Differences in practice and motivation between US and UK bloggers.

Lead Research Organisation: The Robert Gordon University
Department Name: Business School

Abstract

A new form of computer-mediated communication (CMC) known as 'blogging' has joined e-mail and home-pages as a mass use of the internet. From a handful of link-driven, internet-filtering sites (filter blogs) in 1997, blogging has taken off rapidly, at first mainly in the USA. In February 2006 one blog-tracking website, Technorati, claimed to be tracking 26.8 million blogs. Blogging is now defined in terms of brief dated posts, collected on one webpage and ordered chronologically.
The proposed research is the first attempt to evaluate differences in use of blogging in the UK and the USA. While blogging started in the US, British bloggers are comparative latecomers to the 'blogosphere'. How has that impacted on the ways in which US and UK bloggers use their blogs and their motivations for blogging? With an increasing reliance in the UK on blogs to source opinions and eye-witness accounts of news events across the world, it is important to identify any differences in approach to blogging between different English-speaking nationalities. In addition, initial research into blogging has suggested different approaches by male and female bloggers - are the same gender differences to be found in UK and US blogs?
The pilot phase, staffed by a half-time research assistant until July 2006, aimed to establish a methodology for studying the practices and motivations of bloggers, by taking a random sample of 50 UK-based bloggers and comparing the results of a questionnaire with the internal evidence of their blogs. The results of this pilot phase are to be disseminated at the 10th International Conference on Electronic Publishing in June 2006 and related publications.
The aim of the research leave for which funding is now sought is to use the piloted questionnaire to compare a gender-stratified random sample of 200 UK and USA bloggers. The main hypothesis is that there are differences between the two national groups. In particular, initial research suggests that, despite blogging being a global phenomenon, bloggers like to build very local communities through their blogs.
To date, no research has established the relative frequency of particular motivations, or their combinations, in a sample of blogs, or compared age groups or genders in these terms. It is aimed to do this for both UK and USA sub-samples.
USA-based research has found that blogging practices tend to mirror gender stereotypes. Although it is a characteristic of blogging (in contrast to other forms of CMC) that it is equally popular with women, there is a tendency for men to define and dominate the more 'serious' types: filter blogs and k-logs (knowledge-sharing spaces resembling project notebooks). All ages and both genders create personal journal blogs, but females and teens rather more.
Some American women bloggers complain of an 'old boys' network' of male bloggers who do not read or link to women's blogs, and academic observers have echoed the charge of 'elitism'. However, there are complicating factors, since the parameter of gender tends to align with other parameters that may be at least as important, namely academic v. non-academic, early adopter v. late adopter, and technologically literate v. reliant on blogging-made-easy software. Of these, time of adoption is the most difficult to extract, as the object under observation, the 'blogosphere', has itself changed for late adopters. It may be that women are more attracted to a blog type - the journal - that men tend to regard as less serious, but it may also be that as late adopters (on the whole), women enter a blogging ecology where the niches for pundits and authorities are already filled.
The findings will be interpreted in terms of the interaction of the private and public spheres, and of differences in styles of communication (including gender differences), building on the researcher's previous work onwomen's 'letters to the editor', and on women's blogs.

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