Virtual Communities as Social Fields: New Forms of Inequality
Project Head: Yuri Rykov
The research project "Virtual Communities as Social Fields: New Forms of Inequality" is part of the author's PhD thesis. The research sets two tasks: to verify the hypothesis of the existence of a specifically new form of social inequality on the Internet, and to determine key resources for the formation of a new elite. Following Pierre Bourdieu, the author understands "inequality" as a concentration and unequal distribution of symbolic power among Internet users, which leads to the formation of a specific virtual elite. However, depending on the web technology of the resource (social networks, blog services, collective blogs, and forums), different kinds of data (e.g. an affiliation with a group of moderators or a ranking among the top blogs) can indicate symbolic power. The author of the research considers social resources to be different kinds of capital in a struggle for symbolic power.
The project seeks to identify which social resources (types of capital) play key roles in forming a structure of inequality in the studied virtual communities.
Units of analysis: Virtual communities, understood as relatively constant groups of Internet users that interact with each other via computer-mediated communication. The data on the communities will be retrieved from Russian Internet resources, including the collective blog Leprosorium.ru (data already collected); Live Journal and 'Vkontakte' as the leading blog service and social network, respectively; as well as Reddit.com as a popular Internet resource in English.
Research object: Social inequality structures organized on the basis of virtual communication (computer-mediated communication) on the Internet resources listed above.
Рыков Ю.Г. Социальные поля Интернета: новые формы неравенства (на примере коллективного блога Leprosorium.ru и сообществ в социальной сети «ВКонтакте») // Abstracts of the 12th International Scientific and Practical Conference of Young Scientists ‘Development Vectors of Modern Russia. Interdisciplinary Scientific Interventions’, Moscow, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) and Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences (MSSES), April 19-20.
Рыков Ю.Г. Виртуальное сообщество как социальное поле: неравенство и коммуникативный капитал. «Журнал социологии и социальной антропологии», № 4, 2013 (в печати).
VKMiner is a software product for downloading and storing text and relational data from the social network ‘VKontakte’.
BlogMiner is a software product for downloading full-text LiveJournal data and storage it in a relational database.
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