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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June 5, 2007

Iranian blogs as a part of the Public Sphere?

Filed under: crosscultural, research — soundsiranian @ 9:01 am

frogs-award.jpg

The photo is from a blog event where “The Frogomist Award” (Golden Frog) for the best Iranian blogs in various categories was given.

I have just finished my master’s thesis which focuses on the Iranian blogosphere. The purpose of the thesis is to examine how blogs become a part of the public sphere. When I talk about the public sphere in this context I primarily refer to the press. I had the chance to go to Iran in April for three weeks on a grant from the Danish Institute in Damascus, where the purpose is to encourage cultural and scholarly exchange between Denmark and the Muslim worlds.

Unfortunately I do not read Farsi but I have read a lot of examples from blogs that were translated, and have followed some of the Iranian blogs in English. My primary source of information was communication with Iranian bloggers who discussed the content of their blogs as well as their experiences and ideas about blogging. In Iran I met with ten different bloggers.
The bloggers I met had very different profiles regarding age and gender. Some of them focused on social and political matters, while others had blogs that were more personal. A lot of the bloggers I talked to were only writing in Farsi even though their English was extremely good. They said that they felt that the subjects they wrote about were mostly relevant for Farsi speaking readers inside or outside of Iran. A few even expressed that they did not want to add to the negative picture of Iran that Westerners seem to have. So they would rather keep their critique to themselves and their fellow countrymen.

On the other hand, I believe that blogs are a way of opposing prejudice. The blogosphere enables a pluralistic exchange of opinion and contributes to the eradication of prejudice. Most of the bloggers I talked to explained that they are participating in the blogosphere regardless of whether they agree or disagree with the blogs they read. This indicates that the blogosphere is not just a free-for-all for ideas, but at the same time promotes networking and allowing people to be better informed as well as more politically conscious citizens. Reading about everyday life in Iran and seeing pictures on a photo blog from Tehran might change a lot of Western idea about Iranian society. One of the Iranian bloggers I met developed a more nuanced view of the hejab after reading about women who actually wore it voluntarily.

The conclusions in my thesis have changed somewhat after my trip to Iran. Before my departure I was very optimistic about the possibility of mobilizing public opinion by means of internet and blogosphere. I am still optimistic, but perhaps a bit more realistic. Although the virtual and real worlds are interconnected, there are still important distinctions between the two. On the one hand, the internet can have a very positive effect on the people who communicate with each other, but from there to real life outside cyberspace is something else. The society-transforming potential of blogs depends on how the medium is utilized, since technological media are only instruments for social interactions. As with all other media, the social context determines how blogs function as a part of the public sphere.

I am very interested in knowing what other blog-specialists think of my conclusions? Are they too pessimistic – too optimistic?

– Caroline Nellemann

March 26, 2007

Medical Research Exchange with Iran

Filed under: crosscultural, exchange, medicalresearch, research — soundsiranian @ 2:10 am

iran_medical_research_connect

This image is from the moment when I launched a new site called Iran Medical Research Connect.
Right now it is hosted on ning.com.

Iran Medical Research Connect is a community building web portal that will connect medical professionals from Iran and around the world.

The intention is to help medical educators, professionals, and researchers to share papers, learn about projects and events, and to connect with Iranian and non-Iranian medical professionals from around the world.

It is a user-test, which i developed because a number of doctors and researchers that I know in the medical field are working with Iran, and were interested in having a place to come together, connect, and exchange information and ideas. I want to see how different tools can facilitate cross-cultural exchange projects. You can read more about my thoughts as i update them in my thesis site.

If you or someone you know is interested in joining, please email me at pm1135@nyu.edu
and I will then send you an invitation. Once you join, you can add other members as well!

I am planning on making a site that could be for medical researchers, one for artists and filmmakers, but all dealing with getting people to connect on a grassroots level, with little or no government intervention.

Comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated! Thanks,
Parastou

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