Exploring Russian Cyberspace: Digitally-Mediated Collective Action and the Networked Public Sphere

March 2, 2012

Abstract

This paper summarizes the major findings of a three-year research project to investigate the Internet’s impact on Russian politics, media and society. We employed multiple methods to study online activity: the mapping and study of the structure, communities and content of the blogosphere; an analogous mapping and study of Twitter; content analysis of different media sources using automated and human-based evaluation approaches; and a survey of bloggers; augmented by infrastructure mapping, interviews and background research.

We find the emergence of a vibrant and diverse networked public sphere that constitutes an independent alternative to the more tightly controlled offline media and political space, as well as the growing use of digital platforms in social mobilization and civic action. Despite various indirect efforts to shape cyberspace into an environment that is friendlier towards the government, we find that the Russian Internet remains generally open and free, although the current degree of Internet freedom is in no way a prediction of the future of this contested space.

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This is part of a series of papers released by the Berkman Center's project studying the Impact of the Internet on Russian Politics, Media, and Society. To find the complete set of papers, please visit: http://cyber.harvard.edu/research/russia/paper_series.

Last updated

April 16, 2015