it out -- critiques have already been posted elsewhere in the blogosphere. Oh, and if your blog was not mentioned in the "Around The World in Blogs" section, don't blame us, blame the staff at FP!!
Friday, September 3, 2004
This should be interesting...
My APSA panel on blogs and politics is today. Andrew Sullivan, Wonkette, and Cass Sunstein on the same dias -- not to mention Henry Farrell and Laura McKenna from 11D -- and all I have to do is sit back and listen.
I'll post an "after-action report" once I've recovered from the numerous drinks that will undoubtedly be consumed after the panel.
BEFORE-DRINKS AFTER-ACTION UPDATE: Well, Andrew didn't show up, but by APSA standards the panel was a huge success -- I'd say
For an mostly accurate accounting of the panel, check out Steve the Llama Butchers' liveblogging. My favorite bits:
See also Richard Skinner, Eszter Hargittai, Chris Lawrence, and Steve Clemons for their observations. I particularly liked Clemons characterization of Antoinette Pole and Laura McKenna as "clearly the Thelma & Louise of blogging research."
Thursday, August 19, 2004
Yeah, this'll probably need to go into the revised blog paper
Should Henry Farrell and I revise our blog paper -- and of course we'll be revising it -- Wednesday's White House Briefing by Dan Froomkin in washingtonpost.com will probably have to be cited.
Why? I'm glad you asked:
Bloggers are rightly accused of excessive navel-gazing, and according to the Washington Times' Chris Baker, blogs "have been the domain primarily of amateur political pundits, conspiracy theorists and pseudo-experts on any number of topics." Still, it is worth observing that both Orr's analysis of blogs -- as well as his reading preferences -- seem to buttress the arguments made in our blog paper.
[Hey, what about that WaPo contest?--ed. Readers should feel free to knock themselves out.]
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
The power and politics of blogs
Longtime readers of danieldrezner.com are aware that I've been trying to exploit my hobby (blogging) for professional gain (peer-reviewed publications). Towards that end, Henry Farrell and I have been slowly co-authoring a paper on blogs and politics.
Both bloggers and blog readers are encouraged to download it and tell us what you think.
Be warned, however: this paper is primarily intended for a scholarly auduence, which means there's some jargon that might appear confusing but is -- like most jargon -- a form of shorthand for fellow professionals.
Most of it should be pretty digestible, however. Read it and post your comments below or over at Crooked Timber.
Finally, a quick thank-you to Henry -- I've tried co-authoring papers in the past, and it's been a disaster. This paper was a breeze.
UPDATE: More scholar-blogger research from Glenn Reynolds. With experimental evidence no less!
More seriously, this report by Jeff Jarvis from his Aspen Institute experience with Big Media machers supports one of our paper's hypotheses. In particular:
UPDATE: Tyler Cowen offers constructive criticism and calls the paper a "mini-classic."
Dean Esmay offers a long critique that boils down to:
Dean points to small-circulation political magazines as evidence for this recurring pattern in American political history.
I think I can speak for Henry as well as myself when I say that we are aware of this fact. Indeed, what we find interesting is that this phenomenon has been replicated for the blogosphere. However, compared to blogs, these kind of publications generally posses two advantages. First, a lot of elite media journals have been founded and operated by those who were already politically influential and well-connected. Second, these journals needed to have sufficient resources to pay for minor things like salaries, distribution, and printing runs.
Neither of these conditions holds particularly well for blogs. No doubt, some pioneer bloggers -- Andrew Sullivan most notably -- have been well-connected. But this is not true of most of the influential bloggers. As for material resources, some bloggers are now able to earn some scratch, but this is an effect rather than a cause of their success.
What's interesting is that despite these differences, and despite the low barriers to entry, the blogosphere looks like a similar link on the oipinion chain.
Wednesday, June 2, 2004
Responding to the feminist critique
I posted a brief comment to her blog about why I hired Amanda ("[S]he was one of the best students in an undergraduate class I had previously taught. She was assigned tasks that any undergraduate RA would have been assigned. Gender was not a factor in the division of labor.") UPDATE: click here for Butler's response to Wilson. Here is Wilson's response:
Another female blogger echoes this sentiment:
Another blogger who goes by Pinko Feminist Hellcat concurred: "Men simply don't see us. And when we talk about anything besides politics, we are 'journalers'."
A few thoughts:
1) Hell yes, the survey is flawed. All surveys are flawed. I was quite blunt in outlining the flaws in the post, so I'm not sure where Wilson thinks I'm saying this is the perfect source of data.
2) Disturbingly, the only other time I blogged about gender and blogs in the past was... er... about three months ago.
3) Wilson has a valid point in saying that "the same small number of top tier bloggers get[ting] the usual publicity." This was one of the core hypotheses underlying the paper Henry Farrell and I are co-authoring -- in terms of both links and traffic, blogs display a power law distribution (See Clay Shirky for the data to support this assertion). As a result, the top blogs absorb the lion's share of attention. The media survey supports this conjecture. This means is that it's tough for anyone to crack the top tier of blogs -- regardless of gender.
4) Wilson seems to think the results are skewed because there is a narrow definition of "political" blogs. Here's the thing, though -- my survey didn't ask for the respondent's favorite political blogs -- just their favorite ones. Maybe the respondents have an equally narrow definition of politics, but it was not conditioned by the survey question.
5) The feminist critique did make me wonder if there was any significant difference in the female responses in contrast to the overall response. So I went back to the data to see if there was any appreciable difference in response by gender. Here are the top 10 favorite blogs of the women who responded:
There are a few changes -- Kaus disappears entirely, and Sullivan falls from first to second - but names on this list look awfully familiar.
6) Finally, Wilson seems to be confusing normative and positive analysis. In her post, she's simultaneously upset about two facts: a) feminist blogs are being ignored by the mainstream media; b) I posted survey results suggesting that feminist blogs are being ignored by the mainstream media. I can understand her normative disapproval with the first point (though I respectfully disagree with the extent and source of the problem). I'm a bit flummoxed by her reaction to the second point, which is intended to describe the way the world is, not the way it ought to be. Don't blame the messenger.
To be fair,
UPDATE: Just for the record, my take on the tenor of most of the comments to this post is akin to Ezra: "I've never seen a bunch of commentors so totally destroy their argument by embodying that which they're denying."
Monday, May 31, 2004
Which blogs are read by the media?
Nothing spurs forward progress in research like competition. First Henry Copeland has his blog survey. Now I read that Eszter Hargittai is starting her own project on blogs and the media, and she's looking for a "way of finding prominent political blogs." Which means that now is as good a time as any to post the results of the survey of media professionals' favorite blogs!!
Between September 2003 and January 2004, Henry Farrell and I received responses to five survey questions about blogs, the media, and politics. Beyond my initial post, the survey was widely linked around the blogosphere, including Instapundit, CalPundit, OxBlog, Crooked Timber, the Volokh Conspiracy, James Joyner, Jim Romenesko, Boing Boing, Scripting News, Howard Bashman, Andrew Sullivan (OK, that was me when I was guest-blogging), and National Review Online. The result was 140 proper responses from media professionals, i.e., those that made their living working for a media outlet (or freelancing for more than one). 33 of these responses were from what I'm characterizing as "elite" media outlets -- defined as general interest intermiediaries of national standing for those interested in politics.* More informally -- these are the outlets read by the movers and shakers in the political sphere. Examples of this latter category include the Economist, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, CBS, CNN, ABC, AP, Reuters, and Bloomberg.**
Participants were asked to list "the three blogs you read most frequently." The result was a total of 391 total responses and 89 elite responses (some respondents provided fewer than three blogs).
What were the ten most popular blogs among all responses? In order:
The lineup looks slightly different when looking only at the elite responses:
Now, let's make the obvious caveat -- the responses are obviously going to be affected by which blogs linked to the survey questions. Neither Atrios nor Josh Marshall, for example, advertised the survey at all (they were asked), so their results are likely to be biased downwards. People were e-mailing me their responses, and I have no doubt that the only reason I'm on the list is that some journalists were just being polite. Also, since the survey took place in the fall, newly emerging blogs like Daily Kos are probably more read now by media professionals than they were last September. This is certainly true of Wonkette, which didn't exist last September.
That said, two counterpoints are worthy of note. First, while there is likely some rightward political bias, the magnitude of the bias might not be that significant. Several high profile left-leaning blogs did link to the survey (Kevin Drum was nice enough to link twice). Second, it is striking that if you do a Nexis search of the names listed above during the same time duration, you wind up with very similar relative numbers in terms of media mentions. So if the numbers are out of whack, they're not that out of whack.
Which leads to a provocative possibility -- Eric Alterman may have a point. In What Liberal Media?: The Truth About Bias and the News, Alterman argued that claims of liberal media bias are vastly overblown. Looking at the Top 10 lists, it's hard to deny the prominence of rightward-leaning blogs on the list. Marshall and Atrios are there, but they're a bit lower on the list than either Blogstreet's Most Influential Blogs or The Truth Laid Bear's Blogosphere Ecosystem have them. The elite responses are somewhat more liberal than the overall responses, but the difference is not terribly great. At a minimum, the media professionals that consume blogs seem to have far more centrist tastes than is often proclaimed by those on the right.
Before Alterman starts jumping up and down, however, bear in mind that there's another possible selection bias in the responses. If media professionals who seek out blogs to read are those who find mainstream media reporting unsatisfactory because it's skewed to the left, then these responses are not necessarily indicative of the political preferences of the larger media ecosystem. This came through in several of the responses. It's equally possible that liberal journalists are practicing The Godather, Part II dictum of, "keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer" -- i.e., reading blogs they disagree with politically because they want to know the counterarguments to their beliefs. This came through in a lot of the surveys as well -- and, of course, it comes through in the recent Pew survey of the media as well.
A lot to chew on -- want to play around with the raw data? You can access the Excel spreadsheet here -- all names, official positions, and other biographical information have been excised from the data set.
Finally, a big thank you to Crescat Sententia's Amanda Butler, who provided invaluable assistance in collecting and collating the data while displaying the utmost discretion.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum and Glenn Reynolds both have useful links on the relationship between the mediasphere and the blogosphere. This American Journalism Review article by Rachel Smolkin is particularly interesting. And Laura at Apartment 11D is working on her own project about how blogs affect political participation. Meanwhile, John Hawkins has a post on which blogs conservatives like to read.
* If you look at the raw data, you might notice that responses from the same publication were divided into elite and non-elite categories. In thise cases, it was because the non-elite respondent was a freelancer.
** A few more specialized publications are included in the elite category because they specialize in politics -- Roll Call, the Hotline, and Foreign Affairs fall under this category.
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Damn that Jack Balkin!!
Jack Balkin celebrated his blogiversary by writing not one, but two great posts about whether the blogosphere is an example of what Cass Sunstein called "cyberbalkanization" in republic.com-- the tendency for those engaged in political debate to ignore other points of view. I've heard some bloggers refer to this as "cocooning."
In his second post on the topic, Balkin then goes on to effectively critique the Sunday New York Times article on cyberbalkanization that I linked to here.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
How blogs affect politics
Pejman Yousefzadeh (who has lots o' good stuff on his blog) has a Tech Central Station essay on how blogs affect political debate. As a case study, he looks at Josh Chafetz's recent triumph at the Oxford Union. The highlights from Pej:
As someone with an interest in this topic, I must thank Pejman for adding to my reference list. His reward.... a footnote!! [That's a reward?--ed. For a U of C graduate, yes, it is.]
UPDATE: Robert Tagorda has further thoughts on this.
Sunday, October 26, 2003
The division of labor in the blogosphere
The problem with this debate is that it's not an "either-or" situation. A while back I wrote that there were two types of blogs:
A glance at the Blogosphere Ecosystem suggests this division of labor is more stable than Cowen's post suggests. Consider the top ten blogs:
I'd characterize five of these blogs (Instapundit, Atrios, Daily Kos, N.Z. Bear, and LGF) as primarily portals or focal points. The other five (Marshall, Sullivan, Drum, Den Beste, and Volokh) are more commentary than portal. [C'mon, Atrios and Glenn offer commentary!--ed. Yes, but I'm using a simple dichotomy. Drudge would be an example of the perfect portal, but beyond him most blogs have a mix of links and commentary.] Given that by definition one would predict portal blogs to be clustered among the top ten, it looks like commentary blogs aren't going anywhere.
If you think about, this makes sense, and like most divisions of labor improves the productivity of both sides. Without commentary blogs, there would be less of a demand for the skills required to be a portal blog. Without portals, those specializing in commentary would face higher search costs in developing their topics and arguments.
Baude is also correct that newcomers to the blogosphere will have to go the commentary route. For example, here's a new blog that's worth checking out, especially for Californians. I particularly like this post critiquing Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem.
Thursday, October 9, 2003
Yet another plea to media professionals
The traffic on the blog has been pretty high as of late, so here's another plea to those who work in the media -- please take five minutes out of your busy schedule to answer five simple survey questions that are a curcial part of a joint project on the power and politics of blogs.
To date, I've received 80 proper responses, including reporters, producers, and editors who work for The New Republic, Economist, Time, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Reuters, Associated Press, ABC News, CNN, and Foreign Affairs. I'm gunning for an N > 100. You, Mr. or Ms. Media Professional, could be the one that pushes the response number to three digits!!
Let me also note that there are an awful lot of important media institutions not on this aforementioned list -- Slate, The American Prospect, Weekly Standard, National Review, Washington Post (Howard Kurtz, I'm looking in your direction), USA Today, NBC, CBS, and Fox News.
Shame, shame -- no links to you!! [Oh, yeah, they're quaking in their boots.--ed. Shhh... you're blowing the illusion!] Particularly for CBS News -- if you guys are going to reprint my TNR Online columns, at least answer the survey questions!!
UPDATE: OK, The Weekly Standard is back in my good graces.
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
A very special survey
As part of the paper I'm co-authoring on the power and politics of blogs, I am making a humble request to those who are employed as journalists, columnists, commentators, producers, or editors for newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations. Please take two minutes and send me an e-mail* (be sure to include the media outlet you work for as well as your job title) at firstname.lastname@example.org with answers to the following five questions [Oh, sure, then you'll broadcast their answers to your friends!--ed. All responses will be treated as confidential unless you give me permission to do otherwise in your e-mail]:
UPDATE: In the first 24 hours, I've already received 50 relevant responses. Many thanks to everyone who linked to the request, particularly Glenn Reynolds, Kevin Drum, Cory Doctorow, Howard Bashman, James Joyner, Josh Chafetz, Scripting News, and Jim Romenesko.
ANOTHER UPDATE: We're almost at the 100 mark!
If you fit the criteria and haven't responded yet, please do so!! Pretty please!!
*Do NOT post your answers in the comment box below. It's been disabled for this post -- because otherwise, your answers would be available for all the world to read!!
A new blog project
Over the past year, I've been asked whether blogging can contribute to scholarship. While I've been positive about the effect of blogging on my academic writing style, I'm otherwise leery of mixing the two. Hell, last week I told the Chicago Tribune:
I suspect my aversion to mixing the two is akin to the "worlds colliding" idea that was done to perfection on "The Pool Guy" episode from Seinfeld: I'm worried about whether Blogger Dan and Scholar Dan can co-exist in the same world.
To test out what happens when worlds collide, I've decided to co-author a scholarly paper on the power and politics of blogging with fellow political scientist and fellow blogger Henry Farrell from Crooked Timber. The idea will be to present this paper at the 2004 American Political Science Association annual meeting. Henry and I are hoping to chair a roundtable on blogging; some heavy-hitters in the blogosphere who shall remain nameless for the moment have already committed.
In the ensuing months, we'll make drafts of the paper available to the blogosphere and invite comments or criticisms. For this post, however, we're just looking for two things. The first is feedback on the definition of a blog. Our working definition -- partly inspired by the feedback from this post -- is as follows:
Whaddaya think -- too vague? Too specific? Too wordy? Comments or suggestions for improvement are welcomed.
The second request is for links to working papers or journal articles on the political effects of blogs. I'm NOT talking about the articles that appear every six months like clockwork in the major dailies with headlines like "Americans Are Agog About Blogs!!" I'm talking about papers with more substance.
Here's our limited bibliography:
Jeffrey A. Henning, "The Blogging Iceberg," October 2003.
Pejman Yousefzadeh, "The Rt. Honorable Blogger," Tech Central Station, November 12, 2003.
Any readers who know of any papers beyond those listed, please let me know about them.
I look forward to your comments.
UPDATE: Here's a web page replete with newpaper stories on blogs. Thanks to alert reader K.M. for the link!!