Social media and political discourse in Russia
National Research University Higher School of Economics
Research question and discussion
The issue of social media impact on political deliberation is articulated in two alternative approaches. The first is connected with the belief that social media proliferation generates so called new visibility [Thompson, 2011], which enables users to monitor the Other and encourages political discussion close to deliberative discourse [Castells, 2010]. The second approach presupposes an opposite effect: selection of information sources tends to fragmentation of the social network audience [Habermas, 2006; Sunstein, 2007].
These theoretical hypotheses can be tested in Russian case, which seems controversial for both approaches. There are two proliferated social networks in Russia (Facebook and VK), which generate different outcomes. For instance, participants of rallies against electoral fraud in 2011-2012 were predominantly active Facebook users; active VK usage was not a significant predictor for participation in rallies [White, McAllister, 2012; Gerber, 2013; Reuter, Szakonyi]. Thus the research question is why there are no visible political effects of VK active usage?
Basing on rallies participants surveys other authors conclude that social network generates political effects only if it was primarily politicized. That’s why Facebook generates political effects (for instance, effect on awareness about electoral fraud), while VK doesn’t [Reuter, Szakonyi]. Such explanations do not consider specific features of the political and ignore some possible forms of its manifestation.
Methodology and data
To reveal these forms we consider users’ opinion formation and decision making processes. According to N. Fairclough political discourse is an inclusive and transparent exchange of arguments for a purpose of collective decision [Fairclough, 2012]. Only such type of discourse encourages rational (i.e. political) opinion formation.
On the basis of users’ comments to news, related to Crimea crisis, on Vedomosti public page we reconstruct discourses of communities in Facebook and VK. We test which of two discourses (VK or Facebook) is more close to Fairclough’s model of political discourse.
FULL VERSION Social media and political discourse in Russia