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Sanna Turoma
sanna.turoma [at] helsinki.fi

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Kaarina Aitamurto
kaarina.aitamurto [at] helsinki.fi

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Maarit Elo-Valente
maarit.elo-valente [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Intern
Miikka Piiroinen
miikka.piiroinen [at] helsinki.fi

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The Aleksanteri Institute

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Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Victoria Dudina (St. Petersburg State University, Russia)

Potentialities of Social Media Analysis for Research of Public Consciousness: Discussions of Film "Leviathan" in Russian Internet

Cinema is a form of culture, and watching the cinema is cultural and social practice. Cinema reflects national mentality better than many other cultural forms, because production of film is a collective process what allows diminishing the author's subjectivity. Moreover films address to majority of population, so they often correspond to collective stereotypes. Studying how people in different cultures and social groups interpret films allow to reveal collective representations, typifications and everyday logic. The aim of this research was to reveal interpretations which Russian viewers gave to the film "Leviathan" directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev. This film was released in Russia in the beginning of 2015 and prompted widespread discussions in media. The release of the film coincided with very difficult social and political situation in Russia connected with Ukrainian crisis and negative global image of Russia. This film got a lot of political and ideological interpretations and triggered in social media active discussions concerning acute problems of Russian society.

For analysis the internet forum on the one of Russian cinema websites was selected; in this forum the thread devoted to film Leviathan was picked out. Data were categorized into broad codes (themes) and in each theme subthemes were identified, using qualitative data analysis software NVivo 10. Five dominant themes were revealed: "Film as a reflection of Russian realities"; "Russophobic film"; "Opposition between Russia and Western countries"; "Interpretations of patriotism"; "Social criticism". Analysis of the theme "Russophobic film" revealed such stereotypes of participants as: "West" is the enemy; there are a lot of betrayers in Russia; film reflects alien ideology and corresponds to negative western representations of Russia; russophobia is the requirement of western film festivals. The opposite opinions are typical for participants who characterized film as "reflection of Russian realities", described reality depicted in film as "typical" and were assigned to the subtheme "typical town, typical story". The other subtheme "Life at the world's end" accumulated opinions describing film characters as victims of circumstances, discussing these issues some participants mentioned their own lives in similar places. More emotional comments were included in subtheme "everyone is guilty in everything" where the blame for the bad state of affairs is not ascribed to external powerful forces. The subtheme "Poverty, drunkenness and absence of law in Russia" accumulated comments describing Russian life as byword for iniquity. The analysis revealed huge polarization in public consciousness of social media users. The main oppositions in revealed themes are critical representation of reality vs russophobia; "West" vs Russia; patriotism vs social criticism.