The Internet and Democracy Project

With funding from the MacArthur Foundation, the Berkman Center has undertaken a research project to investigate the role of the Internet in Russian society since 2009.

The study includes a number of interrelated areas of inquiry that contribute to and draw upon the Russian Internet, including the Russian blogosphere, Twitter, and the online media ecology. In addition to investigating a number of core Internet and communications questions, a key goal for the project is to test, refine, and integrate various methodological approaches to the study of the Internet more broadly, including: 1) Social network analysis; 2) Text analysis of Russian online news content and blogs with Media Cloud, a text aggregation, indexing, and analysis tool; 3) Text and link analysis of Twitter, and; 4) A scientifically rigorous online survey of Russian bloggers. The team has also carried out a research trip to Russia and met with leading Russian Internet companies, academics, universities, and technologists.

The project is building and refining a number of data collection and analysis tools required for the study. These tools now have the ability to process Cyrillic text, and the project is actively collecting large amounts of online news, blog, and Twitter data that will contribute to a number of research streams within the project.

Social Network Analysis
To understand the different communities, or clusters, that exist in the Russian blogosphere we will employ a methodological approach similar to our previous studies of the Persian and Arabic blogospheres. This will include link-based social network mapping of the Russian language blogosphere and comparisons of key Russian blogging platforms, including LiveJournal, LiveInternet.ru, and Mail.ru, to understand how these platforms may impact the ‘shape’ of the Russian blogosphere. To understand the issues that bloggers write about and basic demographic data about them, we will also conduct content analysis of thousands of Russian blogs over different periods of time. This type of analysis will allow us to make useful comparisons with the US, Iranian, and Arabic blogospheres. We will also leverage text analysis tools (see below) to carry out deep automated analysis of the text of blog posts in the different clusters and to identify and then analyze individual blog posts related to specific topics of interest to researchers. Previous blog studies include: Mapping the Arabic Blogosphere (2009) and Mapping Iran’s Online Public (2008).

Media Cloud (Text Analysis)
Media Cloud is an open source text aggregation, indexing, and analysis tool of online information sources. The Russian version of Media Cloud will collect and analyze text from thousands of Russian blogs and top online media sources, including traditional newspapers available online, Web native news sites, and possibly transcripts from Russian national TV news broadcasts. This large database of text and analytical tools will allow researchers to compare which stories appear in different platforms as well as how they are discussed. To learn more about Media Cloud visit the Web site: mediacloud.org.

Twitter
In collaboration with the Web Ecology Project, the Berkman Center will undertake a study of Twitter in Russia and its growing importance in Russia. This project seeks to make an early baseline assessment of Twitter as it grows in Russia, and seeks to answer fundamental communication questions of who talks to whom, about what, and to what effect, using link and text analysis, among other methods. For previous similar research see the Web Ecology Project’s studies on Twitter: http://www.webecologyproject.org.

Blogger Survey
The Berkman Center is designing a global survey of the blogosphere, and the Russian blogosphere will be one of the first countries where we carry out the survey. This survey will serve as an aggregation point for the knowledge, perception, and opinions of active bloggers around the world. The panel of respondents will be assembled using scientifically rigorous sampling methodologies. Once the panel of respondents is constructed, a series of regular surveys will be conducted over the next several years covering a wide set of questions. This survey will offer scale, breadth, and reliability of information of a key cohort of global Internet users not available from other means.

5 Responses to “The Internet and Democracy Project”

  1. gerardo Says:

    People o Internet and Democracy.

    Please look below. Mexico is crumbling on a fratricide war. Mexican government is suposedly against drug- trafic, and for that sake, thousands of soldiers and militarized police agents perpetrate de public space. The constant is “violence”, we are getting closer to the Colombian experience of society. Since all this happens, the US Administration tries to hold a bi-lateral agenda with the mexican president, to enhance our government with more weapons and war clauses.
    The problem is that we are getting on a warfare panorama with no signs of relief. Normal people at Mexico has not any opportunitiy for change. This is the reason why thousands go to your country to find some decent job. The other people choose between starving and moral stagnation. Drug trafic becomes a social engine in a place with no opportunities.
    So please, for the sake of democracy: people in the Senate, in the Congress, among the institutions of the civil society: we all have to talk about the retorics of American Government and the consequences in warfare scenarios on other countries.
    It would be healthy for our moral standars that at least admit the reason of many people who reject the wardrobe rethorics on the Amercian Administration, and the devatating consequences on other countries.

  2. UAECITIZEN Says:

    Hi,

    This is one of the project that really captured my attention, since the middle east is facing the democratization effect through the world of the internet, I myself did a research about democracy in the UAE, the past, present and future, if you are interested, I will be glad to help with any research needed.

  3. Rina Says:

    Yes, the middle East may be a good target to focus your research on. But there are some very interesting occurings happening in my country pertaining to the democracy and the Internet. Amazngly, since www was introduced here, it has literally changed the way people view freedom, and have significantly upset the governing party. we are expecting major upheavals in the enxt election and obviously the factor that brought about this change is the WWW. It is amazing since the ruling party has never changed ever since we attain independance.

    In a world where democracy is proclaimed as the guiding proinciple and yet practices the dreaded ISA(Internal Security Act), the WWW gives poeple a new media to express their views and dissatisfactions.

  4. aung naing oo Says:

    I copy your project release to my web site.
    Please forget me what I did and I much ask permission from you.
    I am sorry for this.
    aung
    Burma

  5. Tom Says:

    The really unique video for Human Rights
    that goes around the globe those days :
    http://www.vimeo.com/4324823

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