Self-Representation in the Web World of Opera: What Do the Blogs and Social Network Accounts of Famous Russian Opera Singers Tell Us About?

By Kotkina, Irina | Demokratizatsiya, Winter 2017 | Go to article overview

Self-Representation in the Web World of Opera: What Do the Blogs and Social Network Accounts of Famous Russian Opera Singers Tell Us About?


Kotkina, Irina, Demokratizatsiya


This article examines the online self-staging strategies of famous opera singers of Russian origin in Runet (the Russian-language internet). It argues that, in the Russian media context, opera singers' blogs create an "emotional regime" of high intensity, which helps them to destabilize political hierarchies and intimately connect the grassroots with the political sphere. The study starts from the assumption that the digital environment changes the character of relations between audiences and celebrities in several ways. The most important of these, the paper argues, is that social network communication between opera stars and their fans distorts the traditional limitations and hierarchies.

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This article examines the online self-staging strategies of famous opera singers of Russian origin in Runet (the Russian-language internet). It argues that, in the Russian media context, opera singers' blogs create an "emotional regime" of high intensity, which helps them to destabilize political hierarchies and intimately connect the grassroots with the political sphere. The study starts from the assumption that the digital environment changes the character of relations between audiences and celebrities in several ways. The most important of these, the article argues, is that social network communication between opera stars and their fans distorts the traditional limitations and hierarchies. Celebrity exerts a sort of a normative power, generating meanings, values and norms in society. (1) The power of celebrities tends to be constantly transferred from the public domain into the private space, while simultaneously giving public meaning to private information. In contemporary society, celebrities have the power to produce enormous normative ascendance over millions of their fans; at the same time, the source of this normative power could easily be questioned on the trivial level. With the advent of digital technologies, the culture of "a new public intimacy" (2) creates additional possibilities for blurring the public and private spheres, even exposing celebrities' private lives to the public gaze. The phenomenon of celebrities epitomizes two parallel moves: toward the convergence between political power and the mediatized power of celebrities, on the one hand; and towards greater audience participation in the production of celebrities, on the other.

Celebrities' blogs function as precisely this switcher from the public to the private mode of reasoning; each blog is built through the collaboration of its readers and its owner, so blog readers become co-producers of the star's online identity. However, the work of this switcher hinges upon the cultural context. In a politically well-organized society with established traditions of participatory democracy, the switcher smoothly mediates between the public and the private spheres, whereas in a politically troubled society, a celebrity's blog can impart too much of the political to the private sphere and too much of the personal to the public sphere. In this research. I draw upon the concept of the social construction of technology, which means that people make sense of new technologies (in this case, digital technologies) by grounding these technologies in their cultural traditions. According to this conceptualization, technical innovations become meaningful for users only when they are framed mentally and emotionally. (3) In other words, success or failure in mastering technologies depends not on their innate qualities but on the way in which people construct them, leaning on their previous experience, cultural traditions, basic values and other discursive practices. Hence, celebrity blogging in Runet builds upon the cultural, religious and literary tradition of venerating opera performers in Russia, as well as the less democratic political environment.

In particular, I refer to the tradition of self-reflective writing "to the drawer" or to a close circle of "ours" (,svoi), (4) which is disproportionately more important than other forms of engaging with public politics and political self-expression. …

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Self-Representation in the Web World of Opera: What Do the Blogs and Social Network Accounts of Famous Russian Opera Singers Tell Us About?
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