by Harry on April 28, 2010

Well, its very hard not to feel sorry for Gordon Brown right now, but I seem to be managing it. On the one hand, how unlucky to be caught off-guard like that, after being confronted with such unpleasant and ignorant views. There’s a lovely passage in James Cannon’s The History of American Trotskyism in which, talking about the dog days in the early thirties and describing the cranks and nutters who passed through his group, he says something to the effect of (I’m quoting from memory here) “If, despite my unbelief, there is an afterlife I think I will go to heaven, not because of anything I have done, but because oif everything I have had to listen to”, and I often feel sorry for politicians whose job it is to listen to people like that drivel on, even though I know they chose the job. Still, it seems to me there was only one course of action which would have created a chance, however small, of salvaging the situation, which would have been displaying a little integrity and saying, well, something to the effect of what Cannon said. It probably wouldn’t have worked, but the particular way he’s gone about seems to me like just digging deeper.

A fresh look at the left and right political blogospheres

by Eszter Hargittai on April 28, 2010

It’s exciting to see a paper about blogs across the political spectrum that goes beyond the by-now rather common practice of looking at who talks to whom among bloggers (e.g., whether there are any cross-ideological conversations going on). Yochai Benkler, Aaron Shaw and Victoria Stodden of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society have just released “A Tale of Two Blogospheres: Discursive Practices on the Left and Right” showing some significant differences in types of blog platforms used (with different affordances), co-authorships and levels of participation among blogs of different political persuasions. Here is one example of specific findings (based on analyses of 155 top political blogs):

Over 40% of blogs on the left adopt platforms with enhanced user participation features. Only about 13% of blogs on the right do so. While there is substantial overlap, and comments of some level of visibility are used in the vast majority of blogs on both sides of the political divide, the left adopts enabling technologies that make user-generated diaries and blogs more central to the site to a significantly greater degree than does the right. (p. 22.)

There are lots of other interesting results in the paper so I highly recommend reading it [pdf].
It’s very clearly written and summarizes related literature well so in case this is not an area you’ve been following, this is a good piece with which to start to familiarize yourself with related debates. If it is an area that you’ve been following then this is a must-read to see some truly original contributions to the literature.

For more on this elsewhere, Ari Melber has an interview with Yochai Benkler on this research in The Nation.