Smetanin F. A.

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  • 2, 2023

    • Search Engines as Mechanism for Constructing Boundaries of Imagined Communities (Case of Internal Migrant Image in Siberian Regional Digital Media)

      The article analyzes the process of constructing boundaries of imagined communities by search engines, using the case of the image of internal migrants arriving in Tomsk, Krasnoyarsk, and Irkutsk. Combining quantitative and qualitative content analysis, the authors analyzed the image of internal migrants created by the texts that make up the first pages of search results of Google, Yandex, Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Mail.ru. They found that in most texts, an internal migrant is presented as a poor, low-skilled man who constantly finds himself in extreme situations, more often — crimes, in which he is either a victim or an offender. At the same time, some essential details of the image may differ depending on the chosen ethnohoronym and the name of the host city in the search query.

      According to the authors’ hypothesis, the fact that all the search engines under question modify the image of a migrant depending on the host city indicates the presence of regional specifics in the agenda formation. At the same time, the similarity in social actions, spaces and actors that make up the image of an internal migrant in the search results with the same components in the image of a cross-border migrant indicates that crossing regional borders becomes a sufficient condition for classifying a person who crossed borders into a separate, stigmatized category. Search engines fragment the “imagined community” in the agenda by putting first texts that draw regional groups as outsiders who are dangerous to each other. This finding allows to hypothesize that algorithms construct/reproduce perceptions of local communities about themselves, which falls out of the political myth of a unified Russian community defined by national borders. If the hypothesis is true, it could mean that search engines are beginning to function as an actor (or its representative) that defies contemporary political mythology.

      DOI: 10.30570/2078-5089-2023-109-2-55-76

      Pages: 55-76