Source: GGN (September 2010)
In the course of chearing my way through an online class on Social Network Analysis through Coursera, my interest was drawn to Prof Adamic’s well-known political blog census from 2004, which seemed to reinforce the “Red State, Blue State” politics of division notable — with caveats — during that election season.
And it got me to thinking … and not least because strategic consultancies like Blue State Digital and Movements.org have made it a goal to reproduce their strategic methods for parties outside the United States. Brazliian marketers on the left have done the same, working for members of the Foro de S. Paulo. The recent Honduran election was masterminded by a PT strategist, for example.
The paper actuallly raises a lot of interesting questions, such as what constitutes an “A-list” political blog, the counting of negative citation ties — “Rush Limbaugh is an ass” — and the liberal use of “echo chamber” tactics.
In the last Brazilian presidential election, the opposition coalition loudly decrying the use of digital “dirty tricks” was itself a paying customer of a broad-based, professionally managed volunteerism campaign aimed at motivating youth, modeled after a type of strategy promoted, for example, by the Association of Youth Movements — which no longer exists, it seems.
In the meantime, how to set up a similar analysis using the tools at hand: a fairly large database of blogs and sites from some Web crawling I have been doing with WIRE, combined with rudimentary analysis and drawing skills I have been studying on my own?
What sort of Web presence does each contender maintain and promote — both of the major parties are quite sophisticated at this type of marketing — and how does it fit the digital ecology of the political season?
K-Neighbors and P(olitical)-Opponents
One way to get started is to look at the current in-degree and k-neighbors of the principal site of the Social Democrats, a process I will explain below. In the sample link database I have so far, the PSDB site is visited infrequently and points to no other destinations, but I will try to do some local crawling to see if I can bring it into better focus.
At the same, a handful of Web sites are not touting the internal candidacy of Aecio Neves — dynamic young senator of Minas Gerais — has recently gone up and will be accounted for as this census progresses.
At the moment, the PSDB site cluster is outside the scope of the sample size imposed by the dependence of yEd on XLS and its reduced capacity to handle adjacency matrices. I really hate that. Here is the hairball view of blogs related to the Neves candidacy.
I have a hypothesis: the professional marketers pay little attention to tending their patches of digital soil when the rains come and no one is paying much attention. Continuity and consistency might be variables used to elicit information on choices and loyalties.
It is especially interesting to note along the way, as part of the sorting process, the strong ties among the so-called “dirty bloggers” — a bit of self-deprectating humor by pro-government writers and bloggers who are often accused of carrying out character assassination against opposition figures.
These are easy to spot because they post pro-dirty blogger medallions to their sites and make an effort to define their political stance clearly and defiantly. They have been convening formal meet-ups for about five years now but remain loosely organized, it seems to me.
Jumping ahead now: In order to explore the core structures in the network, we use an iterative process — similar to k-cores in Pajek — in which we copy and past the central component, ungroup it, reapply analytical tools, regroup it, and inspect the resulting graph.
Increasingly, the “social code” effect of the main social networking sites is diminished and a certain other class of blog percolates up.
By the third iteration, it becomes clear that the central component of the network is significantly coextensive with the roster of “dirty blogs” and affiliated media such as CartaCapital magazine. Indeed, it is the factor of institutional ties — whether these are disclosed or not — that seems lacking to me in our Blue and Red State model.
Powerline, for example — the blog that rattled Rather — had been and as far as I know still is associated formally-informallly with the Claremont Institute, a very well-endowed libertarian think tank with deep ties to others of the same ideological persuasion. This is what I call the “poster child” effect, and it tends to be overfed with utopian expectations.
An example. In the last Brazilian presidential election, the opposition front loudly decrying the use of digital “dirty tricks” was itself a paying customer of a broad-based voluntarism campaign aimed at motivating youth, of a type promoted, for example, by the Association of Youth Movements — which no longer exists, it seems.
How dare they? the argument went. Our opponents have the effrontery to employ the tactics of MODERN MULTIMEDIA MARKETING! How disgraceful! How dishonest!
I blogged about this back in 2012 and was able to produce a more or less coherent map of a virtual organization that among other things was funded by the city government and patronized indirectly by the U.S. Department of State.
The movement of movements of alliances, with its government and private sector backing, exists no more. In spite of appearances — slick interfaces, multiple interactions and points of entry, nuclear-powered SEO — I would have to say that it turned out that clicktivism and click farming was not an effective tool for the client party. The real world always butts in.
.See my comments in Serra x The Dirty Blogs from 2012.
Above: the k-neighborhood of the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce.
But let us start from the beginning.
We use Pajek to compute the k-neighborhood of PSDB.org.br out of a large network of links (400,000 nodes). The results are sparse, so we crawl the site and related URLs with
wget -r -np -p -k http://www.psdb.org.br
At the same time, we translate the .net file resulting from our own crawl into a CSV adjacency matrix using Gephi.
We then translate CSV into XLS and finally we are ready to work with the data we have — bearing in mind its limitations — in yEd.
Above, nodes in the network have been weighted for centrality and subjected to “natural grouping.” The internal structures of these graphs generally consist of star graphs or line graphs, but this is a subject I need to study in more detail .
I generally name each group according to the highest centrality score relative to the clustering coefficient.
With some manual drawing, the graph of nodes comes out as follows, then:
The limited ability to scale down drawings of opened clusters is a minor obstacle with yEd, but you get better with practice.
So, then, is there is Red-Blue dichotomy in the graph? The PSDB Web consists of party Web sites perstate and party-related foundations such as Mario Covas and Teotonio Vilela.
Rhetorical trench warfare takes the form of debate between oppositionist neoliberal networks and the “dirty blogs.” The proximity of the PSDB to the ferocious anti-neoliberal Tijolaço in the graph raises the question: where are the clean and dirty blogs realtive to one another and how much do they communicate?
Let us try and sum up what information this process shows us.
The core of the structure is affected by the Social Code * factor — but suggests that bloggers on the payroll of the major dailies — most prominently Josias of the Folha and Noblat of O Glbo, and soon Reinable Azevedo of Veja, the Folha, and JovemPan radio — are influential. They have a visually substantial out-degree which might suggest they are frequently reblogged. Also, they bear the earmarks of a Virtual Organization fueled by a Virtual Organization Breeding Environment. I will have to try to explain that later on.
* Social Code, or “all roads lead to Facebook” refers to the tendency of networking sites to cluster together and randomize the nodes with minimal in-degree and out-degree. A better metaphor — and definition — is needed, but I do what I can.
Some concluding observations, then: Josias de Souza is probably the most important blogger in Brazil, based on his structural position and on his substantial in-degree.
DIEESE is a labor federation-run economic think tank attached to an omnibus group of ACRONYM soup denoting labor federations belonging to CUT — Agencia Sindical (middle right). Liberal blogs are scattered throughout the first-order network — I remember them from elections past. Dialogica is a left-wing blog that I have colored red — I want to see if anything like a Red-Blue dichotomy develops and whether opposing parties make use of different digital strategies. There tends to be more information and debate on the “dirty bloggers,” but is it as homogeneous as the Blue State tsunami?
One interesting factoid: dirty bloggers tend to blog on Blogspot whereas WordPress and Typepad have long been the choice of the social hygienists. Judging from the super-duper Web campaign run by the newly installed mayor last year, however, the online missive gap is closing.
The National Association of Newspapers is a powerful lobbying opponent of the proposed Media Bill, working through and with the Instituto Milennium. It can be expected to campaign actively for the opposition in the pages of its weeklies and dailies.
Dialogico and Jornalaico are both pro-government dirty bloggers. The latter signals its adherence by sending positive out-links to other dirty bloggers. This chapter in the Pajek textbook on the monastery and the nature of negative ties, though … could that not have been taken into account in the 2004 study?
And so on. Hopefully, over the next 12 months, I will learn enough about SNA to have something meaningful to conclude.
I finished a crawl of 6.5 million Web pages today and put together a snapshot of the PSDB and its fellow travellers on the Web.
Luis Nassif is a “progressive” blogger and economic columnist with a long-standing experiment in social media beginning to bear fruit. At left, across from the Senate, are the Web sites of the Workers Party together with the Brazilian version of the BBC, the EBC, or Brazilian Broadcasting Corporation, which is administered by the federal executive. A frequent squeak from the opposition is that the system, designed with the values of the good, old Voice of America in mind, constitute spending of public funds on partisan purposes.
Marcus Pessoa blogs about branding.
Hariovaldo is the crazy uncle you try to keep locked in the closet when entertaining guests.
Case in point: “Lula is the reincarnation of Stalin.”
There used to be many more voices to swell this chorus — the philosopher Olavo de Carvalho served as their embassadors to the anarcholibertarian think tanks of the Atlantic Northeast. Olavo will go down in history for having translated a Schopenhauer treatise on informal fallacy and rebranded it as “How to Win an Argument Without Being Right.”
Daedalus-Atlas: The cult of Ayn Rand is alive and well.
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