Electronic Iran: The Cultural Politics of an Online Evolution

Electronic Iran: The Cultural Politics of an Online Evolution

Electronic Iran: The Cultural Politics of an Online Evolution

Electronic Iran: The Cultural Politics of an Online Evolution

Synopsis

Electronic Iran introduces 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 Iran is 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.

Excerpt

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 one of the most vibrant blogospheres during the early days of Web 2.0 to capturing and disseminating audiovisual content during the massive demonstrations following the June 2009 presidential election, Iranians have established a place online and have captured international attention in so doing.

Yet the digital era has not been without its disappointments. While new technologies continue to be heralded for their utility in confronting state powers, the ruling structure in Iran survived a series of challenges that the Internet magnified, in the process emboldening some of its most reactionary elements. in addition, government entities took to digital media, using them to disseminate cultural products that strengthened the government’s position. Other segments not linked to the Iranian government, from independent users to those whose participation is enabled by support from other states, have also revealed a number of troubling tendencies such as cultivating exclusionary ideologies or using their presence on the Internet to inflate . . .

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