has Internet use changed the number of friends you have?

A forthcoming study by Hua Wang (USC Annenberg School for Communication) and Barry Wellman (University of Toronto) “Social Connectivity in America” has looked at how social networks of friendship have been changing from 2002 and 2007 and how this is related to different levels of Internet use.

The study was prompted by fears that Americans have been becoming increasingly disengaged from public life and disconnected from their peers as exemplified by the work of Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam’s on social capital “Bowling Alone” (2000), who blamed television as the main culprit for the breaking up of the texture of American social and political life.

What Wang and Wellman find – via an analysis of two American national surveys of Internet adoption and use, from the World Internet Project – is that networks of friendship amongst adult Americans aged 25-74 remain abundant and in fact they have been growing between 2002 and 2007. In addition, they found that this trend was similar amongst non-users of the Internet, light-users, moderate users and heavy users – dispelling the initial idea that the more time you spend online the more likely you are to become socially isolated and even develop depression. In fact, the study also found that heavy users of the Internet were particularly socially active, having the highest number of friends both online and offline. Continue reading “has Internet use changed the number of friends you have?”

Italy as seen by the Italian blogosphere

Vittorio Zambardino writes today in La Repubblica about a recent research study carried out on the Italian blogosphere: what are Italian bloggers writing about? The article presents very interesting graphs, which show the top tags used in 2009 and the topics Italian bloggers write about.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the top tag in 2009 was Silvio Berlusconi, which is followed by two current affairs related tags: the economic crisis and the Abruzzo earthquake – which are followed by Facebook in fourth place. In the top 15 most used tags we also find two football teams, Inter Milan and AC Milan, president Obama and the Pope.

Amongst the most discussed topics we find: 1) current affairs 2) soccer 3) the Internet 4) sport 5) politics. These are followed by a rather detailed list of less discussed topics from cinema, to art, to cooking, to music and so on. Finding current affairs at first place and politics at 5th place was indeed rather reassuring, supporting the idea that the Internet is indeed used as a virtual agora for discussion or a virtual civil society, rather than merely a tool for entertainment purposes. It should be noticed, however, that Maria de Filippi (TV presenter of Mediaset reality TV shows) was the top tag in the ‘entertainment category’, where we can find blogger Beppe Grillo at 4th place, and journalists Marco Travaglio and Michele Santoro further down in the list. Finally, finding the Internet as third most discussed topic, was also unsurprising – this is a common finding from research of different country/language blogospheres, where a big proportion of bloggers is made up by IT/media enthusiasts who blog about the medium they are using for communication (see for example our research on different language blogospheres from the Berkman’s Internet and Democracy project).

While the methodology used for this study is not illustrated in this article, it certainly provides a really good snapshot of what the online community and bloggers are talking about: this is very informative of what is going on in Italian society – and should be compared to the news agenda of mainstream media, in order to establish the role of the Internet in public discourse.

The Internet and the 2008 US election: participation and/or fragmentation?

The Pew Internet and American Life Project has just released a report on the role of the Internet in the 2008 US election, which analyses trends in how people consume political news & information and the ways they use the internet to engage with politics. Here are some of the key findings:

More than half  (55%) of the voting-age population has used the Internet to get involved in the political process during the election year (74% of Internet users).

The survey findings show that the Internet has become a paramount tool for people’s engagement in the political process, not only as a source of information (60% of Internet users have gone online to look for political information in 2008 compared to 22% in 1996), but as a tool for active participation. 18% of Internet users actively engaged online by posting comments on the campaign on online forums such as blogs or social networking sites and 45% watched online videos related to the campaign.

Young voters  (18-24 year olds) showed the highest levels of political involvement online. They engaged heavily in the political debate through social networking sites: two-thirds of young people with a social networking profile took part in some form of online political activity. Continue reading “The Internet and the 2008 US election: participation and/or fragmentation?”

David Lazer on the properties of network power

Live blogging from the workshop “From Social Network to Social Movement” at Harvard Law School. David Lazer from the Harvard Kennedy School is presenting on the properties of network power. You can also follow on Twitter: #HLSsocnetworks

Definition of network: a network is a set of units (be them people or organizations) and a set of attachments amongst those units. Definition of power: 1) Individual and group access to resources. Where you are in the network influences your access to resources. How does power flow from people who have power to actual formulation of policy? 2) Collective capacity to organize – how do networks enable or inhibit the growth of certain social movements? Continue reading “David Lazer on the properties of network power”

E tu, non provi Herdict?

[youtube width=”315″ height=”235″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4omD0j_e0k[/youtube]

La Pecora Bianca presenta Herdict, uno straordinario nuovo sito che aiuta gli utenti a riprendere controllo della Rete. Hai problemi con siti in parte o del tutto inaccessibili? Prova ad usare Herdict su: http://herdict.org.

Herdict.org e’ un progetto del Berkman Center for Internet & Society, all’Universita’ di Harvard, ideato da Jonathan Zittrain e dalla OpenNet Initiative (ONI) che permette agli utenti di Internet di tutto il mondo di raccogliere e condividere segnalazioni di malfunzionamenti e blocchi volontari di diversi siti o pagine Web. Per ulteriori informazioni, leggi: “Herdict, la Mappa Mondiale della Censura“.

Am I the only one being blocked?

[youtube width=”315″ height=”235″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NggzBHSXdCo[/youtube]

Today, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University has officially launched: http://www.herdict.org — a tool that employs the distributed power of the Internet community to provide insight into what users around the world are experiencing in terms of web accessibility.

Everyone is invited to explore http://www.herdict.org and participate by reporting websites that they cannot access, testing sites that others have reported, or downloading the browser add-on for reporting sites on the fly. Herdict Web aggregates reports in real time, permitting participants to see if inaccessibility is a shared problem, giving them a better sense of potential reasons for why a site is inaccessible. Trends can be viewed over time, by site and by country.