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International Workshop “Internet, Digital Data, Power and Rivalries in the Post-Soviet Area”

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International Workshop “Internet, Digital Data, Power and Rivalries in the Post-Soviet Area”

10 January 2021 @ 8h00 - 17h00

For more than a decade, Internet and digital networks have played a central part in most of the contemporary conflicts. Whether it deals with their storage, circulation, production or their manipulation (both literally and figuratively), digital data are being mobilized in a wide array of geopolitical crises and rivalries. Moreover, more numerous and diverse strategies are being developed to control these data as the ongoing datafication of society widens its reach into new areas of human activity. Computer piracy, the destruction of infrastructures and the manipulation of information have become tools in the hands of a growing number of actors willing to confirm or reverse a given geopolitical power relationship.

The post-Soviet area constitutes a fertile ground for the deployment of such tactics and strategies of control. Disrupting the circulation networks, or the treatment and storage infrastructures of digital data, has progressively become a full-fledged strategy in the conflicts and rivalries that permeate this post-imperial space. As such, the struggle between several “imagined communities” (Anderson), grounded on diverging representations of memory, identity, and language, constitutes a powerful catalyzer of digital conflictuality.

Russia, however, exerts a clear domination on the digital networks of its “near-abroad.” Its intermediation platforms are widely used by the Russian-speaking populations of the former USSR and the geography of the infrastructures – as well as the topology of the routing protocols – remains prominently structured around the former centers of Soviet power.

By means of this situation, Russia now sees “cyberspace” as an important lever to assert its power – power being defined by Raymond Aron as the ability to do, to make others do, and to refuse to do. The workshop will give participants an opportunity to question the multiple ways in which the Internet and digital data have become both a tool and an object of power in the territorial rivalries permeating the post-Soviet space; it will also cover the Russian influence strategies in its near-abroad and, more broadly, in our contemporary world.

Beyond this primary goal, and its importance to further our understanding of the area, this international workshop will aim at exploring, through examples grounded in empirical data, two crucial methodological questions.

First, we want to explore the relationship between the geopolitical notions of network and geographical space. Digital networks have become a space of geopolitical rivalries, to say the least, and we deem it necessary to reassess the way we include the “topological family” (as conceptualized by Jacques Lévy, in opposition to the “topographical family” of space and territory) as a constitutive element of a geography defined as a set of strategic knowledge necessary for the exercise of power (Yves Lacoste). We welcome contributions for the workshop that brings empirical examples of the way topological knowledge and topographical knowledge have become equally indispensable to study geopolitical rivalries.

Then, the empirical discussions could also widen the current discussion that questions the use of notions such as “cyberspace,” which appears as a representation (the result of a set of practices) more than as an epistemological tool. We want to devote some time to confront practical experiments to emerging intellectual frameworks, such as the “datasphere” (Grumbach, Desforges, Douzet).

Working language will be English

9:00 AM : registration and coffee

9:30 AM : Keynote : Kevin Limonier, French Institute of Geopolitics / GEODE

10:00 AM – 12:00 AM : Panel 1 : Between the keyboard and the chair : representations and strategies of the post-soviet Internet actors.

Discussant : Jean-Robert Raviot, Université Paris Ouest la Défense.

  • Marie Gabrielle Bertran (French Institute of Geopolitics / GEODE) : The SyTech hack, and what can be drawn from it about Russia in terms of geopolitics
  • Hugo Estecahandy (GEODE) : Geopolitics of cryptocurrencies mining in the Irkutsk Oblast
  • Léa Ronzaud (Graphika) : Estonia, a cyber power: how Russia and Russian threat actors shaped Estonian cyber-defense and cyber-security
  • Vincent Lepinay (Médialab, Sciences Po) : TBA

12:00 AM – 1:30PM : Lunch


1:30 PM – 3:45 PM Panel 2 : The routes of the post-soviet Internet : protocols, measurements and cartography

Discussant : Alberto Dainotti (CAIDA, University of California)

  • Thibaut Alchus (French Institute of Geopolitics) : At the edge of the “”: a topological analysis of Crimean network architecture
  • Antoine Delaunay (French Institute of Geopolitics) : From the lack of oversight to government censorship: the Ukrainian Internet in wartime
  • Francesca Musiani &  Ksenia Ermoshina (Centre Internet et Société, CNRS) : Engineers Facing the Governance: Resistances and Ruses of Internet Service Providers in Russia.
  • Louis Pétiniaud & Loqman Salamatian (French Institute of Geopolitics / GEODE) : Geopolitics of Routing: Internet connectivity in disputed territories of the post-soviet space
  • Alex Semenyaka (RIPE NCC, Moscow) : Distance/RTT Ration analysis for some post-Soviet countries

4:00 PM – 6:00 PM : Panel 3 : Digital Information and influence

Discussant : Maxime Audinet, Université Paris Ouest / IFRI

  • Dmitri Boschmann (Université Paris Ouest) : “Don‘t read Telegram channels” : Telegram as the new battleground for information wars in Russia
  • Diyana Dobreva (Cardiff Crime Institute, Cardiff University) : Russian disinformation in the Baltics and Ukraine
  • Colin Gérard (French Institute of Geopolitics / GEODE / INRIA) : From the local patriotic association to the global company, anatomy of the Internet Research Agency
  • Kévin Limonier, Associate Professor in Slavic Studies and Geography, IFG, GEODE, Paris 8
  • Hugo Estecahandy, GEODE

Scientific Committee

  • Frederick Douzet, Professor of Geopolitics and Geography, IFG, GEODE, Paris 8
  • Jean-Robert Raviot, Professor of Slavic Studies and Political Science, University Paris Ouest
  • Alix Desforges, Postdoctoral Researcher in Geography, GEODE
  • Amaël Cattaruzza, Associate Professor, with habilitation, and Chairman of the Geopolitical Commission of the CNFG, CREC, Special Military School of Saint-Cyr
  • Kavé Salamatian, Professor of Computer Science, University of Savoie Mont Blanc
  • Kévin Limonier, Associate Professor in Slavic Studies and Geography, IFG, GEODE, Paris 8


10 January 2021
8h00 - 17h00


Campus Condorcet
Université Paris 8


Centre des Colloques – Campus Condorcet
10 Rue des Fillettes
Aubervilliers, 93300 France
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