Mapping the Arabic Blogosphere: Politics, Culture, and Dissent
This study explores the structure and content of the Arabic blogosphere using link analysis,term frequency analysis, and human coding of individual blogs. We identified a basenetwork of approximately 35,000 active Arabic language blogs (about half as many as wefound in a previous study of the Persian blogosphere), discovered several thousand Arabicblogs with mixed use of Arabic, English and French, created a network map of the 6,000most connected blogs, and with a team of Arabic speakers hand coded over 4,000 blogs. The goal for the study was to produce a baseline assessment of the networked public spherein the Arab Middle East, and its relationship to a range of emergent issues, including politics,media, religion, culture, and international affairs. We found:
A Country-Based Network:
We found that the Arabic blogosphere is organizedprimarily around countries. We found the primary groupings in the Arabic languageblogosphere to be:
- this is by far the largest cluster and includes several distinct sub-clusters, one of which is characterized by secular reformist bloggers, andanother by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that is technically illegal in Egypt but whose online presence appears to be tolerated.
- this comprises the second largest cluster and focuses moreon personal diaries and less on politics than other groups.
- this cluster is divided into two sub-clusters based on bloggers’language preferences, splitting those that write primarily in English fromthose that use Arabic. Both groups focus heavily on domestic news andpolitics, though the Anglophone bloggers are more likely to advocate reformand discuss economic and women’s rights issues.
- this group of bloggers is located mainly in thecountries of the eastern Mediterranean sometimes referred to collectively asthe Levant, including Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan and Syria, as well as mostbloggers from Iraq. Bloggers in this group frequently use English in additionto, or instead of, Arabic. They are joined in this section of the network, which connects to the US and international blogosphere, by ‘bridge bloggers’from other Arab countries, who write mainly in English.
- this cluster features frequent, though often mild, criticism of domesticleaders and both includes Arabic language bloggers with closer links to thosein Saudi Arabia, and English language bloggers closer to those in theLevantine/English Bridge region.
Maghreb/French Bridge -
this group is comprised of a cross-national setof bloggers located mainly in Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. Many of thesebloggers write in a mixture of Arabic and French. Other bloggers from theMaghreb eschew French and are found among the religion-focused bloggers.
– this cluster is a loosely connected set of bloggers from various Arab countries who are focused mainly on Islam, mixing personal,theological, and political topics.