Internet in post-soviet Russia (1991 – 2011): new networked sphere of social media
This PhD research project will investigate the place of social networking websites in post-Soviet Russia. Actually, in this country we can see a remarkable paradox: strong control of mass media by the ruling elite, on the one hand, and the relative freedom of social media (i.e. social networks and blogs), on the other. The regulation of mass media may be explicit: through state ownership (Perviy Kanal, Rossiya, or implicit: via ownership by state enterprises (the NTV channel, newspapers: Izvestia, Komsomolskaya Pravda). Official (dominant) media are incorporated into the state’s communication system. They serve as propaganda tools for the political line taken by Russia’s ruling elites, as well as a means of “mythologisation” and “socialisation” of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev. They are used to create an image of Russia as strong and powerful. In this semi-pluralistic media environment, we have seen an explosion in the form of the internet, digital communication and information networks, which have spread across Russia at remarkable speed. In December 2010, 46 million Russians were using the internet at least once a month , making it the country with the sixth highest number of internet users Seventy per cent of internet users read blogs at least once a day and 34% have their own blogs. The goal of my PhD is to explain the social role of these digital networks in Russian society. From my point of view, the relative success of these digital networks can be explained by the transformation in practices within the public space in Russia. In this semi-democratic political system, social actors seek to find alternative tools, without using mass media, to express themselves. This PhD project seeks to study the modern history of network development in Russia over the past 20 years (from the appearance of the Cyrillic sector of the Internet in 1990 until today), strategies of different actors towards networks and the emergence of new actors. We will also examine the status of information in the public space and investigate the tactics of social actors who use digital tools for communication.