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Patterns of political behavior on social networking platforms in Russia: Facebook vs. Vkontakte

Mon, June 13, 9:30 to 10:45, Fukuoka Hilton, Kusu

Abstract

Keywords: social media, counterpublics, social networking platforms, Vkontakte, online survey
Russia of 2010s represents a nearly perfect object for research upon connections of social patterns of online networking and political behavior of citizens as far as in this country there exist a highly competitive social networking market where several dominant platforms, allegedly, gravitate to different social milieus. Our research shows significant difference in the average user profiles of the users of Facebook and Vkontakte, features of dominant discourses, and their general perception among the Internet audience in Russia. Thus, Russian Facebook has become a platform for oppositional and alternative-thinking intellectual elite (Bodrunova&Litvinenko 2013) of the wealthier, well-travelled, cosmopolitan variety (Ioffe 2012). The presentation shows the differences in political use of the two major social networks in Russia and its role in political mobilization. The methods of research include semi-structured in-depth interviews with experts and typical users and two surveys: that of 2012 among participants of the Russian major political protest rallies in 2011-2012, and that of 2015 among ‘heavy users’ of the two platforms, after the culmination of the Ukrainian conflict that polarized the public discussion in the country. Although Facebook and Vkontakte communities differ less than expected, still there’s clear difference in perceived purposes of use of the two networks. Also, for the protest movement, the nature of the social network platform used at a particular moment played a bigger role rather than the nature of the user’s basic networking platform. But despite this, Facebook on the whole has played an important role in cultivating pre-protest anti-establishment consensus, thus playing a significant, even if ambivalent, role in political and deliberative polarization of the online audience as well as in consolidation of the protest nucleus. The presentation highlights the correlation between the functional possibilities of the two Russian networks, their audience profiles, and the combination of private and public political behavior of their users.

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