Secretly political: Civic engagement in online publics in Kazakhstan

Irina Shklovski, Bjarki Valtysson

Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The proliferation of networked forms of communication has captured the attention of media and scholars alike. We have never had quite as many resources for communication as we have today, and such communicative potential has implications for social change. In this article we consider public spheres that emerge through communication in the digital realm, paying atten- tion to how networked publics operate within such spheres. We present results from a study of a popular local online discussion forum in Kazakhstan. Steeped in Habermas’s idea of the public sphere, this study focuses on cultural public spheres defined through engagement and participation of diverse publics. We consider a range of publics that might emerge, such as mundane-publics, issue-publics, and counter-publics and how these differ in their content and purpose. While the majority of work on networked publics has been situated in states with democratic forms of governance, we consider whether similar constructions are possible in an authoritarian state. We find that networked publics are not only present in an environment rife with online blocking and censorship, but take on a range of forms, generating participation that can at times result in substantial social change, despite the inability to hold open political discussions online
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)417-433
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • online publics
  • civic engagement
  • internet use
  • Kazakhstan


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