Drawing on data from summer 2008, I will compare top U.S. political blogs on the left and right. The comparison shows significant cross-ideological variations. Sites on the left adopt different, and more participatory technical platforms; comprise significantly fewer sole-authored sites; include user blogs; maintain more fluid boundaries between secondary and primary content; include longer narrative and discussion posts; and (among the top half of the blogs in our sample) more often use blogs as platforms for mobilization. The news producer/consumer relationship is more attenuated on the left wing of the political blogosphere than the right. The practices of the left are more consistent with the prediction that the networked public sphere offers new pathways for discursive participation by a wider array of individuals; meanwhile, the practices of the right suggest that a small group of elites may retain more exclusive agenda-setting authority online. The cross-ideological divergence indicates that the Internet can equally be adopted to undermine or to replicate the traditional distinction between the production and consumption of political information. Moreover, the findings imply that the prevailing techniques of domain-based link analysis used to study the political blogosphere are misleading. These findings have significant implications for the study of prosumption and for the mechanisms by which the networked public sphere may or may not alter democratic participation relative to the mass mediated public sphere.
Yochai Benkler is the Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard, and faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Before joining the faculty at Harvard Law School, he was Joseph M. Field '55 Professor of Law at Yale. He writes about the Internet and the emergence of networked economy and society, as well as the organization of infrastructure, such as wireless communications. In the 1990s he played a role in characterizing the centrality of information commons to innovation, information production, and freedom in both its autonomy and democracy senses. In the 2000s, he worked more on the sources and economic and political significance of radically decentralized individual action and collaboration in the production of information, knowledge and culture. His work traverses a wide range of disciplines and sectors, and is taught in a variety of professional schools and academic departments. In real world applications, his work has been widely discussed in both the business sector and civil society.