A growing number of states in the twenty-first century have reimagined and rearticulated the role of digital technologies as indispensable to the nation's economic, cultural, and political success—and sometimes survival—under the conditions of digital globalization. Digital nationalism refers to this shift in the national state's imagination of digital technologies vis-à-vis their national Selves, as well as attendant discursive and material efforts at constructing and strategically communicating their national digital identities. On the one hand, this is a global trend, which is rooted in the rationalist imaginary and posits digital technological development as critical to economic growth and overall national well-being. On the other hand, and this is the crux of the argument underlying this dissertation, national cultural identities shape the specific logics and language of respective national digital rhetoric and policies.
To illuminate the workings of digital nationalism, the dissertation examines how Estonia's and Russia's conduct in the domain of global internet governance—the design and administration of legal and technological architectures of the global internet and surrounding geopolitical debates—reflect their national identity visions. The dissertation argues that Estonia's championing of the "internet freedom" narrative is meant to bolster its central identity aspiration of symbolically and institutionally "returning to Europe" after half a century of the Soviet rule, while Russia's championing of "internet sovereignty" contributes to its identity narrative of a resurgent great power following its geopolitical decline in the first post-Cold War decade.
The dissertation offers a critical cultural approach to the study of digital technological politics and aims to contribute to our understanding of the logics of digital globalization and global internet governance, contemporary nationalism, and socio-political trajectories in post-socialist Europe.