Transnational convergence or national idiosyncrasies of Web-based political communication : a comparative analysis of network structures of political blogspheres in Germany, Great Britain, adn teh United States

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Date

2009-12

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Hyun, Ki Deuk

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Abstract

New media technology has brought heated debate about its power to transform existing structures and relations in national and international communications. It is expected to either democratize or reproduce current political communication processes. At the same time, new media technology raises concerns that it may promote a global convergence of communication cultures to the American model. Political blogging, online personal publishing of observations and comments about news and politics with frequent links to other Web sources, provides a useful ground to test these competing theses since political blogging emerged as a citizen-based, alternative media in the U.S. and has subsequently been diffused internationally. This dissertation compares political blogs in the U.S., the U.K., and Germany to investigate how national political systems and communication cultures shape the structures and practices of political blogging across the three countries. Based on the media’s relative power in the public sphere and communication processes, political communication culture is distinguished as a mediatized culture in the U.S., a politicized culture in Germany, and a culture-in-between in the U.K. Different systems and cultures are predicted not only to foster political blogging to varying degrees but also to shape different fabrics of relations among political bloggers and other participants in political communication in each country. Using the rankings of political blogs in the three countries, the 106 top political blogospheres and linking patterns of individual political blogs to various websites in the countries. Findings from this dissertation reveal both cross-national commonalities rooted in general human tendencies and national particularities emerging from different structural factors internal to the three countries. Across the three countries, bloggers make more communicative ties to politically like-minded blogs and websites than to those with opposing perspectives. Blogging networks of the three countries represent very unequal spaces, with a few blogs having a disproportional number of incoming links. Also, blogs are highly insulated geographically with bloggers making links mostly to other bloggers and sites within their own countries. There are also notable cross-national differences in network structures and linking patterns. The U.S. blogging network has more dense interconnections among its members compared with British and German networks. Also, America’s mediatized culture increases the probability that political blogs choose to link more to news media sites compared to British and German bloggers. On the other hand, British and German blogs in politicized cultures make links to government websites more frequently than do American blogs. Additionally, the U.S. political blogosphere shows greater segregation between blogs of competing political perspectives, compared with U.K. and German blogospheres. Findings are discussed in light of two key questions about the nature of political blogging (1) as a new technology-enabled medium facilitating cross-national convergence in communication practice, and (2) as a revolutionary venue revitalizing the public sphere and democracy.

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