In this paper, we use a new set of online research tools to develop a
detailed study of the public debate over proposed legislation in the
United States that was designed to give prosecutors and copyright
holders new tools to pursue suspected online copyright violations. Our
study applies a mixed-methods approach by combining text and link
analysis with human coding and informal interviews to map the evolution
of the controversy over time and to analyze the mobilization, roles, and interactions of various actors.
This novel, data-driven perspective on
the dynamics of the networked public sphere supports an optimistic view
of the potential for networked democratic participation, and offers a
view of a vibrant, diverse, and decentralized networked public sphere
that exhibited broad participation, leveraged topical expertise, and
focused public sentiment to shape national public policy.
We also offer an interactive visualization that maps the evolution of the
public controversy by collecting time slices of thousands of sources,
then using link analysis to assess the progress of the debate over time. We used the Media Cloud platform to depict media sources (“nodes”,
which appear as circles on the map with different colors denoting
different media types). This visualization tracks media sources and
their linkages within discrete time slices and allows users to zoom into the controversy to see which entities are present in the debate during a given period as well as who is linking to whom at any point in time.
The authors wish to thank the Ford Foundation and the Open Society
Foundation for their generous support of this research and of the
development of the Media Cloud platform.
About Media Cloud
Media Cloud, a joint project of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Universityand the Center for Civic Media at MIT, is an open source, open data platform that allows researchers to answer complex quantitative and qualitative questions about the content of
online media. Using Media Cloud, academic researchers, journalism critics, and interested citizens can examine what media sources cover which stories, what language different media outlets use in conjunction with different stories, and how stories spread from one media outlet to another. We encourage interested readers to explore Media Cloud.