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Archive for the ‘France’ Category

challenges of tracking topical discussion networks online [ICA2010]

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I’m currently in Singapore, having spent the last few days at the now-concluded International Communication Association conference for 2010. As well as going to various interesting presentations covering a wide range of processes, subjects, and disciplines (including such topics as the uses of Twitter while watching television programmes and the anatomy of YouTube memes), I also prepared a short presentation on some of the network mapping I’ve been doing recently, using data collected by Lars Kirchhoff and Thomas Nicolai of Sociomantic Labs. The final paper authored by the three of us, ‘Challenges of tracking topical discussion networks online’ will be available later, but for the moment here are the slides used yesterday morning at 8.30 (and, for more explanation, Axel Bruns was liveblogging both this session and the rest of the conference too):

[For details of the other presentation I was involved with, ‘Mapping the Australian Networked Public Sphere’ (Axel Bruns, Jean Burgess, Tim Highfield, Lars Kirchhoff, and Thomas Nicolai), Axel has the slides online here]


Written by Tim

26 June, 2010 at 4:08 pm

several dots on a map

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2010 is already looking like it’ll be fairly busy, not least because nearly a quarter of it is gone already. Over the next twelve months, I should finish my thesis, while other projects are also being developed and carried out: I’m tutoring in a first-year unit this semester, and am currently writing up new work on the French political blog research, first outlined at IR10 last year, for both my thesis and a conference presentation.

That presentation will be in June, at the International Communication Association conference in Singapore, as a paper co-authored with Lars Kirchhoff and Thomas Nicolai from Sociomantic Labs in Germany. Where my IR10 presentation looked at the text content of blog posts, this paper will be covering the links being made, in their various guises.

As part of this work, and indeed in preparation for research into topical networks, the links made around particular events or themes, I’ve been busy looking into the more permanent/static networks created by blogroll links from sites in the sample population. As with the IR10 work, I’m using data collected by Thomas Nicolai and Lars Kirchhoff over the first eight months of 2009, with 217 political blogs, media resources, and other related websites represented in the final collected data. For this stage, I’ve taken these sites as a starting point, making a list of each blogroll out-link from each of the 217 sites as a two-column spreadsheet (host site, site linked to), and then importing the final list into Gephi for visualisation purposes.

[Because I was using a slightly older version of Gephi, I was also converting the spreadsheet into Pajek’s .net format in order to import it into Gephi using Excel 2 Pajek. However, the latest version of Gephi imports .csv, with extra import options through the .gdf format too]

Having not used Gephi before (I couldn’t get it to work when I tested out visualisation options quite a long time ago), my success in testing it out was greatly aided by the Gephi team releasing a step-by-step tutorial for new users. Importing every individual link originating from the 217 sites and following each tutorial step led to something that looks rather spectacular, although doesn’t really say much:

here comes sciencey

Of course, the risk with visualisation is that too much attention is spent on the ‘pretty’ side of things, or on preparing diagrams that look impressive (or ‘sciencey’), but don’t aid the research’s argument (or even confuse it further). While the initial aim of creating a blogroll network is to help me see the groups of sites that associate with each other, trying to get a handle on how these sites in the sample relate to each other, the warnings and advice from people such as Bernie Hogan at last year’s OII Summer Doctoral Programme have stayed in the back of my mind. As such, I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the last few weeks trying to clean up the data and improve the visualisations, not from an aesthetic point of view, but so I get a clearer sense of what I’m trying to describe.

here comes sciencey (part two)

With the full list of links containing over 5000 nodes, receiving at least one in-link from one of the 217 initial sites, one of the main problems in the first visualisation is the sheer number of nodes, and the implied overimportance of sites with many out-links (especially when these sites are the only ones linking to many nodes – it leads to large groups of satellites around nodes). The next step then, as seen above, was to restrict the nodes to those sites receiving two or more in-links from the initial 217 sites. A number of loose groupings were immediately apparent (see, for example, the top-left of the diagram), and these were followed up after the next round of cleaning the data:

here comes sciencey (5b)

here comes sciencey (part five)

In the first of these two visualisations, some nodes are coloured by their affiliation to particular political parties (either by being official sites or by containing the party name/acronym in their URL). A loose grouping of sites from the Front National (brown) and UMP (blue) in particular is apparent. In the second visualisation, I located sites that were members of three different blog communities or networks, organised around different themes or beliefs. Again, there is some loose grouping – unsurprising, considering this is a blogroll-oriented network, and often sites will have links either to the main page of the group or the other members in their blogrolls – but what is most interesting is the general location of the anti-Sarkozy group Les vigilants (in pink) between the left-wing and centrist party groupings (in the first of the two visualisations). For more details and visualisations-in-progress, check out my Flickr (and look out for updates on the related paper over the next few months!). The next important step, particularly in terms of new information, is comparing the blogroll links to the topical networks, and seeing whether the same associations are in play regardless of time or topic – this will be investigated further over the next few weeks. At this stage, in particular because of its ease of use (and not being restricted to the latest version of operating system-specific software, I’ll most likely continue to work with Gephi while I work on my thesis. I’d still like to try out Prefuse though at some point, but that may have to wait until after all this work is out of the way…

Written by Tim

19 March, 2010 at 3:46 pm

into the eurosphere

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I’m still behind on all my RSS feeds after October, so rather than try and catch up, here’s something new(er). Over the weekend just gone, the Personal Democracy Forum – Europe (PDFEU/#pdfeu if you want to trawl the twitter archives) was held in Barcelona. Having only found out about it on Friday evening Brisbane time, as it was getting underway in Spain, I wasn’t attending the conference itself, but through the wonders of live streaming (run by Civico and containing audio, twitter, and CoverItLive live blogging), I was able to listen to the first few sessions on Friday. [The other sessions from Friday and Saturday are archived on the site at the moment if there’s anything that looks interesting]

There were several interesting discussions and topics, some of which were unfortunately missed due to sleep needs or being break-out sessions not streamed live, although information on those might be available on the live streaming site now. However, the most immediately impressive presentation coming out of PDFEU (certainly given my research interests) was that by Anthony Hamelle and Clémence Lerondeau of linkfluence (leaders in social network mapping and mentioned here several times previously). In their presentation, they unveiled a new linkfluence project, moving beyond their previous studies of French/U.S. political blogs or (French language discussion of) European topics on the internet. Instead, the latest study (visualisation below) looks at the ‘Eurosphere’ – blogs and websites run by commentators, parties, think tanks, activists, journalists, and so on, from France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy (the analysis also features a Europe affairs-specific cluster, drawing from all four nations). For specific information, I’d recommend going through the presentation itself (with audio available from the PDFEU streaming site), and also the accompanying linkfluence blog post. There’s more information to come, obviously, but a few findings are already particularly interesting: first, the varying bridging/gatekeeping population found in the different national spheres (the French having the most bridging bloggers), and indeed the very presence and function of bridge bloggers (Ethan Zuckerman has written about this subject previously, although not for as specific a context as European (political) topics). The comparative lack of interaction between national spheres is also interesting (bridging happening more between the EU-specific cluster and the national spheres), language could possibly be a factor, although the greater tendency of a particular group (Euro-sceptics and anti-federalists) to engage in conversations across the boundaries of the national spheres makes this finding a particularly fascinating topic for future research (well, maybe)!

There will be more coming out of this project from linkfluence, as the final slide shows, but the teaser material unveiled at pdfeu – and the topical case study used in the presentation, looking at the EU Presidency as a discussion topic over the previous month – suggests that the scope of this study will provide some interesting information on discussions and interactions at an international level:

Eurosphere (2009) by linkfluence

[Also, from a purely aesthetic perspective, how great (and clean) does the visualisation itself look?]

Written by Tim

23 November, 2009 at 8:26 pm

ir10 slides: themes and discussions from the French political blogosphere

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The two presentations I was involved in at ir10, looking at the Australian and French political blogospheres, both happened earlier today. Axel has already posted the slides from the Australian paper, ‘Critical Voices in the Australian Political Blogosphere’, over at his blog, along with the many recaps of other papers from the conference. So, here are the slides for the French blog-oriented paper, renamed to ‘Themes and discussions from eight months in the French political blogosphere’. The slides aren’t much to look at, a lot wordier than I’d like normally, but given the time in carrying out the study to get to a point where it could be presented, the words were as much a reference for me as information for the audience! Obviously the work is very preliminary, but there should be more coming out of both papers in the next few months.

Written by Tim

10 October, 2009 at 6:45 am

ir10, Milwaukee

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I am currently in the US, on my way to Milwaukee for the Association of Internet Researchers conference. With pre-conference seminars tomorrow, it promises to be a busy few days from here until Saturday night. I’ve got a few different things happening as well as attending as many sessions as possible. Tomorrow is the doctoral colloquium, where there will be a few OIISDP alumni as well as new faces with whom to discuss research topics and issues. Following that, on Friday morning is a session featuring a paper Axel Bruns, Thomas Nicolai, Lars Kirchhoff, and myself have been working on, looking at activity in the Australian political blogosphere over the first half of 2009. Finally, and indeed in the same session, is a paper I’ve been working on covering pretty much the same period, but looking at the French political blogosphere – it’s the first look at French data I’ve had, so this is very much a tentative preliminary study, with some methodological issues to be taken into account for future work, but it should also raise some interesting directions for the next phase of work in both the French and Australian political blogospheres.

Post-Milwaukee, I’ve got a bit of travel happening, before some institution visits in Boston and Paris, but more on those later. A bit closer to/after the presentations, I’ll try and get the slides uploaded and any interesting outcomes from the papers. I won’t be liveblogging, although Axel probably will be, but any diversionary comments from me will most likely be on twitter!

Written by Tim

7 October, 2009 at 3:11 am

linkfluence visualise the French blogosphere (or bits of it) (twice!)

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Previously mentioned on several occasions, linkfluence/rtgi, who are leading the way in not just visualising maps of online networks but also giving several levels of information and scalabity, have in the last week or so released two visualisations for different sites. Last year, of course, they produced PresidentialWatch08 for the US Presidential election, and in 2007 had Observatoire Presidentielle for the French equivalent. Now come two new maps, one blog-centric and the other providing a more topical view of website connections.


First is the Wikiopole, for Wikio (a search and ranking site, who have also been developing tools for researchers, including their Backlink Factory). Depicting the connections between the top 1500 ranked blogs, and with sites coded based on their category (political, science, sport, etc), the map provides another overview of the state of the French blogosphere, this time in May 2009 (and may be useful if a map comes out every month/several months – in which case, archiving each edition would be rather handy). It’s also good to see visualisations not just looking at the political side of things (not that’s necessarily a bad thing, but there are plenty of ways to subdivide networks of blogs). Plus, as an overall blogosphere study, there’s scope to compare the statistical layout of the linkfluence map to the personal work from ouinon.net in 2007, despite the long period between the production of the particular maps.


The second map is for touteleurope.fr, looking at 2046 sites (not just blogs) discussing Europe(an politics) in French. There’s quite a bit of cross-over, understandably, between this map and the Observatoire Presidentielle, although it’s less concerned with the different political ideologies present and the types of site and separating the analysts from the ‘militants’, for example.

I’m on a rather slow internet connection at the moment (and unfortunately the two maps take a while to load for me), and still waiting for some information before looking further at the two maps – a lengthier write-up will come, but for the moment any new work in the French blogosphere, political or not, and in network studies and visualisations (even with reservations about methods or outputs, as the case may be) is welcome.

Written by Tim

6 May, 2009 at 6:31 pm

the Olympics and the French (political) blogosphere: first crawls

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Following on from my previous post, the diagrams below are the results of my first topic-oriented experiments with IssueCrawler. As mentioned before, I set up nine crawls in total, three each looking for French blog posts concerning Tibet, censorship, and human rights. These crawls were queued at different times during the Olympic Games in Beijing – once during the first week of competition, once during the second week, and a few days after the closing ceremony.

After a flurry of activity on the IssueCrawler servers over the weekend, only one crawl of the nine remains to be completed. However, the delay in crawls does ask the question of whether the networks depicted would be different if the crawls happened on the same day, or within a few days, of being enqueued – of the first three crawls, the Tibet crawl (first to be enqueued) was started and completed on 19 August, censorship 19-20 August, and human rights 27-28 August. While the first two were complete before the second crawls were prepared, the third round of crawls had been enqueued before the first human rights crawl had even started. As such, there may be a risk that material not published, or written, on 14 August may influence the network of that crawl because of the delay, and the other human rights networks may end up looking rather similar. Of the latter concern, the third crawl is still to be completed so I’m not sure how close the fit will be, but the list of seed sites for each crawl was different. As this is still experimental, for these crawls I did not carry over the seed sites from one crawl to another or have a master list of sites. Instead, before each crawl I went through the top 100 results from Google Blog Search (French) using the search terms in the diagrams below, and manually included or rejected the posts based on their content and whether or not they were blog posts. I will attempt another topical experiment later this month, in which I will test out the including previous sites in the seed list, for comparison between methods.

JO Pekin Tibet - 13/08/08

JO Pekin censure - 13/08/08

Human Rights
JO Pekin "droits de l'homme" - 14/08/08

One other concern with these crawls, as opposed to the next two rounds, is that I didn’t keep the same settings for the crawls: censorship has three iterations in its crawl, as does human rights, but Tibet only has two and with a greater crawl depth than the other two crawls. As such, any comparison of these diagrams with the later results is affected by the variable settings used.

Some notable aspects of the diagrams:
The large cluster of blogs to the bottom-right of the human rights diagram. However, these are all blogs hosted by one service, 20 minutes, and although the page being linked to is a news article, as nearly all of the 17 links to the page come from 20 minutes blogs this cluster may not be as significant to the issue discussion as other parts of the diagram.

The censorship network has, as its largest node, Wikio.fr – in particular, the top 100 political blogs page, with 42 in-links. This may be a result of the three iterations of the crawl, following links from blogs (such as icons showing where the particular blog is in the rankings) to that page, and later crawls with only two iterations may reduce the presence of Wikio in the network.

More notes to come, but one other concern with IssueCrawler is the legend – the colours used for particular top-level domains (.com, .fr, etc.) vary between diagram. Although the legend is clearly noted on each diagram, it does mean that quick comparisons also have to be careful ones!

Written by Tim

1 September, 2008 at 3:50 pm