Giving Attention to Conduct on Social Media: Discursive Mechanisms of Attention Structures in Mediating Governance-at-a-Distance in Today's Russia.
In 2014-2015, the attention of Western and Russian media as well as of public and political opinion were drawn to a series of political and legislative changes and actions that regulate and reduce the individual freedoms of Russian citizens. Scholars of political and juridical studies as well as media and public commentators, both inside and outside Russia, have reacted to these developments by identifying them as undemocratic and reactionist and pointing out how this political and legal path will deprive Russian citizens of the basic human needs and rights for security, juridical justice, freedom of faith and opinion, and the expression of one's sexuality (Johnson, 2011; Prozorov, 2014; Sperling, 2014; Tkacheva et al., 2013; Wilkinson, 2014). These analyses of the recent ideological and political developments in the Russian Federation are primarily concerned with the juridical interventions, such as the infamous law against the open expression of homosexuality (Johnson, 2011; Wilkinson, 2014); the federal law on information (Tkacheva et al., 2013); and the cases of legal prosecution that received wide international resonance, such as the case of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot (Prozorov, 2014; Sperling, 2014).
However, to identify the range of the political tendencies and their reach into the fabric of social life as well as to understand their societal impact, it is equally imperative to examine how the tightening of the state's hold over citizens affects and permeates the everyday practices and interactions of individuals. Therefore, the analytical focus of this article is on one of the most popular sites of computer-mediated interaction in Russia, Woman.ru (http://www.woman.ru/), and on how participants on the site's forum discussions orient to and account for the practices of state control and censorship. These practices were made legitimate by Federal Law 139-F3 ([phrase omitted]) enacted in July 2012 and a series of amendments allowing the government to shut down any Internet-powered resource that "fails to comply with its request to remove content deemed harmful for minors" (Tkacheva et al., 2013, p. 130) or that contains calls for and information about mass (public) events conducted in a so-called disorderly manner (Council of Federation & State Duma, 2014). In addition, the law launches the Unified Federal Registry of Internet sites and authorizes the monitoring of Internet resources by the federal agencies of information control in a manner that these agencies find appropriate.
I engage in this analytical work by examining the "attention structures" (Jones, 2005a, 2005b, 2010; Lanham, 1993) viewed from the perspective of mediated action--that is, as discursive and semiotic mechanisms through which the actors give attention to particular actions as "the places where multiple systems are joined together and miraculous transformation from potential to actual takes place" (Scollon, 2013, p. 192). This analytical perspective enables me to trace how, in displaying and enacting patterns of orientation to the aspects of interaction associated with the apparatus of governance, the actors oscillate between enacting the disciplining and the governmental power of the state (Foucault, 1977, 1997). I demonstrate how, through computer-mediated communication, the participants render actual the disindividualized and distributed disciplining machinery and its accompanying state of conscious, permanent, and automatic visibility by discursively projecting and prefiguring surveillance and sanctions that induce this state (Foucault, 1977). At the same time, the analysis makes visible how they extend this panoptical architecture of governance to a network of heterogeneous elements, discourses, institutions, and knowledges (Foucault, 1977), thereby rationalizing this generalized disciplining regime and their own moral obligation to adjust their conduct in accordance with it.
Attention Structures as Discursive, Relational, and Strategic Mechanisms
The central analytical unit of my examination is "attention structures" (Jones, 2005b)--the patterns of orientation that, in the examined hypermedia, multilinear interaction, make the mediated actions enacting the government's conduct and rationalizing its strategies the focus of the participants' attention. The notion of attention structures was introduced by Richard Lanham (1993) to address the "economy of attention"--that is, how, in the information society, attention becomes a precious resource and a valuable commodity. According to Lanham (1993), in the symbol-overloaded informational environment, this commodity is extracted neither solely from the cognition of humans nor from the objects that compete for their attention. Instead, it is acquired from the cultural and technical literacies that draw the focus of individuals to certain epistemologies and typographies and that allow them to interpret the information produced within these symbolic systems in a certain way.
In this sense, the attention structures can be linked to Goffman's (1974) frame analysis and to the concept of "attentional tracks," with which he grasps how, in a situation, "a main story line of activity" is sustained, and the "channels of subordinated activity" are managed through the participants' capacity to attend and "disattend--i.e., to withdraw their awareness from certain tracks while engaging in the main 'strip of activity'" (p. 202). Introducing multimodal interaction analysis, Sigrid Norris draws on Goffman's concern for the "focused interaction" (Goffman, 1966) and the notion of attended and disattended tracks. Norris' (2011) approach conceptualizes a more nuanced understanding of how participants in interaction distribute cognitive awareness across multiple simultaneous actions by placing them at different points in a "foreground-background continuum" and enacting them with different degrees of modal density.
While recognizing the richness and validity of these perspectives, I also find it imperative to state that my own view on the concept of attention structures is derived from the way in which it is addressed within the framework of mediated discourse analysis. This discourse analytical approach sees attention structures as residing "partly in the mediational means and partly in the ways people use these mediational means in patterned interaction" (Jones, 2005b, p. 152). Building upon this perspective, my analysis regards and examines attention structures as discursive mechanisms of "giving, getting and displaying attention" (Jones, 2010, p. 153) to particular actions through the use of multimodal mediational means and interactional conventions afforded by Internet-powered media. In assuming this view, I do not dismiss the cognitive aspect of interactional awareness or cultural literacy and in-learned social scripts that participate in distributing participants' focus in interaction. However, my interest within the framework of this research is the interactional practice of attention giving. This practice is deeply rooted in cognitive processes, historical bodies of the individuals, and the cultural resources on which they rely, but the practice is enacted first and foremost discursively at the interface between human action and the mediational means that enable this action.
Unpacking how the discursive mechanisms and strategies of attention giving operate enables me to trace how, in the course of computer-mediated interaction that is dispersed in time and space, and across multiple interactional orders, the actors consistently orient to interlocutors, categories, and conversational turns invoking subjectivities and moral obligations that rationalize their relationship with power and freedom. In doing so, I demonstrate how these patterns of orientation engage the apparatus of governance, which is seemingly remote from the social and physical contexts of the interaction.
The analytical focus on attention structures enables me to show that the expansion of regimes of control and censorship that is currently visible in the more obvious legal acts and interventions of the Russian government is also taking place through a "lighter, more rapid, more effective" (Foucault, 1977, p. 209) discipline mechanism powered by the semiotic resources of hypermedia. Moreover, it allows me to make visible how, in their interaction, the actors connect the disciplining arrangement to a more subtle, strategic machinery of governmentality.
This analytical focus of my research circuits back to some of the conceptualizations of attention structures addressed earlier in this section, which highlight the multitude of human actions. However, rather than inspecting how the lines of participants' actions are taken up one track at a time (Goffman, 1966, 1974), distributed along a foreground-background continuum, or layered into high- and low-level actions (Norris, 2011), I take a more flattened network view on actions. I approach actions as real-time, situated occurrences that extend themselves along mediational pathways in order to link the actors and places that are close to and far from the action (Law, 2007; Scollon, 2013).
The outlined perspective is informed by a cluster of scholarly approaches, such as mediated discourse analysis (Jones & Norris, 2005), nexus analysis (Scollon & Scollon, 2004), actor-network theory (Latour, 2005; Law, 2007), and studies of resemiotization (Iedema, 2003). Although they deal with different theoretical and methodological concerns, these theoretical and analytical directions share an indebtedness to Foucauldian thought and are inspired by its concern for "the strategic, relational, and productive character" (Law, 2007, p. 6) of the heterogeneous assemblages of discursivities and materialities, of human and institutional agency, and of physical and social spaces, which enact reality. The next section of this article addresses the strands of Foucault's work that are imperative to my analysis and the ways in which they have shaped my understanding of and approach to the notions of discipline, conduct, and apparatus.
Between Control and Conduct: The Complex Architecture of Governance in Computer-Mediated Spaces
Foucault's relationship with terminology is marked by the remarkable commitment to philosophical clarity and precision with which he handled his ideas and which was tied up with his skepticism toward the so-called universals on which the study of concrete practices tends to rely (Foucault, 2008). The notion of conduct, which is one of the central concepts in this article, reflects how Foucault turns around this tendency of social, historical, and political analysis by assuming practices, and not mental constructs, as given and "passing" universals through the grid of these practices (Foucault, 2008). Thus, the exercise of power in terms of the practices of conduct becomes understood not as a general category that is accepted to account for concrete phenomena but as "the field of possibilities" through which one can conduct oneself, lead others, and "permit oneself to be led and contest the terms by which one is led" (McCall, 2014, p. 69). In this article, I examine this complex field through an analysis of discursive mechanisms in interactions among participants in a computer-mediated site of RuNet (Russian Internet). My examination is both informed by and induces the idea that, when governance is analyzed as a practice of conduct--that is, "a 'way of doing things' directed towards objectives and regulating itself by continuous reflection" (Foucault, 2008, p. 318)--it reveals that the techniques of rule are intertwined with forms of self-constitution (Brokling, Krasmann, & Lemke, 2011). This property acquired by the rule when it attaches itself to the practices of conduct is what constitutes governmentality as an art of governance distinct from other forms of power such as disciplinary power.
Recent legislative initiatives in Russia, such as the Internet law ([phrase omitted]) and a series of subsequent amendments, support extensive practices of censorship of the Russianspeaking Internet spaces, which strive "to see constantly and to recognize immediately" (Foucault, 1977, p. 200) any movement by the individual within the space subjected to control. This form of control relies on permanent and omnipresent surveillance that makes its subjects visible while remaining itself unverifiable (Foucault, 1977). This article is concerned with the ways in which, in the analyzed site of actors' interactions, the discursive mechanisms of attention giving participate in enacting the omnipresence of governance, which Foucault (1977) describes as a panoptical architecture of discipline.
This architecture works if the governed multiplicity is represented by separated individuals with little possibility for them to come together in interactions (Foucault, 1977)--that is, to form horizontal conjunctions that might render the observer visible, thereby breaking the panoptical effect. However, the Internet-powered social media, whose very purpose is to enable complex and continuous interactional orders between individuals and collectives, do not allow the elimination of exchange between the actors. This limits the governing potential of panopticism in computer-mediated social sites while optimizing the strategies of governmentality that rely on actors' individual and collective self-awareness, on their ability to see themselves and one another as specific subjects. Therefore, my analysis aims to demonstrate how the panoptical arrangement works through the discursive and semiotic means of computer-mediated interaction as well as how, in the course of this interaction, it becomes intertwined with governmental techniques.
In fact, it is the intersection, and not the division, between disciplining and governmental technologies that is the concern of this study. Although Foucault addresses the emergence of various arts of governance successively, and the historical-social conditions that give rise to these arts might be discussed chronologically, one form of governing does not absorb or substitute for the other. Nor should governmentality and discipline be thought of as absolute opposites. The key to understanding the relationship between these governing technologies lies in what Agamben (2009) refers to as "a decisive technical term in the strategy of Foucault's thought" (p. 1)--the notion of apparatus (dispositif in French). Across Foucauldian works, apparatus acts as an operative category. With this category the philosopher shifts the focus of the analysis of governance from the universals, such as power and state, commonly associated with governing, to the strategic sets of relations between these elements and types of knowledge, discourses, and institutions, which support and are supported by "a pure activity of governance devoid of any foundation in being" (Agamben, 2009, p. 11).
It is this strategic and relational character, this ability to disseminate the power and to distribute the responsibility for its exercise, that disciplining and governmental technologies hold in common. This is also what directs the analytical focus of this examination not at particular regimes of control or conduct but at the apparatuses implicated in and enabling these regimes as well as, more importantly, at the actions through which the apparatuses are assembled and engaged. In the next section, I trace how, in their interaction at the computer-mediated social site Woman.ru, the actors accomplish these actions discursively by displaying and orienting to attention structures.
The data analyzed in this article were collected though nonparticipant observation of the interactions taking place in the computer-mediated social site Woman.ru in 2014. Launched in 1998 as a forum, in February 2014, this site counted 17,091,000 users, 428,456 discussion topics, and 49,405 online publications (Woman.ru, 2015b), which at that moment made it one of the largest and most active sites of RuNet. (1) Interestingly, although the site is actively promoted as the "Internet for women," 35% of the site's users are men, as reported by the Internet resource itself (Woman.ru, 2015a).
In its present form, Woman.ru presents a commercial Internet resource that has long exceeded the forum format and now regularly features news and photo reports, experts' articles, interviews, surveys, quizzes, ratings, and online streamings. As social media, Woman.ru functions through a forum that is thematically divided into discussion rooms, such as "Life Style," "Health," "Psychology," "Home," "Fashion," "Beauty," "Children," and "Love." However, the discussion topics grouped under these titles extend far beyond the thematic categories imposed by the site's marketing profile, which claims these themes provide a view of life "with women's eyes and through the prism of women's interests" (Woman.ru, 2015b). For instance, the discussions from which the data for the present analysis were collected focus on such topics as international events, the economy, politics, sports, and careers.
The two discussion topics analyzed here are titled "Who is here from Kiev? What do you have happening there?" ([phrase omitted]) and "How do you like the opening of the Olympic Games 2014?" ([phrase omitted]). At the time of data collection (February 2014), the former topic contained 1,116 posts, and the latter contained 3,133, which puts these topics in the top 50 discussion threads during that month.
The posts examined in the analysis were published by both registered participants and "guests." However, because the site has an open-access participation policy and requires no registration for reading and posting in the forums, for commenting, or for using any other function available on the site, this difference in the website's status of the interactants is not reflected in their participation status and does not have an impact on the interaction orders in focus. In addition, although some participants choose to register, to make visible in their account page such information as date of birth, gender, and place of residence, and to use the same nickname across different topics, it is also possible to have several accounts, which many of the interactants use interchangeably even in accessing the same discussion, or to keep their account page fairy anonymized with little personal information available. The complex and flexible identification possibilities make the registration option less important to the users and the difference between the registered participants and guests less meaningful to the interaction than it might be on the other sites with a different access policy.
The Discursive Construction of an Omnipresent Governor and the Mechanisms of Strategic Governance
Discipline works through its omnipresence and omniscience--that is, through the exercise of power that is always visible but never verifiable (Foucault, 1977). In the context of computer-mediated interaction, disciplining actions are visible in the practices of censorship and administering, such as deleting posts, closing topics or banning them from being published, banning users, and using automatic asterisking to censor the posted text. The analysis presented in this article demonstrates how the forum participants display patterns of attention giving to the aforementioned practices and engage discursively in attempts to verify them, thereby inscribing themselves in the field of visibility created through these practices and subjecting themselves to their disciplining effect.
In the third post in the discussion topic "Who is here from Kiev? What do you have happening there?" ([phrase omitted]), one of the participants displays attention to the ongoing censoring of the forum's content, which he/she anticipates:
Example 1 Hy [phrase omitted] Wow really...... woman has let that pass through))))))))))))
In this example, the attention is given through the use of sarcasm. The interlocutor displays emphatic surprise in relation to the fact that "woman" ([phrase omitted]), which metonymically refers to the forum's administrators, allowed the topic focusing on the ongoing Maidan protests in Ukraine to be published. The emphasis is produced through the use of the exclamatory interjection "wow" followed by the adverb "really" ([phrase omitted]) and multiple ellipses indicating a long pause or contemplation, which amplifies the effect of exaggerated wondering. The spelling of "really" ([phrase omitted]) deviates from the standard orthography ([phrase omitted]) to reproduce the colloquial phonetic variant of this word: [[phrase omitted]] (as opposed to the standard pronunciation [[phrase omitted]]). This phonetic inflection, combined with the iconic representation of laughter through the use of multiple closing parentheses that conclude the line, clearly mark the mocking tone of the utterance.
Although the discursive mechanisms of sarcasm mediate a form of revolt against the control to which the actors become subjected in this social site, this revolt does not translate into the "voluntary insubordination" to the truths, effects, and limits of this particular techne of governance (Foucault, 2007). The participant does not question the reasons or the aims of subjugation. Instead, he/she accepts its practices as an inevitable condition of interaction in the forum, which can be escaped only if the governor himself/herself (here generically embodied by the commercial organization "woman"/[phrase omitted]) absolves certain aspects of this interaction from censorship.
The same undertone of fatalism in relation to the disciplining arrangement within the site is visible later in the discussion:
Example 2 [phrase omitted] Strange that the topic has not been shut down yet
In this post, the participant aligns with the display of attention to the practices of censorship in the forum, presented in Example 1, by enacting surprise at the absence of disciplining action in relation to the ongoing discussion. This discursive alignment sustains the focus of interaction on the systematic and inevitable character of the control exercised on Woman.ru, where the lack of censorship is a remarkable exception to the rule ("strange"/[phrase omitted]), which deserves the interactants' attention. The unavoidability of control is marked through the use of the adverbial modifier of time aspect "yet"/[phrase omitted], which discursively projects a future disciplining action.
The same action is accomplished by the following post:
Example 3 [phrase omitted] [phrase omitted] Strange that the topic hasn't been shut down yet ... it is not over yet, they will shut it down.
Example 3 demonstrates how the interlocutor orients to the display of attention addressed in Example 2 by quoting the post to which he/she responds, which in the context of this computer-mediated interaction is accomplished through indentation and double-spacing. By opening the line with ellipses and not capitalizing the first letter, the participant frames his/her response as the continuation of the quoted post, thereby aligning with it and joining the projection of the acts of surveillance and censorship initiated in it. The use of the future indefinite tense renders these acts present ("they will (2) shut it down"/[phrase omitted], verb, future tense, plural) by framing them as a matter of time, marked through the adverbial modifier of time aspect "yet" ([phrase omitted]) rather than probability.
In Example 4, another interactant orients to the same post (presented in Example 2):
Example 4 [phrase omitted] [phrase omitted]. Strange that the topic hasn't been shut down yet they delete very many comments.
This participant accomplishes a correction in relation to the time aspect of the assumed disciplining action. By using the present tense "delete" ([phrase omitted], verb, present tense, plural), he/she shifts attention to the ongoing character of the surveillance exercised in the site. This display and shift of the attention focus contributes to the inscription of the analyzed interaction and its participants into a system of permanent, regular, and uninterrupted registration, which is "born mechanically from a fictitious relation" (Foucault, 1977, p. 202) with the unverifiable governor (e.g., "woman"/[phrase omitted]), whose omnipresence is discursively enacted by the actors themselves.
The interactional turns and discursive mechanisms analyzed in Examples 1 through 4 assemble across the discussion an attention structure that places and sustains the focus of this multisequential, nonlinear interaction (in which the actors engage in the discussion of numerous political and cultural topics) on the acts of control and discipline to which the interactional site is subjected. In doing so, this attention structure embeds the panoptical (omnipresent and unverifiable) architecture of this discipline into the site. Moreover, in accomplishing the discursive acts of attention giving, the actors assume "responsibility for the constraints of power" (Foucault, 1977, p. 202), which becomes particularly visible in the next example:
Example 5 [phrase omitted] Folks, you be careful with the comments. in ukraine a law has been issued for an attack on the government on the internet--from three years and no documenting is needed. my acquaintances even receive SMSs already "you are participating in the mass protests against the government."
In this post, the author accomplishes a warning. Warning is a form of attention giving that is directed toward modifying someone's conduct because of a particular threat. The aspect of conduct that the author of the post prompts the interactants to modify is commenting ("Folks, you be careful with the comments"/[phrase omitted])--a practice of computer-mediated interaction through which the actors orient in a multitude of ways to the topic of the discussion or to one or several posts (or parts of these) published under this topic. In Example 5, the warning is given by using an idiomatic expression "be careful" ([phrase omitted]). Through this warning, the author draws attention to commenting as a precarious practice. What makes commenting risky is explicated later in the post, when the participant warrants his/her warning by clarifying the threat to which the actors can be potentially subjected unless they begin to monitor their conduct. This threat is a law that has supposedly been adopted in Ukraine that sanctions sentencing of anyone perceived to be criticizing the government on the Internet to three or more years of prison without any documented proof of the alleged offence. This threat also becomes warranted by the participant's account of his/her acquaintances' experience of receiving text messages that confirm this law to be at work. The direct citation of the text message accomplished through the use of quotation marks makes the threat, which the participant claims was what prompted his/her warning, tangible and embodied.
The discursive work demonstrated above connects the interactional context to legal and political practices, institutions, and technology (e.g., criminal law, the prison system, mobile technology, government authorities), which transgress the site of this interaction, thereby implicating the practices of censorship and surveillance exercised on the site in a more extended and versatile apparatus of disciplining mechanisms. The strategies of this apparatus are invisible and unverifiable in the analyzed interactional context (the invoked law may or may not be applicable to RuNet; it is not clear which government--Russian or Ukrainian--is prosecuting critics of the system). Nevertheless, the governing apparatus, of which these apparently distant and generic mechanisms are a part, is as potent and functional and its disciplining actions are as precise and uninterrupted as if this discussion forum were in fact distributed along the circumference of Bentham's (1843) panopticon, from which Foucault (1977) drew his idea of disciplining architecture. The analysis here demonstrates how this panoptical effect is mediated by the discursive mechanisms of attention giving and warning through which "he who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it" (Foucault, 1977, p. 202) shares this knowledge with the other actors, making him- or herself and the others the principles of their own subjection.
Similarly, the next example illustrates how, in the course of the interaction, the participants act as both the subjects and the principles of conducting. However, the mechanisms through which this conduct is mediated and the apparatus of governance which these mechanisms engage are different.
Example 6 [phrase omitted] Revolutionists? Too much honor to call these cattle fascists that. Aha, this is why they let the topic pass through. To no purpose. Russia has its own problems up to the brim, and Maidan interests people only marginally, and Ukraine will figure out by itself, what is what.
The author of the post cites the comment to which he/she responds. In this comment, another participant performed a correction that mediated the reframing of the Maidan events from an encompassing, organized, and enforced change of regime carried out by "Revolutionists" ([phrase omitted], noun, plural, accusative case) to a sporadic revolt of a Nazi-oriented ("cattle fascists"/[phrase omitted], compound noun, plural, accusative case) and oblivious mob ("cattle fascists"/[phrase omitted], compound noun, plural, accusative case).
Interestingly, however, in the post presented in Example 6, the author orients not to the cited comment but to the attention structure, addressed earlier in Examples 1 through 4, which draws the focus of the interaction to the practices of censorship exercised on the analyzed forum. Unlike the other interactional elements composing this structure, through which the interactants align with one another's displays of attention to the assumed and anticipated acts of surveillance or their remarkable absence, in this post, the actor accomplishes a negative assessment of the lack of the otherwise regular censorship of the ongoing discussion ("To no purpose"/[phrase omitted], adverb). Thus, the author of the post does not simply acknowledge the omnipresence of governance in the site without questioning its agency or righteousness or mode of action, thereby inscribing him-/herself and the other participants in the field of visibility of this governance (as it was accomplished by the interactants in Examples 1 through 4). Instead, he/she rationalizes the reasons that the governance is applied or not applied to this interaction. The exclamatory interjection "Aha" (AX) highlights this rationalization. At the same time, it introduces as a discovery the subsequent establishing of the causal relationship between the reframing of the Maidan events and the absence of disciplining action in relation to the topic in which these events are discussed. The causality is mediated through the use of the demonstrative pronoun "this" (BOT), which links the cited post to the relative clause introduced with the adverb "why" ([phrase omitted]), which, in turn, modifies the post as the reason for allowing "the topic to pass through" ([phrase omitted]). It is this discursive causality mediating the rationalizing and enlightening in which the actor engages that construes the invoked absence of censorship as a strategic act of governmentality rather than an attention-worthy, but unidentifiable and random, lapse of governance. Within the framework of this act, allowing the freedom to discuss particular subjects is an effective and significant tactic of the rule as limiting this freedom.
Likewise, when later in the post, the participant steers the interactants' conduct, he/she does not engage in this by activating the panoptical architecture with its figure of an omnipresent governor and the ever-lurking possibility of punishment (as in the analysis of Example 5). Instead, the actor proposes a particular subjectivity--that is, he/she incites participants to establish a particular relationship with themselves and with the rule, thereby employing the governmental mechanisms of administering individuals. This subjectivity prompts the participants to see themselves in a certain way--as a nation, invoked through the generic use of the proper noun "Russia" ([phrase omitted], proper noun, singular, genitive case) and the collective noun "people" ([phrase omitted], collective noun, accusative case), which is self-centered, self-contained, and noninvolved in the international arena. The proposed subjectivity is rendered by invoking a category-bound activity--"Maidan interests people only marginally" ([phrase omitted])--as well as by the use of the possessive pronoun "own" ([phrase omitted], pronoun, plural, accusative case) and the reflexive pronoun "itself" (cama, pronoun, singular, feminine, nominative case). The mechanisms all stress the independent and withdrawn position that the Russian nation constructed through this subjectivity ought to occupy (in line with anyone who is incited or who aspires to see him- or herself as a part of this nation).
By proposing this subjectivity, the actor at the same time proposes to the interactants a particular form of relationship with the rule, which, in the context of this site of their engagement, is visible in the practices of censorship and surveillance. This relationship is the one in which the freedom to discuss the Maidan events in Ukraine serves no purpose as it defies what, as members of the Russian nation, the interactants should and should not be doing (i.e., focusing on Russia's "own problems" and not concerning themselves with Maidan). Therefore, within the framework of this relationship, the censorship of computer-mediated interaction figures as a welcome act of governance that supports the prompted subjectivity and steers the interactants' conduct in accordance with the obligations that this subjectivity entails. However, what is remarkable in how this governmental strategy works is that the censorship is in fact not needed to prompt the actors to conduct themselves in the desired way. As the analysis of Example 6 demonstrates, the actor takes it upon himself/herself to draw the participants' attention to how they ought to conduct themselves in relation to the Ukrainian events as members of the Russian nation. The actor implicates them in the type of relationship with the rule within which the freedom to discuss this subject is redundant and should be relinquished voluntarily.
The analysis presented here demonstrates how, in the course of the interaction, the disciplining and governmental strategies become closely interwoven and how the discursive patterns of attention giving mediate this conflation of the governmental and panoptical apparatuses. Below, I continue to examine how these apparatuses are at work within the framework of the analyzed interaction as well as how the actors engage these apparatuses by exposing the technology behind their operation and its pervasiveness.
Similar to the discussion topic analyzed above, in the topic "How do you like the opening of the Olympic Games 2014?" ([phrase omitted]), the comments addressing the controversial political and ideological role of the 2014 Olympics, which at the time of the topic's emergence were taking place in Russia, are closely intertwined with the regular displays of attention to the acts of censorship visible on the forum. Example 7 demonstrates an attention structure, which this pattern of attention giving has formed across the discussion topic.
Example 7 Post 16: [phrase omitted] The nearby topic about the Olympics was shut down for some reason.. Post 17: [phrase omitted] The previous topic was shut down, why is that? Post 94: [phrase omitted] shoot, two topics were closed down already, what is the matter, really?? Post 100: [phrase omitted] [phrase omitted]) [phrase omitted]) shoot, two topics were closed down already, what is the matter, really?? they are waiting for an inspection) the one who lets through a bad word about the olympia will be put behind bars)
In post 16, the participant displays attention to the ongoing acts of censorship on the forum. However, this display differs from the patterns of attention giving mapped out earlier in the analysis (Examples 1 through 4) as it directs the focus of the interaction not merely to the practices of control on the site but to the grounds for this control. Through the use of the adverbial modifier "for some reason" ([phrase omitted]), the author of the post marks as the subject of attention the reasons for closing down another discussion about the Olympic Games in Sochi. The ellipses placed at the end of the line indicate the openended character of the post, prompting the other participants to attend to this subject.
Posts 17 and 94 orient to the display of attention in a symmetrical way while progressively upgrading it (see Table 1).
As shown in Table 1, the first clause of post 17 acknowledges the visible act of surveillance on Woman.ru (shutting down of a similar topic) through a construction that is parallel to post 16. However, the acts of attention giving and attention prompting, which in post 16 are mediated subtly through the use of an adverb and ellipses, become transformed in post 17 into the form of a question, which, by its distinctly interrogative syntactic structure and punctuation, creates a much stronger invitation for reflection.
This invitation is upgraded further in post 94 by the use of the emphatic particle -TO ("really") and the double interrogative mark "??." Moreover, the author of this post upgrades attention to the censorship practices by opening the turn with a secondary interjection "shoot" ([phrase omitted]). This colloquially accepted moderation of a swearword signals an emotional outburst that acquires a negative emotional force by the following display of attention to the large scope and intensity of surveillance on the site, mediated through the use of the adverbial modifier of time "already" ([phrase omitted]) and the numeral "two" ([phrase omitted], numeral, cardinal, feminine, nominative case).
The discursive escalation of the attention to the control over the forum's interaction and of the actions prompting the participants to reflect on the origins of this control is resolved in post 100 (Example 7), where the participant orients to the latter (post 94, Table 1), most intense, invitation for reflection. In post 100, the actor engages in the prompted rationalization of the reasons underpinning the ongoing disciplining actions by identifying the agency behind these actions. What is particularly significant in this act of identification is that it ascribes the origins of control over the site to the governing forces outside its scope--to the agency connected to the instruments and executors of censorship on Woman.ru, yet transcending both this mode of control and the specific place where it is exercised.
The interactional turn in focus is opened by the clause within which the participant identifies the reason for the disappearance of the discussion topics from the forum: "they are waiting for an inspection)" ([phrase omitted])). The succeeding clause figures as the postcedent to the subject of the first clause, (3) linking this subject through a pro-form "one" (KTO) to the category-bound activity of letting words through ("the one who lets through a bad word about the olympia"/[phrase omitted]), which is associated with the practice of forums' moderation and administration. This cataphoric reference nominates the moderators of Woman.ru, exercising censorship that participants observe on the forum, as the subjects of governance, who are as accountable to the technologies of control ("an inspection"/[phrase omitted], noun, singular, feminine, accusative case) and as liable to punishment ("will be put behind bars"/[phrase omitted], verb, future tense, plural) as the forums' participants, whose interactional conduct they regulate.
Thus, through the discursive work mapped out here, the author of the post breaks the panoptical order made visible earlier in the analysis (Examples 1 through 5) by revealing how the mechanisms (censoring acts) and the principles (moderators) of its rule are implicated in an apparatus within which they serve as both the subjects and the instruments of governance and which transgresses the panoptical architecture of this interactional site.
The parallel use of a closing parenthesis at the end of each of the turn's clauses highlights this shift in the panoptical arrangement. The contracted form of a smiling emoticon attached to the last word of each clause ("an inspection)"/[phrase omitted]); "put behind bars)"/[phrase omitted])) conveys an abrupt half-smile or a smirk that indicates an assessment of the moderators' role as the subjects of governance rather than a positive emotion. This assessment could not have been made from a position of a panoptical subject caught up in the omniscient and unverifiable gaze of its governor. Instead, it is accomplished by a participant who has rendered him-/herself the role of a knowledgeable actor in the strategic games of power and who, in doing so, has discursively displaced the governing agency from the position of a panoptical center to the position of a node in an extended apparatus of governance.
The analysis carried out in this article highlights what many studies of governance have argued: that there is a broad range of forms of action and of complex ways to steer individuals and collectives (Brokling et al., 2011). This is done by demonstrating how, within the framework of one site of social interaction, governing technologies vary, shift, and merge across a wide spectrum of strategies--from the disciplinary procedures of panopticism to the calculated governmental rationales and to the acts that expose and break the order by which these apparatuses work.
Discipline and Conduct: Some Discursive Mechanisms of Governance in Today's Russia
"Discipline fixes; it arrests or regulates movements" (Foucault, 1977, p. 219). Unlike disciplining power, governmental power does not strive to suppress freedoms; instead, it works to organize "the conditions under which individuals can make use of these freedoms" (Brokling et al., 2011, p. 3). This article demonstrates how the discursive mechanisms of attention structures participate in enacting in relation to specific national and international issues (such as the Ukrainian conflict) and the disciplinary machinery launched by the legislative interventions (such as the federal law on information (Council of Federation & State Duma, 2014), which aim to suppress the freedoms of speech and opinion. At the same time, my analysis reveals how the interactants caught up in the panoptical power relations of a discipline that they themselves enact (Foucault, 1977) give attention to its techniques by rationalizing moral principles and collective (national, patriotic) goals for the sake of which not making use of these freedoms in particular ways (e.g., in social media) and in relation to particular political matters is their obligation, responsibility, and choice rather than an act of subjugation.
The demonstrated discursive work is an example of how state control--which, through the legal system, targets particular groups of citizens or concrete individuals directly in everyday interactions--can operate at a distance and in different collectives through a complex technology of governance mediated by the actors. This technology shifts between the arrangement of surveillance, which is permanent even when it is independent of the actual governor (Foucault, 1977), and the reflected and calculated apparatus of governmentality, which directs the conduct of individuals through the justification, reflection, and even reduction of its effects enacted by the actors rather than their absolute compliance.
This meticulous analysis of the discursive strategies that mediate governing mechanisms and their networking contributes to the important task of understanding the complex ways in which the practices of communication are involved in administering the conduct of individuals. More importantly, it makes tangible the concrete actions and interactions of the actors through which they inscribe themselves and one another into "a play of power" (Foucault, 1980, p. 196), thereby stabilizing the governing apparatus and technology to which they give attention.
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JULIA ZHUKOVA KLAUSEN
Aalborg University, Denmark
Julia Zhukova Klausen: email@example.com
Date submitted: 2015-02-10
(1) The website was ranked 23rd out of 482,360 websites according to the number of visitors from Russian Federation in the 31-day period from September 2 to October 2, 2015 (LiveInternet.ru, 2015).
(2) Here and throughout the analysis, emphasis added.
(3) In the Russian original, the subject is omitted, but its function is mediated through the form of the verb.
Table 1. Discursive Upgrade of an Attention Display. Post 16 [[phrase omitted]] [..] [The nearby topic about [for some reason] [..] the Olympics was shut down] Post 17 [[phrase omitted]] [[phrase omitted]] [?] [The previous topic was shut down] [why is that] [?] Post 94 [[phrase omitted]] [[phrase omitted]] [[phrase omitted]] [??] [shoot] [what is the [??] [two topics were matter, really] closed down already]
[Please note: Some non-Latin characters were omitted from this article]
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|Author:||Klausen, Julia Zhukova|
|Publication:||International journal of communication (Online)|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2016|
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