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The Internet and Democracy Project

With funding from the MacArthur Foundation, the Berkman Center has undertaken a research project to investigate the role of the Internet in Russian society since 2009.

The study includes a number of interrelated areas of inquiry that contribute to and draw upon the Russian Internet, including the Russian blogosphere, Twitter, and the online media ecology. In addition to investigating a number of core Internet and communications questions, a key goal for the project is to test, refine, and integrate various methodological approaches to the study of the Internet more broadly, including: 1) Social network analysis; 2) Text analysis of Russian online news content and blogs with Media Cloud, a text aggregation, indexing, and analysis tool; 3) Text and link analysis of Twitter, and; 4) A scientifically rigorous online survey of Russian bloggers. The team has also carried out a research trip to Russia and met with leading Russian Internet companies, academics, universities, and technologists.

The project is building and refining a number of data collection and analysis tools required for the study. These tools now have the ability to process Cyrillic text, and the project is actively collecting large amounts of online news, blog, and Twitter data that will contribute to a number of research streams within the project.

Social Network Analysis
To understand the different communities, or clusters, that exist in the Russian blogosphere we will employ a methodological approach similar to our previous studies of the Persian and Arabic blogospheres. This will include link-based social network mapping of the Russian language blogosphere and comparisons of key Russian blogging platforms, including LiveJournal,, and, to understand how these platforms may impact the ‘shape’ of the Russian blogosphere. To understand the issues that bloggers write about and basic demographic data about them, we will also conduct content analysis of thousands of Russian blogs over different periods of time. This type of analysis will allow us to make useful comparisons with the US, Iranian, and Arabic blogospheres. We will also leverage text analysis tools (see below) to carry out deep automated analysis of the text of blog posts in the different clusters and to identify and then analyze individual blog posts related to specific topics of interest to researchers. Previous blog studies include: Mapping the Arabic Blogosphere (2009) and Mapping Iran’s Online Public (2008).

Media Cloud (Text Analysis)
Media Cloud is an open source text aggregation, indexing, and analysis tool of online information sources. The Russian version of Media Cloud will collect and analyze text from thousands of Russian blogs and top online media sources, including traditional newspapers available online, Web native news sites, and possibly transcripts from Russian national TV news broadcasts. This large database of text and analytical tools will allow researchers to compare which stories appear in different platforms as well as how they are discussed. To learn more about Media Cloud visit the Web site:

In collaboration with the Web Ecology Project, the Berkman Center will undertake a study of Twitter in Russia and its growing importance in Russia. This project seeks to make an early baseline assessment of Twitter as it grows in Russia, and seeks to answer fundamental communication questions of who talks to whom, about what, and to what effect, using link and text analysis, among other methods. For previous similar research see the Web Ecology Project’s studies on Twitter:

Blogger Survey
The Berkman Center is designing a global survey of the blogosphere, and the Russian blogosphere will be one of the first countries where we carry out the survey. This survey will serve as an aggregation point for the knowledge, perception, and opinions of active bloggers around the world. The panel of respondents will be assembled using scientifically rigorous sampling methodologies. Once the panel of respondents is constructed, a series of regular surveys will be conducted over the next several years covering a wide set of questions. This survey will offer scale, breadth, and reliability of information of a key cohort of global Internet users not available from other means.

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