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Internet & Democracy project releases study of the Arabic blogosphere

June 16, 2009

It is with great pleasure that the Berkman Center announces a major research release from the Internet & Democracy project: “Mapping the Arabic Blogosphere: Politics, Culture and Dissent.”

“Mapping the Arabic Blogosphere” utilizes a unique methodology that blends link analysis, term frequency analysis, and human coding of individual blogs to investigate the online discussions taking place across the Middle East and North Africa. Internet & Democracy project director Bruce Etling and his team, with Morningside Analytics founder and Berkman affiliate John Kelly, and co-authors Robert Faris and John Palfrey, identified a base network of approximately 35,000 active blogs (about half as many as found in their previous study of the Persian blogosphere), created a network map of the 6,000 most connected blogs, and with a group of Arabic speakers hand coded 4,000 blogs. Congratulations and thanks to all who collaborated on this significant work!

The goal for the study was to produce a baseline assessment of the networked public sphere in the Arab Middle East, and its relationship to a range of emergent issues, including politics, media, religion, culture, and international affairs. Whereas the previous study of the Persian blogosphere revealed a network organized primarily around political ideologies and topical issues, such as reformist and conservative politics, religion, and poetry, the Arabic blogosphere is organized primarily around countries. Moreover, personal life and local issues are the most important topics of discussion: most bloggers write mainly personal, diary-style observations, but when writing about politics, bloggers tend to focus on issues within their own country. Bloggers link to Web 2.0 sites like YouTube and Wikipedia (English and Arabic versions) more than other sources of information and news available on the Internet. The overall picture is one of country-based groupings of blogs focused on domestic issues.

A formal press release for the paper can be found at http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/newsroom/Mapping_the_Arabic_Blogosphere.

Last updated July 14, 2009