Sounds Iranian

July 16, 2007

Iranian Blogs as Social Indicators

Filed under: crosscultural, dialogue, iran — calexander @ 3:49 pm

Hey all. Farid recently asked me a few questions about the work I’ve done on Iranian blogs. I’ve reproduced the snippet below here because I think it says alot about the power and the danger of bridgeblogs. For good and for bad, we find what we want in these posts (see the first comment from the complete GVO interview for further evidence of what I mean).

Q: Do you think Iranian blogs can give you an image of Iran that we do not find in the mass media? Can you cite an example?

I definitely think that, especially in the case of Iran, blogging gives a welcomed alternative perspective that often diverges radically from what traditional mainstream media provides us here in the US. In my mind this is one of the most important contributions that the Iranian Weblogestan makes.

One of the most interesting and exciting discoveries I made during my study was the perspective of the Iranian blogosphere. The odd mix of familiarity and strangeness of their worlds provided a much more complex, nuanced, and sympathetic picture of Iranian society than traditional sources of news did.

The fact that I had such access to these people also gave me an important sense of empowerment. Learning about the intricacies of taxi culture in View From Iran’s “Taxi Talk,” or about daily street life from Mr. Behi gave me a glimpse into the heart of Iranian society that traditional media stories left out. Daily coverage of the Iranian-US nuclear stand-off and Iranian involvement in Iraq by the mainstream media continually creates a false impression of Iran that blogs often work to deconstruct.

But the Iranian blogosphere represents a very small demographic. As in other “developing” countries, the internal “digital divide” between those with access and those without significantly shapes the perspective and climate of the Iranian cyber-society.

Reading Iranian English-language blogs in the months and weeks leading up to the 2005 presidental elections, it would have been hard, if not impossible, to predict that Ahmadinejad would win. Clearly the views of these bloggers were at odds with a substantially large portion of the rest of Iran. The surprise/shock/denial illicited by many of these blogs in the aftermath illustrates how specific group this group was/is within the broader Iranian population.


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