Jul
02
2012
1

Exploring partisanship in Web search queries

Recently our two papers on partisanship in Web search queries were published:

E. Borra & I. Weber (2012). Political insights: exploring partisanship in Web search queries. First Monday, 17(7).

We developed Political Insights, an online searchable database of politically cha rged queries, which allows you to obtain topical insights into partisan concern. In this paper we demonstrate how you can discover such political queries and how to lay bare which issues are most salient to political audiences. We employ anonymized search engine queries resulting in a click on U.S. political blogs to calculate the probability that a query will land on blogs of a particular leaning. We are thus able to ‘charge’ queries politically and to group them along opposing partisan lines. Finally, by comparing the zip codes of users submitting these queries with election results, we find that the leaning of blogs people read correlates well with their likely voting behavior.

Tool online at: http://politicalinsights.sandbox.yahoo.com (This tool uses static data surrounding the 2010 US midterm election. The tool accompanying our second paper uses current data and shows weekly search trends.)

I. Weber, V.R.K. Garimella & E.K. Borra (2012). Mining Web Query Logs to Analyze Political Issues. In Proceedings of the WebSci12.

We present a novel approach to using anonymized web search query logs to analyze and visualize political issues. Our starting point is a list of politically annotated blogs (left vs. right). We use this list to assign a numerical political leaning to queries leading to clicks on these blogs. Furthermore, we map queries to Wikipedia articles and to fact-checked statements from politifact.com, as well as applying sentiment analysis to search results. With this rich, multi-faceted data set we obtain novel graphical visualizations of issues and discover connections between the different variables. Our findings include (i) an interest in “the other side” where queries about Democrat politicians have a right leaning and vice versa, (ii) evidence that “lies are catchy” and that queries pertaining to false statements are more likely to attract large volumes, and (iii) the observation that the more right-leaning a query it is, the more negative sentiments can be found in its search results.


Tool online at: http://politicalsearchtrends.sandbox.yahoo.com

Earlier I also blogged about the methods for exploring partisan search queries.

Apr
23
2012
0

Methods for exploring partisan search queries

Last spring, together with Ingmar Weber from Yahoo! research labs in Barcelona, I investigated the web search queries resulting in a click on US political blogs. As these blogs are often clearly partisan, we were able to determine which of these queries pre-dominantly lead to blogs of a particular political leaning and thus whether there are queries with a clear political partisanship. While the full paper about that research is under review, in this post I shortly explain the basic methodology of our tool.

<update>Our paper Political Insights: Exploring partisanship in Web search queries was published by First Monday.</update>

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Mar
07
2012
0

National Web Studies: Mapping Iran Online

The research report “National Web Studies: Mapping Iran Online,” which I co-authored together with Richard Rogers, Esther Weltevrede and Sabine Niederer, got published today by the Iran Media Program, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania.

Abstract

The research inquires into the liveliness of the Iranian web in times of censorship as well as oppression of voices critical to the regime. It offers a general approach to studying a “national web,” and its health, by measuring the freshness and responsiveness of websites significant to a particular country. It also inquires into the effects of censorship in Iran on (critical) content production, with the lead question being whether censorship kills content. We have found an Iranian web that is fresh and responsive, despite widespread blockage of key websites. Secondly, we have found indications of routine censorship circumvention by Iranian web users. Finally, for the period of study (2009-2011), language critical of the regime continues to be published online, and its incidence has risen over time.

The work offers an approach to conceptualizing, demarcating and analyzing a national web. Instead of defining a priori the types of websites to be included in a national web, the approach put forward here makes use of web devices (platforms and engines) that purport to provide (ranked) lists of URLs relevant to a particular country. Once gathered in such a manner, the websites are studied for their properties, following certain of the common measures (such as responsiveness and page age), and repurposing them to speak in terms of the health of a national web. Are sites lively, or neglected? The case study in question is Iran, which is special for the degree of Internet censorship undertaken by the state. Despite the widespread censorship, we have found a highly responsive Iranian web. We also report on the relationship between responsiveness and blockage, i.e., whether blocked sites are still up, and also whether they have been recently updated. Blocked yet blogging, portions of the Iranian web show strong indications of an active Internet censorship circumvention culture. In seeking to answer, additionally, whether censorship has killed content, a textual analysis shows continued use of language considered critical by the regime, thereby indicating a dearth of self-censorship, at least for websites that are recommended by the leading Iranian platform, Balatarin. The study concludes with the general implications of the approach put forward for national web studies, including a description of the benefits of a national web health index.

Download the research report.

The press release can be found on http://cgcs.asc.upenn.edu/news-press.html#13.

The data, graphics and acknowledgements can be found on https://mappingiranonline.digitalmethods.net.

Dec
16
2011
0

Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr as platforms of alternative journalism: The social media account of the 2010 Toronto G20 protests

The article Thomas Poell and I wrote was peer reviewed and published in Journalism.

Abstract

This article examines the appropriation of social media as platforms of alternative journalism by the protestors of the 2010 G20 summit in Toronto, Canada. The Toronto Community Mobilization Network, the network that coordinated the protests, urged participants to broadcast news using Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr. This particular use of social media is studied in the light of the history and theory of alternative journalism. Analyzing a set of 11,556 tweets, 222 videos, and 3,338 photos, the article assesses user participation in social media protest reporting, as well as the resulting protest accounts. The findings suggest that social media did not facilitate the crowd-sourcing of alternative reporting, except to some extent for Twitter. As with many previous alternative journalistic efforts, reporting was dominated by a relatively small number of users. In turn, the resulting account itself had a strong event-oriented focus, mirroring often-criticized mainstream protest reporting practices.

Nov
23
2011
0

Political Insights with Search Engine Queries

What do people on the political right search for? And which queries concerning “tea party” are most left-wing? Now Yahoo! has a demo where you can find out: http://politicalinsights.sandbox.yahoo.com/.

This application is the first public presentation of the work I’ve been doing together with Ingmar Weber at the Yahoo! labs in Barcelona. The current demo employs static data surrounding last year’s US midterm elections and displays actual (raw) queries. More to follow …

Some telling examples are:

To find out more about have a look at the about page.

Dec
04
2008
1

The Web as an Anticipatory Medium

This post is the fifth of a five part series on ‘using the web for documentaries‘, addressing the following points: the embeddedness of society in the internet, the political in the web, the politics of engines, the politics of tools, and the web as an anticipatory medium.

So tools have politics too. Society and internet are closely intertwined; massive amounts of data are put online each day, so Internet is often quite up-to-date. This brings us to the final part: the web as an anticipatory medium.
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Dec
04
2008
0

The Politics of Tools

This post is the fourth of a five part series on ‘using the web for documentaries‘, addressing the following points: the embeddedness of society in the internet, the political in the web, the politics of engines, the politics of tools, and the web as an anticipatory medium.

The previous examples clearly showed the built-in politics of engines: there are specific rankings, specific media on which the engines work and different kinds of source sets, amongst other things.

Apart from engines with built-in politics we are not always aware of, tools can also be devised for a specific kind of politics.
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Written by Erik. Tagged with: , ,
Dec
04
2008
6

The Politics of Engines

This post is the third of a five part series on ‘using the web for documentaries‘, addressing the following points: the embeddedness of society in the internet, the political in the web, the politics of engines, the politics of tools, and the web as an anticipatory medium.

Now that we have discussed researching the political in the web, let us have a look at the politics of engines to illustrate the need for medium specific methods on the web.
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Dec
04
2008
2

The Political in the Web

This post is the second of a five part series on ‘using the web for documentaries‘, addressing the following points: the embeddedness of society in the internet, the political in the web, the politics of engines, the politics of tools, and the web as an anticipatory medium.

Let us go on by applying traditional controversy research to the web. One of the media digitalized and put onto the web are newspapers. Google News aggregates and ranks stories from thousands of international newspapers. The ranking is very traditional: by date, as well as by number of readers. Via Google as an interface, access to newspapers has changed: they are searchable, faster to consult, they contain more than in your local news outlet, national and language editions may be compared, etcetera.
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Written by Erik. Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,
Dec
04
2008
1

The Embeddedness of Society in the Internet

This post is the first of a five part series on ‘using the web for documentaries‘, addressing the following points: the embeddedness of society in the internet, the political in the web, the politics of engines, the politics of tools, and the web as an anticipatory medium.

To start with, let us have a look at this AP’s picture (click for higher resolution). Obama in Berlin:
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Written by Erik. Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

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