Speaking at the Harriman Institute at Columbia University on Political Cyberprotest in Contemporary Russia

I will be presenting a paper at the Harriman Institute at Columbia University. The paper, Political Cyberprotest in Contemporary Russia, co-authored with Volodymyr Lysenko, a doctoral student of mine at the University of Washington Information School, was accepted for the Etiology and Ecology of Post-Soviet Media Conference (May 7-9, 2010).

Technologies may be intertwined with politics. In particular, the Internet has the potential to cause enormous social and political changes in today’s society. In this research we discuss possibilities of the Internet as a tool for supplying information necessary for organization and mobilization of the successful oppositional movements, especially under the non-democratic regimes. We pay special attention to: in-built capabilities of the Internet to promote active popular involvement in the political process; possibilities of the Internet for democratization of authoritarian regimes; attempts at Internet censorship and possibilities to counteract them; the roles that the new Internet-based media are playing in the power shift in society; the roles that the Internet played in the success of the color revolutions in former Soviet countries; and the roles that new information elites play in social change. We discuss in detail recent examples of the roles the Internet plays in the political processes in Russia.

While in free societies opposing political forces have practically unlimited access to mass media, in Russia the authorities control almost all traditional means of mass information.  Only the Internet retains the possibility of limiting control by the Russian authorities. Thus the purpose of our research is to establish whether the Internet in Russia can fulfill the function of ensuring the flow of information necessary for successful dissident activity. Accordingly, we seek to answer the following research question: Does the Internet provide an effective tool for politically-interested people in Russia to conduct dissident activities under the authoritarian regime?

Besides showing the Internet’s leading role in organizing modern protests, our research also prove that in the information environment where practically all traditional mass-media are under the authorities’ control, the Internet becomes the only powerful and effective source of alternative information about the real situation on the repressed territory.

About the Harriman Institute: Founded in 1946, the Harriman Institute housed at Columbia University is the oldest academic institution in the United States devoted to the study of the countries of the former Soviet Union, East Central Europe and the Balkans. (For more details: http://www.harrimaninstitute.org/)

About Columbia University: Columbia University, a member of the Ivy League, was founded in 1754. It is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York and the fifth oldest in the United States. (For more details: http://www.columbia.edu)

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