Learning to Shoot Fish on the Internet: New Media in the Russian Margins as Facilitating Immediate and Parochial Social Needs

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This essay examines regimes of internet use, and the significance of the internet for everyday lives, in the Russian margins. The field site, a small provincial town in European Russia, was visited in 2009 and 2010. Informants were mainly families dependent on a single non-professional wage. Research materials-semi-structured interviews and participant observation-comprising an ethnography of internet use, are supplemented by survey data. Qualitative social research on new media use has critically examined technologically determinist assumptions about social effects of the internet, including the so-called `digital divide'. The present research also seeks a contextualised understanding of new media use by considering how it is embedded in established everyday social settings and practices. The ethnographic materials and survey data collected indicate that Woolgar's rules of virtuality hold true in the Russian margins: use of new media depends on the local social context and supplements, rather than replaces real activities. Most users in the group surveyed are highly instrumentalist and have little interest in the communicative and non-grounded aspects of the media. At the same time the impetus for initial access to the internet is closely related to issues of esteem and peer recognition within a social network rather than actual need.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1546-1564
JournalEurope-Asia Studies
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2012