Wednesday | 06 April. 2016
WiP: Surfing the post-Soviet Web, April 6 - Giorgio Comai
CRRC-Georgia, ARISC and American Councils present the 11th talk of the Spring 2016 Works-in-Progress season:

"Surfing the post-Soviet web with style. Text mining post-Soviet de facto states"
Giorgio Comai, Dublin City University

Wednesday, April 6, 2016 at 6:30pm

1 Ramaz Chkhikvadze Str. (Former 5 Chavchavadze Ave.)
Entrance III-IV, First Floor
0179 Tbilisi, Georgia

Scholars working on the post-Soviet space frequently refer to web contents at different stages of their research process. However, they (we) usually approach the internet as an inordinate mass of contents, that can be superficially explored thanks to search engines and meaningful keywords. This is partially due to lack of technical skills, as well as the unavailability of relevant, pre-existing datasets. Both obstacles are not insurmountable. A research question involving a well-defined territory, institution or community may benefit of a structured analysis of the textual contents of a specific website, a section of a website, or a limited number of websites. Such analysis may allow both “to find the needle and to describe the haystack”, allowing to proceed with fieldwork and established qualitative research methods with more confidence.

This talk presents the author's experience with creating textual datasets related to Georgia and post-Soviet de facto states, and his attempts at answering questions such as: When exactly did it become common to refer to Abkhazia and South Ossetia as “occupied territories”? Why “occupation” and not “annexation”? And what do authorities in post-Soviet de facto states talk about? Is there anything unusual about it?

Giorgio Comai is a PhD researcher at the School of Law and Government, Dublin City University, and a member of the Marie Curie ITN network “Post-Soviet tensions”. MA in East European Studies and degree in Political Science from the University of Bologna. Exchange student at Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland, and Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow, Russia. From 2009 to 2013, he was regional editor and researcher at Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso. He has carried out research for the Institute for Central-Eastern and Balkan Europe of Bologna University. He is member of the board of directors of Asiac, Italy’s academic association for the study of Central Asia and the Caucasus. His research has focused on youth policies in Russia and on de facto states in the post-Soviet space.


twitter: @giocomai

Selected publications:

Ó Beacháin, Donnacha, Giorgio Comai and Ann Tsurtsumia-Zurabashvili (2016, forthcoming), "The secret lives of unrecognised states: Internal dynamics, external relations, and counter-recognition strategies." Small Wars & Insurgencies [ISSN 1743-9558]

Comai, Giorgio, and Bernardo Venturi (2015), “Language and Education Laws in Multi-Ethnic de Facto States: The Cases of Abkhazia and Transnistria.” Nationalities Papers 43 (6): 886–905. doi:10.1080/00905992.2015.1082996.

Comai, Giorgio (2015), “Post-Soviet de Facto States Online.” In Digital Eastern Europe, edited by William Schreiber and Marcin Kosienkowski. Wrocław: KEW.

Comai Giorgio (2013), “Sovereignty Conflicts and Minority Protection: the Case of Abkhazia” in Self-determination and sovereignty in Europe, Angelo Longo, Ravenna. [ISBN 9788880637608]

Comai Giorgio (2012), “Youth Camps in Post-Soviet Russia and the Northern Caucasus: The Cases of Seliger and Mashuk 2010”, Anthropology of East Europe Review 30, N. 1, pp. 184–212. [ISSN 1054-4720]

W-i-P is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia. It is co-organized by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), the American Councils for International Education (ACTR/ACCELS), and the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC). All of the talks are free and open to the public.

The purpose of the W-i-P series is to provide support and productive criticism to those researching and developing academic projects pertaining the Caucasus region.

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