Käte Hamburger Kolleg / Centre for Global Cooperation Research
Phone: +49 (0)203 379-5230
Fax: +49 (0)203 379-5276
08/2020 - 05/2021
Russian Studies Workshop, Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies
08/2020 - 05/2021
08/2018 - 07/2020
University of Pennsylvania
Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication, Annennberg School for Communication
06/2016 - 08/2016
Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society
01/2016 - 05/2016
University of Pennsylvania
Center for Global Communication Studies, Annenberg School for Communication
09/2015 - 12/2015
Journalism and Media Studies Department, School of Communication and Information
Visiting Doctoral Student
07/2014 - 05/2016
The SecDev Foundation (Ottawa, Canada)
Research Project at the Centre
Russia's Digital Sovereignty: National Identity and Global Internet Governance
In the twenty-first century, global internet governance—the design and management of the global internet’s critical resources and standards—has become one of the most contentious geopolitical domains. What prevents deeper global cooperation on internet governance among nation-states? Adding to the materialist and legal analyses of global internet politics, this project explores how states’ diverse national identity constructions inform their often-conflicting approaches to global internet governance.
Russia and Estonia are among the leaders of opposing internet governance camps and serve as the project’s primary and secondary case studies, respectively. Estonia supports the existing governance model, in which US-based non-governmental organizations have been setting internet standards and managing its critical resources since the 1980s-90s. Meanwhile, Russia is challenging the perceived US digital hegemony and instead advocates a state-based internet governance model under the UN auspices.
Russia and Estonia promote strategic narratives that seek to legitimize their preferred model and delegitimize their opponents. Russia claims that the current US-based model is undemocratic because it imposes a single-country dominion over a universal resource that belongs to the humanity; only multilateral governance over the internet, Russia argues, will give a voice to all countries and allow elected governments to protect their citizens’ data from exploitation by the US tech giants. In turn, Estonia argues that state-based global internet governance, particularly through the UN bureaucracy, is antithetical to the internet’s purportedly innovative, borderless, and egalitarian nature.
Employing a cultural lens, I demonstrate that Estonia’s and Russia’s global internet governance agendas reflect their competing identity-based conceptions of the world order. As a self-identified great power, Russia opposes US-led unipolarity and advances an ideal of a multipolar world governed through traditional multilateral institutions, including in internet governance. By contrast, Estonia’s support for the US-based internet governance is rooted in its broader national identity project of “returning to Europe” after the Soviet rule. Estonia thus has been an ardent supporter of maintaining the post-Cold War US-led status quo.
A multi-method study, the project relies on critical intertextual analysis of Russia’s and Estonia’s official discourses, interviews with high-profile internet and media experts and practitioners, and participatory observation at internet and foreign policy fora across five countries, including Estonia and Russia. Ultimately, the project reveals the enduring significance of nationalism in the digital age.
2018: Carleton University Senate Medal for Outstanding Academic Achievement
2017–18: Trajectories of Change Dissertation Completion Scholarship, Zeit-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius Foundation, Germany
2017: Best Paper Award, International Communication Section, International Studies Association
2017: Best Student Paper Award, Canada Division, International Studies Association
2016–17: Doctoral Dissertation Grant, Center on Public Diplomacy, University of Southern California
2012–16: Ontario Trillium Award, Government of Ontario (Full doctoral scholarship)
Budnitsky, Stanislav (2020). 'Russia’s Great Power Imaginary and Pursuit of Digital Multipolarity,' Internet Policy Review 9: 3.
Budnitsky, Stanislav (2020). 'The Politics of Russia’s Vaccine Promotion', University of Southern California Center on Public Diplomacy, September 29.
Budnitsky, Stanislav (2020). 'National Belonging and Exclusion in Estonia’s Networked Sovereignty', MIT Global Media Technologies & Cultures Lab, Network Sovereignty, June 23.
Budnitsky, Stanislav and Jia, Lianrui (2018).'Branding Internet Sovereignty: Digital Media and the Chinese–Russian Cyberalliance', European Journal of Cultural Studies 21: 5, 594–613.
Budnitsky, Stanislav with Aronczyk, Melissa (2017).'Nation Branding and Internet Governance: Framing Debates over Freedom and Sovereignty', in Uta Kohl (ed.), The Net and the Nation-State: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Internet Governance, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Budnitsky, Stanislav (2017). Review of 'Will the Internet Fragment? Sovereignty, Globalization, and Cyberspace,' by Milton Mueller, International Journal of Communication 11: 4845–4849.