Whenever protest has arisen recently in non-democratic regimes across the globe, the mass media have been quick to speak of Twitter revolutions or Facebook uprisings. In parallel, a vibrant debate has evolved in academic journals around how internet-mediated communication affects non-democratic politics. However, while essayistic treatment of this question has been pervasive, a strong body of research on the topic is only now emerging. Most importantly, there is still a surprising scarcity in this literature of case-based, cross-national research. This striking lack of comparative research is particularly unfortunate because it significantly limits the ability of researchers to claim validity for their findings beyond the specific national context they are investigating. To address this gap, this project compares phenomena of internet-mediated communication (and their consequences) across three (semi-)authoritarian regimes in the post-Soviet world: Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
The project‘s central research question can be formulated as follows: how has the rapid rise of internet-mediated communication in the past decade changed political communication, politics, and polities in these three countries? To address this question, the project is divided into five sub-projects, each of which will investigate communicative change in relation to one key mid-range theoretical concept. Concepts investigated include political representation, collective action, participation, the decoding of political news, counterpublics, and political scandal.