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Berkman Center Internet & Democracy Project Releases Study Mapping the Arabic Language Blogosphere

Cambridge, MA - The Berkman Center for Internet & Society’s Internet & Democracy project has released a major study on “Mapping the Arabic Blogosphere: Politics, Culture and Dissent.” Utilizing a unique methodology that blends computational analysis and human coding, the study investigates the contours and scope of the discussions taking place in the Arabic language blogosphere.

“The Arabic blogosphere is a dynamic public space,” writes John Palfrey, faculty co-director of the Berkman Center and principal investigator for the Internet & Democracy Project, “We have found a far-reaching conversation about virtually all aspects of life, culture, religion, and politics.  This public conversation surfaces local and national issues of political reform and the global tensions related to human rights and conflict between nations.  We have much to learn from the rich tapestry that this study reveals.”

The study reveals that:

* The Arabic blogosphere comprises approximately 35,000 routinely updated blogs from a mix of predominantly young and male bloggers, with the highest proportion of female bloggers found among Egyptian youth.

* The Arabic blogosphere is organized primarily around countries, with the Egyptian and Saudi Arabian clusters being the two largest. A Levantine/English Bridge cluster connects bloggers in the Levant and Iraq to the US and international blogospheres.

* Bloggers link to Web 2.0 sites like YouTube and Wikipedia (English and Arabic versions) more than other sources of information and news available on the Internet.

* Personal life and local issues are the most important topics of discussion. When writing about politics, bloggers tend to focus on issues within their own country, with the exception of Palestine, which concerns bloggers across clusters.

* The US and terrorism are not major topics. When discussing terrorism, Arab bloggers are overwhelmingly critical of terrorists.

“Mapping the Arabic Blogosphere,” including the full Key Findings and the map, can be downloaded at http://cyber.harvard.edu/publications/2009/Mapping_the_Arabic_Blogosphere.

This case study is part of a series of studies produced by the Internet & Democracy Project. The project’s initial case studies investigated three frequently cited examples of the Internet’s influence on democracy. The first case looked at the user-generated news site OhmyNews and its impact on the 2002 elections in South Korea. The second documented the role of technology in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution. The third analyzed the network composition and content of the Iranian blogosphere. Fall 2008 saw the release of a new series of case studies, which broadened the scope of the project’s research and examined some less well-known parts of the research landscape. In a pair of studies, the project reviewed the role of networked technologies in the 2007 civic crises of Burma's Saffron Revolution and Kenya’s post-election turmoil. In April 2009, Urs Gasser's three-part case study examined the role of technology in Switzerland’s semi-direct democracy.

About the Internet & Democracy project
The Internet & Democracy Project is an initiative of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society that examines how the Internet influences democratic norms and modes, including its impact on civil society, citizen media, government transparency, and the rule of law, with a focus on the Middle East. The goal of this work is to support the rights of citizens to access, develop and share independent sources of information, to advocate responsibly, to strengthen online networks, and to debate ideas freely with both civil society and government. More information can be found at http://cyber.harvard.edu/research/internetdemocracy.

About the Berkman Center for Internet & Society
The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University is a research program founded to explore cyberspace, share in its study, and help pioneer its development. Founded in 1997, through a generous gift from Jack N. and Lillian R. Berkman, the Center is home to an ever-growing community of faculty, fellows, staff, and affiliates working on projects that span the broad range of intersections between cyberspace, technology, and society. More information can be found at http://cyber.harvard.edu.

Contact
Lexie Koss
617.384.9100
lkoss@cyber.harvard.edu

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