Control + Shift. Public and Private Usages of the Russian Internet. Control + Shift. Schmidt, Teubener, Konradova (Eds.)

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1 Control + Shift Henrike Schmidt Katy Teubener Natalja Konradova (Eds.) Control + Shift Russian Internet Aesthetics, Art, Blogs, Communities, Counter Culture, Cultural Identity, Diaspora, Experts, Gender, Intelligentsia, Language, Literature, Metaphors, News Sites, Personal Webpages, Polit Technology, Pornography, Power Élite, Propaganda, Public Sphere, TV, Virtual Persona ISBN Schmidt, Teubener, Konradova (Eds.) Public and Private Usages of the Russian Internet

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3 Control + Shift

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5 Henrike Schmidt Katy Teubener Natalja Konradova (Eds.) Control + Shift Public and Private Usages of the Russian Internet

6 Schmidt, Teubener, Konradova 2006 and the authors of the articles respectively This work is published under a Creative Commons License. You are free: to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work to make derivative works Under the following conditions: Attribution. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor. Noncommercial. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. Share Alike. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. Any of these conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder. This work is also available online under Cover Illustration, Pepsi Gene Icon, by Oleg Janushevskij Cover Design, Layout and Typesetting by Katy Teubener English Manuscripts edited by Gillian Kew Published by Books on Demand GmbH, Norderstedt (Germany) ISBN

7 Acknowledgments The publication of this book has been made possible by a grant from the Volkswagen Foundation (Hannover, Germany). We are grateful for the support of the Lotman-Institute of Russian and Soviet Culture (Ruhr-University of Bochum, Germany), the Institute of Sociology (University of Münster, Germany), the Institute of European Cultures (Russian State University of the Humanities, Moscow). We owe special thanks for critical and positive feedback, material and moral support to Elena Berns, Sergej Bolmat, Georg Butwilowski, Antje Gunsenheimer, Vjacheslav V. Gvozdev, Karl Eimermacher, Ekaterina Kratasjuk, Martin Proppé, Sergej Roy, Christian Sigrist, Klaus Waschik, Nils Zurawski and all participants of our Distance Learning courses dedicated to the topic of the volume.

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9 Introduction Editorial Henrike Schmidt, Katy Teubener, Natalja Konradova Reader s Manual Our RuNet? Cultural Identity and Media Usage Henrike Schmidt, Katy Teubener Historical, Political and Social Backgrounds The Changing Face of the RuNet Anna Bowles Construction of Reality in Russian Mass Media. News on Television and on the Internet Ekaterina Kratasjuk (Counter)Public Sphere(s) on the Russian Internet Henrike Schmidt, Katy Teubener Community Building and Identity Construction Russian LiveJournal. The Impact of Cultural Identity on the Development of a Virtual community Eugene Gorny Expert Communities on the Russian Internet: Typology and History Roman Lejbov Netting Gender Olena Goroshko Virtual (Re)Unification? Diasporic Cultures on the Russian Internet Henrike Schmidt, Katy Teubener, Nils Zurawski The Formation of Identity on the Russian-Speaking Internet: Based on the Literary Website Zagranica Natalja Konradova Net Art, Literature and Internet Aesthetics The Virtual Persona as a Creative Genre on the Russian Internet Eugene Gorny Male literature of Udaff.com and Other Networked Artistic Practices of the Cultural Resistance Olga Goriunova Aesthetics of Internet and visual consumption. On the RuNet s essence and specificity. Andrej Gornykh, Almira Ousmanova

10 Editorial Control + Shift + Culture Shortcuts are a combination of keystrokes on the computer keyboard providing easier access to a command or operation. They significantly simplify the usage of computer software and Internet technologies. Shortcuts are so handy because they are standardized and thus simple to use. While it is comparatively easy with the help of such shortcuts to edit, copy, revise or decode any documents or computer files, the social practices and individual usages of communication technologies show both a much higher degree of variation and persistence. The question, though, to what extent historical experiences and cultural identity determine the usage of communication technology, continues to be an ardent topic of discussion, stretching between the poles of media induced cultural imperialism on the one hand and a re-nationalization and ethnicizing of global technologies, on the other. In other words: does the worldwide proliferation and implementation of computer and information technology which is, as a rule, conceived to meet the needs of the Englishspeaking, Western societies lead to a unification of cultural patterns of behaviour? Or, conversely, does the insistence on cultural specifics in media usage result in an artificial ethnicizing, a sort of cyber-folklore? Control + Shift + Power Information technology is a technology of power (Herrschaftstechnologie). Notwithstanding the political and economic appropriations and annexations of the Internet, the current global networks present, with regard to their comparatively easy accessibility, a challenge to all aspirations for economic and political domination and encourage grassroots individual and collective activities [Gorny, Goroshko]. These opportunities for participation, though, are not necessarily used in the sense of an emancipating and liberal engagement [Goriunova], as the often especially skilful usage of the Internet by fascist, extremist and nationalist movements clearly illustrates. The shortcut control + shift ought to symbolize these ambivalences: the desire for and the anxiety about control on the one hand [Schmidt /Teubener] and the desired and adverse shifts in individual and social online practices on the other. Attempts to control the insubordinate Internet in both political (censorship or observation) and economic respects (copyright issues or commercialization) are constantly challenged by new technological solutions and shifting usage patterns. Control + Shift + Theory Mutatis mutandis - the Latin term engraved on the interactive Icon by Oleg Janushevskij, which is used for the cover illustration and serves as a visual introduction into the topic of this book, means things being changed which are to be changed. The term, frequently used in economics and law to adapt an agreement or legal statement to changing conditions, is also relevant for cultural and media studies: the global communication technologies function on a worldwide scale but encounter very specific, local contexts, leading, in consequence, to a growing diversity of media usages or, in other words: to character encoding both in the literal and in the figurative sense. Thus, things terms, theoretical models, empirical approaches have to be modified when applied under changing, shifting circumstances; but to what extent? The question of how technological standards influence cultural traditions and social practices or vice versa has been one of 8 HENRIKE SCHMIDT / KATY TEUBENER / NATALJA KONRADOVA

11 Pepsi Gene Icon by Oleg Janushevskij EDITORIAL 9

12 the most passionately discussed topics among the authors of the present book. Furthermore, the transfer of scientific terms coined in Western academic traditions (which necessarily reflect a given social reality) to the realities of post-soviet Russia has been put into question [Kratasjuk, Goriunova, Gorny]. Thus, to mention just one example, the term counter public spheres, largely used to describe the new emerging social spheres on the Web, seems to be inappropriate for the description of phenomena of the Russian language segment of the Internet, though similar practices are to be witnessed [Schmidt / Teubener]. The question is a thorny one, as the rejection of broadly accepted and general terms may, in the final analysis, lead to a resignation of science vis-à-vis the seeming inexplicability of other cultures (the well known slogan that Russia cannot be understood rationally ) [Konradova]. On the contrary, the appliance of globally valid terms (often, indeed derived exclusively from practices and experiences of the Western world) may lead to a falsification of the results. The present volume gives different answers to the problem with regard to the private and public media usages on the Russian Internet answers, often contradictory ones, which might stimulate further discussion and research. Control + Shift + Tradition The Pepsi Gene Icon by Oleg Janushevskij is emblematic for the book in yet another sense: it is an artistic approach to and reflection of facets of today s media worlds, as there are a mixture of global and local symbols and traditions, a new heterogeneity of forms, contents, and communicators, a challenge of interactivity in a global network of power relations as well as reflection of the Russian contemporary art tradition itself, which often provides these images to represent Russian society. It thus enriches and enlarges the scientific approach of the following articles. Below we take a stroll through the meanings presented by both the Pepsi Gene Icon and by this volume. Why the icon? The icon, is not only an art form, but also an element of orthodox religious symbolism. It is a medium in a multitude of different senses: a window to the transcendent worlds of belief; a part of the cultural memory; a truly multi-media object combining verbal and pictorial materials. Furthermore, the icon presents what Andrej Gornykh and Almira Ousmanova, in their article on the aesthetics of the RuNet call a, world vision [Gornykh / Ousmanova], implying a specific perception of space and time, of inner and outer worlds, of the individual and the collective. It is a cultural model that it shares with the Internet, which is to our minds not just a communication technology, but a medium that embodies a world vision, or at least influences our perception of the world. Both are objects of cult/ure and subject to constant shiftings. Symbolic blend The artist introduces foreign elements into his new icons : symbols and icons of politics and pop culture are combined with traditional motifs in order to underline their fetishistic character. Thus, the flag of the Russian Federation and the Pepsi logo are equated as cultural brands, along with the Orthodox saints and communist stars. These new icons thus may well be read as signs of the great journey of old Russia from communism to orthodoxy, as Janushevskij states, indicating the ideological groundings of both as great novels resistant to change: The modules of Russian consciousness are orthodox-archaic and of perfect beauty in their pagan simplicity. Their strong formal seclusion rejects the smallest structural intrusions. 10 HENRIKE SCHMIDT / KATY TEUBENER / NATALJA KONRADOVA

13 At the same time, Janushevskij s works do not open any new meanings of modern Russian culture: Russian contemporary artists have been using the idea of comparison and confrontation of Western, Soviet and Orthodox elements for more than 40 years (the images of Pepsi or Coca Cola, the Russian tricolour, red star and icons). Therefore, Janushevskij uses non-original mass images that might even be considered kitsch? For some of the authors of the present volume, the whole discourse on our RuNet is considered as an attempt to reconstruct the Russian s conception of what is thought to be the real Russia (actually, utopian) with all its irrational understanding, spirituality and other imagined features [Kratasjuk, Konradova]. Interactivity Computer chips are incorporated into Janushevskij s new icons, the relics of future times, as well as a diversity of other technological and communicative devices, such as the radio translator, calculator, digital meter and sensors. The Saint s head begins rotating when the viewer pushes the red button: a quite restrictive concept of interactivity, for sure, but which nevertheless involves the spectator, encourages him/her to take action, and reflect on the nature of his/her involvement into social practices. Against the tradition of the orthodox icon as an object of cult and worship this shift in usage, though far from being revolutionary within the context of Russian contemporary media art, is met by strong opposition. itself, but part of a (de)identification process. The new icons were exhibited in the Marat Gel man Gallery, the owner being a prominent player on the Russian Internet himself, in Moscow in An exhibition of the new icons in St. Petersburg in 2004 was partly destroyed by vandals and the artist chose to continue his artistic life in London. The Internet being implemented in Russia comparatively late [Bowles], in times of overall social transformation and against the background of a partially traditionalist society, serves at times as a similar provocation, stimulating diverse cultural practices, from resistance and coexistence, to participation, as illustrated in the case studies of the present volume. The contributions to the book present snapshots of the years , which also provide a basis for future comparative analysis. The volume as a whole reflects in its discursive structure the process of theory building and self-reflection of the time, and thus may itself become an object of scientific research. Bochum / Münster / Moscow 2006 Henrike Schmidt, Katy Teubener, Natalja Konradova Ideology Janushevskij himself is well aware of the provocative nature of his work, which he sees as ideological. The integration of diverse cultural material and strategies is central to him, nevertheless the deconstruction of cultural taboos is not a goal in EDITORIAL 11

14 Our RuNet? Cultural Identity and Media Usage Henrike Schmidt (Bochum), Katy Teubener (Münster) Reader s Manual Boundaries 35, 148 Our RuNet (nash RuNet) is a popular expression applied to the Russian or Russian language segment of the Internet. It suggests the existence of a distinct object or space and a collective we. The criteria determining its specifics, though, are not self-evident and vary with regard to the interests articulated by different players on the RuNet, such as the net community, commercial corporations or State institutions. The boundaries that confine this assumed Ru- Net may be accordingly language, technology, territory, cultural norms, traditions or values and political Hyperlinks power. visualized as tabs The term indicate has almost topics no analogue that in Western are languages covered a request by different for our US Net or unser authors DeNet within / unser the deutsches book Internet at major and search indexed engines by (Google, keywords. Yahoo) garners very few results, which may lead to the assumption that the Russian Internet offers an especially high identification potential. Indeed, researchers like Jürgen Bruchhaus [2001] or Natalja Konradova [2005] refer to a strong tendency towards self-reflection in the RuNet community, which manifests itself among others as a growing tendency towards historicization, as reflected in projects similar to Nethistory.ru. As reasons for such a high significance of the RuNet for its users or at least the most active ones among them several factors that are closely linked to the specific contemporary context of Internet implementation in the 1990s in Russia may be highlighted: 1. The autobiographical factor: The Internet in Russia developed within a period of overall social, political and economic transformation. For many of its early protagonists it has The book will also serve as a basis for an international online course offered to students from different countries and disciplines been representative of professional and personal freedom and self-realization. The Tusovka (Russian = party, meeting) or clubbing factor: the development of a communication infrastructure in Russia was slow, due to the hardships of economic and political transition. Only from 2000 to 2005 has a significant growth in the numbers of Internet users in the Russian Federation been witnessed. In consequence the core of active participants of Russian net culture in the first, decisive years of its implementation has not been very large. The legacy of these times is a highly personalized sector of Internet culture and mass media. The grassroots effect : The development of the Internet in Russia from 1991 to 1998 was the result of mostly private economic and cultural initiatives, as State influence in these years was almost non-existent, due to the roughand-tumble of the transition period. Serious State activities, whether they concerned funding or regulative initiatives can be observed only since the second half of the 1990s. Last but not least the specifics of Russian offlineculture have to be taken into account. Two factors deserve special mentioning: 4. The highly normative cultural background: Official Russian culture sometimes referred to as mainstream as presented on television and radio, in the productions of the large publishing houses and print media is, to a large extent, determined by normative guidelines. 12 HENRIKE SCHMIDT / KATY TEUBENER

15 Our RuNet : Fragment of the RuNet award website, launched to mark the Russian Internet s 10th birthday. Pornography, slang, or obscene language are less evident All than contributions by comparison have in German media been and popular carefully culture. read To illustrate, and one may cite critically the political commented initiatives to ban the American TV comic serial, The Simpsons from not only by the editors Russian screens or the trial of the popular writer, Vladimir Sorokin, accused of pornography. but also by most of Thus, in a the restrictive authors. milieu, To the record Internet offered a space the for making free articulation of the of non-normative cultural activities. book as part of a very intensive two years co- 5. The strongly operation, controlled media some sector: of the after a short period of relaxation in the 1990s, the media sector, understood in a more narrow sense problems, questions and different theoretical as television, radio and print journals, has been, since the and presidency methodological of Vladimir Putin, largely controlled approaches by the State that or (in have part) by the open purses been of the discussed, so-called oligarchs. mainly As a response, the over Internet the in Internet, Russia offers possibilities for the are publication included of socially into or the politically questionable contents; it serves only to a lesser extent as a platform for media respective texts as black experiments. highlighted annotations. I agree with you concerning the Russian Internet as a rather meaty (oriented to content) than a formal (media) dimension. At the same time it is necessary to underline a function of re-structuring: the Internet doesn t refuse the idea of normative structure itself, but does attempt to build a new structure (though, in practice this attempt often turns into a reproduction of the original). [Natalja Konradova] Patterns of appropriation In terms of technology the Internet in Russia is a Western import. Whereas its early popularity was ensured by its foreign, almost exotic character, the RuNet later was gradually customized to meet national needs and interests. Some memoirs of a veteran according to my first impressions of the Internet in 1996, it seemed like a magic window to America, as the only well-known resource of general importance at that time was Altavista.com. [Natalja Konradova] This process started with technological adoption. Whereas, in the early years, Russian texts had to be written in Latin transcription, in the mid- 1990s Cyrillic encoding was introduced, Russian search engines developed, and Russian domain names registered. The provision of full Cyrillic web addresses will complete this development in the near future. A fundamental knowledge of English is no longer necessary in order to benefit from the (Russian) Internet. With regard to the users, this tendency will lead to a new stage of democratization, as foreign language skills are no longer a barrier to participation; with regard to the contents, though, it results in a growing separation of the RuNet as a kind of ethnonet [Goralik 1999], a tendency especially significant for those segments of the World Wide Web that do not use the Latin alphabet. Control 23, 59, 84 CULTURAL IDENTITY AND MEDIA USAGE 13

16 Our RuNet? Cultural Identity and Media Usage Henrike Schmidt (Bochum), Katy Teubener (Münster) Boundaries 35, 148 Our RuNet (nash RuNet) is a popular expression applied to the Russian or Russian language segment of the Internet. It suggests the existence of a distinct object or space and a collective we. The criteria determining its specifics, though, are not self-evident and vary with regard to the interests articulated by different players on the RuNet, such as the net community, commercial corporations or State institutions. The boundaries that confine this assumed Ru- Net may be accordingly language, technology, territory, cultural norms, traditions or values and political power. The term has almost no analogue in Western languages a request for our US Net or unser DeNet / unser deutsches Internet at major search engines (Google, Yahoo) garners very few results, which may lead to the assumption that the Russian Internet offers an especially high identification potential. Indeed, researchers like Jürgen Bruchhaus [2001] or Natalja Konradova [2005] refer to a strong tendency towards self-reflection in the RuNet community, which manifests itself among others as a growing tendency towards historicization, as reflected in projects similar to Nethistory.ru. As reasons for such a high significance of the RuNet for its users or at least the most active ones among them several factors that are closely linked to the specific contemporary context of Internet implementation in the 1990s in Russia may be highlighted: 1. The autobiographical factor: The Internet in Russia developed within a period of overall social, political and economic transformation. For many of its early protagonists it has been representative of professional and personal freedom and self-realization. The Tusovka (Russian = party, meeting) or clubbing factor: the development of a communication infrastructure in Russia was slow, due to the hardships of economic and political transition. Only from 2000 to 2005 has a significant growth in the numbers of Internet users in the Russian Federation been witnessed. In consequence the core of active participants of Russian net culture in the first, decisive years of its implementation has not been very large. The legacy of these times is a highly personalized sector of Internet culture and mass media. The grassroots effect : The development of the Internet in Russia from 1991 to 1998 was the result of mostly private economic and cultural initiatives, as State influence in these years was almost non-existent, due to the roughand-tumble of the transition period. Serious State activities, whether they concerned funding or regulative initiatives can be observed only since the second half of the 1990s. Last but not least the specifics of Russian offlineculture have to be taken into account. Two factors deserve special mentioning: 4. The highly normative cultural background: Official Russian culture sometimes referred to as mainstream as presented on television and radio, in the productions of the large publishing houses and print media is, to a large extent, determined by normative guidelines. 14 HENRIKE SCHMIDT / KATY TEUBENER

17 Our RuNet : Fragment of the RuNet award website, launched to mark the Russian Internet s 10th birthday. Pornography, slang, or obscene language are less evident than by comparison in German media and popular culture. To illustrate, one may cite the political initiatives to ban the American TV comic serial, The Simpsons from Russian screens or the trial of the popular writer, Vladimir Sorokin, accused of pornography. Thus, in a restrictive milieu, the Internet offered a space for free articulation of non-normative cultural activities. 5. The strongly controlled media sector: after a short period of relaxation in the 1990s, the media sector, understood in a more narrow sense as television, radio and print journals, has been, since the presidency of Vladimir Putin, largely controlled by the State or (in part) by the open purses of the so-called oligarchs. As a response, the Internet in Russia offers possibilities for the publication of socially or politically questionable contents; it serves only to a lesser extent as a platform for media experiments. I agree with you concerning the Russian Internet as a rather meaty (oriented to content) than a formal (media) dimension. At the same time it is necessary to underline a function of re-structuring: the Internet doesn t refuse the idea of normative structure itself, but does attempt to build a new structure (though, in practice this attempt often turns into a reproduction of the original). [Natalja Konradova] Patterns of appropriation In terms of technology the Internet in Russia is a Western import. Whereas its early popularity was ensured by its foreign, almost exotic character, the RuNet later was gradually customized to meet national needs and interests. Some memoirs of a veteran according to my first impressions of the Internet in 1996, it seemed like a magic window to America, as the only well-known resource of general importance at that time was Altavista.com. [Natalja Konradova] This process started with technological adoption. Whereas, in the early years, Russian texts had to be written in Latin transcription, in the mid- 1990s Cyrillic encoding was introduced, Russian search engines developed, and Russian domain names registered. The provision of full Cyrillic web addresses will complete this development in the near future. A fundamental knowledge of English is no longer necessary in order to benefit from the (Russian) Internet. With regard to the users, this tendency will lead to a new stage of democratization, as foreign language skills are no longer a barrier to participation; with regard to the contents, though, it results in a growing separation of the RuNet as a kind of ethnonet [Goralik 1999], a tendency especially significant for those segments of the World Wide Web that do not use the Latin alphabet. Control 23, 59, 84 CULTURAL IDENTITY AND MEDIA USAGE 15

18 Cultural Identity 79, 147 given and the effect is identity politics, implemented top down as well as bottom up. In correlation with the economic, social, and political conditions they determine the limits and the potential of social activity, which the individual and the society as a whole assign themselves. In consequence cultural identity influences media usage as well as understanding of the public sphere(s). The German scholar, Peter Wagner, in a critical review of the term cultural identity suggests further operationalizing its usage by the introduction of three antinomies which, by their very nature, as contradictions, cannot be solved, but have to be analyzed in their constant shifting [Wagner 1997, 58]: Essentialism 59, 107, 176 RUcenter: The domain.su is also a part of our history. The technological adoption of the Western Internet into the national context is paralleled by a similar inscription on a cultural semantic and semiotic level. Different patterns of appropriation can be distinguished, which vary largely with regard to the agents of these discourses, the different interest groups, such as the net intelligentsia, business or political institutions. These processes of media adoption and usage are to a large extent determined by historic experience and cultural identity. Excursus: Cultural identity and the semantics of the Internet The term cultural identity is often criticized for its absence of scientific substance. In our understanding it signifies mental constructions that do not exist in reality but, nevertheless, have a real impact on the individual s as well as the collective s world views. Thus, cultural identity is assumed, rather than choice fate, autonomy domination, construction reality. The individual as well as the collective the latter as an abstract assumption position themselves within this framework of parameters. With regard to the antinomy of choice fate the attributes of the personal and national character are interpreted as either achieved or ascribed, e.g. as flexible or as fixed. In the first case, responsibility and freedom are emphasized, whereas, in the second case, it is the ability to adapt to the per se unchangeable circumstances that is stressed. Exactly how interpersonal relationships and social communications are practised is dependent upon the answer given with regard to the first antinomy. If choice is stressed, there is a tendency towards autonomy ; if fate is experienced as a guiding principle, domination is the more relevant factor of social organization. The individual s and collective s positioning with regard to the first two antinomies also determines the interpretation of the last one: life will be understood accordingly as a construction or as reality. The latter approach is, in academic theories, often labelled as an essentialist world view : the notion that what we are is innate and unique, 16 HENRIKE SCHMIDT / KATY TEUBENER

19 Choice Autonomy Construction Positive semantics Technical feature Negative semantics Low hierarchies Decentralized Loss of authority structure Flexibility Connectivity Disorientation Cooperation; collaborative ethics and aesthetics Interactivity Loss of control and quality; danger of abuse Fate Domination Reality Table 1: The Internet as a cultural model. With regard to the Russian net community itself two lines of media appropriation can be roughly distinguished. When speaking about the net community we refer to those institutions and forums on the Russian Internet that articulate the above mentioned high self-reflexivity, that analyze and interpret its history, functions, and structures. Such institutions and publications are, for example, the International Internet Association, Ezhe.ru, online periodicals, such as the Russian Journal or research projects, such as Nethistory.ru. Russification / Nationalization : the specifics of the Russian Internet (or, more appropriately stated: of a specific Internet culture) are interpreted in terms of cultural tradition and mentality [see Konradova 2005]. The Internet is no longer a Western import but is seen as something genuinely Russian. Its features of interactivity, connectivity, de-hierarchization, informal networking, and free information delivery are positively interpreted and seen as innate competencies and characteristics of Russian culture and mentality. They seem to fit perfectly into its set of mental patterns, as there is a (supposed) strong tendency towards collectivism, a popularity of informal netas formulate Simon Franklin and Emma Widdis in their anthology, National Identity in Russian Culture: An Introduction [2004, 7]. According to their findings, Russian culture always understood to a certain extent as an abstraction is still largely dominated by an essentialist world view, which is deeply rooted in such different historical traditions as Russian religious philosophy on the one hand and Soviet ideology on the other. In contemporary, Post-Perestrojka Russia this view has been challenged by the sudden exposure to system transformation and globalization. Or to put in the words of the German literary scholar, Georg Witte [2005]: Russian society in the 1990s experienced a trauma of contextualization. The confrontation with a networked world, paralleled by the loss of a (artificially) homogenized identity and a lack of international status was experienced by large parts of the population as a shock. Mental patterns inherited from Soviet times made it especially difficult to adapt to the changing circumstances [Gudkov 2004, 797]. The Internet, in contrast, may be seen as the predestined medium of contextualization, as it offers information never isolated but embedded into a large variety of contexts. As a cultural model it stands, with regard to the above mentioned antinomies, for choice, autonomy, and construction. And indeed, the technological features of the Internet are often endowed specific semantics with positive or negative connotations and accordingly inscribed into one s world view. Of course, in practice, there may be realized a mul- tiplicity of positions within this theoretical framework (see table 1). Patterns of appropriation within the Russian net community Semantics 57 CULTURAL IDENTITY AND MEDIA USAGE 17

20 Slavophiles 80, 152, 158 works (blat), or the rejection of the idea of copyright in the Western sense promoting instead a broader definition of intellectual property. This approach is in a typical way expressed in the writings of the Russian literary scholar and philosopher Mikhail Epshtejn who returns to the traditions of the Slavophiles and Russian religious philosophy in order to illustrate the Russianness of the global networks. Electronic sobornost (from the Russian: sobor = cathedral; council, synod) is a slogan Epshtejn introduced in the late 1990s; the term alludes to the concept of a spiritual unity, which nevertheless allows for individual creativity and self-realization. Epshtejn s style is highly metaphorical; it is typical of the period of early Internet euphoria characterized by a fascination for the new digital world, in a philosophical or even metaphysical sense: We are interested in the metaphysics and culturology of the electronic spider s web that entangles Russian intellectual life more and more [...]. This technological innovation has something in common with such favourite categories of Russian thought as sobornost, sophism, all-unity, cosmism, polyphony, cosmic reason, [...] human anthill [ ]. [Epshtejn n.d.] In his detailed studies of specific genres of Russian net communication, such as the Virtual personalities or the Russian blogger community, the Internet researcher, Eugene Gorny proceeds from similar assumptions. He focuses on two parameters of Russian traditional thought, which, according to his findings, lead to an especially fruitful adaptation of global information technologies in Russia; that is 1) a specific and more flexible understanding of intellectual property rights and 2) a strongly expressed tendency towards collectivist behaviour patterns. Whereas the first property influences mostly the content and promotes, for example, the development of richly furnished web libraries, the second quality is, according to Gorny, typically expressed in a specific usage of weblogs largely oriented towards community building. Within this tendency of semantic russification traditional mental patterns turn out to be stronger than global technological features. Our RuNet is accordingly determined by cultural identity, which cannot be reduced to the experience of a shared language. Such a pattern of media appropriation is partly characterized by an essentialist world view as it assumes the existence of a typical Russian mentality. The technological features of the Internet are endowed with a positive meaning collaborative ethics and aesthetics, spiritual unity and collectivism, creativity and freedom. One can intensify this point considering the concept of electronic sobornost not just like one of Epshtejn s ideas but like an innate base of early RuNet. The more I think about it, the more I realize that the nationalization of the Internet was, indeed, the only way to submit to the losses on the main ideological field in reality be it an official or dissident one. [Natalja Konradova] Westernization / Internationalization : a different pattern of appropriation may be distinguished less among philosophers or (literary) scholars, than among journalists and representatives of Internet business and institutions who see the Russian Internet on the road towards a complete integration into the global networks. The idea of such a Westernization or Internationalization denies the notion of national specifics in global technologies. On the contrary, the Internet offers the possibility to escape narrow, national contexts. It is seen as an instrument for work, and not as a specific milieu or community. Asked whether there are certain specifics of the so-called Ru- Net, representatives of the Internet media, such as Dmitrij Ivanov [2004] or Natal ja Loseva [c.f. Busse 2005] refer to material constraints, such as the low implementation rates, the problems of infrastructure and financing and last but not least, the strictly controlled media sector. All these 18 HENRIKE SCHMIDT / KATY TEUBENER

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