Ethnographic findings: What has been in and on so far?

As the Czech POPREBEL community has formed in our forum over the last year and generated content which represents it, we had a chance to observe which were the key topics attracting attention and stimulating debate. However, the ethnographic team led by @amelia and including myself, @SZdenek, @Jan and @Wojt has proceeded simultaneously with the coding of the material on our platform. This process should provide insight into how all of the POPREBEL communities, clustered around their respective languages of communication see the issues that our project seeks to understand. This brief report attempts to present findings relevant to the Czech forum, which were…

BIG Topics

It was only logical that the first major matter emanating from the forum was the issue of healthcare. It was an opener for our discussion and remained relevant further on, appearing in different contexts. The intensity of the healthcare discussion on the Czech forum resulted in its “branching out” when represented in the GraphRyder with cooccurrence threshold set on k=4 a centred on the overall POPREBEL view:

Health 1 - k4

What generally appears to be a backbone and connection of the healthcare to the POPREBEL is an unsatisfactory treatment that people receive in the Czech public healthcare system, while the expenses in the private sphere are not the only problem of finding an alternative, as the quality of the latter has been put under scrutiny and received ambiguous assessment as well. When centering on healthcare as a node, the picture of adjacent nodes and edges turns out to be the following:

Health 2

The issues of healthcare seem to spill over to the areas of social relations and structures on one hand and general “grand” issues of the society, be it economical and political. The health care discussion as a whole elucidates two underlying narratives which form a bridge to other areas. First one is a theme of looking for an alternative, a third way of problem-solving, which would not rely on neither public (state-sponsored and thus politically dependant) nor private sphere. The second is both implicit and explicit perception of socially and economically predatory behavioural patterns which transverse different spheres, be it in the healthcare system or politics, combined with lack of will to assume responsibility for one’s deeds.

Both of these narratives framed the second major topic, the discussion about housing. The situation in Czechia has indeed become dire, especially for those living in big cities. A brief look at the term housing provides an overview of major concerns, be it lack of solutions provided by both the public and the private stakeholders and illustrates the necessity of personal agency leading to desperation from the impossibility of the situation produced by inadequate conditions:

Housing 3

It is interesting though, to observe the direct connection of the housing issues to the third major theme, environmental problems and topics of climate change. Very fluently, the housing problems became a part of a framework which could be called an “ecology of life”, a way of thinking about the spatiality and quality of one’s living in Czechia in rather global terms.

Where to next?

It seems that the current situation is, unfortunately, presenting us with an opportunity to agglomerate the aforementioned tpics around the current COVID-19 outbreak. The recent experiences have definitely shifted the attention of the Czech society toward the healthcare system and what more, the current government has not seldomly come into conflict with those, who actually work in the healthcare system, One can feel that there is an uncertainity shared by those who provide the services and the clients of how it will hold facing the second wave, which is raging throughout the population as of now.

Furthemore COVID has drastically change the way we lead our lives, repeated lockdowns have pushed us into our dwellings. As for some, it might be quite relaxed expereinces, for many, who share their aparmtents, have to take care of their children or were sent by the Unievrsities back to their parents’ homes, it represents the exact opposite.

Furthermore, COVID has overshadowed the issues of sustainabilty and environmental care, but these were not magically resolved, the persist and with the economy probably coming through a shock during the next, there might an opening for accepting a new normality, which will inculde a mindset more careful about how and in which way we as individuals and our society perpetrate the current production-consumption pattern.

How to get there?

To summarize all that was said above,w e propose the following themes to be taken into consideration when discussing the future development of our community all in reference to the COVID:

  • gender , via work patterns, educaiton, leisure time, and a division of labour that is having to be negotiated/brings existing disparities to the fore, as childcare falls upon women much more.
  • housing , including intergenerational relations
  • healthcare - access and inequality, reflections on the system and its relation to politics
  • anti-LGBT sentiment and relationship to ethnic minorities and refugees - via scapegoating, etc. can also approach this via anti-intellectualism — particularly in the covid setting, around relationships to covid (e.g. is it a government/elite play for power or a legitimate public health issue)

We beleive the resulting discussion will be productive and enlightening.


@alberto, @nadia, @noemi, here are the preliminary ethno findings for the Czech forum! Thanks @Jirka_Kocian and @SZdenek!

Great work, thanks!

I don’t understand this picture. healthcare appears to be a disconnected node. Remember, this is a graph, not a geographical map: the dimensions in X and Y have no interpretation, the position of nodes is simply the result of the visualization algo trying to optimize for parameters like minimize edges that intersect each other. “Adjacent” means “directly connected” in networkspeak.

Why “unfortunately”, @Jirka_Kocian?

And moreover, what is the node despondency refer to and why is it so common?

Regarding the topics, what would be helpful is to frame more specific research questions for each of them. Not sure we will be able to launch extensive conversations in the remaining time, but having the questions as guides in the community management work would be very helpful - I can imagine for Gender it could be something like… How do men and women feel about their own educational opportunities compared to the other sex? or is it more specific to covid, like how do men and women share the load of responsibility around the house? What do they think are the most urgent things to be improved during and after the pandemic?. Just some examples… because the topics are quite broad.

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@Jirka_Kocian, I agree with Noemi— could you revisit the October update and make sure the report more specifically answers the prompts that we agreed on (see below, especially around ‘narrowly focused’ areas and ‘questions’ to explore in more depth). The ones you have listed right now are the broad themes we discussed in the call, but the goal of the report is to frame specific and narrow topic areas and questions to guide the outreach team and our own ethnography going forward. Thanks!

Notes from a separate call with @Amelia, putting this here to double check my understanding of things at the level of asking specific questions:

We agreed Covid is the big topic that is the starter of all conversations:
We break this into questions like:
How has your life been altered by covid?
How has your government handled the situation? Have people been benefit equally? What do you think could be improved?
How had this changed your political views?

This big topic can then be broken down into others, by way of relating to covid:
Housing and Work — exploring intergenerational relations and gender via work patterns, education, leisure time, and divisions of labour. How COVID-19 is requiring people to (re)negotiate these relations and responsibilities and/or brings existing disparities to light (e.g. childcare duties falling upon women).

Healthcare — access and inequality, reflections on the system and its relation to politics.
Who is to blame for social and political problems? — examining anti-LGBT sentiment and relationship to ethnic minorities and refugees e.g. scapegoating. Another possible approach to this topic is the study of anti-intellectualism — particularly in the COVID setting, around relationships to COVID information and personal privacy (e.g. do people feel it a government or elite power play or a legitimate public health issue).

In practice, the questions could be:
How has the experience with the healthcare system affected your ability to secure
- healthcare
- housing and other basic needs?
- your human rights, gender and sexual rights…?
- who do you trust to get information from? how do we know what kind of information is reliable?

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Research Questions:

  1. Where are you getting reliable information from? Who do you trust to give you reliable information?

  2. Who is to blame for social and political problems?

  3. Country framing (Sweden v India/China – pick 2 extremes). Has your government’s response to COVID-19 been good? Where could it be improved? Does it benefit everyone equally, or have people been left out?

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@rebelethno, please add other specific research questions you want outreach/engagement to use. Looking forward also to Poland team’s report/update which should also contain these.

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Dear Amelia and Noemi

Below are the questions I came up with for the German interviews. Some of them may be useful for the other language communities.

Poverty: COVID-19 has hit the economy hard and things will only get worse. A lot of our jobs are at risk. Who is best placed to safeguard our future? Should we rely on our politicians or can we, as a community, help ourselves out of this crisis situation?

Faith: How are you coping with the effects of COVID? Has your religion helped you cope with the crisis or has it tested your faith? Have you had difficulty reconciling your religious beliefs with scientific advice? Do politicians pay enough attention to the role of religion in the running of the state?

Inter-personal relations: How has the lockdown affected your closest relationships? Have your relationships been a source of support and comfort or become more stressful? Have you been able to rely on your partner/family? Has the crisis changed the role you play within your relationship or within your family? Will things ever go back to ‘normal’? Can COVID be a catalyst for positive change?

Inter-ethnic relations: Has your ethnic community been a source of support during the COVID crisis? Has your community been harder hit by COVID than other communities? Do you feel the government has done enough to help you? Have you faced any discrimination as a result of the spread of COVID? What can be done about this?


Dear all,

within the covid-19 pandemics I would like to focus on interpersonal relations, mainly in the context of household - gender and intergenerational relations and communication; including labour division between partners, communication between parents, partners and their children, and with grandparents. … And for singles, the topic that might bring a lot to topics of gender and sexuality (which me and Richard would like to focus on) could be the aspect of dating within the context of space restrictions, housing conditions (sharing household with parent or flat/room mates), meeting (strangers) restrictions and mask wearing (hiding of faces).

Should I put it into questions, then to the first part, Richard had already formulated most of it.

  • What changes to the relations within your family or household have the covid-restrictions brought?
  • How the communication with your partner, children, parents and grandparents have changed?
    To the second aspect:
  • How have your love-life, romantic relations and/or dating changed because of the restrictions? + What strategies have you used to overcome these restrictions?

Polish community conversation: preliminary findings

Wojciech Szymański and Jan Kubik

Draft 1, 23 October 2020

The Polish community content has been created by about 80 original users (counted manually), most of whom wrote just one post with no replies. Some of them commented in the threads below the post they created, with only a few active enough to generate multiple posts and remain actively engaged throughout a thread’s life. All activity ended, sadly, around December 2019.

The respondents inferred demographics: predominantly young people (aged 20-40 something, a few pensioners, seemingly no teens), living and/or working in big cities (some foreign), well-educated, socially sensitive, doing quite well financially with only one or two people who can be said to suffer poverty.

Politically, among those who declared it, the vast majority of respondents seem to be somewhere in the centre of the spectrum, quite a few are left-leaning (with one radical anarchist), with only a handful right-wing supporters (no radicals found).

As for the topics, we decided to set the primary cutoff at 20 annotations, which gave us:

  • Catholic Church (38 Polish annotations)
  • Inadequate income (38)
  • Big cities (32) (being mostly a piece of metadata)
  • Law and Justice party (31)
  • Emigration (28)
  • Nationalism (26)
  • Need for change (22)
  • Polarisation (22)
  • Low quality healthcare (20)
  • Lack of support (20)

With the cutoff set at 15 we also got:

  • LGBT (17)
  • Provinciality (17)
  • Schooling (17) - to be recoded
  • Mental issues (17)
  • Social support (17)
  • Democratic backsliding (16)
  • Welfare state (15)
  • Political inaction (15)
  • Religiosity (15)
  • Sense of agency (15)

Conclusions and preliminary hypotheses

There are three main overarching areas people seem to be particularly concerned with:
1. The cardboard state

2. Polarisation

3. Conservatism and right-wing concerns, such as the Catholic Church and religiosity as well as nationalism. We also sense critiques of neoliberalism, given that people often talk about inadequate income, low-quality healthcare, and the lack of) affordable housing… This needs to be further substantiated if a firmer conclusion is going to be reached.


  1. People often complain about living in the so-called “cardboard state”, a state “made of cardboard and sticks” - a caricature of what a true state should be, a facade with nothing behind it, an entity on the verge of collapse. It shows when people complain of inadequate income (38), low quality of the healthcare system (20), 17 for (lack of) affordable housing, 15 for political inaction, 11 annotations for institutional failure, 13 for democratic backsliding and probably a few more dimensions.

Respondents are tired of struggling, feel despondency (14 annotations), and need for change (22).

The main concepts that people mention when talking about this need are inadequate income (seems to be one of the main issues in Poland for this demographic), issues with schooling and things related to the ruling party (Law and Justice). Despondency is related to people’s sense of weak agency (sense of agency), considerations of emigration or already being outside of the country. rExpressions of despondency are also liked to fear. Since the vast majority of our respondents are centre/left-leaning it’s no wonder.

Sometimes despondency was reported by social activists, those who tried to induce changes and who fought estranged authorities on changing the housing policy, and inadequate wages. Activists talk about altruism and creating support groups for one another and people from the outside, e.g. in the form of acceptance (as opposed to discrimination).

  1. There are 38 annotations related to inadequate income, which indeed is a problem in Poland, where most recent economic studies show growing economic inequalities and skewed wage distribution (e.g. median and mode are less than half of the mean, and Poland has a high Gini coefficient).

Low income families often mentioned the social benefits introduced by the Law and Justice party in 2015 (the infamous 500+, first direct social money transfer in modern Polish history, paid now to each couple for every child they have, until their 18th birthday). Inadequate income is experienced even with people with higher education, and in big cities (our dominant respondents’ demographic), makes them fearful (with low quality of the healthcare system and lack of affordable housing, no wonder) and painfully aware of inequalities in Poland. Some of them, driven by ambition decided to emigrate.

  1. Our respondents experience a lack of support (20 annotations), especially in smaller cities (provinciality), where there are fewer support groups, NGOs and activists.

Some of it stems from inadequate income (were their income adequate, they could afford to patch the shortcomings of the cardboard state and its institutional failure using their own means and resources) and results in mental issues.


  1. Respondents complain of polarisation, especially in the political sphere. Instigated by the ruling Law and Justice party, it stems from dogmatism, breeds hate, affects social cohesion and results in the lack of solidarity. But our respondents believe that a civilised debate (or dialogue) in the search for consensus and peaceful coexistence, together with teaching and spreading tolerance (the opposite of discrimination), pluralism, some form of psychological intervention (“need for therapy”) may alleviate it (alleviating polarisation). One of the more specific ideas mentioned was organising “living libraries”. Generally people believe Poles need to start talking to each other.

BTW recent research shows that supporters of the Civic Platform/Coalition have a much more negative view of “the other side” and are quite a bit more dogmatic and orthodox.



Many respondents mention the role of the Catholic church in their lives (religiosity, religious upbringing) It has close ties with the ruling party (Law and Justice party), which suggests its politicisation (politicisation) and is mentioned (co-occurs) with a few of the main issues in the Polish community, namely: inadequate income, low quality of the healthcare system and lack of support. It is said to be the defender of traditional values (more often an accusation than a compliment) and a sower of discrimination.


With its 26 annotations it’s one of the most salient topics in the Polish community. It prevails in less populated areas (provinciality, as opposed to big cities) and has strong ties with the ruling party. In the context of Poland it’s often directed at the growing Ukrainian minority, engages in violence, but encounters resistance in the form of anti-fascist movements (anti-fascism) and anarchists (anarchism). Quite a few respondents, who by and large suggest that Poles need to start alleviating polarisation by engaging in a form of peaceful dialogue, believe that nationalists should be denied any platform for debate (denying platform).

If our reading is correct, more recent events, the fight about LGBT rights (Margot et. al.), CoVid’s second wave and the disastrous policy of the government, lack of preparations, collapsing healthcare, and the most recent (today’s) ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal against the so-called eugenic premise in the debate about abortion (de facto resulting in a complete ban thereof) may aggravate the cardboard state, polarisation and right-wing issues (at least in our demographics).

Also it would be great if we somehow managed to attract younger and older respondents (though we have a few 50+ (it seems) and e few pensioners in our midst) and, it’d be super great, if we had more right-wing voters.

This would give a much broader image, especially on the draw of populism (right wing supporters) and a fresh insight into the lives of people not remembering PPR, communism, and many other things defining our current political landscape (the youth).

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I don’t quite understand how this squares with ‘inadequate income’ - or maybe ‘doing financially well’ is wording not to be included in the report? It sounds a little relative. If you’re not in poverty as defined by the policy number brackets, you’re automatically doing well?