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Russian LiveJournal. The national specifics in the development of a virtual community. Eugene Gorny Goldsmiths College, University of London gorny@list.ru. Eugene. Internet Research 5.0 Sussex University 20 September 2004. Definitions. LJ Web site (Livejournal.com)

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Russian LiveJournal


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russian livejournal

Russian LiveJournal

The national specifics in the development of a virtual community

Eugene Gorny

Goldsmiths College, University of London

gorny@list.ru

Eugene

Internet Research 5.0

Sussex University

20 September 2004

definitions
Definitions
  • LJ
  • Web site (Livejournal.com)
  • Technology (blogging tool)
  • Community of users.
  • RLJ = Russian LiveJournal = Zhivoj Zhurnal, ZhZh (Живой журнал, ЖЖ)
  • Community of Russian users at Livejournal.com
rlj general characteristics
RLJ: General Characteristics
  • The largest virtual community of Russians from all over the world(70000+)
  • Russia is on the 4th place in LJ country list (following US, Canada and UK) + those living abroad
  • Russian in on the 2nd place in LJ language list (6-8%)
  • Russians contribute to LJ’s development: avva (senior programmer); sema (Semagic); hundreds of volunteers and creators of LJ extensions and tools
  • LJ is extremely popular in Russia: awards of Russian professional Internet community (Ezhe); media coverage; general public recognition
state of research lj
State of Research: LJ

Reputation (US):

  • teenage bloggers, mostly female
  • trivial content
  • no influence
  • Scant media coverage
  • No academic research

Belongs to technologies / communities that are

“ignored, unknown or explicitly overlooked”

(Jeremy Hunsinger)

state of research rlj
State of Research: RLJ
  • Self-reflection
  • Hot topic for media (> 130 articles)
  • But: no academic research

Reasons:

  • Linguistic / cultural barrier (non-English blogs are excluded)
  • Underdevelopment of Internet studies in Russia

Reputation (Russia)

  • “The most fashionable address on the web”
  • Strong intellectual core
  • Real public sphere
  • Influence upon media and culture
rlj is considered by its users as
RLJ is considered by its users as:
  • Source of information and opinions (media)
  • Social software for building personal networks and acquiring friends
  • Organizational tool for flashmobs and grassroots' activism
  • A place for open discussions (public sphere)
  • Instrument of self-expression and cultural creativity (both individual and collective)
  • Addictive entertainment (comparable with computer games and chats)
age distribution
Age distribution
  • An average RLJ user is 6 years older than an average LJ user
  • This gap was even higher on early stages (i.e. RLJ was founded by older users, now it is becoming younger)
personal public
Personal / Public

Avva:

  • The overwhelming majority of journals in LiveJournal are very personaland devoted mainly to events in the writer’s private life, descriptions of everyday activity and communication with acquaintances: relatives, friends and classmates and fellow students. In Russian LJ, there were few such journals in the beginning; most journals were used by their authors for discussions on cultural, political and professional topics with many people, including strangers.
  • There is a very high level of connectedness and communicativeness of Russian LJ in comparison with American LJ. … there remains a communicative core in RLJ consisting of several thousands of journals which are tightly interwoven with each other. There remains the common communication environment in which news spreads quickly and discussion about a certain political, literary or social issue can involve dozens of journals and hundreds of interested users. LiveJournal in general has never had such a high degree of fellowship and entwinement.
differences summary
Differences: Summary
  • Age: Average age of RLJ users is higher than that of LJ users
  • Demography: School and university students dominate in LJ; office workers and people of free professions in RLJ
  • Genres: Private diary dominates in LJ; semi-private / semi-public journal in RLJ
  • Readership: a small number of real friends in LJ; indefinite audience (including virtual friends and complete strangers) in RLJ
  • Interconnection: Isolated groups in LJ; common communicative environment in RLJ + celebrities with a large audience
explanation of differences
Explanation of differences
  • Architecture of LJ
  • Socioeconomic conditions
  • Political situation
  • Historical circumstances of community building
  • Peculiarities of the Russian national character
1 architecture and features of livejournal
1. Architecture and features of LiveJournal
  • Not specific for RLJ; but some LJ features, in connection with other factors, account for a different use of the common technology.
  • Community-building features
  • single database for all entries
  • uniform style for all pages
  • identification of users within the site
  • interweaving of individual blogs

(cf. Blogger and Moveable Type => individual blogs)

  • Multi-language environment
  • introduction of Unicode as a universal encoding (April 2002)
  • localization (Russian interface – May 2002)
  • translation of terminology and auxiliary pages into Russian (100+ members in lj_russian)
2 socioeconomic conditions
2. Socioeconomic conditions
  • 15 m Internet users in Russia (2004)
  • 3,8 m use Internet on daily basis
  • only 4-9% of Russian population use the internet (cf. 50-80% in US and Europe)
  • low level of connectivity in schools and universities (=> limited access for younger generation)
  • most users (60%) connect at work (=> high % of office workers among LJ users)
3 political situation
3. Political situation
  • Suppression of free speech in Putin’s Russia (the fight with oligarchs; shutting down independent TV channels; government’s control of media)
  • Internet is still a freedom zone
  • LJ is outside Russia and beyond Russian jurisdiction (=> “RLJ is the only real public sphere” – D. Bykov)
4 historical circumstances of community building and its evolution
4. Historical circumstances of community building and its evolution
  • Early adopters: not teenage students but mature professionals
  • Shift in function: from “keeping in touch with friends” to creative experiments and public discussions
rlj evolution 1 conception early adopters
RLJ evolution: 1. Conception - Early adopters
  • LJ was first populated by members of the so-called Elite of the Russian Internet (winter-spring 2001)
  • Not passive adoption but play, experiments, creativity => differentiation of RLJ from LJ not only by language but also by functions
  • Narrow circle => reputation of an esoteric playground for creative and intellectual elite
  • Popularization RLJ in the masses; recruitment of new members; examples for imitation
rlj evolution 2 propaganda recruitment early majority
RLJ evolution: 2. Propaganda, recruitment - Early majority
  • Numerous publications in online and print media made RLJ “the most popular address on the web”
  • Zhivoj zhurnal was included in the list of the “fifty words that have become especially important” (Afisha Magazine, Dec. 2002)
  • Among RLJ members there are journalists, writers, philosophers, political commentators, artists, musicians, and other opinion makers who use their journals for creativity and discussion (=> high reputation)
rlj evolution 3 unification early majority
RLJ evolution: 3. Unification – Early majority
  • Tools of community unification: Fif’s friends page (Lenta Fifa) - a list of all Russian-language LJ users
  • Fif’s represent RLJ as a whole (=> Russian supercommunity; no analogues in LJ)
  • All LJ posts in Russian can be read in one page (=> importance of reading; RLJ as collective media)
  • Fif’s page becomes a starting point for new RLJ members (=> easy to find friends)
rlj evolution 4 mass adoption differentiation late majority
RLJ evolution: 4. Mass adoption & Differentiation – Late majority
  • The motive to join – not revolution but conformity
  • Quantitative growth => qualitative decline
  • New elites (secretaries, pornographers, nationalists) along with the old ones
  • RLJ as a model for real-life events (festival “Current Music”, “Zhivoj Zhurnal” magazine)
  • More diversity => more options for building up one’s own environment
  • More writers & readers => RLJ as media & public sphere
  • On the whole, the creative potential has increased
national international and transnational in rlj
National, international and transnational in RLJ
  • In what degree does RLJ serve as a tool of unification of the national culture, given that its users are geographically dispersed?
  • How does participation in RLJ influence the national identity of the users?
  • What is the correlation between the national and the international in RLJ?
  • Is it feasible to speak of an emergent transnational culture on the basis of LiveJournal in which RLJ is a nationally specific segment?
findings
Findings
  • Russian tend to communicate with other Russians, exceptions are few
  • The linguistic homogeneity helps to maintain the cultural unity but separates Russians from the rest of LJ
  • LJ serves for Russians abroad not as a means of integration into the worldwide context but rather as a means of isolation from the alien environment
adoption of innovation cultural differences
Adoption of innovation & cultural differences
  • “Glocalization” - the use of universal (global) means to achieve particular (local) ends.
  • Cultural values determine the adoption of an innovation.
  • Russian culture has largely influenced the ways of using LJ, sometimes in unpredictable ways in regard to its original concept and its “normal use”.
slide28

Everett Rogers, Adoption of innovation:

When horses were introduced into the Shoshoni culture [an Indian tribe in Nevada], the Indians knew what to do with them. The Shoshonis had previously experience with horses; they had stolen horses from settlers for food. So, when Indians agents gave them horses for transportation, they readily accepted them. But they ate them.

adoption vs co creation
Adoption vs. co-creation
  • Adoption of innovation is not a passive process but a co-creation of innovation.
  • In this sense, the Russians, instead of using the horses for work they were intended, set them free and let them go to a common land.