Cross-language Blog Linking in the Aftermath of the 2010 Haitian Earthquake
Blogs that link across language divides often reference or translate content written in another language. Capturing the extent of cross-language linking in the blogosphere gives an indication of bloggers' use and awareness of foreign language content (such as foreign news), and consequently the connectedness or insularity of different languages in the blogosphere.
The study presented here was primarily concerned with the general flow of information between bloggers writing in different languages, looking in particular at the extent of cross-language linking between blogs. We may assume that a language receiving many links from another language will have relatively high agenda-setting power, while many links out of a language could highlight a higher level of awareness in those bloggers of information written in other languages. By deciding what content to present and how to present it, these cross-language bloggers may act as partial gatekeepers of information flowing between languages, communities, and countries. A 2008 survey of foreign news correspondents in China found that nearly three times as many respondents followed English-language blogs on a daily basis compared with Chinese-language blogs (MacKinnon 2008), suggesting that these English 'bridge blogs' about China might have had a greater influence on the correspondents than blogs actually written in Chinese.
This visualization shows the links between 5,703 blog posts in English (yellow), Spanish (red), and Japanese (blue) written in response to the 2010 Haitian earthquake. We can see immediately that there is significantly more linking between blogs of the same language than across languages. In fact, only about 5% of the links in the full network of 113,117 blog posts connected posts of different languages, with most linking from personal blogs in Japanese and Spanish to media and professional blogs in English. Significantly fewer cross-language links originated in the English blogs (104 of 6,948 links, 1.5%) than in the Spanish (409 of 3,834 links, 10.7%) or Japanese blogs (194 of 1745 links, 11.1%), and only about 1% of the blogs contained translations of content from a blog in one of the other languages. When only a few bloggers are acting as a bridge between languages - for example by translating quotations and news stories - there is a chance that they might thereby receive extra attention and influence.
Further analysis and discussion of this dataset is presented in Hale (2012). Continuing work in this area is examining additional platforms and languages as further cross-language interactions are explored.
The selected languages were assumed to have an equal interest in the events in Haiti, and no one language was assumed to be dominant before data collection took place. The full network consists of 113,117 blog posts collected over the 45-day period following the Haitian earthquake of 12 January 2010. Shown here is the largest connected component of 5,703 blog posts. A custom script was used to gather results for search queries in English ('haiti' and 'earthquake'), Japanese (ハイチ and 地震), and Spanish ('haiti' or 'haití' and 'terremoto') on three search engines. Blogs in all three languages were gathered from Google Blog Search and BlogPulse, and the Japanese results were further supplemented by results from Yahoo! Japan Blog Search, given that service's extreme popularity in Japan. The nodes were positioned using a force-directed Generalized Expectation-Maximization (GEM) layout in Tulip (http://tulip.labri.fr/), a visualization software package.
Hale, S. A. (2012) Net increase? Cross-lingual linking in the blogosphere. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication.
MacKinnon, R. (2008) Blogs and China correspondence: Lessons about global information flows. Chinese Journal of Communication 1 (2) 242–257.
Hale, S. A. (2011) Visualizing cross-language blog links in the aftermath of the 2010 Haitian earthquake. Visualization Gallery, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford.