The social scientific enterprise includes both theory building and theory testing. This study was designed for the former. Given the “unexpected” nature of the generation shift within the interest group ecology of American politics, I chose to rely primarily upon elite interview, process tracing, and other qualitative observational techniques. The purpose has been largely descriptive: “How do the new advocacy organizations operate?” “How do they differ from traditional advocacy groups?” As a devoted methodological pluralist, the choices I made in designing the study were based upon three factors: (1) assessment of the existing state of academic research, (2) professional skepticism about the limitations of publicly available data, and (3) leveraged opportunities from my own dual roles. This methodological appendix will discuss these core research design choices and then offer a more detailed explanation of the two quantitative datasets created for this study: the Blogosphere Authority Index and the Membership Communications Project.
The research is rooted in a thorough review of the various, non-overlapping literatures on the Internet and politics. This is a topic area that has received attention from the fields of political science, sociology, anthropology, communication, social movement studies, science and technology studies, and law. Lawyers and authors of popular nonfiction have been particularly influential in the emerging field. Due to longstanding disciplinary boundaries, these studies are rarely placed in conversation with one another. Internet politics is not a stable subfield, but rather a cluster of subdisciplines, spread across journals and rarely interacting with one another. Or, to paraphrase computer scientist Jim Hendler, “Web science is not a single new discipline, but rather a space where various disciplines can talk to each other.”1
One key finding from the existing literature concerned the power-law topology of online communities. A.L. Barabasi, Matthew Hindman, Clay Shirky, and Azi Lev-On & Russell Hardin had all produced studies demonstrating that online