Digital Inequality in Russia Through the Use of a Social Network Site: A Cross-Regional Comparison

Conference paper
Part of the Communications in Computer and Information Science book series (CCIS, volume 745)

Abstract

An important role of digital inequality for hindering the development of civil society is being increasingly acknowledged. Simultaneously, differences in availability and the practices of use of social network sites (SNS) may be considered as major manifestations of such digital divide. While SNS are in principle highly convenient spaces for public discussion, lack of access or domination by socially insignificant small talk may indicate underdevelopment of the public sphere. At the same time, agenda differences between regions may signal about local problems. In this study we seek to find out whether regional digital divide exists in such a large country as Russia. We start from a theory of uneven modernization of Russia and use the data from its most popular SNS “VK.com” as a proxy for measuring digital inequality. By analyzing user activity data from a sample of 77,000 users and texts from a carefully selected sub-sample of 36,000 users we conclude that regional level explains an extremely small share of variance in the overall variation of behavioral user data. A notable exception is attention to the topics of Islam and Ukraine. However, our data reveal that historically geographical penetration of “VK.com” proceeded from the regions considered the most modernized to those considered the most traditional. This finding supports the theory of uneven modernization, but it also shows that digital inequality is subject to change with time.

Keywords

Digital inequality Social network site use Online user behavior Topic modeling Russian regions VK.com 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This article is an output of a research project implemented as part of the Basic Research Program at the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE) in 2017.

References

  1. 1.
    Auzan, A., Belyakov, E.: Economist Aleksander Auzan: “Rossia prevraschaetsa v stranu menedzherov, ohrannikov, migrantov i pensionerov” [Economist Alexander Auzan: ‘Russia is turning into a country of managers, security men, migrants and pensioners’]. Komsomolskaya pravda (2011). http://www.kp.ru/daily/25782.5/2766102/. Accessed 21 Apr 2017. (in Russian)
  2. 2.
    Bischoping, K.: Gender differences in conversation topics, 1922–1990. Sex Roles 28(1–2), 1–18 (1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bodrunova, S.S., Litvinenko, A.A.: Four Russias in communication: fragmentation of the Russian public sphere in the 2010s. In: Dobek-Ostrowska, B., Glowacki, M. (eds.) Democracy and Media in Central and Eastern Europe 25 Years On, pp. 63–80. Peter Lang, London (2015)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Bohn, A., Buchta, C., Hornik, K., Mair, P.: Making friends and communicating on Facebook: implications for the access to social capital. Soc. Netw. 37, 29–41 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Brooks, B., Hogan, B., Ellison, N., Lampe, C., Vitak, J.: Assessing structural correlates to social capital in Facebook ego networks. Soc. Netw. 38, 1–15 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Castells, M.: Communication Power. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2013)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Deviatko, I.F.: Digitizing Russia: the uneven pace of progress toward ICT equality. In: Ragnedda, M., Muschert, G.W. (eds.) The Digital Divide: The Internet and Social Inequality in International Perspective, pp. 118–133. Routledge, New York (2013)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    DiMaggio, P., Hargittai, E., Neuman, W.R., Robinson, J.P.: Social implications of the Internet. Annu. Rev. Sociol. 27, 307–336 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Ellison, N.B., Vitak, J., Gray, R., Lampe, C.: Cultivating social resources on social network sites: Facebook relationship maintenance behaviors and their role in social capital processes. J. Comput-Mediat Comm. 19, 855–870 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Hargittai, E., Hsieh, Y.P.: Digital inequality. In: Dutton, W.H. (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2013)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Hong, L., Davison, B.D.: Empirical study of topic modeling in Twitter. In: Proceedings of the First Workshop on Social Media Analytics, pp. 80–88. ACM, New York (2010)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Indaco, A., Manovich, L.: Social media inequality: definition, measurements, and application. Urban Stud. Pract. 1, 11–22 (2016)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Inglehart, R.: Modernization and democracy. In: Inozemtsev, V., Dutkiewicz, P. (eds.) Democracy versus Modernization: A Dilemma for Russia and for the World, pp. 123–144. Routledge, New York (2012)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Koltcov, S., Koltsova, O., Nikolenko, S.: Latent dirichlet allocation: stability and applications to studies of user-generated content. In: Proceedings of the 2014 ACM conference on Web science (WebSci 2014), pp. 161–165. ACM, New York (2014)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Moore, H.T.: Further data concerning sex differences. J. Abnorm. Psychol. 17(2), 210–214 (1922)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Steyvers, M., Griffiths, T.: Probabilistic topic models. In: Landauer, T., McNamara, D., Dennis, S., Kintsch, W. (eds.) Latent Semantic Analysis: A Road to Meaning. Lawrence Erlbaum, New Jersey (2006)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Van Dijk, J.A.M.G.: The Deepening Divide: Inequality in the Information Society. Sage, London (2005)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Wejnert, B.: Integrating models of diffusion of innovations: a conceptual framework. Annu. Rev. Sociol. 28, 297–326 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Weng, J., et al.: TwitterRank: finding topic-sensitive influential twitterers. In: Proceedings of the Third ACM International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining, pp. 261–270. ACM, New York (2010)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Witte, J.C., Mannon, A.P.: The Internet and Social Inequalities. Routledge, New York (2010)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Zubarevich, N.: Perspectiva: Chetire Rossii [Four Russias]. Vedomosti, 3014 (2011). https://www.vedomosti.ru/opinion/articles/2011/12/30/chetyre_rossii. Accessed 21 Apr 2017. (in Russian)
  22. 22.
    Zubarevich, N.: Chetire Rossii i novaya politicheskaya realnost’ [Four Russias and a New Political Reality]. Polit.ru (2016). http://polit.ru/article/2016/01/17/four_russians/. Accessed 21 Apr 2017. (in Russian)
  23. 23.
    The most friendly regions — Virtual Population of Russia, http://webcensus.ru/vmap/внyтpeнняя-дpyжбa/. Accessed 21 Apr 2017. (in Russian)

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory for Internet StudiesNational Research University Higher School of EconomicsSaint PetersburgRussia

Personalised recommendations