The DRS team has a new member – Anna Belokur who will be working on her master thesis under the supervision of Prof. Daria Gritsenko. Anna has started her MA in Russian Studies (MARS) programme at the University of Helsinki in September 2018 after taking her bachelor’s degree in biology. Anna’s special interest is public health and she hopes to combine natural and social sciences in the examination of public health and disease in Russia. Her master thesis focuses on the digital trail of Russia’s HIV epidemic, using big data methods to examine the ways in which HIV is present in (or absent from) Russian media discourse, and if/how the relative rates of media «awareness» regarding HIV correlate to rates of reported infections and deaths in various regions.
The last seminar of the spring series took place on June 7th, featuring presentations by Nelli Piattoeva, Associate Professor at the University of Tampere, and Joan Neuberger, Professor at the University of Texas at Austin. The presentation by Nelli Piattoeva entitled “Digitalizing education in Russia: a governance perspective” was focused on an ongoing research project. The digital technology are playing the increasingly important role in the governance of secondary education in the Russian Federation. In particular, more and more information is used for the educational organization monitoring and assessment by the sector’s administration. The resulting changes in how schools function in the new “datified” governance context are being actively investigated by the project’s researchers.
“Social Network Analysis and the Soviet Film Industry” – the presentation by Joan Neuberger – exposed intermediary results of a research project where quantitative methods were used to advance research on the Soviet culture. Joan used open data on Soviet movies* credit scores to analyze the structure and dynamics of the system of collaboration networks in the Soviet cinematographic universe, from its inception to the first post-war decade. The project, led by a specialist in humanities with a cautionary approach towards methodology, exposed the opportunities and limitations of social network analysis in the historical studies of the cultural production. For example, the study of the centrality measures of the collaboration networks revealed an interesting phenomenon: the most “central” characters are not the ones who are the most famous or successful, but those who have the longest track record. That shows that centrality measures should be used with caution when trying to detect prominence within a cultural field, suggesting, at the same time, that social network analysis can reveal actors of great social importance who stayed out of the spotlight.
The closing session of the seminar highlighted the virtues of the Digital Russia Studies seminar, which brings together researchers with different backgrounds wishing to present projects at different stages of advancement, using wide variety of methods, but always sparking interesting and fruitful discussion. Stay tuned for the autumn’s series of the DRS seminar!