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Palina Urban (Oxford)

Palina Urban

My many Me: technology and autobiographical Selves in contemporary Russian Life-Writing

Supervisor: Professor Andrei Zorin


The Web 2.0 technology determined the shift in the practice of Life-Writing by providing the authors with the opportunity to create multiple simultaneous diaries. Created under the gaze of different Others (real or imaginary) these journals address different referential groups and articulate different Selves of the writers. Moreover, the possibility of collaborative biographical writing determined even further multiplication of identities. When reconstructing the past one decade later the life-writers can choose from multiple previously narrated Selves.

To investigate the shifts in the mechanisms of identity and memory production in the first generation of Russian online-diarists this research project addresses the following questions:

  • Which strategies of the identity construction are allocated to the ego-narratives with different degree of intimacy: open and (semi-)closed online journals, hand-written diaries, letters and oral storytelling?
  • How the introduction of fictional elements adds to the impression management and self-understanding?
  • How the writing of members of the community contributes to the co-production of meaning and reshaping the narrated Self?
  • How the access to former ego-narratives produced with different intentions impact the reconstruction of life story?

To answer these questions a sample of biographical cases is analyzed from the perspective of narrative and discursive studies. The ego-narratives of a group of bloggers interacting as an online community as well as maintaining off-line friendships during one decade are considered.  Analysis focuses on digital writings of different regimes of privacy, e.g. intimate diaries, limited-access and open-access blogs. Additionally, fragments of hand-written diaries, letters, poems, short stories, visual elements (photos and paintings) and biographical interviews are included. This study compares narrative modes, psycho-poetic elements, compositions, rhetorical strategies of self-presentations and discursive positioning in different versions of autobiographical reconstruction, embarking on an emerging research avenue in Life-Writing with great promise for refining contemporary theories of personality in response to new technological conditions.

Contact: urbanpalina@gmail.com