VKontakte and the Neighbors: Features and Practices of Hybrid Neighboring in a Large Housing Estate in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Main Article Content

Liubov Chernysheva
Elvira Gizatullina

Keywords

Neighborhood, Neighboring Practices, Large Housing Estate, Digital Infrastructure, Online Community, Hybridization, Social Networks

Abstract

What is happening with neighborly relations in new residential areas of Russian cities where spatial organization of large housing estates is not considered to provide neighborly interaction? Contrary to the widespread theses about the “loss of communities” in areas of mass-housing development and the negative impact of digital technology on neighborly relations, in this article we propose an empirical study that casts doubt on such regrets and fears. In line with the digital ethnography strategy and based on a series of interviews and a vast pool of materials of online neighborly interactions on the Russian social network VKontakte (Vk.com), we studied neighboring practices in the large housing estate Severnaia Dolina in Saint Petersburg, Russia. We demonstrate that the neighboring has not disappeared but rather has transformed, incorporating components related to the development of the internet and mobile technologies. Neighboring in a large housing estate has a hybrid character: online and offline practices of neighbors are strongly interconnected and almost inseparable. In this article we analyze many situations from the everyday life of Severnaia Dolina to reveal the hybrid nature of the neighboring and demonstrate how digital infrastructure contributes to maintenance of neighboring. We describe the features of hybrid neighboring that include the twofold character of the material environment and territorial proximity, the hybridization of public spaces and neighboring control, depersonalization and crowdsourcing, and customization of neighboring practices.


Article in Russian

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