Mapping the Australian political blogosphere
Bruns, Axel & Adams, Debra A. (2009) Mapping the Australian political blogosphere. In Russell, Adrienne & Echchaibi, Nabil (Eds.) International blogging : identity, politics and networked publics. Peter Lang Publishing Group, New York, pp. 85-109.
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The role of blogs and bloggers in the political process has received a great deal of attention in recent years; perhaps especially so in the context of the rise and fall of the first mainstream blogger-candidate for U.S. President, Howard Dean, and the subsequent scramble of other political players in the United States to establish blogs of their (or more frequently, their staffers’) own. U.S.-based blogs have also been seen as important in driving political issues from the demise of Trent Lott to the growing opposition to the Iraq war. The role of blogs in the political spheres of other countries is less well understood, however; indeed, for other Western countries it is often assumed that blogs will operate there in much the same way as they do in the U.S., though perhaps somewhat lagging behind the leader due to delays in adopting the technology or achieving critical mass.
In order to provide a more nuanced view of blogging in developed nations outside of the United States, this paper will investigate the political blogosphere in Australia. As an English-speaking nation of comparable living standards, with similar culture, and undergoing a number of comparable political processes (such as prolonged conservative rule, participation in the ‘Coalition of the Willing’, and the politicisation of terrorism threats), it may be assumed that its political blogosphere would show some of the same characteristics as that of the U.S. – however, we will demonstrate that for historical, social, and cultural reasons Australia has developed a blogging accent of its own.
The study uses the IssueCrawler Web mapping tool to identify and plot the issue networks amongst Australian bloggers and related sites on a number of key political issues of the day, and from this develops an overall assessment of the state of the Australian political blogosphere. In our assessment of the current engagement between political players and bloggers we will analyse the (bi)directional arcs between Web pages to identify the types of associations between them. This method will allow us to identify the multiple layers and key connection points (often via mainstream or niche media acting as intermediaries) in these networks, as well as the geographical scope of the collaborative community and the most influential, relevant and reputable sites used to host and generate political discussion, debate, and deliberation. In doing so, the study will provide a better understanding of how, why and to what extent the tools and technologies of blogs and blogging have been adopted and adapted to the Australian political environment. The study is particularly timely as the lead-up to the Australian federal elections (to be scheduled for late 2007) will provide a rich sample of blog-based political expression in this country.
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