Blogs and the city: Weblogs as indicators of urban culture in America
This research project presents an effort to use entry texts and hyperlinks in personal weblogs to observe the variance of urban culture reflected in American cities. By geocoding the blogosphere, this project indexes personal weblogs to bloggers' geographical locations, and studies the collective linking behaviors and topics in each city unit. In addition, through examining hyperlink networks and comparing topics of blog entries from different cities, this project also discusses the interplay of place and space. Rich, unsolicited source material and easy accessibility make weblogs a valuable object to both macro and micro social science research. Writings in weblog entries archive people's everyday experience, while hyperlinks among individual blogs are a significant indicator of the urban social relationship. This project argues that the city, as a complex and integrated ecological organism, can effectively be examined through the lens of the blogosphere, and the subtlety and complexity of the urban mind can best be captured by the self-report of mental activity (blog entries). Drawing on more than 260,000 weblogs registered in the U.S. from the National Institute of Technology, Literature & Education blog census in 2003, this project determines the bloggers' geographical locations by using various text mining methods. US identified weblogs are indexed and plotted by their three-digit zip codes. The socio-economic factors that drive up high blogger density are discussed. The hyperlinks among cities are examined to compare the range and strength of the bloggers' spatial social capital. A variety of blog topics are looked into and cities engaged in urban conversations, mainly on technology and art, are identified for their leading place in urban and creative culture. In an effort to map urbanism and creative minds in the United States, this study identifies new geographical patterns for the distribution of urban culture and urban relationships, thereby empirically vindicating urban scholars' observations on the vicissitude of urbanism in America. The methodology developed in this project will be brought into full play should a more complete set of blog data becomes available in the future.