I just found about the results of some qualitative interviews done with black bloggers by Antoinette Pole from posts by Cobb and Prometheus 6. The results of her interviews suggest that black bloggers are likely to blog about racial issues and likely to use their blogs to exhort their readers to political action. This work is better done than not, because it gives us a snapshot of what black bloggers who proclaim to be interested in politics are doing, and also because there is a whole swath of research about black internet usage that has yet to be conducted. Finally as both bloggers imply this comes right on the heels of Shaquanda Cotton.

but yet and still it is important to note that Pole herself recognizes that her research is exploratory. What this means is that she plans to use her qualitative interviews to generate a set of hypotheses that can themselves be much more rigorously tested. To wit given our recent discussion about the role of black political bloggers we still don’t know three critical things:

1. To what degree are bloggers doing what they say they are doing?

There are approximately 300 blogs that are both helmed by black men and women and deal with politics. But we don’t really know whether the bloggers in general are doing what this subsample says they are doing. What is needed here is content analysis. Take a random sample of blogs, enough posts from each blog to be representative, then generate some type of content schematic.

2. To what degree are readers listening to them and following through?

Among the claims being made is that black bloggers routinely get their readers to think about and participate in politics. But we have no idea whether readers are actually engaging in this activity. In fact I don’t think we know much about how readers approach blogs at all. Hell it is hard enough to figure out how many real readers each of us actually has much less figure out what type of activities they are engaging in because we tell them to. A routine email message sent to a loved one may have more staying power and greater effect in real life than one of our pieces, the Shaquanda Cotton case notwithstanding.

3. To what degree are bloggers connected to brick and mortar networks and pursuing the same ends through them?

So many of us “live” online that it can be easy to take what we do here and make much larger claims. And it becomes much easier when something like the Cotton case spurs us to action. But how many of us are actually involved in real social networks through which we can influence folks and change systems? The folks at blackprof.com for example are training black lawyers, but that’s part of their gig. I’m training undergrads, grads, and speaking on NPR, but that’s part of my gig. Marc Lamont Hill does much more media work than most of us but is on the same program. But how many of us are members of organizations on the ground? I’ve said before that the fact that we are dispersed and our networks are decentralized is more of a strength than some think. But at the same time I also believe that change starts locally (like in the Cotton case) and spreads outward. And that necessitates some type of real world connections with people doing real work.