Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist
26 July 2004

As pointed out on Crooked Timber at last there is a study on UK political weblogs (downloadable “here”:http://www.hansardsociety.org.uk/assets/Final_Blog_Report_.pdf). Political weblogging really isn’t well established here in the UK though and it shows. The Hansard Society chose eight weblogs to focus on and even then “one of them was from overseas (Blog for America)”:http://www.blogforamerica.com/ and another, “VoxPolitics”:http://www.voxpolitics.com/, while often interesting, is also pretty much dormant at the moment.

Because the Hansard Society is mostly interested in building interest in political participation their emphasis – unusually – was not on the weblog creators but on what people who read them thought. They chose a (fairly) random jury of eight readers and made them comment on what they read, whether they found it interesting and whether it made them want to write a weblog themselves.

Perhaps not surprisingly, few of the readers found the weblogs they were assigned interesting (they might have been more enthusiastic if their local MP or councillor had a weblog but of course that would be pretty unlikely). Also unsurprisingly, only one of the eight actually expressed an interest in producing a weblog of their own after reading them.

It seems to me that at least in the early to middle stages the main importance of political weblogs (To the extent that they are important) would be in the way that they enable policy wonks to talk to other policy wonks as observed in the “paper I remarked on earlier”:http://blog.org/archives/cat_academia.html#001178 about US political weblogs.

Thanks also to “Harry”:http://hurryupharry.bloghouse.net/ (one of the bloggers mentioned who told “Chris Bertram”:http://eis.bris.ac.uk/~plcdib/ at Crooked Timber about it)

4 Comments

  1. I may write something about this on Harry’s Place, but I think that one of the flaws with the study was that people were assigned blogs. Blogs tend to cater for niche markets: they’re not mass market things. So they’re unlikely to appeal across the board.

    On the other hand, there are blogs out there for people of every persuasion. A more interesting study would have been to have sent their reviewers off to find blogs which interested them, and then report back on their experience.

    Comment by David T — 26 July 2004 @ 10:43 am

  2. At the moment I think it might be difficult to find random people who would be able to find political weblogs that interested them in the UK – I imagine coverage (both geographic and subject) and ease of retrieval are both lacking at present.

    I wouldn’t know where to begin to find a political weblog addressing my political interests for example (not that they are particularly exotic!) whereas in the US the “A list” bloggers of each persuasion are pretty well established.

    If I was doing a study like theirs I would start by finding UK political weblog readers then find out how they started, what kind of people they were and whether they had become any more political by reading weblogs.

    Comment by David Brake — 26 July 2004 @ 10:53 am

  3. That would be an alternative. I think that what they did was got people from bus stops and asked them to engage with some pretty arcane stuff.

    Comment by David T — 26 July 2004 @ 3:07 pm

  4. I would be very interested in finding out what people think of a weblog that we have started in Enfield & Barnet. It is a weblog run by the United Nations Association and linked to our website MPWatch (http://www.mpwatch.net) where we ask questions to MPs online and then publish the answers in the hope that this will encourage debate. The weblog is an aid to this and allows for participation in that debate.The weblog can be found at http://mpwatch.blogs.com/21st_century_world/ We would be interested in any comments and any material added to our weblog in the way of comments there. We think this link between a website, a weblog and local politicians is quite unique – and would be interested in any feedback.

    Comment by Francis Sealey — 10 August 2004 @ 8:49 pm

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