Public video applications of citizens and development of digital democracy in contemporary Russia: a case of Alexei Dymovskii
Elena Bogdanova, Ph.D. (kandidat nauk) in Sociology
Centre for Independent Social Research / University of Eastern Finland
Many foreign researchers argue, that the new virtual public space promotes discussions and exchange of ideas and views. At the same time, “internet public space, but does not constitute a public sphere” (Papacharissi 2002:13), and, accordingly, does not guarantee a democratic way of solving problems.
Distribution of Internet technologies in contemporary Russia generates development of public applications as tools of digital democracy. A complaint published in the open virtual space is visible not only for the addresser and author, but also for the other users, and this fact turns the complaint to one of the mechanisms of democratic control, inherent to the "network public spheres" (Benkler, 2006). Such resources as http://democrator.ru, http://change.ru are positioned as digital democracy tools.
Appearing in the public space, the complaints of citizens perform a routine function of monitoring "from below", and turn into the catalyst of the practices of deliberative democracy (Benhabib, 1996; Cohen, 2009). Potentially, public appeals and discussions arising about them, can become one of the tools of e-democracy and an important component of "counter-democracy" (Rosanvallon, 2012) in Russia.
Complaints and applications of citizens to the authorities is a traditional way of solving problems in Russian society. An extensive administrative apparatus receiving and processing citizens’ complaints is available nowadays in Russia. Several Internet resources provide citizens’ applications to the top of hierarchy of executive power – to the President and Prime-minister of Russian Federation (http://medvedevu.ru, http://letters.kremlin.ru/, http://moskva-prezidentu.ru/, etc.). Also, direct official video applications of citizens to the President have become popular in recent years.
From the one side, submission of a video on the web-recourse, which is free of charge, and accessible for everyone, delivers the problem to the unlimited number of customers, and makes it public. Knobel and Sanders (2012) compare this practice with the soviet Samizdat. Although, no doubt, possibilities of dissemination of information through the Internet are much richer.
The most-known public applications, that caused a wide resonance in the society, have been analyzed as cases of civil activism or scandals, which, according to Markovits and Silverstein (1988:8) “can only occur in liberal democracies”. Meanwhile, the video applications reproduce a traditional for the Russian society model of solving problems through complaints, addressed to the authorities, especially when the addresser is the President of the country. This way of solving problems is absolutely legitimate in the contemporary Russian society, and supoprted by the Federal Law No 59-FZ on the Procedure for Consideration of Public Appeals in the Russian Federation of February 5, 2006.
FULL VERSION Public video applications of citizens and development of digital democracy in contemporary Russia: a case of Alexei Dymovskii
 The Law No 59-FZ on the Procedure for Consideration of Public Appeals in the Russian Federation of February 5, 2006.