The Studies of Blogs and Online Communities: From Information to Knowledge and Action
This research addresses the question of whether the rise of blogs as a rich information source may create new opinion leaders that transform and challenge the traditionally held public views on drugs and European health care. We investigate blogs that discuss issues related to European health care and European pharmaceuticals for a selected 6 month period. In our approach of the blog space, we take a sociological perspective and design a multistage methodology for data collection and data analysis that differs from the traditionally used crawling techniques by computer scientists.
The results reveal that in spite of the high volume of blogs for the investigated period, only a small number are interlinked by mutual referrals. The emerging network configuration is represented by a small core component with a large number of dyads, or short tails, which represents a fragmented community space. Our content analysis reveals that the information broadcasted in blogs shows emerging semantic differentiation related to specific health issues and disease categories. Our findings support the conclusion that in spite of the high technical Internet connectivity facilitated by search engines and Internet crawling tools, community interaction is limited, and there is no evidence of online crowd or collective action.
KeywordsOnline Community Semantic Category Semantic Group Knowledge Community Semantic Association
Special thanks and acknowledgement for the contribution of a number of colleagues that actively helped with the finance of the empirical investigation, the development of the methodology, and the analysis of the data (David Parry, Chris Shilling, Hristo Karapchanski, Jana Diesner).
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