Blogging about blogs

A review of the journal article “Science in the Social Media Age: Profiles of Science Blog Readers”

Background

The authors recognised that social media is becoming an important component of Internet-sourced science information. Specifically, blogs have been regarded as a leading source of online news. However, little has been studied about science blog users. Thus, the authors aim to analyse the profile of science blog users to evaluate the impact of science blogs and attempt to bring more insights into the motivation behind science blog usage.

Some results

  1. In the study, motivation factors were categorized into four main groups:
  • entertainment
  • community-seeking
  • ambiance
  • unique information-seeking
  1. Based on the motivation factors, science blog users were categorized into three main groups:
  • One-way entertainment users: this group is characterized by moderate scores on the entertainment and ambiance factors, and low scores on community-seeking and information-seeking factors.
  • Information-seeking users: this group is characterized by moderate scores on community-seeking, ambiance and information-seeking factors, and low scores on entertainment factor.
  • Super users: this group is characterized by high scores on all motivation factors.
  1. Science blog readers consist primarily of highly educated group of scientists or future scientists who actively seek out science content.
  1. The largest group of users, the one-way entertainment users, read blogs primarily for entertainment and ambiance. Further, this group is less likely to share content than the other two groups, and are less likely to hold a science degree.
  1. Information-seeking users tend to read blogs for unique information that is not found elsewhere.
  1. Super users read blogs for a wide range of reasons.

My two cents

There was an unequal number of motivation items tagged to each category and study participants were asked to rate to what extent do they agree with the motivation items with respect to science blog use. For instance, motivation items like using science blogs “as an educational tool” was tagged to the category of unique information-seeking, while turning to science blogs “for advice or emotional support” was tagged under the community-seeking category.

While these motivation items ensure that the survey questions asked are more relatable to the study participants, some of them seem to be repetitive to me. For instance, I do not seem to find much difference between reading science blogs “to keep up with current events in science” and “to keep up with scientific research”. Further, I am not sure what the difference is between using science blog “as an educational tool” and using it “to research for work or school”: there seem to be some overlap between these two motivation items in my opinion.

In addition, the science blogs that were sampled differ in the number of authors contributing to the content of the blogs. Of the 40 blogs selected, 18 blogs were written by single authors, 8 were maintained by multiple authors, 7 were news media network blogs, and 7 were other network blogs. Perhaps it would be interesting to find out what the spread/ share of readers are for these different groups. For example, is there a larger share of one-way entertainment users reading news media network blogs than information-seeking users? And if so, how can the observation be explained and what are the potential implications of the findings?

In essence, according to the authors of the article, science blog readers are a bunch of complex consumers of science media that possess high level of scientific knowledge. I read science blogs mainly for entertainment (which also contributes to knowledge building, I hope). What about you?

– Ling Ling

Reference:

Jarreau, P. B., & Porter, L. (2017). Science in the Social Media Age: Profiles of Science Blog Readers. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 107769901668555. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077699016685558

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