Archive for May, 2005

Cross-ideological conversations among bloggers

Thursday, May 26th, 2005

This weekend I’ll be at the annual meetings of the International Communication Association meetings in New York. All of the members from my research group will be participating in the conference and we’ll be reporting on several of our projects. Sunday midday we will present a poster summarizing some preliminary findings from our project on cross-ideological conversations among bloggers. I thought I would give a little preview here.

Cass Sunstein in his book Republic.com talks about the potential for IT to fragment citizens’ political discussions into isolated conversations. Borrowing from Negroponte, he discusses the potential for people to construct a “Daily Me” of news readings that excludes opposing perspectives. Sunstein argues that for democracy to flourish, it is important that people continue to have conversations with those in disagreement with their positions. However, he is concerned that with the help of filtering out unwanted content people will fragment into enclaves and won’t be exposed to opinions that challenge their positions. The book is an interesting read, but it does not offer any systematic empirical evidence of the claims.

I have been working on a project this past year with Jason Gallo and Sean Zehnder on empirically testing Sunstein’s thesis. We are doing so by analyzing cross-linkages among liberal and political blogs. You may recall that about two months ago Lada Adamic and Natalie Glance came out with a report on “The Political Blogosphere and the 2004 U.S. Election”. My first reaction was one of panic. Here we had been working on our project for months and someone else came out with the results first. However, a closer read made me realize that our project has some unique elements. And if nothing else, seeing that project has made us more careful and critical in our work showing that more research in an area can be fruitful, because hopefully it inspires the agenda to move forward in a productive manner.

[I updated this image on June 1 when I realized the right graph wasn't displaying exactly what I had described it as.]

Our work has focused on addressing two questions. First, we are interested in seeing the extent to which liberal and conservative bloggers interlink. Second, we want to see what kind of changes we may be able to observe over time. Sunstein’s thesis suggests that we would see very little if any cross-linking among liberal and conservative blogs and the cross-linking would diminish over time. We go about answering these questions using multiple methodologies. We counted links and calculated some measures to see how insular the conversations are within groups of blogs. We also did a content analysis of some of the posts in our sample. We continue to work on this project so these are just preliminary findings.
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See you at ICA in NYC

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005

This weekend are the annual meetings of the International Communication Association.

I will be participating in these sessions:

  • Gender Differences in Actual and Perceived Online Skills at a session on “The Gendered Digital Divide and Its Social Implications” organized by Ulla Bunz, Rutgers, Friday 8:30am.
  • New Dimensions of the Digital Divide: Differences in Young Adults’ Use of the Internet at a regular session on “Digitial Divide and Social Evolution of Communication Technology, Part 2″, Friday 5:15pm
  • The Online Skill Divide: How Search Engine Use Influences What Material People Access on the Web at a special session on “Gatekeeping the Internet II: Issues in Search Engine Usage” organized by Elizabeth Van Couvering, LSE, Sunday 8:30am
  • Mapping the Political Blogosphere: An Analysis of Large-Scale Online Political Discussions at the poster session (our paper as part of the Political Communication division’s interactive presentations) on Sunday at 11:15am

Store Wars

Tuesday, May 24th, 2005

Learn the ways of the farm with the help of Ham Solo, Chewbroccoli, C3Peanuts, Tofu D2, Obi Wan Cannoli, Cuke Skywalker, Lord Tader and Princess Lettuce. [thanks]

Chocolate in Chicago

Monday, May 23rd, 2005

Here are some spots I’ll have to try this summer:

Blommer Chocolate Store – I’ve had their dark chocolate almond toffee and it’s great!
Chicago Chocolate Company
Hot Chocolate
Lutz Cafe and Pastry Shop
bon bon Chicago

Nice article about my Mom

Saturday, May 21st, 2005

The Hungarian Népszabadság, one of the – if not the – most popular Hungarian dailies published a piece about my Mom today. The article includes a nice picture of her in a Japanese classroom where she visited a few weeks ago. The author describes her work and the difficulty women face in the sciences. In addition to pursuing her scientific research interests with great enthusiasm and success, my Mom has also interviewed numerous famous female scientists across the globe – including four female Nobel laureates – about their experiences. One day I would like to find the time to collaborate with her on a paper adding some sociological background to the analysis.

Blogging innovations

Friday, May 20th, 2005

I didn’t write this post.

My G!

Thursday, May 19th, 2005

Google arrives at Yahoo! 1999.


MyYahoo! in 2000

[Image extracted from the Web Archive.]

For something that’s been around for so long (personalized portal pages) My Google isn’t offering much at this point. But how interesting that they have picked sites like Slashdot as one of only a dozen options to feature for now. I would like to see the behind-the-scenes of what led to these twelve particular items being featured. Some are quite obvious (e.g. redirection to Google movie searches or Google Maps), but others probably have to do with deals. Gosh, all this reminds me of my article in 2000 on the role of portals in channeling user attention online. I discuss the implications of the underlying commercial decisions in this piece.

Isolated social networkers

Thursday, May 19th, 2005

[This on CT. Worth checking out for comments.]

Some physicists have come out with a paper on the Eurovision song contest. Of course, we at CT like to be ahead of the curve and thanks to Kieran’s ingenuity reported similar findings over a year ago. So much for this being “new research”.

There has been much excitement about and focus on social networks in the past few years ranging from social networking sites to several high-profile books on the topic.

Interestingly, much of the buzz about recent work covers research by physicists. It’s curious how physicists have expanded their research agenda to cover social phenomena. I thought their realm was the physical world. Of course, since social phenomena are extremely complex to study, as a social scientist, I certainly welcome the extra efforts put into this field of inquiry.

What is less welcomed is watching people reinvent the wheel. Sure, partly it’s an ego thing. But more importantly, it’s unfortunate if the overall goal is scientific progress. Much of the recent work in this area by physicists has completely ignored decades worth of work by social scientists. If we really do live in such a networked world where information is so easy to access, how have these researchers managed to miss all the existing relevant scholarship? Recently Kieran pointed me to an informative graph published by Lin Freeman in his recent book on The Development of Social Network Analysis:


People whose overall work focuses on social networks are represented by white dots, physicists by black ones, others by grey circles. (Click for a larger version of the image.) As is clear on the image, the worlds exist in isolation from each other. It would be interesting to see year-of-publication attached to the nodes to see the progression of work.

I have been meaning to write about all of this for a while, but John Scott from the Univ. Essex addressed these issues quite well in some notes he sent to INSNA‘s SOCNET mailing list a few months ago so I will just reproduce those here. (I do so with permission.)

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Cyber-Disciplinarity Conference at Dartmouth

Wednesday, May 18th, 2005

I spent last weekend at Dartmouth participating and giving a talk at the Cyber-Disciplinary Conference hosted by the Center for the Humanities. Panelists explored topics on how digital technologies are influencing the political process, concerns about privacy and surveillance and how the humanities can contribute to the study of culture in a digital age.

Kudos to Mark Williams for organizing and hosting a great meeting! In addition to bringing together a diverse group of interesting people, Mark also did an exceptional job with the various logistics of the conference. The panels were well spaced out and there was always plenty of time for discussion. We also had several occasions to socialize and continue conversations in more informal settings.

You can see a list of participants here. I have also posted some photos.

Research blog

Tuesday, May 17th, 2005

I have started a new blog.. haha, because I don’t have enough online endeavors already.:-) It is for my research group. In addition to covering research updates, we will also post general IT-related news items. That’s the plan for now. It’s called the Web Use Project Blog. We cover more than “Web use” in a strict sense, but that name still works for much of my work and for lack of a better name I will continue to use it for now.

AUT boycott follow-up

Monday, May 16th, 2005

From the APSA:

“The American Political Science Association, through action by its Council and its Committee on Professional Ethics, Rights, and Freedoms, supports the views expressed in the May 3, 2005 statement by the AAUP against academic boycotts. We join in condemning the resolutions of the AUT that damage academic freedom and we call for their repeal.”

I am waiting for the American Sociological Association to follow with a similar statement. According to Jeff Weintraub, the ASA Council has taken the matter under consideration, but no outcome so far.

Tigers vs Wildcats

Friday, May 13th, 2005

Northwestern will be hosting Princeton for the NCAA Women’s Lacrosse quarterfinals this weekend. The game will be played right outside my office this Sunday at 1pm. The only glitch for me is that I’m at Dartmouth this weekend so I’ll miss it. Maybe it’s just as well, I probably wouldn’t know whom to cheer on (both teams?!). And I’m not sorry I’m at Dartmouth, I’m participating in a interesting conference.

UPDATE: NU beats Princeton 8-6 and proceeds to the semifinals.

Art of Science

Tuesday, May 10th, 2005

For some neat images, check out the Art of Science online exhibition hosted at Princeton. [thanks]

Oppose the Blacklist of Israeli Academics

Monday, May 9th, 2005

Jeff Weintraub has posted a petition calling on all academic and scholarly associations to join the AAUP in condemning the boycott of Israeli universities and academics. The American Sociological Association and the American Political Science Association are singled out as associations that should endorse the AAUP’s statement. You can add your signature to the petition here.

Last Days

Monday, May 9th, 2005

Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day – was just a few days ago. I thought I would post a note about one of the most difficult films I have ever seen: Spielberg’s “The Last Days”. It documents the final stages of the war when it was clear that Hitler was going to lose yet the Nazis did all that they could to continue to kill as many Jews as possible managing to annihilate over 400,000 Hungarian Jews in just two months. The movie looks at the lives of five Hungarian Jews who escaped to the U.S. and revisits the locations of their past with them. One of the people featured is California Congressman Tom Lantos. The movie is very effective. Although it is impossible to understand fully what these people experienced, this film brings you very close to the events. I did have one problem with it though. It completely ignores the plight of the thousands who returned after the war and had to start their lives over in the country that had taken everything away from them. I am surprised that the movie is rated PG13. Some of the images are among the most disturbing ones I have ever seen, certainly not for the faint of heart.

For some more personal thoughts on Yom Hashoah, check out this post over at Is That Legal?. (Be forewarned: difficult images.)

Crosses, crescents and another anti-Israel boycott

Wednesday, May 4th, 2005

Jeff Weintraub (via Normblog) writes a post I have been meaning to write forever. It relates to why I don’t donate [1] to the Red Cross: the International Federation’s refusal to grant the Israeli branch – Magen David Adom – full membership. The post is motivated by this editorial in The New York Times. The author of the editorial explains:

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies includes Red Cross organizations from North Korea, Iran and Cuba, but not from Israel. The reason it gives is that the corresponding Israeli society, Magen David Adom, uses the Jewish star as its emblem and will not adopt the red cross or red crescent, emblems that are recognized by the Geneva Conventions and the international Red Cross movement. Understandably, the Israelis do not want to adopt either of these emblems because they are heavy with religious meaning.

It seems like the issue is all about symbols. But as Jeff Weintraub notes, the opposition to admit the Israeli branch comes from particular countries and reflects more politics than a conflict over images.

Opposition by Red Crescent branches from Islamic countries, including but not restricted to the Arab world, has always been the decisive factor preventing the inclusion of Israel. It is now more than a half-century since the creation of Israel, and it is time for these countries to come to terms with Israel’s existence – not to endorse Israel’s policies, or even necessarily to make peace with Israel (if that seems too radical), but just to accept its existence. If they can’t bring themselves to do this, then at least the international Red Cross/Red Crescent organization should do so.

The NYTimes editorial ends by explaining why it is ironic and troubling for the actions of an organization such as the ICRC to be so politically motivated:

Despite all the talk of emblems, it is politics that have impeded Israel’s entry. That situation puts the Red Cross movement in an unfortunate position. The International Committee of the Red Cross, the arm of the movement that works in conflict zones and visits prisoners, often finds itself urging nations to put politics aside and do the right thing, such as in its current work on behalf of the detainees at the American prison in Guantánamo Bay. It will be in a better position to make these moral appeals when it can show that it is part of a movement that does what is right, rather than what is politically expedient, when it comes to running its own shop.

1. Of course, my actions may well be unfair to the American Red Cross given that it has tried to pressure the International Red Cross to ending its boycott of the Israeli organization. Nonetheless, there are enough other organizations in need of donations that I will continue to channel my support away from ones with strong ties to such overt anti-Israel stances.

Boolean confusion

Monday, May 2nd, 2005

This just came through on Drago Radev’s IList:


I was visiting a government office recently and I noticed the following sign at the entrance:

FOOD
or
NO DRINK

I was tempted to walk in with a can of soda and absolutely no food on me but I eventually decided against it :)

D.