Diversity of the Internet in Russia’s Regions: Towards an Alternative Research Agenda
Today, the internet has become a very fragmented research object that can be understood differently depending on contexts, research goals and methods. However, the internet [in this text, we write “internet” with a lower case “i”, following the process of decapitalisation of this term. The logic behind this process is that we understand internet as “computer network connecting a number of smaller networks” rather than as “the global network that evolved out of ARPANET, the early Pentagon network” (Herring S. Should you be capitalizing the word “internet”? Wired, 2015)] of a particular country is often treated by researchers as an umbrella term combining heterogeneous phenomena and practices. In this chapter we propose an alternative way of analysing the internet in Russia’s regions. Contrary to the concept of RuNet as common space, we explore diversity of what the internet is in different localities in Russia. The cases of five cities aim to illustrate the variety of histories and usage patterns of the internet in particular locations, such as in cities in Russia’s regions. Qualitative data consisting of interviews, observations, digital ethnography and archival documents have paved an additional (to more conventional quantitative data) way to explore the internet as a complex phenomenon rooted in previous development, local cultural and societal norms and political and economic situations. In particular, we stress the significance of the early internet, the diversity of basic and alternative platforms, the access and infrastructure divide as objects that are important to understand the development of the internet in a particular location.