Mulling over The Map
(In a meandering way)
The political map of the blogosphere brought to our attention by Calpundit Kevin Drum has generated much discussion from an array of blogs.
Jeanne d'arc of Body and Soul is as bewildered by some of the classifications as I am.
Do not attempt to tour Blogtopia with this map. Really now, in whose political universe do CalPundit, Lean Left, and PLA end up to my left? No offense meant to Dwight and the Kevins, but they are all much nicer and more reasonable than I am. And somehow Mark Kleiman seems to have turned into an anarchist or something. How'd he end up hanging off the left coast? And no one will convince me that the woman who wrote this brilliant rant is more centrist than I am. Avedon Carol's got leftist credibility I can only dream of.
I was perturbed by Mark Kleiman's placement, too. I won't risk inciting his ire by referring to him as a middle-of-the-roader again,* but I don't consider Mark a Leftist. He is much too comfortable with most of the status quo for that designation.
*Monday, March 31, 2003
NOW THAT HURTS!
Mac Diva claims I'm "middle-of-the-road."
Now actually I'm anti-extremist, which isn't at all the same thing.
In the immortal words of Jim Hightower, "Ain't nothin' in the middle of the road but yella lines and dead armadillas."
Jeanne shares my desire to know more about the demographics of the 'name' blogosphere. I said,
I would also be interested in seeing a chart of demographic information on bloggers and politics. For example, do gender, age or region of the country tell us anything about a blogger's perspective? I don't have time to gather the data, but would love to read the results.
I'm not sure what the basis of the map is. Who you link to, and who links to you, possibly. But it made me wonder about -- the silly map aside -- how we define people politically, and how much style has to do with it.
Do we need to throw more hints? If you are a student in any field that touches on sociology, psychology, mass media or statistics, compiling information about the blogosphere would be an excellent research project.
Jeanne and I also both name things, including our iPods.
Mine is Iggy, which is short for Iggy the Insane iPod, because, though I love it dearly, it has frequent schizoid episodes. One of its favorite tricks is quickly running everything on the playlist across the screen while not actually playing anything, as if to say, "Fool, here are the 700-and-some songs you've loaded that I will not let you hear." Or switching after a minute to a different song. Or playing something entirely different than what it says on the screen.
My iPod is Titania. She is sister to my TiBook, Titanes. If there are any unnamed iPods out there, I'm willing to spearhead a movement to give each and every one of them an identity. Perhaps we should start with Matthew Yglesias.' I recommend 'Cheeky.'
Barry at Alas a Blog is a Wintel user, so I don't know if he has crossed the platform divide and purchased an iPod yet. I do know he has an opinion about The Map.
Of course, the answer is that this isn't really a map of political beliefs; it's a map of social connections in the blog world, as measured by links, which just so happens to correspond roughly with left-center-right divisions. So maybe my relatively central position reflects my niceness, which leads me to be linked to more by centrists and conservatives than more combative blogs? (I admit, I am always thrilled and flattered when I get a kind link from a conservative blog.)
I believe Barry's reputation is centralized by his willingness to add most anyone to his blogroll. I can often tell what the politics of a blogger is just by looking at his blogroll. That is not true of Ampersand. If I had not been reading his blog for months, I would not know Barry is out in the left field, much more radical than the Diva.
Speaking of blogrolls and politics, I am facing a dilemma. One of my blogrollees recently added Gene Expression to his blogroll. As you know, that blog is the biggest promoter of the claim people of African and other nonwhite descent are genetically inferior in Bloggersville. My inclination is to ask the blogger to remove Mac-a-ro-nies from his blogroll rather than share space with the human detritus at Gene Expression. A friend says I'm being testy. What do you think I should do?
Barry has also fooled around (not sexually, he is abstaining) with the blog statistics machinery at Blogstreet, as I have a couple times.
. . .I'm also puzzled by how the link relationships are determined. For instance, in both the published map and the "Alas-centric" map I made with Blogstreet's generator, Alas appears closely related to TAPPED. But TAPPED and I almost never link to each other (we're not even on each other blogrolls). Blogs that I have relatively frequent mutual linkage with - like PLA (which doesn't even show up on the Alas-centric universe) and Body and Soul - appear more distant. (Some other frequent mutual-linkers - like Silver Rights and Wampum - don't even show up on the Alas-centric map.)
So what the heck is this thing measuring?
My experiences were similar. Though Atrios is my blog father, Blogstreet makes the relationship between Eschaton and Mac-a-ro-nies look tenuous. Some sites he never mentions or links to are listed in his 'neighborhood.' Others Atrios has an ongoing relationship with are noticeably missing.
Gunther of The Gunther Concept
offers some insight into "what the heck is this thing measuring?"
Put simply, these maps are derived by looking at patterns of connections between nodes (in this case various individual bloggers). The actual layout of the map, once it is created, can be changed, and the TouchGraph software allows one to do this by clicking on a given node and dragging it. To see how this works, imagine a string of Christmas tree lights. The connections between the individual lights are fixed and can't be changed, i.e., that blue light is next to the red light, which in turn is next to a green one, etc. But you can easily place the whole string of lights onto a table and arrange it into any shape you want. In the shape of a square, a circle, criss-crossed, or just in a big jumbled pile.
The political blog map in question is more complicated but the analogy still applies. While connections between individual bloggers must be preserved, you are pretty much free to make the blog-map into whatever shape you desire. The convenience of the representation and the degree of its esthetic appeal matter at least as much as political orientation when you do this. What this graph really represents is a type of social network, basically who knows who and who is speaking to who.
Gunther's entry leaves me wondering why the person who produced The Map arranged the distribution the way he did. Is he relying on observation and interaction as well as data? Is his definition of centrality subjective? Where would he place Rick Heller, our self-declared middle C in the political spectrum?
As a relative novice in the blogosphere, I would not be comfortable attempting to create a map because I realize I don't know enough about bloggers' interrelationships or the less obvious differences in their politics. For example, I once read a Jim Henley post as supporting gun research fraud John Lott, when, in fact, he had withdrawn his support. I have no idea who was arguing with whom six months ago and how that impacted linking. However, I would find a more accurate map kept over time to be intriguing. Would we see movement on the political spectrum? How would the machinery interpret delinking by blogs that once had a history of linking? How would AWOLs and drop-outs impact The Map?
Gunther's link is bloggered, so go to the main page and look for "Map of Political Blogdom."
I focused on The Truth Laid Bear's New Weblog Showcase and The Map in my thinking about blogging Thursday. The two topics cohere in that both reflect a Left/Right dichotomy. Most people on the Right seem to be reading only entries by people they know are confirmed Right Wingers. (I've left comments at a few blogs asking why.) When a blogger on the Right does mention a liberal's entry, such as mine for Mac-a-ro-nies, the statement is dismissive. That entry has been called a "pissing match" and "a tempest in a teacup." I think it is an analytical essay about a motivation for blogging. Silly me. Liberals seem more willing to give any entry in the showcase a read. If someone decides to redo The Map, I hope she is able to reflect more subtle insights than one sees in either the present version or analyses of the entries in the contest so far.