Boundaries and information: Sidestepping restrictions through Internet conversations

  • Erica Johnson University of Washington
  • Beth Kolko University of Washington
  • Odina Salikhbaeva
Keywords: chat, forum, online discussion, computer-mediated communication, Central Asia, authoritarian regime


Central Asian chat sites can transcend geographic boundaries and repression of information to provide access to information from around the globe. Chat and forums users gain information that is domestically censored or restricted in traditional media and share it with offline domestic communities. Because youth is the dominant demographic participating in chat and forum sites, these online exchanges and communities are likely to have important longer-term implications for information seeking and expectations of new and traditional media. We use cross-country survey data, interview data, and participant observation of online chat and forum sites to explore the exchange of information, emergence of opinions, global connections, and offline implications for communities within the region. This study examines how information and communication technologies take root in a technology-emergent society like Central Asia and has important implications for understanding attitudes toward and practices of adopting technology in other developing regions around the world.

Author Biographies

Erica Johnson, University of Washington
Erica Johnson is a PhD candidate in the University of Washington's Political Science Department, studying political transitions and state-society relations in post-Soviet Central Asia.
Beth Kolko, University of Washington
Beth Kolko is associate professor of Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington. Dr. Kolko serves as principal investigator of the Central Asia + Information Communication Technologies (CAICT) project.
Odina Salikhbaeva
Odina Salikhbaeva was a research assistant on the CAICT project while pursuing her bachelor's and master's degrees at the University of Washington. She is now living and working in Tashkent Uzbekistan.
How to Cite
Johnson, E., Kolko, B., & Salikhbaeva, O. (2009). Boundaries and information: Sidestepping restrictions through Internet conversations. First Monday, 14(8).