Political Memes as Tools of Dissent and Alternative Digital Activism in the Russian-language Twitter

Denisova, A. 2016. Political Memes as Tools of Dissent and Alternative Digital Activism in the Russian-language Twitter. PhD thesis University of Westminster Communication and Media Research Institute

TitlePolitical Memes as Tools of Dissent and Alternative Digital Activism in the Russian-language Twitter
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsDenisova, A.
Abstract

This research has analysed the role of Internet memes in the contemporary Russian alternative discourse. It has identified memes as the Internet common language that users exploit to communicate on all topics and also utilise as the mind-bombs to influence the political discourse. This project focused on the employment of memes in the deliberation of the Crimean crisis in the Russian Twitter in 2014. Pro-government and anti-government activists have used this format of texts to promote their agenda and interpret the events, discuss political leaders, contest symbols of state propaganda and alternative narratives. The study is highly original as it followed the development of memes in real time; the interviews collected with the prominent meme makers and sharers stand out as the testaments of direct participants of this process. The subsequent in-depth analysis of the distributed memes unveiled the prevailing themes, narratives and symbols that shape the political and social discussion between the elites and resistance in contemporary Russia. This research on the role of the Internet memes in political deliberation of the Crimean crisis contributed to the under-studied field of political uses of memes in a non-Western authoritarian environment.

The conceptual framework includes recent theory on the Internet memes, tactical activism, connective action, carnivalesque resistance, individual action frames and creativity for politics. Internet memes have proven to be a popular vehicle of critical political communication in Russian social networks due to the ease of producing and sharing, opportunity for self-expression and receiving feedback to one’s creativity and benefits of anonymity that escapes censorship and protects activists. My study has revealed that memes are limited in the sophistication of the ideas they can convey and in maintaining a long-term meaningful discourse; they serve as the in-jokes of digital communities; their ambiguity and anonymity challenges community building yet nurtures the spread of ideas; therefore, memes are more likely to serve as disruptive mind-bombs that connect ideas rather than individuals.

This research has documented and analysed the media and political developments in Russia during 2011-2014 and provided suggestions for further research on the utilisation of entertaining artful texts for political deliberation, formation of the alternative discourse and political mobilisation in the restricted Russian media ecology.

Year2016
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