A Crash Course in
Civil Discourse on Political Blogs

2008, Fang-Yu Frank Lin

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The "Slides"

The images projected from the Political Science 101 slide projector are not actual slides but computer graphics generated in real-time. These ever-changing charts and graphs are the visualization of latest developments and trendings in the political blogosphere. By reconfiguring the keyword sets monitored by the back-end application, different slides can be created easily to track different political figures, agendas, and/or events. The piece can also be adapted to different countries and languages by modifying the list of source blogs to observe. See How It Works page for more info.

The following slides are generated on August 30th, 2008. Note that the date was sandwiched between the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention. (To see newer slides, please scroll down or click here.)

Above: Many more blog entries about Obama due to the DNC coverage. However the number of McCain entries caught up when it got closer to RNC. Notice the spike of the Clintons coverage around the time they gave speeches.

Above: A huge spike of "woman" entries because of the Palin candidacy announcement.

Above: Bloggers do not care much about North Korea around the time. This was before the news of Kim Jong-il's illness.

Above: Presented without comment.

Above: Biden and Palin were not on most bloggers' radar until they became part of the tickets on August 23rd and 29th.

Above: There seemed to be many discussions around Obama's family.

Above: Before drawing conclusions from the above two slides, keep in mind that there were more Obama entries than McCain ones around the time.

Above: Not surprisingly The Huffington Post was the most linked source, considering the amount of content they produced. And bloggers like cartoons.

Above: Pretty sensational headlines. Typical of political blogs?

The following slides are created on October 27th, 2008—about a week before the election day.

Fig. 1-1

Above: Being this close to election day, did Obama's lead in number of related blog entries foretell his victory?

Fig. 2-2

Above: Palin apparently excited bloggers much more than Biden did. Considering Obama's lead over McCain, the disparity between these two VP candidates was rather drastic.

(More recent slides with new topics, such as bailout and unemployment, will be uploaded soon.)

Again, the slides of Political Science 101 are constantly updated, adding a temporal dimension to the work. It also needs to be mentioned that this is not an information visualization piece. The intention is to gain insights into the political blogs as a civil discourse medium, and the visualization is just a means to that end.

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