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Online platform syg.ma: "We aim to build networks of solidarity across national borders"

Posted on 29. März 2024 by Elisabeth Bauer
syg.ma is a multilingual, self-organized, open online platform. In the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the platform took a clear anti-war stance. novinki publishes an interview with Konstantin Koryagin, one of syg.ma’s editors.

Interview auf Deutsch lesen.  / Читать интервью на русском языке.

 

syg.ma is a multilingual, self-organized, open online platform where researchers, artists, small publishers and activist communities publish their own materials. syg.ma was founded in 2014 in Moscow and is now not only a working media, but also an archive with more than 25,000 publications on philosophy, art, politics, psychoanalysis and film, including activist manifestos, academic essays and poetry collections. Between 150,000 and 250,000 users per month visit the site from around the world.

In the wake of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the platform's main goal of being a platform for bringing together diverse communities has become even more relevant: syg.ma has taken a clear anti-war stance and focused on expanding its international audience by diversifying its linguistic presence on the platform, inviting contributors from artistic, cultural and activist communities from all over the world, including Ukraine. In its commitment to horizontality and "platform-ness", syg.ma represents a valuable alternative to both pro-Kremlin and "independent" liberal media in the Russian-language and international media space.

novinki publishes an interview with one of syg.ma's editors, Konstantin Koryagin. When Russia attacked Ukraine, he decided not to return to Russia and stayed in Berlin, ending up, like most of the editorial staff, in exile. syg.ma maintains connections with (primarily left-wing) communities and authors both within the "country of the aggressor" and around the world and aims to be a platform "where different activist and volunteer communities read and get to know each other, share experiences and audiences", where activist texts are "combined with in-depth analysis and research, bringing together theory and practice".

 

novinki: When and how did you first learn about syg.ma? When did you join the editorial board and what is your current position in the team?

Konstantin Koryagin: I learned about syg.ma at the time of its launch in 2014. I remember I really liked the way its homepage juxtaposed almost diary-like notes by authors unknown to me with serious academic research by philosophy stars, experimental poetry with big special projects, such as the "official blog of the Moscow Biennale". I saw this as a very inspiring example of the horizontal redistribution of symbolic capital and the displacement of established hierarchies. By reading syg.ma one could follow the life of self-organized cultural initiatives in the Russian-speaking environment and keep abreast of the novelties of independent book publishers. It also published a lot of texts on contemporary continental philosophy and psychoanalysis, which I was very interested in at the time.

I joined the editorial board in March 2018, while studying at the Philosophy Department in St. Petersburg. I was called to the editorial board by a friend of mine. Since then, I am one of the editors-curators of the platform and am mainly responsible for finding authors, texts and topics, inviting communities to the platform, communicating with them, and occasionally managing social media.

 

novinki: How many permanent members does the editorial team count at the moment, where are they based?

К. K.: Right now syg.ma consists of six people: three editors, two developers, one editorial manager. Also, when we have money, we hire an smm manager on a paid basis. When there is no money, the editors run the social networks themselves. Apart from one person who was born and raised in Uzbekistan, the other members of the editorial staff were born and raised in different regions of Russia. After the war started, the part of the editorial staff that was still in Russia left because of opposition to the war and because it was simply not safe to do such a project in Russia. Now we are scattered all over the world: Georgia, Armenia, Germany, and the United States.

As part of our ecosystem there is also radio.syg.ma — with mixes, releases and live performances of experimental musicians from all over the world. The radio has its own editorial staff, but their path, position and geographical location are similar to ours.

 

novinki: The founding year of syg.ma is 2014. Does it coincidentally overlap with the beginning of the war in Ukraine or are those events perhaps somehow related to each other?

К. K.: It is a coincidence.

 

"syg.ma is a self-organized platform,
the authors and communities mostly bring their texts to our platform themselves,
using it as their own website and archive where their texts are stored"

 

novinki: One of the goals of the project is to support alternative collectives and communities — primarily in Russia, but not only. syg.ma was conceived as an "experimental" online platform — a new, alternative media project that had not been seen before in the Russian-language media sphere. Please tell us a little about the structure and goals of the platform.

К. K.: It is very important to understand that syg.ma is a self-organized platform, the authors and communities mostly bring their texts to our platform themselves, using it as their own website and archive where their texts are stored. Thus, on syg.ma today there are collections of independent book publishers, artistic and activist communities, cultural institutions and individual authors. These texts we intentionally do not edit. Therefore, most of the time the task and function of the platform’s editors is rather curatorial and consists of finding and communicating with authors and communities. And also, of selecting the texts published on syg.ma: we choose which articles we support and make more visible on the platform (e.g., by putting them on the homepage, adding them to thematic collections and posting them on social networks) and which ones not. This is why we often refer to ourselves as the "weak editorial team".

At the same time, we have special projects, such as "Atlas", where we and our authors think about borders and identities, or "Tashkent-Tbilisi" about the history and culture of Central Asia, for which we have budgets (most often grants) and in which we act as a full-fledged editorial office: we come up with topics in advance, pay fees to the authors, proofread and edit the texts. We also organize collaborations with other media, for example, we have a special collection of Russian translations of selected materials from e-flux magazine.

Our initial goal was to basically set a precedent for a self-organized platform that is self-funded and relatively popular, thus amplifying the voices of self-organized artistic and cultural initiatives, independent publishers, leftist and feminist political movements, decolonial activists, near-academic authors and poetry communities by giving them access to each other's audiences. We wanted to increase the visibility of all those who could not find a platform in the classical media, which in Russia before the war were either pro-state conservative or oppositional but right-liberal. In this sense – yes, syg.ma did and does provide an alternative.

It's also worth realizing that we have never been and will never be a classical news media, nor a media outlet like, for example, DOXA has now become in many ways. Therefore, we cannot say that we played on the same field with them and never sought to compete with them. We have always had a different, more experimental, discursive and analytical focus: we have published feminist poetry, decolonial studies, diary essays, academic essays on philosophy and psychoanalysis, art criticism, philosophy translations, etc.

Illustration (also featured image above): © Sonya Umanskaya.

novinki: syg.ma provides a platform not only to individual authors but also to collectives. This very much became apparent after February 2022, when various anti-war materials and manifestos appeared on syg.ma. How did you react to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, what materials have been published since then? Can syg.ma become a platform for critical reflection on the war and anti-war protest inside (and outside) the "aggressor country"?

К. K.: When the war started we halted our editorial work for a month because we did not see the possibility of publishing content about culture at such a moment . Then, when it became clear that the war was not going to end, and other opposition media were blocked in Russia, we decided that it was crucial to resume work to promote an anti-war stance and uncensored discussion of the situation.

We wrote the following statement. We did not manage to fulfill all of our plans mentioned there, but still — our editorial policy has changed a lot: we have tightened the moderation rules and the criteria for getting texts on the main page (any texts supporting Russian aggression in even the smallest way are blocked and deleted), we have shifted our focus from cultural, artistic and academic to activist and volunteer communities and texts, from Russian to multilingualism (although we started doing it before the war). We have switched the infrastructure of the platform to English, so now there are a lot of texts in English and Ukrainian, there are texts in German, and soon we will have a whole collection of texts in Uzbek. You can switch languages right on the main page of the site.

After we took an open anti-war stance, we were quickly blocked in Russia — but we continue to be read there via VPN.

As I said, we set ourselves the goal of attracting activist, anti-war and volunteer communities to the platform. And also to publish important translations analyzing this war. You can find different texts analyzing the war in two special editorial collections: https://syg.ma/antiwar

and https://syg.ma/antiwar2. Speaking of communities: Feminist Anti-War Resistance uses syg.ma as the main platform to publish their texts, there are collections from the media resistance group, materials from the University Platform and many others. We have also had quite a few texts published on the notion and practice of decolonization.

The shift in focus to anti-war initiatives does not mean that we have stopped publishing on other topics. Poetry, film criticism, texts on art and philosophy, and young authors have premiered their video works on syg.ma.

 

"When it became clear that the war was not going to end,
and other opposition media were blocked in Russia,
we decided that it was crucial to resume work
to promote an anti-war stance and uncensored discussion of the situation"

 

novinki: How important is the international focus for you, and how relevant is it to connect with communities inside Russia that are heavily censored? What connections do you have to Ukraine?

К. K.: The international focus is very important because we want to build networks of solidarity across national borders. We aim to be a platform where texts and people from different countries and contexts meet, also sharing some common values. That is why we are especially happy that during the war period different authors and communities from Ukraine and writing in Ukrainian have appeared on syg.ma. Some of them we approached deliberately, some came on their own. They are mostly activists and researchers with left-wing positions, which I think is not surprising, because the left has always emphasized a universal, international component. We also maintain links with authors from Russia, many of whom publish anonymously or under pseudonyms.

As one example of this, I would like to mention the "War Diaries" by Ukrainian gender researcher and feminist Irina Žerebkina.

 

novinki: Is there any data that tells us who reads you, what is your audience, how many regular/free authors collaborate with you?

К. K.: In nine years, syg.ma has published about 25,000 pieces. In this sense, we can say that we are a full-fledged archive of Russia's cultural and intellectual life of the last decade. Between 150,000 and 250,000 unique users visit the site per month. Conditional breakdown by country per month: from Russia 9000, from Ukraine 6000, from Germany 4000, from USA 2500, from France 2000, from Kazakhstan, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia 1500 each, etc.

 

novinki: What is the importance of donations for the existence of the platform and its projects?

К. K.: syg.ma is largely based on volunteer labor. Most of the time we work for free, in our free time we realize (often with the entire editorial team) third-party projects for money, sometimes we win grants for special projects from foundations and institutions — then our work is paid.

In the last two years before the full-scale invasion, donations allowed the editorial staff to afford a smm manager who ran our social media. After the of the war, when transfers from Russia were blocked, this opportunity disappeared and the number of donations decreased very much. Plus we made decisions not to work with Russian institutions, which also limited our financial resources. After the full-scale invasion started, several European foundations helped us with a couple of extensive special projects, thus supporting us and our authors. These have now come to end and at this point there is nothing that would bring syg.ma financial support. Individuals with an international account can support us through Patreon.

 

novinki: What aspects of working in the syg.ma editorial team do you value the most, what are your doubts and worries? What does the future of the syg.ma platform look like?

К. K.: syg.ma is a very valuable project for me, which I feel a deep ethical, theoretical and ideological connection with. What I value most is the opportunity to communicate with a huge number of initiatives that are close to my heart. And also to read interesting texts every day, because this is literally my job. Speaking of worries, of course, at some point, for various reasons, I and the rest of the team may no longer have enough time and energy for the necessary support and updating of the platform — if we don't figure out a way to find at least minimal financial stability on its basis.

Prospectively, we want to move towards even more platformization, so that communities use our platform as their own website independently of editorial processes. Doing so they can customize their collections themselves: see for example FAS or Cosmic Bulletin. We, of course, would wish for even more representation of different languages and perspectives on the platform, we want activist texts to be combined with in-depth analysis and research, bringing together theory and practice.

We've also recently made a major update to our editor, adding the function to create more visual contributions. We've improved navigation and search functions on the platform. Overall, I think the structure of our project is already established and working well. With the expenditure of relatively small human and time resources of the editorial team, the platform continues to work, develop and reproduce itself.

 

novinki: How did you choose such a name — syg.ma — in 2014?

It happened quite accidently. At that time we were oriented towards medium.com at the level of functionality. And one of the founders of the project had the idea that — since one of the meanings of 'sigma' in mathematics is either 200 or 400 — it could be used as an explanation that the platform would have a minimum number of characters in each piece (as opposed to Twitter, where there is a maximum number of characters). Then there was also the thought of 'sigma' meaning 'sum'. But all this was forgotten pretty quickly when we realized that all the friends we discussed the name with just liked the word.

 

novinki: Thank you for taking the time answering our questions!

 

The interview was conducted by Elisabeth Bauer in February 2024.

Online platform syg.ma: "We aim to build networks of solidarity across national borders" - novinki
Redak­tion „novinki“

Hum­boldt-Uni­ver­sität zu Berlin
Sprach- und lite­ra­tur­wis­sen­schaft­liche Fakultät
Institut für Slawistik
Unter den Linden 6
10099 Berlin

Online plat­form syg.ma: “We aim to build net­works of soli­da­rity across national borders”

Inter­view auf Deutsch lesen.  / Читать интервью на русском языке.

 

syg.ma is a mul­ti­l­in­gual, self-orga­nized, open online plat­form where rese­ar­chers, artists, small publishers and acti­vist com­mu­ni­ties publish their own mate­rials. syg.ma was founded in 2014 in Moscow and is now not only a working media, but also an archive with more than 25,000 publi­ca­tions on phi­lo­sophy, art, poli­tics, psy­cho­ana­lysis and film, inclu­ding acti­vist mani­festos, aca­demic essays and poetry coll­ec­tions. Bet­ween 150,000 and 250,000 users per month visit the site from around the world.

In the wake of Russia’s full-scale inva­sion of Ukraine, the platform’s main goal of being a plat­form for brin­ging tog­e­ther diverse com­mu­ni­ties has become even more rele­vant: syg.ma has taken a clear anti-war stance and focused on expan­ding its inter­na­tional audi­ence by diver­si­fying its lin­gu­i­stic pre­sence on the plat­form, invi­ting con­tri­bu­tors from artistic, cul­tural and acti­vist com­mu­ni­ties from all over the world, inclu­ding Ukraine. In its com­mit­ment to hori­zon­ta­lity and “plat­form-ness, syg.ma repres­ents a valuable alter­na­tive to both pro-Kremlin and “inde­pen­dent” liberal media in the Rus­sian-lan­guage and inter­na­tional media space.

novinki publishes an inter­view with one of syg.ma’s edi­tors, Kon­stantin Kory­agin. When Russia atta­cked Ukraine, he decided not to return to Russia and stayed in Berlin, ending up, like most of the edi­to­rial staff, in exile. syg.ma main­tains con­nec­tions with (pri­ma­rily left-wing) com­mu­ni­ties and aut­hors both within the “country of the aggressor” and around the world and aims to be a plat­form “where dif­fe­rent acti­vist and vol­un­teer com­mu­ni­ties read and get to know each other, share expe­ri­ences and audi­ences”, where acti­vist texts are “com­bined with in-depth ana­lysis and rese­arch, brin­ging tog­e­ther theory and practice”.

 

novinki: When and how did you first learn about syg.ma? When did you join the edi­to­rial board and what is your cur­rent posi­tion in the team?

Kon­stantin Koryagin: I learned about syg.ma at the time of its launch in 2014. I remember I really liked the way its home­page jux­ta­posed almost diary-like notes by aut­hors unknown to me with serious aca­demic rese­arch by phi­lo­sophy stars, expe­ri­mental poetry with big spe­cial pro­jects, such as the offi­cial blog of the Moscow Bien­nale. I saw this as a very inspi­ring example of the hori­zontal redis­tri­bu­tion of sym­bolic capital and the dis­pla­ce­ment of estab­lished hier­ar­chies. By rea­ding syg.ma one could follow the life of self-orga­nized cul­tural initia­tives in the Rus­sian-spea­king envi­ron­ment and keep abreast of the novel­ties of inde­pen­dent book publishers. It also published a lot of texts on con­tem­po­rary con­ti­nental phi­lo­sophy and psy­cho­ana­lysis, which I was very inte­rested in at the time.

I joined the edi­to­rial board in March 2018, while stu­dying at the Phi­lo­sophy Depart­ment in St. Peters­burg. I was called to the edi­to­rial board by a friend of mine. Since then, I am one of the edi­tors-cura­tors of the plat­form and am mainly respon­sible for fin­ding aut­hors, texts and topics, invi­ting com­mu­ni­ties to the plat­form, com­mu­ni­ca­ting with them, and occa­sio­nally mana­ging social media.

 

novinki: How many per­ma­nent mem­bers does the edi­to­rial team count at the moment, where are they based?

К. K.: Right now syg.ma con­sists of six people: three edi­tors, two deve­lo­pers, one edi­to­rial manager. Also, when we have money, we hire an smm manager on a paid basis. When there is no money, the edi­tors run the social net­works them­selves. Apart from one person who was born and raised in Uzbe­ki­stan, the other mem­bers of the edi­to­rial staff were born and raised in dif­fe­rent regions of Russia. After the war started, the part of the edi­to­rial staff that was still in Russia left because of oppo­si­tion to the war and because it was simply not safe to do such a pro­ject in Russia. Now we are scat­tered all over the world: Georgia, Armenia, Ger­many, and the United States.

As part of our eco­system there is also radio.syg.ma — with mixes, releases and live per­for­mances of expe­ri­mental musi­cians from all over the world. The radio has its own edi­to­rial staff, but their path, posi­tion and geo­gra­phical loca­tion are similar to ours.

 

novinki: The foun­ding year of syg.ma is 2014. Does it coin­ci­den­tally overlap with the begin­ning of the war in Ukraine or are those events per­haps somehow related to each other?

К. K.: It is a coincidence.

 

syg.ma is a self-orga­nized platform,
the aut­hors and com­mu­ni­ties mostly bring their texts to our plat­form themselves,
using it as their own web­site and archive where their texts are stored”

 

novinki: One of the goals of the pro­ject is to sup­port alter­na­tive coll­ec­tives and com­mu­ni­ties — pri­ma­rily in Russia, but not only. syg.ma was con­ceived as an “expe­ri­mental” online plat­form — a new, alter­na­tive media pro­ject that had not been seen before in the Rus­sian-lan­guage media sphere. Please tell us a little about the struc­ture and goals of the platform.

К. K.: It is very important to under­stand that syg.ma is a self-orga­nized plat­form, the aut­hors and com­mu­ni­ties mostly bring their texts to our plat­form them­selves, using it as their own web­site and archive where their texts are stored. Thus, on syg.ma today there are coll­ec­tions of inde­pen­dent book publishers, artistic and acti­vist com­mu­ni­ties, cul­tural insti­tu­tions and indi­vi­dual aut­hors. These texts we inten­tio­nally do not edit. The­r­e­fore, most of the time the task and func­tion of the platform’s edi­tors is rather cura­to­rial and con­sists of fin­ding and com­mu­ni­ca­ting with aut­hors and com­mu­ni­ties. And also, of sel­ec­ting the texts published on syg.ma: we choose which articles we sup­port and make more visible on the plat­form (e.g., by put­ting them on the home­page, adding them to the­matic coll­ec­tions and pos­ting them on social net­works) and which ones not. This is why we often refer to our­selves as the “weak edi­to­rial team”.

At the same time, we have spe­cial pro­jects, such as Atlas, where we and our aut­hors think about bor­ders and iden­ti­ties, or Tash­kent-Tbi­lisi about the history and cul­ture of Cen­tral Asia, for which we have bud­gets (most often grants) and in which we act as a full-fledged edi­to­rial office: we come up with topics in advance, pay fees to the aut­hors, pro­ofread and edit the texts. We also orga­nize col­la­bo­ra­tions with other media, for example, we have a spe­cial coll­ec­tion of Rus­sian trans­la­tions of sel­ected mate­rials from e‑flux magazine.

Our initial goal was to basi­cally set a pre­ce­dent for a self-orga­nized plat­form that is self-funded and rela­tively popular, thus ampli­fying the voices of self-orga­nized artistic and cul­tural initia­tives, inde­pen­dent publishers, lef­tist and femi­nist poli­tical move­ments, deco­lo­nial acti­vists, near-aca­demic aut­hors and poetry com­mu­ni­ties by giving them access to each other’s audi­ences. We wanted to increase the visi­bi­lity of all those who could not find a plat­form in the clas­sical media, which in Russia before the war were either pro-state con­ser­va­tive or oppo­si­tional but right-liberal. In this sense – yes, syg.ma did and does pro­vide an alternative.

It’s also worth rea­li­zing that we have never been and will never be a clas­sical news media, nor a media outlet like, for example, DOXA has now become in many ways. The­r­e­fore, we cannot say that we played on the same field with them and never sought to com­pete with them. We have always had a dif­fe­rent, more expe­ri­mental, dis­cur­sive and ana­ly­tical focus: we have published femi­nist poetry, deco­lo­nial stu­dies, diary essays, aca­demic essays on phi­lo­sophy and psy­cho­ana­lysis, art cri­ti­cism, phi­lo­sophy trans­la­tions, etc.

Illus­tra­tion (also fea­tured image above): © Sonya Umanskaya.

novinki: syg.ma pro­vides a plat­form not only to indi­vi­dual aut­hors but also to coll­ec­tives. This very much became appa­rent after February 2022, when various anti-war mate­rials and mani­festos appeared on syg.ma. How did you react to Russia’s full-scale inva­sion of Ukraine, what mate­rials have been published since then? Can syg.ma become a plat­form for cri­tical reflec­tion on the war and anti-war pro­test inside (and out­side) the “aggressor country”?

К. K.: When the war started we halted our edi­to­rial work for a month because we did not see the pos­si­bi­lity of publi­shing con­tent about cul­ture at such a moment [of an offen­sive war — ed.]. Then, when it became clear that the war was not going to end, and other oppo­si­tion media were blo­cked in Russia, we decided that it was cru­cial to resume work to pro­mote an anti-war stance and uncen­sored dis­cus­sion of the situation.

We wrote the fol­lo­wing state­ment. We did not manage to ful­fill all of our plans men­tioned there, but still — our edi­to­rial policy has changed a lot: we have tigh­tened the mode­ra­tion rules and the cri­teria for get­ting texts on the main page (any texts sup­porting Rus­sian aggres­sion in even the smal­lest way are blo­cked and deleted), we have shifted our focus from cul­tural, artistic and aca­demic to acti­vist and vol­un­teer com­mu­ni­ties and texts, from Rus­sian to mul­ti­l­in­gua­lism (alt­hough we started doing it before the war). We have swit­ched the infra­struc­ture of the plat­form to Eng­lish, so now there are a lot of texts in Eng­lish and Ukrai­nian, there are texts in German, and soon we will have a whole coll­ec­tion of texts in Uzbek. You can switch lan­guages right on the main page of the site.

After we took an open anti-war stance, we were quickly blo­cked in Russia — but we con­tinue to be read there via VPN.

As I said, we set our­selves the goal of attrac­ting acti­vist, anti-war and vol­un­teer com­mu­ni­ties to the plat­form. And also to publish important trans­la­tions ana­ly­zing this war. You can find dif­fe­rent texts ana­ly­zing the war in two spe­cial edi­to­rial coll­ec­tions: https://syg.ma/antiwar

and https://syg.ma/antiwar2. Spea­king of com­mu­ni­ties: Femi­nist Anti-War Resis­tance uses syg.ma as the main plat­form to publish their texts, there are coll­ec­tions from the media resis­tance group, mate­rials from the Uni­ver­sity Plat­form and many others. We have also had quite a few texts published on the notion and prac­tice of decolonization.

The shift in focus to anti-war initia­tives does not mean that we have stopped publi­shing on other topics. Poetry, film cri­ti­cism, texts on art and phi­lo­sophy, and young aut­hors have pre­miered their video works on syg.ma.

 

“When it became clear that the war was not going to end,
and other oppo­si­tion media were blo­cked in Russia,
we decided that it was cru­cial to resume work
to pro­mote an anti-war stance and uncen­sored dis­cus­sion of the situation”

 

novinki: How important is the inter­na­tional focus for you, and how rele­vant is it to con­nect with com­mu­ni­ties inside Russia that are hea­vily cen­sored? What con­nec­tions do you have to Ukraine?

К. K.: The inter­na­tional focus is very important because we want to build net­works of soli­da­rity across national bor­ders. We aim to be a plat­form where texts and people from dif­fe­rent count­ries and con­texts meet, also sha­ring some common values. That is why we are espe­ci­ally happy that during the war period dif­fe­rent aut­hors and com­mu­ni­ties from Ukraine and wri­ting in Ukrai­nian have appeared on syg.ma. Some of them we approa­ched deli­bera­tely, some came on their own. They are mostly acti­vists and rese­ar­chers with left-wing posi­tions, which I think is not sur­pri­sing, because the left has always empha­sized a uni­versal, inter­na­tional com­po­nent. We also main­tain links with aut­hors from Russia, many of whom publish anony­mously or under pseudonyms.

As one example of this, I would like to men­tion the War Dia­ries by Ukrai­nian gender rese­ar­cher and femi­nist Irina Žerebkina.

 

novinki: Is there any data that tells us who reads you, what is your audi­ence, how many regular/free aut­hors col­la­bo­rate with you?

К. K.: In nine years, syg.ma has published about 25,000 pieces. In this sense, we can say that we are a full-fledged archive of Russia’s cul­tural and intellec­tual life of the last decade. Bet­ween 150,000 and 250,000 unique users visit the site per month. Con­di­tional break­down by country per month: from Russia 9000, from Ukraine 6000, from Ger­many 4000, from USA 2500, from France 2000, from Kazakh­stan, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia 1500 each, etc.

 

novinki: What is the importance of dona­tions for the exis­tence of the plat­form and its projects?

К. K.: syg.ma is lar­gely based on vol­un­teer labor. Most of the time we work for free, in our free time we rea­lize (often with the entire edi­to­rial team) third-party pro­jects for money, some­times we win grants for spe­cial pro­jects from foun­da­tions and insti­tu­tions — then our work is paid.

In the last two years before the full-scale inva­sion, dona­tions allowed the edi­to­rial staff to afford a smm manager who ran our social media. After the [escala­tion] of the war, when trans­fers from Russia were blo­cked, this oppor­tu­nity dis­ap­peared and the number of dona­tions decreased very much. Plus we made decis­ions not to work with Rus­sian insti­tu­tions, which also limited our finan­cial resources. After the full-scale inva­sion started, several Euro­pean foun­da­tions helped us with a couple of exten­sive spe­cial pro­jects, thus sup­porting us and our aut­hors. These have now come to end and at this point there is not­hing that would bring syg.ma finan­cial sup­port. Indi­vi­duals with an inter­na­tional account can sup­port us through Patreon.

 

novinki: What aspects of working in the syg.ma edi­to­rial team do you value the most, what are your doubts and worries? What does the future of the syg.ma plat­form look like?

К. K.: syg.ma is a very valuable pro­ject for me, which I feel a deep ethical, theo­re­tical and ideo­lo­gical con­nec­tion with. What I value most is the oppor­tu­nity to com­mu­ni­cate with a huge number of initia­tives that are close to my heart. And also to read inte­res­ting texts every day, because this is lite­rally my job. Spea­king of worries, of course, at some point, for various reasons, I and the rest of the team may no longer have enough time and energy for the neces­sary sup­port and updating of the plat­form — if we don’t figure out a way to find at least minimal finan­cial sta­bi­lity on its basis.

Pro­s­pec­tively, we want to move towards even more plat­for­miza­tion, so that com­mu­ni­ties use our plat­form as their own web­site inde­pendently of edi­to­rial pro­cesses. Doing so they can cus­to­mize their coll­ec­tions them­selves: see for example FAS or Cosmic Bul­letin. We, of course, would wish for even more repre­sen­ta­tion of dif­fe­rent lan­guages and per­spec­tives on the plat­form, we want acti­vist texts to be com­bined with in-depth ana­lysis and rese­arch, brin­ging tog­e­ther theory and practice.

We’ve also recently made a major update to our editor, adding the func­tion to create more visual con­tri­bu­tions. We’ve improved navi­ga­tion and search func­tions on the plat­form. Overall, I think the struc­ture of our pro­ject is already estab­lished and working well. With the expen­diture of rela­tively small human and time resources of the edi­to­rial team, the plat­form con­ti­nues to work, develop and repro­duce itself.

 

novinki: How did you choose such a name — syg.ma — in 2014?

It hap­pened quite acci­dently. At that time we were ori­ented towards medium.com at the level of func­tion­a­lity. And one of the foun­ders of the pro­ject had the idea that — since one of the mea­nings of ’sigma’ in mathe­ma­tics is either 200 or 400 — it could be used as an expl­ana­tion that the plat­form would have a minimum number of cha­rac­ters in each piece (as opposed to Twitter, where there is a maximum number of cha­rac­ters). Then there was also the thought of ’sigma’ mea­ning ’sum’. But all this was for­gotten pretty quickly when we rea­lized that all the fri­ends we dis­cussed the name with just liked the word.

 

novinki: Thank you for taking the time ans­we­ring our questions!

 

The inter­view was con­ducted by Elisabeth Bauer in February 2024.