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The Use of Open and Restricted VKontakte Groups by Russian Apartment Residents

The next speaker at Web Science 2016 is Ilya Musabirov, whose focus is on place-based communities online. The focus here is especially on VKontakte, the most popular social media platform in Russia, and on how residents in apartment buildings in St. Petersburg are using this platform. The main tool here are restricted-access groups, which require formal vetting by the group owner before access is granted (and during that process aspects like the applicant's apartment number may be checked).

Such groups are much more active than open groups, in terms of the number of posts and active participants. Users are slightly younger on average, too. Key topics addressed in their discussions relate to initiatives to establish home-owner associations, protests against construction and other issues, information on apartment purchases, repairs to buildings, parking rules, building improvements, available schools in the neighbourhood, mutual help between neighbours, and general socialisation amongst residents.

There are significant differences in the prominence of such themes across open and restricted-access groups. Mutual help and socialisation are more prominent in the restricted groups, for instance, while building improvements and initiatives are more prominent in open groups; this reflects differences in the respective privacy and reach of these groups. Open groups are also much more connected with city-wide initiatives. This also shows a sophisticated understanding of the relative affordances of these different communicative spaces.