Polarization of blogs

I am preparing fresh lecture notes for my course on the economic theory of networks that starts on January 12. Just now, I wanted a recent image (and explanation) of political polarization online. Quickly enough, a Google search brought me to this interesting blog post with a fairly striking graph.

A related discussion appears in this paper, written by M. D. Conover, J. Ratkiewicz, M. Francisco, B. Gonc ̧alves, A. Flammini, and F. Menczer.

I quote its abstract:

In this study we investigate how social media shape the networked public sphere and facilitate communication between communities with different political orientations. We examine two networks of political communication on Twitter, comprised of more than 250,000 tweets from the six weeks leading up to the 2010 U.S. congressional midterm elections. Using a combination of network clustering algo- rithms and manually-annotated data we demonstrate that the network of political retweets exhibits a highly segregated partisan structure, with extremely limited connectivity between left- and right-leaning users. Surprisingly this is not the case for the user-to-user mention network, which is dominated by a single politically heterogeneous cluster of users in which ideologically-opposed individuals interact at a much higher rate compared to the network of retweets. To explain the distinct topologies of the retweet and mention networks we conjecture that politically motivated individuals provoke interaction by injecting partisan content into information streams whose primary audience consists of ideologically-opposed users. We conclude with statistical evidence in support of this hypothesis.

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