Content Analysis

15 Feb

Not many people like being told their wrong. Even less deliberately ask to be contradicted. However, Barry Dick’s use of masculine specific language deliberately provokes the expression of strong opinions from his audience. Barry Dick’s “Tell Barry He’s Wrong” sports blog for the Brisbane Courier Mail Website – http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/ – offers instant opinionated analysis of sports events and personalities.  As M. Stephen’s aptly states “News is, in effect, what is on societies mind” (Wall 154), the website offers eighteen different blogs enabling viewers to interact to discuss what is on their mind. These range in topic from parenting advice to political issues to sports discussion. The wide variety of topics under discussion permit a large range of individuals to interact in flexible, computer-mediated blogs with a professional endorsed by the Courier Mail, whose credibility is emphasized by the professionalism of the site and its affiliations. For the audience of Courier Mail bloggers interested in sharing an opinion about recent sports news Dick’s sports blog is an effective method of self-publication, proving to be highly popular.  Dick’s latest blog topics under discussion, as of September 1st 2008, deliberate players in the Australian Football League (AFL) (posted September 1st 2008, 1:56 pm), Australian coverage of the Beijing Olympics (posted August 25th 2008, 8:28 am), the National Rugby League (NRL) and AFL grand finals (posted August 18th 2008, 9:32 am), and the focus blog of this content analysis, channel Seven’s poor coverage of the Beijing Olympics (posted August 11th 2008, 11:26am).

Barry Dick’s sports blog receives the second highest levels of interactivity of the Courier Mail blogs. A comparison of the interactivity of the blogs is illustrated in Appendices 1 and 1.2. Dick’s topics attract a high level of interactivity over a comparably small number of postings from Dick. He adds new topics each Monday from August 1st to September 1st, making comments only on the Monday, although bloggers continue posting comments for several weeks. Content analysis was conducted to examine the research question to what extent the interactivity in Barry Dick’s blog, “Tell Barry He’s Wrong” about the topic “Seven Get’s a Games Zero”, was written in masculine specific language rather than feminine or gender neutral language. I hypothesized that the interactions analysed in Dick’s blog would be written to a greater extent in masculine specific language. No assumptions were made about the actual sex of the blogger, only about their online pseudonym.  Extensive research has been undertaken in identifying gender features in language. Widespread research of gender specific language features in the blogosphere is not yet available. The unique situation blogs create for anonymous interactivity allows bloggers to post opinions without accountability and assume a different identity (Karl, McChesney, Pandey-Jorrin). A total of 17 interactions were collected from August 11th to 25th.

The categories chosen are derived from the work of Daniel J. Canary, Deborah Cameron, Isabel Crouch, Kathryn Dindia, Betty Dubois, David Graddol, Irmi Karl, Luce Irigaray, Anthony Mulac, and Joan Swann. These researchers come from backgrounds in socio-linguistics, linguistic theory, feminist linguistic theory, and semiology. The majority of their research has not been undertaken with a focus in the blogosphere. However, their research is part of the foundation for understanding the role gender specific language has in interactivity between different genders and as such can be applied to the blogosphere, as a realm of interactivity. The work of feminist linguists is of particular interest in validating or abandoning my hypothesis. Irigaray asserts “For I do not believe that language is universal, or neutral with regard to the difference of the sexes…” (Cameron 128). This assertion reasons that language shapes gender interaction. It is further explained by Cameron’s statement “Language is part of patriarchy” (Cameron 3). The blogosphere provides a unique situation for interactivity to take place without gender forming hierarchies (Graddol, Swann 176). However, my hypothesis conjectures that the language used by the host blogger will determine the bloggers responses, independent of gender.

The three encompassing categories of feminine, masculine and gender neutral, reflect the different stereotypes of gender identity in language. Within the three categories eight feminine, six masculine and four gender neutral indicators have been chosen. These indicators have been confirmed by more than one of the researchers listed above. Where there has been disagreement the majority has over ruled. Masculine identity uses features that assert authority and confidence in their opinion. The masculine language features analysed were: quantity references, for example “100 times” seen in blog post nine[1]; judgemental adjectives, for example “ridiculous” seen in the host’s original blog[2]; directives, for example “Lesson one for Seven” seen in the host’s original blog[3]; locatives, for example “…at the Games.” seen in blog post one[4]; first person references, for example “i[sic] agree” seen in blog post two[5];  and tag questions, which had a marked absence. Feminine identity uses features that express emotion and uncertainty. The feminine language features were: intensive adverbs, for example “really” in blog post two[6]; references to emotions, for example “I love…” in blog post eleven[7]; sentence initial adverbials, for example “Surely…” in blog post five[8]; uncertainty verbs, which had a marked absence but for example ‘seems’; oppositions, for example “…watched SBS or muted the sound.” in blog post two[9]; negations, for example “…definitely not…” in blog post one[10]; hedges, for example “I may have…” in blog post four[11]; and questions. Gender neutral identity uses features that are equivocal in masculine and feminine use. The gender neutral language features were: personal pronouns; fillers, which had a marked absence but for example ‘like’; progressive verbs, for example “ENJOYING [sic]”in the host’s original blog[12]; and justifiers, for example “Apart from that, you’re doing a wonderful job…” in the host’s original blog[13]. The absence of tag questions, uncertainty verbs and fillers suggests that bloggers had clear ideas about what they were going to post before they made their comment and had confidence in their opinions, possibly derived from the anonymity of the blogosphere.

The final tabulation of the accumulated results in Appendix 2 reveals that the majority of analysed interactions were written in masculine specific language, validating my hypothesis. Dick’s original blog had more gender neutral language features (17) than masculine (11). However, both counts were far greater than the four feminine features indicated. Dick’s replies to comments included 11 masculine features, with only five feminine features and four gender neutral features. From this data it was determined that blog interactions made by the host were written to a greater extent in masculine specific language rather than feminine or neutral. The accumulated interactions from bloggers revealed 80 masculine language features compared to 46 feminine language features and 52 gender neutral features.  Nine of the twelve bloggers analysed, including Dick, used more masculine language features, including the two bloggers with female pseudonyms.[14] There are several conclusions that can be drawn from the data. Firstly, the hypothesis is valid; Barry Dick’s sports blog “Seven Gets a Games Zero” is written to a greater extent using masculine specific language in the interactivity that takes place between the bloggers and Dick. Secondly, the gender specific language used by the host to describe the topic and reply to bloggers impacted upon the gendered language used in the interactivity of the bloggers. Without further content analysis of the language used in Dick’s sports blogs and blogs in general, this inference may not hold true but for this instance. Finally, the sports blog was discussed to a great extent in masculine language inferring gender biases in the topic for discussion and the sports blog itself.

 Further analysis of the gender specific language used by bloggers in their interactivity may reveal that gender hierarchies have found their way into the blogosphere. The idiosyncrasies of weblogs in general are derived from their anonymity (Breen, Flew, McChesney, Pandey-Jorrin). The presence of a gender bias in the analysed blog suggests that even though people are free to assume any identity they choose there are still constraints and status hierarchies. The suggestions made in this study form some guidelines for future analysis of the separation of online identity from gender in blogging in sports blogs, and are a basic analysis more useful in the context of a thematic meta-analysis of how researchers apply content analysis to language and gender in blogs.

“The problem is how to safeguard specific local interests while catering to the new, globally oriented readership” (van Leeuwen 2006: 218).

Local accent distinct voice “foreignizing” and “domesticating” tendencies compete (van Leeuwen 2006: 235).

“Such heterogeneity manifests itself mostly at the lexical level, through the uses to which words are put, and through surprising concepts and turns of phrases, rather than at a grammatical level” (van Leeuwen 2006: 235).


[1] Appendix 3.9

[2] Appendix 2

[3] Appendix 2

[4] Appendix 3.1

[5] Appendix 3.2

[6] Appendix 3.2

[7] Appendix 3.11

[8] Appendix 3.5

[9] Appendix 3.2

[10] Appendix 3.1

[11] Appendix 3.4

[12] Appendix 2

[13] Appendix 2

[14] Appendix 4

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