My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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“The Media Sucks, And It’s Your Fault”

Ethan Zuckerman has some interesting data on the topical coverage of blogs.

There is often a fantasy that blogs will cover more diverse topics than the mainstream media, that they will force the media to cover different topics. Ethan is bothered by the fact that neither mainstream media nor bloggers cover news from less developed regions of the world. So, a research question emerges: in what ways are bloggers expanding the scope of the mainstream media and in what ways are they duplicating it?

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11 comments to “The Media Sucks, And It’s Your Fault”

  • I believe that those who blog often blog things that they either come into contact with everyday, or are very passionate about before they begin blogging. The number of blogs about developing nations is probably directly proportional to the number of people active in causes dealing with these nations. If it were a majority, we would not have such a dichotomy between the rich and the poor. Those who are affected by these issues on a daily basis are more than likely citizens of these nations/regions. Also, how much of this (not covering their plight) could have to do with the lack of both technical support and equipment? As Hossein Derakhshan has discovered with his work developing the Iranian blogging community, blogs are a direct reflection of the culture. Many Persian blogs may be considered pornographic, but they are more the representation of a desire which needs an outlet. I think that the information available in the blogs is a direct reflection of the culture they represent. People are ‘satisfied’ for the most part with mainstream media because it gives them just enough to sigh and say poor them, but not enough to call anyone to action, to make them uncomfortable enough. I guess it is more an out of sight out of mind thing. I do not believe that blogging is a duplication of mass media, but that mass media is a duplication/representation of (western)culture.

  • I worry that the question conflates quality and quantity. There are many situations where in the past we would have had zero coverage of a perspective, and if now a single person writes on that subject, the difference is dramatic, even if, in some sense, it is pitiful that only one person is covering that subject, when there are so many millions of blogs, so many of which are redundant.

    The clearest and best known example of what I speak of would be Salam Pax, writing from Bagdad while American bombs were falling on Bagdad. In what other war were Americans able to get hourly updates from a citizen of a country we were in the act of bombing? Obviously, the answer is that no such thing ever happened before. It is perhaps sad that we have so few blogs from the 3rd World, yet what ones we do have can make a dramatic difference in what we are able to hear. Personally, I check out Riverbend’s blog every week, to get some insight on how this Iraqi housewife views life in the new Iraq.

    To some extent, this debate that you mention is quite similar to one I’ve had with my friends many times. With media in America consolidating into the hands of a few large corporations, are American’s losing out on the diversity of viewpoints? At first it seems the obvious answer is yes. Yet you can walk into any Barnes and Noble and on the magazine rack see a diversity of viewpoints that is dramtically greater than anything that was available when I was a kid 20 years ago. So from that point of view, the diversity is increasing, but people need to make an effort to go find it. With blogs it is the same: when I was kid I could not read the opinions of citizens from all over the world, now I can read the opinion of anyone who writes in English, or sometimes, if I make a big effort with my limited skills, Spanish. But I have to make the effor to go find these blogs.

  • Ann

    I wish that studies like these weren’t so americentric – and techcentric. They are interesting, and probably valuable in the long run, but let’s keep questions like, ‘are American’s losing out on the diversity of viewpoints?’ in perspective. Nearly half the planet’s population is banned/censored from reading or watching the big guns like BBC, CNN, The Guardian, and probably the NY Times as well. The more interesting question to me, is the rest of the world losing out on the diversity of viewpoints the internet offers? How often are international stories being blogged by bloggers outside the U.S. – particularly in places like China, Chad, Uruguay, Sudan, Egypt, etc? And how is the percentage of international posting different / similar between let’s say an American, and someone in Nigeria?

  • Responding specifically to Ann’s comment – it’s a fair criticism that this is one of the more US-centric pieces of research I’ve done. I’m largely doing it because I’m critical of the assumption that blogs are somehow making Americans more aware of global events. As Stephanie points out, people generally blog on the subjects they’re passionate about. Most Americans are more passionate about technology and US politics than they are about international affairs… and the US currently is the most represented group in the blogosphere…

    One of my major projects is directly focused on increasing the number of bloggers in developing nations, especially Africa. I’m running a project called BlogAfrica.com, which aggregates content from African blogs, and working with Soros’s Open Society Institute on tools and workshops that’s going to make it easier for folks from Uruguay to Uzbekistan to blog about local issues. But it’s a long battle – there are connectivity issues, cost issues, language issues…

    I’d love to do a comparison of blogging of international issues from bloggers in different countries. I probably need someone like Technorati or Blogpulse to open their catalogs so I could search Brazilian bloggers versus Persian bloggers, for instance. So it probably won’t be the next study I do, but it’s high on my priority list.

  • Responding specifically to Ann’s comment – it’s a fair criticism that this is one of the more US-centric pieces of research I’ve done. I’m largely doing it because I’m critical of the assumption that blogs are somehow making Americans more aware of global events. As Stephanie points out, people generally blog on the subjects they’re passionate about. Most Americans are more passionate about technology and US politics than they are about international affairs… and the US currently is the most represented group in the blogosphere…

    One of my major projects is directly focused on increasing the number of bloggers in developing nations, especially Africa. I’m running a project called BlogAfrica.com, which aggregates content from African blogs, and working with Soros’s Open Society Institute on tools and workshops that’s going to make it easier for folks from Uruguay to Uzbekistan to blog about local issues. But it’s a long battle – there are connectivity issues, cost issues, language issues…

    I’d love to do a comparison of blogging of international issues from bloggers in different countries. I probably need someone like Technorati or Blogpulse to open their catalogs so I could search Brazilian bloggers versus Persian bloggers, for instance. So it probably won’t be the next study I do, but it’s high on my priority list.

  • Hi:

    I am Suhit Anantula from India. My blog – http://www.worldisgreen.com focusses on rural India. You can say that I am one of the bloggers who blogs exclusively on low-developed countries.

    I started blogging as a way to understand rural India, its problems and possible solutions. My focus is rural India because almost 700 million people live there and a lot of them live in poverty.

    My focus is on understanding and developing solutions for the betterment of India. There is a vast set of problems and there are also good number of solutions.

    I concentrate on providing information, highlighting issues which are relegated to the non-important parts of the mainstream media and also build a set of people who are interested in this goal.

    Hope to hear your views on how we can take this blog/network forward and connect to more people.

    Suhit

  • Last week’s backed-up aggregate.

    Boing Boing’s “Zuckerman: Wikipedia needs to cover non-nerdy subjects”Edward Wyatt’s “Treasury Being Sued for Curbs on Editing”Verlyn Klinkenborg’s “The Wealth of the Season”Michiko Kakutani’s “‘Chain of Command’: Controversial Reports Become Accepted …

  • Last week’s backed-up aggregate.

    Boing Boing’s “Zuckerman: Wikipedia needs to cover non-nerdy subjects”Edward Wyatt’s “Treasury Being Sued for Curbs on Editing”Verlyn Klinkenborg’s “The Wealth of the Season”Michiko Kakutani’s “‘Chain of Command’: Controversial Reports Become Accepted …

  • The Media Sucks, And It’s Your Fault

    To generate attention, they need to blog/post about things that everyone else is talking about. Is that not the essence of a meme — an idea that spreads like a virus through a large group of like-minded souls, emphasis on large and like-minded?…