A study by the University at Buffalo’s School of Informatics into how information from blogs produced in specific American urban areas reflects the political agendas, opinions, attitudes and cultural idiosyncrasies of the general population of those places has found that the densest concentration of bloggers is found in areas traditionally associated with “culture elites” and high socioeconomic status, according to a synopsis of the report published today.
The report, which incorrectly states there are only 4 million blogs in existence, states that blogs have demonstrated a usefulness in assessing social and political trends, aiding in world-wide crisis communication and in garnering political support and funding.
“It is our contention that the totality of content across millions of weblogs vividly and objectively depicts the social landscape and ideology at certain points of time and space,” says Alexander Halavais, Ph.D., assistant professor of communication in the UB School of Informatics.
Key findings included
– American blog distribution correlates positively with the distribution of the U.S. population, with most bloggers heavily concentrated in large cities in coastal areas and their surrounding suburbs (New York; Boston; Los Angeles; Chicago; San Francisco; Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia)
– New-technology and economic centers and clusters have formed large groups of bloggers. Among them are the San Francisco Bay area; Austin; Houston; Atlanta; Orange County, Calif.; the region east of Phoenix (Mesa, Chandler and Tempe); Las Vegas, and Portland
– Suburbs and regions surrounding big cities such as Detroit; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Boston; Phoenix; Los Angeles; Dallas, and Seattle have blogger groups comparable in size to those of their center cities.
– There are very few blog concentrations in the inland U.S., particularly the Midwest.
“We cannot ignore the blog,” Jia Lin, a doctoral candidate in the school and contributor to the report said. “It is a rapidly emerging political and cultural entity whose importance is likely to increase. It is our contention that blogs not only tell us about those who write them, but quite a bit about particular urban areas in which we find them.”
Halavais does, however, provide an antidote to some of the findings.
“We know that bloggers are not representative of Americans in general in certain respects,” Halavais says.
“They tend to be younger, more urban, more educated, more technologically adept. They’re also early adopters and more willing to speak publicly about certain issues than other Americans, most of whom do not blog or even read blogs,” he adds.
“Despite this,” he says, “we suspect that bloggers are likely to be opinion leaders in their local communities, and that they indicate the opinions of large numbers of Americans on a range of issues. The demographics of bloggers may not exactly match those of their communities, but we wouldn’t be interested in them if they held unrepresentative opinions.
A full copy of the release can be found here.