Background The blogosphere allows for the networked, decentralised, distributed discussion and deliberation on a wide range of topics. Based on their authors’ interests, only a subset of all blogs will participate in any one topical debate, with varying intensity, based on a variety of sociocultural factors: a blogger’s time, interest, and awareness of current discussion; their status in the blogosphere; the topical focus of their contributions; and their political ideology, gender, age, location, sociodemographic status, as well as the language they write in.
In combination, these factors mean that networked debate on specific topics in the blogosphere is characterised by clustering. Individual clusters in the topical debate may be able to be distinguished according to certain factors: for example, their topical specialisation (focussing on specific sub-topics of the wider debate) or their shared identity (e.g. a common national, ethnic, or ideological background).
Such blog-based debate is difficult to conceptualise under the general terms of the Habermasian public sphere model (which as formulated depends on the existence of a dominant mass media to ensure that all citizens are able to be addressed by it); at a smaller level, however, it may be possible to understand networked discussion on specific topics in the blogosphere to constitute what may be described as a public spherule (Bruns, 2008). It may be that when layered on top of one another, the public spherules on various topics of public interest can stand in as a replacement for the conventional public sphere (whose existence is undermined by the decline of the mass media as mass media; see Castells, 2007). This networked public sphere would necessarily be more decentralised than the conventional, Habermasian model of the public sphere.
Our project aims to develop a rigorous and sound methodology for the study of this networked public sphere.
- Axel Bruns, Jason Wilson, Barry Saunders & Tim Highfield (Australia) Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane
- Lars Kirchhoff & Thomas Nicolai (Switzerland) Institute for Media and Communication Management University of St. Gallen, CH
Full text (PDF) p. 81-84