Bora Zivovic recently pointed out an interesting study by Christina Pikas, which looked at link and comment connections between science blogs to look for clusters in the community of science bloggers. Her study revealed a few interesting things. Scientists read blogs by discipline, not just their own subdiscipline, but a variety of related subfields. In addition, there is a cluster of science blogs by women across multiple fields who comment on each others blogs especially often.
Ever since the Clay Shirky popularized the fact that there are power laws in the distribution of attention in social media, which focused attention at the top of the fame pyramid I’ve been wanting to see more studies like Pikas, which focus instead further out on the curve, closer to the long tail. Instead of showing who’s at the top of the pyramid – information that many people already know, use tools to discover and understand subcommunities, where a lot of the interesting human interchange, culture, and creativity. Within these subcultures, a closer look can show the distinctive attributes of the community itself. It’s helpful that Pikas herself is a member of the science blogging community – she knows enough about it to interpret the results of the social network analysis in a meaningful way.
A lot of the interesting dynamics in social media is at the level of subcommunity and microfame. More like this please.