Source: The 9th Annual International Conference on Digital Government Research, Montréal, Canada (2008)
Web logs (or blogs) have become a means for citizens to share opinions and deliberate on local issues. However, the large number of blogs makes finding and exploring content of interest relatively difficult. This discovery problem presumably also limits participation by interested citizens. We present a tool to display a representation of citizen-to-citizen discussion in blogs that reveals similarity across blog entries. Through association and content analysis, blog entries are linked to each other to form clusters of related local content. Users can navigate and explore online discussions by manipulating the graph, filtering content, and clicking on a blog title to go directly to a given blog in order to read further. The visualization of online discussion can promote participation by highlighting popular topics and laying out the structure of conversations. We conducted a case study on regional Southwest Virginia blogs to validate the tool’s usability and capacity for facilitating citizen-to-citizen discussion, as well as government awareness of diverse voices in the local community. In this paper we present the tool design, its functionality, the usability evaluation and summarize the results.