Researching Community in Distributed Environments: Approaches for Studying Cross-Blog Interactions

Researching Community in Distributed Environments: Approaches for Studying Cross-Blog Interactions

Vanessa Paz Dennen, Jennifer B. Myers, Christie L. Suggs
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-040-2.ch030
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In this chapter we examine how a variety of research approaches can be applied to the study of cross-blog interactions. Cross-blog interactions can be challenging to study because of they often require the researcher to reconsider traditional notions of temporality, discourse space, and conversation. Further, in many instances they are neither static nor well defined; defining the beginning and end of a discussion as well as locating all components of the discussion can be difficult. For this reason, we advocate a blend of six approaches (social network analysis, content analysis, discourse analysis, conversation analysis, narrative analysis, and ethnography). For each, we discuss strengths and limitations and provide examples of how the approach may be used to help fully capture the complexity of these interactions. Additionally we discuss web-based tools that are helpful when engaged in this type of research.
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Background And Brief Review Of Literature

The growing body of research on blogs represents a variety of topics, including the traits and motivations of bloggers (Miura & Yamashita, 2007; Stefanone & Jang, 2008), identity issues (Dennen, in press; Qian & Scott, 2007), content, characteristics and taxonomic categories for blogs (Herring, Scheidt, Bonus, & Wright, 2005; Lagu, Kaufman, Asch, & Armstrong, 2008), the impact of blogging on people’s lives (Baker & Moore, 2008), and how blogging might be characterized within a particular country or culture (Trammell, Tarkowski, Hofmoki, & Sapp, 2006). Many, although not all, of these studies have looked at blogs and bloggers as individual units, surveying or observing them in a singular context. However, blogs are an interactive medium and often blogging is a community enhancing or community founding activity. By community enhancing, we refer to blogs that are used to enhance communities that already exist in other forms, like face-to-face social networks and professional organizations. Studies in this area have looked at how real-life acquaintances interact via blogs (Nardi, Schiano, & Gumbrecht, 2004; Takhteyev & Hall, 2005). In the community foundation sense, blogs represent the backbone of a community, and the community typically is one that would not exist were it not for blogs. Studies in this area have shown how communities have formed around collections of individually authored blogs (Dennen, 2006; Dennen & Pashnyak, 2008; Qian, 2008; Wei, 2004) and around single blogs with a larger readership that is active either via collective authorship (Silva, Goel, & Mousavidin, 2008) or, in the case of sole-authored blogs, comments (Blanchard, 2004).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Post: An entry on a blog written by a blogger. Posts may have comment threads attached at the discretion of the blogger.

Blogosphere: The world of blogs and blogging communities that exists on the Internet.

Blog: A web page written in reverse chronological order on which individuals may post regular updates and readers may post comments.

Lurker: One who regularly reads but never comments on a blog.

Really Simple Syndication (RSS): A technology that allows individuals to be notified whenever a particular blog or other web site is updated.

Comment: A response to a blog post which may be written by a reader or, in response to a reader’s earlier comment, by the author of the blog post. Comments appear in chronological order and are attached to a particular blog post.

Blog-Based Community: An informal network of bloggers who have shared interests and are connected through links, comments and cross-blog interactions.

Blogger: The author/owner of a blog who may not only write posts but also may control the reader’s ability to comment on those posts.

Cross-Blog Interactions: Communications on a common theme comprised of blog posts and comments appearing on multiple blogs that link and refer directly to each other.

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