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Giorgio Comai

Researcher, data analyst

OBCT/CCI

EDJNet

I am a researcher and data analyst at OBCT/CCI. Here is some information about my (not necessarily contiguous) professional interests.

For a long time, I have been conducting research on post-Soviet affairs, focusing in particular on de facto states. I have been visiting Russia and other post-Soviet countries since 2000, and I speak fluently Russian and Romanian.

In recent years, I have increasingly been working on structured approaches for analysing online sources in conflict studies and international relations, data collections methods, and related ethical issues.

I have also been working as a data analyst and consultant, crunching data at the European Data Journalism Network ( EDJNet), writing code and developing packages in the R programming language, and working on data visualisation and geographic data analysis.

I occasionally post on my data visualisation blog: the codebase.

Interests

  • data crunching, data visualisation and geocomputation
  • data collection methods and ethics in research
  • structured analysis of web contents
  • Post-Soviet affairs and de facto states
  • R programming
  • digital humanities

Education

  • PhD, Law and Government, 2018

    Dublin City University

  • MA, area studies, 2006

    MIREES - Interdisciplinary Research and Studies on Eastern Europe

  • BA, political science, 2004

    University of Bologna

Articles, features, and analyses

“Abchazja” and other untranslated bits of Wojciech Górecki's Caucasus trilogy

Górecki spent a lavish amount of time in the Caucasus, meeting people across the region and hearing their stories. His Caucasus trilogy makes for excellent reading. Yet, not all of it is accessible to the international readership it deserves

Dealing with Russia's brazenness in cyber space

Western governments recently attributed to Russia a massive cyber-attack against Georgia. In this and other situations, the brazenness of the attack was seemingly a goal in itself. But Russia is not the only cyber threat. Structural political incentives for better security practices and international solidarity and assistance are needed

Political parties, please meet cybersecurity

They have large amounts of private data, their internal communications are highly sensitive, they have a lot of power, they don’t seem to take cybersecurity seriously. How do we move forward? Originally published on balcanicaucaso.org In early 2019, the European Union’s Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) released a set of recommendations for EU-wide election cybersecurity . They focused mainly on three aspects: online disinformation, threats to the digital infrastructure that is used to manage the voting process, and concerns about the cybersecurity of political organisations and political practitioners.

Recent academic publications

Responding to Alleged Russian Interference by Focusing on the Vulnerabilities That Make It Possible

Based on a media analysis of mainstream Western media, this chapter defines ‘Russian meddling’ as a distinct phenomenon that emerged at …

Russian Meddling in Democratic Processes in Europe and the US

In recent years, the issue of Russian meddling and Russian interference have prominently entered the public and political debate in …

Il sostegno esterno ufficiale agli stati de facto nel Caucaso del sud

De facto states in the South Caucasus are supported by a patron: Russia in the case of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Armenia in the case …

Developing a New Research Agenda on Post-Soviet De Facto States

The scholarship on post-Soviet de facto states has structurally focused on issues related to their contested status, and has long …

Conceptualising Post-Soviet de facto States as Small Dependent Jurisdictions

De facto states, according to the most established elaborations of the concept, by definition strive towards full-fledged, …

Data notes

Beautiful Gantt charts with ggplot2

A new straightforward online interface that makes it easy to create and customise decent-looking charts for grant applications

How to find the population-weighted centre of local administrative units

A structured approach and a new R package to deal with a recurrent question

R packages and data projects

castarter - content analysis starter toolkit for R

castarter is designed to make it easy also for relatively inexperienced users to create a textual dataset from a website, or a section of a website, keep it up-to-date, and explore it through word frequency graphs or a web interface that makes it possibe to tag items. Documentation is available on castarter’s website.

EDJNet’s Quote Finder

EDJNet’s Quote Finder facilitates finding different takes on European affairs. It provides an interactive interface to explore and filter tweets by all members of the European Parliament who are on Twitter, and to visualise word frequencies as wordclouds. It is possible to filter contents based on keywords, hashtags, political affiliation and language of the tweet. A different interface allows for interactively exploring textual contents published by EU-institutions such as press-releases. In this case, available visualisations include time series in order to highlight changes in the relative prominence of certain issues within the official EU discourse.

ganttrify - Create beautiful gantt charts with ggplot2

ganttrify facilitates the creation of nice-looking Gantt charts, commonly used in project proposals and project management. Documentation is available on GitHub.

genderedstreetnames - Find and plot on a map gendered street names

genderedstreetnames automatically finds the gender of street names, facilitates manually fixing what the automatic part got wrong, and plots the results. It gets information from OpenStreetMap and Wikidata. There is currently a vignette showing examples of what can be done with this package on the package’s website. Documentation is available on GitHub.

networkedwebsitesdetector

networkedwebsitesdetector offers a structured approach for finding websites which have clear signs of common ownership or are otherwise related. There is currently a vignette showing examples of what can be done with this package on the package’s website. Documentation is available on GitHub.

zoteror - Access the Zotero API in R

zoteror introduces basic functionalities to access the Zotero API. It allows to create new Zotero items, and to take a csv file (or data frame) and import it into Zotero, as long as data are properly mapped. zoteror has function that facilitate giving to tabular data a structure that can properly be read into Zotero. It facilitates resizing the storage space used, by ordering items by attachment size, and by allowing to add items to a collection if certain criteria are met.

Recent & Upcoming Talks

Russia hacked: problematic sources for insights on conflicts in Ukraine and the South Caucasus

In recent years, high-level leaks and hacks have featured prominently in media reporting. Russia has been repeatedly blamed for carrying out cyber-attacks against a variety of actors in Western countries, including the US Democratic party and then-presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron in France. However, Russian government actors have themselves been repeatedly hacked in recent years, including by alleged Ukrainian hacker groups and others (e.g. #SurkovLeaks). People associated with the de facto authorities in the Donbas region have also been hacked.

Responding to alleged Russian interference by focusing on the vulnerabilities that make it possible

In recent years, the legitimacy of electoral processes in Western democracies has been repeatedly put into question due to alleged …

Victims of double standards: double victimhood and changing narratives in Azerbaijan’s public rhetoric

Here is a brief summary of key points in the form of a Twitter thread: On my way back from ASIAC's latest conference in Gorizia, where I presented a joint work co-authored with @sofiebedford: "Victims of double standards: double victimhood and changing narratives in Azerbaijan’s public rhetoric" pic.twitter.com/9amsIIdMfp — Giorgio Comai (@giocomai) December 7, 2018

Should the EU talk more or less about conflict?

Where does the Money Come From? Financing the Budget and the pension System in post-Soviet De Facto States

Residents of post-Soviet de facto states have access to public goods and services to a large extent thanks to financial resources …

Surfing the post-Soviet web with style. Text mining post-Soviet de facto states

Scholars working on the post-Soviet space frequently refer to web contents at different stages of their research process. However, they …

Projects

Digital archives and local history

Digitising local history

R packages

R packages for research and data journalism

ESVEI

“Exploring systemic vulnerabilities for external influence in Italy”

De facto states

Non-recognition is the symptom, not the cause

Journey to Armenia – A film documentary project

“Journey to Armenia” is a film documentary project I’ve been working on together with Andrea Rossini and other colleagues at OBCT between 2009 and 2013. It develops around the journey of Osip and Nadezhda Mandelstam in the Caucasus in 1930 (at the basis of Osip’s “Journey to Armenia”) and more in general around the life of the Mandelstams. At the same time, it is also a journey from Abkhazia to Nagorno Karabakh across today’s Caucasus.

Youth, patriotism and politics in the Northern Caucasus

Youth in the Northern Caucasus: associationism, identity, and patriotism in a complex, multi-ethnic context.

Contact

To get in touch, email is best: g@giorgiocomai.eu. To send an encrypted message use my public PGP key or ProtonMail (g@giorgiocomai.eu is a ProtonMail address).