Sounds Iranian

December 7, 2006

The catalyst of a new ‘information culture’?

Filed under: Uncategorized — soundsiranian @ 7:08 am

Jordan here. In his recent post, Christian aptly noted the following:

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?

I think it’s an excellent point. This is something I attempted to (very modestly) investigate via my recent research survey.

Although the sample was small, and thus statistically not generalizable, over 90% of Iranian blog-readers that responded to the survey claimed to be between 18-32 years of age. Most of them were also highly educated, and the vast majority (although not all) claimed to have good standards of living and to reside in major urban centres (as opposed to the poorer or more rural periphery).

Such findings hint at what I think we all know already – at this point in time, bloggers represent a very restricted demographic within *any* society, Iran included. Moreover, within that limited demographic there are, unsurprisingly, a vast array of opinions and viewpoints, each presenting its own narrative which may, or may not, reflect a larger socio-political sentiment. Furthermore, as Kamangir noted with his island/mainland analogy, what remains absent is a centralized platform whereby the views of bloggers are consolidated into a cohesive, politically mobile voice.

However, this fact seems, at the moment in any case, to be part-and-parcel with the very nature of the blogging medium itself. It’s the ease of access and anonymity afforded by blog-technology that has both produced such a vociferous new ‘public-space’, and has also prevented the numerous, disparate voices from coalescing into something unified. In other words, the ‘fragmentation of information-monopoly’ that blogging produces, if you will, can result both in mass empowerment, but also is mass cynicism and dischord.

(Slavonian philosopher Slavoj Zizek has actually already described this state of affairs as the product of ‘post-modernity’ itself, the blogosphere, then, being merely a ‘hyperexample’)

Nonetheless, I think we can all sense that there is a sort of elusive, qualitative change taking place, whereby the ubiquity of counter-narratives (which are not, and of course do not have to be, consistent with one another) are altering the way in which people of our generation – at the very least – go about gathering information, and forming their views, political and otherwise.

Perhaps the crucial effect of blogging, therefore, will not be a direct political mobilization, but the new ‘information-culture’ it helps to create; one that simply makes it harder (although not impossible) for dominant state-ideologies to maintain their mass currency.

That being said, something that seems to very effectively rain on this parade, and reinforce a political system’s ‘Grand Narrative’ at the expense of critical opinion, is the perception or imposition of a serious external threat. (Those with a stake in the status-quo are doubtlessly aware of this fact.) This, for instance, could help account for why Iran’s inclusion in the ‘axis-of-evil’, as well as the so-called ‘nuclear showdown’ with the US and its allies, has served to mute the reformist agenda(s), and, rather, bolster support for characters such as Ahmadinejad (and, conversely, anti-Iranian sentiment in the USA).




  1. […] I’m particularly interested in what Jordan touched in his previous post about blogging for political mobilization, and a preliminary result of my findings support his theory that bloggers are more likely to change the information landscape rather than create a revolution over night. This more realistic view is – to me – perhaps even preferable to revolutionary change, since it would give democracy a chance of developing within the community itself and thus, hopefully, create institutions that are able to maintain a more solid version of democracy. Well, I’m getting ahead of myself – I look forward to giving you more solid results as they progress. […]

    Pingback by A New Participant in This Forum « Sounds Iranian — December 9, 2006 @ 2:32 pm

  2. I just read an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that I thought summed up the question of dialogue well. The author, Joseph Rago, wrote,

    “The Internet is very good at connecting and isolating people who are in agreement, not so good at engaging those who aren’t.”

    Essentially, this says what you put, which is what I agree is a crucial issue:

    “…one of the major challenges to making global discourse more inclusive, will probably be figuring out how to effectively talk *to* each other, despite different lexicons and ideological filters – not to mention actual languages – rather than talk *past* each other (which amounts to merely catering to pockets of like-minded thinkers in other regions, rather than building new bridges).”

    Does the internet create or narrow public debate? Anyway, I just thought I’d note the article here.


    Comment by calexander — December 21, 2006 @ 5:30 am

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