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Title: Technology and autobiographical selves in contemporary Russian life writing
Author: Urban, Palina
ISNI:       0000 0004 7652 7706
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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The present work deals with the strategies of identity production which were characteristic of Russian LiveJournal during the first decade of its presence on the Russian online ego-writing scene. In this work, I argue that personal narratives found in blogs of this period reflect the process of self-writing's adaptation to a new technological reality. In addition, I suggest that LiveJournal texts of this period testify to the consolidation of a new socio-cultural group following in the footsteps of the Russian intelligentsia and defining the forefront of political and cultural discussion in Russia at a time of tightening media censorship. In this work, I adopt William James' interpretation of identity as a complex structure which, along with material expressions of Self and introspective selfconceptualizations, includes numerous self-identifications related to different social situations.1 I look at Russian LiveJournal as a specific socio-technological environment in which bloggers' various Selves are produced, and compare and contrast these Selves to those characteristic of traditional diaries as well as to those supported by contemporary social media. For this purpose, I perform micro-analysis of the corpora of biographical texts by four bloggers belonging to a community of young intellectuals and creative professionals. The corpora include all of their open, semi-open, double-locked and private LiveJournal entries made between the years 2003 and 2016, as well as the comments to these entries. These data are supplemented by fragments of handwritten diaries and biographical interviews, used for reconstructing the contexts of narration, for defining the areas of untold experiences, and for providing the frames of reference for the Selves narrated in the journals. In addition, twenty-three journals linked with the central sample and largely authored by the representatives of cultural and intellectual elites are analysed quantitatively to support the propositions about the community's trends of self-presentation. I maintain that the production of identity in LiveJournal is mediated by synergic influence of three different forces - the cultural, the social and the technological. Following the methodological route of the Actor-Network Theory, developed by Bruno Latour, Michel Callon and John Law,2 I discover the webs of semiotic, human and material actors conditioning the processes of identity production in LiveJournal. In the three chapters of this thesis, I successively describe how the application of various cultural scripts, the subjection to the gaze of various Others as well as the use of the website's technological capabilities allow bloggers to create and to cycle through their different Selves. I also show how the formation of the new types of identity in LiveJournal secures the transition of life writing from its traditional forms to the ones presented in today's social media.
Supervisor: Zorin, Andrei Sponsor: CEELBAS
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available