The Internet and Everyday Rights

Published: 14 July 2010

A two-year project to investigate whether the internet can champion the causes of citizens in non-democratic states has won funding from the ESRC.

Sarah Oates, Professor of Political Communication, and Dr Vikki Turbine have been awarded an ESRC grant for a two-year project to analyse whether the internet can champion the causes of citizens in non-democratic states.

While there is much speculation that the internet can provide critical social capital when there is a democratic deficit, there is relatively little empirical work on the interplay between online and off-line social protest and action. This project will study the role of the internet in political life in Russia through an analysis of how people seek to fulfil their 'everyday' human rights in gaining access to social services such as pensions and health care.

The study uses five central elements to study the role of the internet in these efforts: content, community, catalyst, control and co-optation. The project will analyse internet content against a background of key factors, including the nature and behaviour of online users (community), how the internet activity is sparked by real-world events such as protests or funding cuts (catalysts), how the government attempts to regulate the internet (control); and - more pessimistically - how political elites may attempt to hijack the influence of populist bloggers or websites once they have become influential (co-optation). The project looks at both national movements and local movements based in Ulyanovsk.

The ESRC grant of £99,700 includes funds for coding of web content as well as fieldwork to interview activists in Moscow and Ulyanovsk about their online behaviour.

First published: 14 July 2010

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