The December 2004 Communications of the ACM has a set of articles on blogging, comprising about 30 pages. Unfortunately, these are not available unless you have a subscription to their online service. But you can always head to your local academic library, where CACM is likely available (assuming they will let you enter). The articles are relatively short, and generally don't say extremely new things for people familiar with the blogosphere. For those that aren't familiar, the articles give a nice review of several topics.
Structure and Evolution of Blogspace by Ravi Kumar (IBM), Jasmine Novak (IBM), Prabhakar Raghavan (Verity), and Andrew Tomkins (IBM). The research presented in this article is quite promising and impressive: profiles of over a million bloggers and detailed analysis of 25,000. I thought this might supersede by far the recent paper by Lilia Efimova and Stephanie Hendrick. Their focus was a little different. This paper looked at the profiles of nearly over a million LiveJournal.com users to explore who they are and their expressed interests. They did discover interesting correlations between interests and age groups. (My age group is interested in things that barely touch on my interests.) They also looked at friendship statements and found that 71% of "friends" shared interest, location and/or age bracket. All this serves as evidence of community, but doesn't tell me much that I don't know.
Their analysis of the blog community was a little more telling. The researchers make the important distinction that blogs are not static entities, and that the conversations amongst blogs ebbs and flows (bursts). They defined communities as those blogs who cross-link with one another. And they showed that the cross-linking behavior of blogs has grown over time, so that the burstiness of the blogosphere has grown exponentially. It would be interesting to see this analysis of communities in general combined with the work from Efimova and Hendrick that explores the details of specific communities.
Why We Blog by Bonnie A. Nardi (UC Irvine), Diane J. Schiano (consultant), Michelle Gumbrecht (Stanford), and Luke Swartz (Stanford, now Navy). PDF of this paper at Nardi's site. This describes the authors in-depth surveys of 23 people who blog - specifically people whose blogs reach a small audience in an attempt to profile "normal" bloggers, as opposed to A-list bloggers. In the end, their findings should not be surprising. People blog to document their life, for commentary, as catharsis, to help them think, and as a community forum. The nice thing about this discussion is that they used "normal" people to give academic researchers a way to think about bloggers beyond the media description.
I wonder what might happen if the motivations uncovered here were paired with the behavior patterns observed by Kumar and company?
Semantic Blogging and Decentralized Knowledge Management by Steve Cayzer (HP). Cayzer talks about his Semantic Blogging concept which I had not seen before, but which makes sense. Essentially, he argues that blogging with syndication and rdf (resource description framework) could be expanded with ideas of the semantic web, though there are some limitations. He also focuses on blogs as mechanisms for managing "snippets" rather than fully fleshed-out writing.
How Blogging Software Reshapes the Online Community by Rebecca Blood. This is a great historical look at how blogging has developed, and particularly how the software has developed with the community (or maybe the community developing with the software). She's got a great perspective quote, along the lines of the "world needing five computers."
When I began blogging, I imagined that someday there might be hundreds of Weblogs, with tens of thousands of readers. ... Instead of dozens of weblogs with a million readers, there are will over four million weblogs worldwide - most with only a few dozen readers.
Democracy and Filtering Cass R. Sunstein (U Chicago). This paper is concerned with the echo-chamber effect of bloggers and readers who only read opinions that coincide with their own opinions. He sounds the warning that people who don't expose themselves to differing viewpoints tend to move further down the path that their current viewpoint suggests. But then he also says that maybe those people would do this anyway. It is not the technology to blame for this, but he suggests we need to be careful with technologies that make it so easy to filter out opinions one does not like. Oh, and it isn't the fault of the technology. That will always come.
Others who have commented on this series: Information Wants To Be Free generally thought there wasn't anything new. Belief Seeking Understanding discusses the Structure & Evolution article. Christina's LIS Rant has some negative comments about Why We Blog and some "me too" comments about Semantic Blogging. Considered Design.