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Electronic Iran

Electronic Iran: The Cultural Politics of an Online Evolution

Niki Akhavan
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  • Book Info
    Electronic Iran
    Book Description:

    Electronic Iranintroduces the concept of the Iranian Internet, a framework that captures interlinked, transnational networks of virtual and offline spaces.

    Taking her cues from early Internet ethnographies that stress the importance of treating the Internet as both a site and product of cultural production, accounts in media studies that highlight the continuities between old and new media, and a range of works that have made critical interventions in the field of Iranian studies, Niki Akhavan traces key developments and confronts conventional wisdom about digital media in general, and contemporary Iranian culture and politics in particular.

    Akhavan focuses largely on the years between 1998 and 2012 to reveal a diverse and combative virtual landscape where both geographically and ideologically dispersed individuals and groups deployed Internet technologies to variously construct, defend, and challenge narratives of Iranian national identity, society, and politics. While it tempers celebratory claims that have dominated assessments of the Iranian Internet,Electronic Iranis ultimately optimistic in its outlook. As it exposes and assesses overlooked aspects of the Iranian Internet, the book sketches a more complete map of its dynamic landscape, and suggests that the transformative powers of digital media can only be developed and understood if attention is paid to both the specificities of new technologies as well as the local and transnational contexts in which they appear.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-6194-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. INTRODUCTION: Nascent Networks
    (pp. 1-12)

    The sense of excitement that accompanied the introduction of the Internet in the 1990s to the general public continues to inspire hopeful speculation about its potentials more than a decade into the new millennium. In the case of Iran, the advent of and rapid developments in Internet technologies coincided with a number of tumultuous shifts inside the country and its immediate neighborhood, intensifying the sense that positive transformations were on the horizon. During the more than fifteen years since resident and Diaspora Iranians have taken to the Internet, a number of remarkable changes have occurred. From producing and participating in...

    (pp. 13-34)

    The early years of the Iranian Internet, which coincided with the rise of the reform movement in Iran and the expanding information technology bubble of the late 1990s, stirred much excitement among participants and observers alike. With the 1997 presidential victory of the reformists, who largely owed their surprise success to young voters with no lived experience of the 1979 revolution, came hopes about a new kind of politics. Outside Iran, the increasing popularity of the Internet and the boom of dotcom start-ups fueled the sense that great possibilities awaited the Internet enthusiast, especially if that individual had entrepreneurial leanings....

    (pp. 35-58)

    The Iranian blogosphere, one of the most vibrant components of the Iranian Internet, presents a rich and varied landscape that traverses ideological and geographic boundaries. Iranians’ early and enthusiastic embrace of blogging inspired excitement among Iran and media scholars, journalists, and human rights and other civil society organizations. Although the discourse among Weblogistan enthusiasts largely focused on its oppositional aspects (where the concept of opposition was often equated with secular or anti-religious/anti-Islam voices), such discourses have also made a solid case that the blogosphere was well suited for expressions of dissent and challenges to the interpretations of past and present...

    (pp. 59-82)

    Like the Iranian Internet, Iranian visual culture has received significant scholarly and mainstream attention. Discussions of Iranian visual productions generally take care to situate their topic in the context of postrevolutionary politics, often pointing out the challenges of cultural work and the opportunities it provides to traverse geographical and social boundaries. Given the richness of this field, it is surprising that more attention has not been paid to the intersection of moving image cultures and the Iranian Internet.

    Similarly, in studies of contemporary Iran more broadly, while the Iran-Iraq war is generally recognized as significant for the mechanisms the Iranian...

    (pp. 83-106)

    While the blogosphere dominated the Iranian Internet in the early years of the new millennium, the end of its first decade belonged to social media. Even more celebrated than Weblogistan, the term “social media” became the newest signifier of the liberatory potential of digital media. While the blogosphere had not met all of the potential attributed to it, social media seemed poised to surpass expectations. The social media mobilization that took place in the wake of the disputed Iranian election of 2009 seemed to confirm—at least for a short while—optimistic readings of the new technology as a “Twitter...

  6. CONCLUSION: New Media Futures
    (pp. 107-112)

    This book ends its examination three years after the Iranian Internet made a noisy transition into the second decade of the new millennium. At this moment, social media sites are still bustling; formerly thriving blogs have been erased or languish without updates, readers or comments; and many static Web sites from what in Internet years are long ago are completely unavailable or sit untouched, joining a long list of others on Internet ghost towns.

    Examining the conditions of the Iranian Internet’s conception and the trajectory of its development provides some clues about what the future might bring. The conflicted situation...