Sounds Iranian

December 6, 2006

Complicating the Iranian Cybercommunity

Filed under: Uncategorized — soundsiranian @ 7:01 pm

I thought I’d start a topic based on a couple ofrecent comments about the role of cybercommunities in greater socio-political discourse. The internet has certainly played a significant, if complicated role in the reinterpretation of Iranian society. Opportunities for all sorts of dialogue, both within Iranian society and between Iranians and the rest of the world, have increased dramatically with the introduction of the internet. Blogs and online profiles have had an especially important part in this process, providing a key social outlet to a society starved of such mediums. One of the results of this sudden, unauthorized expansion of pseudo-public space is an intensification of political tension between ideologies in Iran. Where before the Islamic regime was able to maintain an iron grip on information and public discussion, they now are being challenged through a resourse they have much less control over. While the Iranian government is making great strides in reigning in the internet (satellite television provided an important lesson for them), they still haven’t been able to fully quell the threat.

However, I am perhaps most interested in the dynamics of these cybercommunities that seem to pose such a threat to more traditional dominant “narratives” (to borrow Jordan’s apt term). Better understanding the makeup of Weblogestan is key to determining the extent and nature of its impact on Iranian politics and society. For instance, it is impossible to ignore the fact that Iranian bloggers represent a small, specific demographic. What role does this group play, what sort of influence does it have? The discourse of Weblogestan is neccesarily skewed because its constituents select specific topics and perspectives. Even within this group, there are clear hierarchies and divisons. I have not yet seen very much research (in English) of the differences between cybercommunities “inside” and “outside” of Iran (i.e. the diaspora), nor between progressive Iranian bloggers and smaller- but rapidly expanding- conservative online groups (Farid Pouya is the only person I know to have blogged about it). Do these segments actually engage in discussion, or do they talk past one another?

I think that these are very interesting issues in themselves, but I also believe that we should study them in a more proactive context. What can be done to create more understanding, more discussion, and more inclusion within these cybercommunities? To what extent can we maximize the unique potential of the web? Study of this area seems, to me, to also be an opportunity for activism.

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2 Comments »

  1. I think Weblagestan’s main problem is that it is only thousands of fairly independent islands, with no mainland. So, to do any research, you should keep an eye on, say, a thousand blogs. Not to forget that the most famous Persian blogs most of the times do not have anything to offer. Take Hoder (i.hoder.com) for example.

    Comment by kamangir — December 6, 2006 @ 9:15 pm

  2. […] In his recent post, Christian aptly noted the following: […]

    Pingback by The catalyst of a new ‘information culture’? « Sounds Iranian — December 7, 2006 @ 7:08 am


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