Who I am
I am a university lecturer and researcher. I specialise in the following areas: digital media, digital methods, political communication, political activism and social movements, social media and society, data processing and visualisation, computational misinformation and propaganda.
As a lecturer, researcher and journalist, I have spent 13 years exploring the role of digital media in civil society and have dedicated my career to helping others use digital media to change lives.
My role at University of Westminster
I am a research associate, a visiting lecturer and a doctoral researcher at Westminster School of Media and Communications, University of Westminster. My work lies at the interface of communication, political science and technology focusing on the changes that social media platforms bring.
I am also a Visiting Lecturer at Middlesex University.
My PhD project looks at the use of social media for political change. I study how political activists from Russia and Belarus use digital technologies in their everyday practices of organising and information distribution, overcoming state surveillance, persecution and censorship.
I hold an MA degree in European Studies from Aarhus University (Denmark) and a BA in Political Science from European Humanities University (Vilnius, Lithuania).
I have been involved in media production since 2006. My favourite time as a professional in the field includes seven years of work as a journalist, an editor and a media relation specialist. During that time, I authored hundreds of publications both analytical and journalistic for TV, radio, newspapers and the web. This work was honoured with national and international awards.
As an activist of several NGOs, I followed the election processes in difficult environments like Russia, Belarus and Ukraine where elections are not necessarily associated with a "democratic procedure." Struggle for the world without borders was another great passion of that period of my life.
At the University of Westminster, I taught the following modules:
- Media and Society
- Media and Globalization
- Media, Activism & Politics
I also supervise postgraduate dissertations in the areas of social media, social movements, digital technologies and media management.
My doctoral research project: "Digital political activism in authoritarian settings: Organisation, leadership and information distribution in Belarus and Russia"
What is important about my project?
Democracy does not disappear in a day. However, it can erode slowly fading from sight like a dissolving sandcastle. This what has happened to democracy in Russia and Belarus over the past twenty years.
In the age of fake news, political polarisation and Donald Trump, other countries that we call democracies are at risk of repeating this fate. How can active citizens resist the erosion of democracy?
What do I study?
My answer comes from the case studies of Russia and Belarus, where censorship, governmental propaganda and networks of bots have been part of everyday life for many years. I study how political activists in these two countries fight for democratic freedoms using social media.
How do I study it?
I travelled across Russia and Belarus to meet activists, to talk to them and to see their work and life. I also collected and analysed the textual and visual materials created by them. I did this to understand how activists overcome obstacles imposed by the state and large media corporations: how they disseminate information, unite their followers and organise protests. I focus on such cases as the Anti-corruption campaign of Alexei Navalny in Russia and the campaign to abolish the tax on unemployment in Belarus.
What did I find?
My study identified several pro-democracy practices that are potentially successful in the digital age.
1. Political activists need to constantly develop their creative skills and communication competencies.
2. They need to stay in touch with their audience both when they are campaigning and when there is no on-going activity.
3. Activists should try to stay one step ahead of the government, learning how to use new technologies before the governmental propaganda machine tackles those technologies.
These, along with other approaches and practices, help activists in non-democratic countries to engage with people and to generate hope for the future. These practices also might aid active citizens in their resistance to the erosion of democracy in any other place.
My first supervisor is Anastasia Kavada.
Denisova, A., & Herasimenka, A. (2019). How Russian Rap on YouTube Advances Alternative Political Deliberation: Hegemony, Counter-Hegemony, and Emerging Resistant Publics. Social Media + Society, 5(2), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305119835200
Herasimenka, A. “Information and Communication Technologies and New Possibilities of Political Participation in Belarus.” In: The Fifth International Congress of Belarusian Studies Working Papers. Volume 5. Kaunas, Lithuania: Vytautas Magnus University Press, 2016. http://icbs.palityka.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/01_herasimenka.pdf
Herasimenka, A. “The New Technologies of the Information and Communication and Possibilities of Political Participation in Non-Democratic Countries (the Case of Belarus).” In: Candon-Mena, J. (ed.). Proceedings of the First International Congress on Social Movements and ICT Move.net. Sivilla, Spain: Compoliticas, 2016. https://congreso-move.net/2016/07/11/actas-del-i-congreso-internacional-move-net/
Herasimenka, A. “Practices of the compulsory distribution of Belarusian universities graduates: The guaranty of a first work place or the construction of a new identity?” In R. Minenkov (Chief ed.), [Et al.]. Europe 2012: Prospects and challenges of Europeanization. Vilnius: EHU, 2013.
Herasimenka, A. “The role of social media in transition of power in authoritarian regimes.” In R. Minenkov (Chief ed.), Europe - 2011: The global and the local. Vilnius, Lithuania: EHU, 2012.
Other Academic Publications (recent)
Herasimenka, A. “What’s behind Alexei Navalny’s digital challenge to Vladimir Putin’s regime? Five things to know.” Washington Post, Monkey Cage. 2018, February 23. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/02/23/whats-behind-alexei-navalnys-digital-challenge-to-vladimir-putins-regime-5-things-to-know
Herasimenka, A. “The death of democracy.” Capçalera: revista del Collegi de Periodistes de Catalunya, Issue 178. Collegi de Periodistes de Catalunya, 2018. ISSN 1135-1047.
Herasimenka, A. “How 2017 became a year of widespread protests in Belarus.” Belarus-Analysen, Nr. 34, November. Bremen, Germany: Forschungsstelle Osteuropa, 2017. ISBN 2192-1350. http://www.laender-analysen.de/belarus/pdf/BelarusAnalysen34.pdf
Herasimenka, A. “Political participation and internet platforms: How new communication technologies help Belarusian civic activists.” In: Chulitskaya, T., Ivanou, U., and Stsiapanau, A. (eds.). Politics and Society in Belarus. Issue 1, Vilnius, 2016. ISBN 978-9955-773-96-2. http://www.kas.de/wf/doc/kas_47507-1522-2-30.pdf?161220135156
Herasimenka, A. “Belarus. The two hidden mechanisms of media censorship.” New Eastern Europe. 2016, May 18. www.neweasterneurope.eu/articles-and-commentary/1997-belarus-the-two-hidden-mechanisms-of-media-censorship
Herasimenka, A. “A Businessman’s Arrest and the Decline of a Regime.” New Eastern Europe. 2015, May 12. www.neweasterneurope.eu/articles-and-commentary/1581-a-businessman-s-arrest-and-the-decline-of-a-regime
For details of all my research outputs, visit my WestminsterResearch profile.