Vadim Voskresensky on working at Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society
I have been living in Berlin for the last six months, and it is only now that I can finally say I am more or less at ease with the city.
When I had just moved here, it was hard to believe that I would eventually solve all the bureaucratic issues, collect all necessary documents and find a flat. My main problem was that even though Berlin is seen as a city that allows foreigners who do not speak any German to have a comfortable life, all the civil servants only speak German. I often had to use gestures to explain what it is that I wanted exactly. Then they, in the same manner, had to explain to me why I would only get the required document in a month, or might not even get it at all, unless I submitted a bunch of other papers of extreme importance. It all sorted itself out in the end, and I’ll be able to work in peace now for about two years.
I work at the newly opened Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society. There are a lot of departments within the institute, and each of them works on its own topic: we have scholars working on developing better algorithms protecting private data on the Internet; there is also a group of researchers studying sharing economy and a lot of other different groups (you can see all the topics here). I am formally attached to the big research area focusing on democracy, public spheres and political participation online. We have four research groups: one of them is studying the connection between democracy and the process of digitalisation; another explores how online communication influences political participation; the third one studies misinformation and the role of social bots in political campaigns.
My group, the fourth one, focuses on transnational public spheres. We are interested in how far-right movements and media form online communications, and whether the Internet allows such radical organizations in different countries to cooperate.
There are 9 people on my team, myself included. We are supervised by one of the leading German researchers in the field of communication, Barbara Pfetsch. We also have two postdocs who monitor the research process within our group, three research assistants (one of which is me), two students assistants and the administrator of our group, who is in charge of all formal matters. We have regular meetings where we discuss the results of our work and plan further research.
Despite the fact that we only started working actively in May, the group and I have already managed to present our preliminary results at a conference in Oxford. One of my colleagues’ studies focused on links between Danish and German far-right media, and the second study (the one I was taking part in) we examined how representatives of far-right movements reframe the main narrative of the #MeToo online campaign, trying to convince the public that the initial movement does not see the main problem coming exclusively from migrants in European countries. Our presentations got a very warm welcome, which, of course, was very nice. Moreover, we got a chance to see Oxford and communicate with colleagues from all over the world in the university’s wonderful museums.
Museum of Natural history, with all the dinosaur skeletons and other various animals (here is the picture of my colleagues and me examining a turtle) was, without any doubt, very memorable. I barely have any free time because I have to work a lot and put quite a bit of effort into learning German. However, when I do have a bit of time I try to visit some interesting places in the city or ride a bike. What’s best is that bands and musicians that I am fond of come to Berlin quite often, so I try not to miss events like that.
I really miss HSE, my friends, colleagues, and students. Let’s stay in touch =)