Writing about politics does not make me a man
by desmoinesdem, Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 02:09:26 AM EST
At Talk Left I saw a reference to the Gender Analyzer, which uses artificial intelligence to "determine if a homepage is written by a man or a woman." You enter the address, and in an instant it scans the text, giving you a prediction. When I checked my blog home, Bleeding Heartland, I got this:
We think http://www.bleedingheartland.com is written by a man (79%).
We think http://kickinitwithcg.blogspot.com/ is written by a man (88%).
The computer program hedged its bets with Iowa blogger Lynda Waddington's Essential Estrogen:
We guess http://www.essentialestrogen.com/ is written by a man (59%), however it's quite gender neutral.
I admit I assumed Digby was a man for years, but that was mainly because of the illustration of a man shouting on the front page of Hullaballoo. Without scanning images, the Gender Analyzer makes the same false assumption:
We think http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/ is written by a man (74%).
Hilzoy's place, Obsidian Wings, yields a similar result:
We think http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_ wings/ is written by a man (84%).
In fact, I've been unable to find any political blog by a woman that the analyzer can recognize as such:
We think http://iddybudjournal.blogspot.com/ is written by a man (81%).
We think http://www.feministing.com/ is written by a man (60%).
We have strong indicators that http://leftylane.blogspot.com/ is written by a man (91%).
BlogHer does register as being written by a woman, probably because of the posts about shopping, food and fashion.
Bleeding Heartland commenter ragbrai08 looked up the details and assumptions underlying the Gender Analyzer. You can find the pdf link to the paper "Effects of Age and Gender on Blogging"at the bottom of her comment.
The analyzer mostly ignores the content of blog posts, except for certain key words. Computer programming and gaming words, along with some words relating to politics and the economy, are tagged as "male." Female words include "shopping,""cute,""pink,""freaked," and "husband." The analyzer also looks at elements such as sentence structure ("male bloggers use more articles and prepositions") and the number of hyperlinks (male bloggers use more).
So, just about any blog with a bunch of hyperlinks and political words will be deemed a man's blog by the Gender Analyzer. I have to agree with ragbrai08's assessment:
The only thing this algorithm is telling you is that the political blogosphere is dominated by male authors.
It would be interesting for some researcher to study a large sample of political blogs only, to see if politically-oriented male and female bloggers write differently or use hyperlinks differently. I suspect that a content analysis of political blogs would reveal a lot of overlap but also significant differences in the subjects covered by men and women.
Please share any relevant thoughts and opinions in the comments.
Speaking of gender issues, if you missed this in Natasha Chart's linkfest yesterday, go read about life as a female reporter.