Laurent Giacobino, Arash Abadpour, Collin Anderson, Fred Petrossian, Caroline Nellemann, “Whither Blogestan: Evaluating Shifts in Persian Cyberspace”, Iran Media Program, 2014 (pdf)
Between 2002 and 2010, the Persian blogosphere, or what is referred to as “Blogestan”, exploded in size and became the topic of numerous reports, essays, videos and books. Global interest in this emerging trend, however, seemed to decrease during the second presidential mandate of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2009- 2013), when online social networking and microblogging became the most discussed and researched IT-related topics, along with the Iranian regime’s policies aimed at deterring online expression. This report is aimed at addressing whether Blogestan itself has faded in size, activity and influence since 2009. We use three parallel methodologies: An audience survey of 165 Persian blog users from inside and outside of Iran; a web crawling analysis of the Iranian blogosphere; and a series of interviews with 20 influential bloggers living outside and inside Iran.
While one may argue that change in a society may be more associable to fringe elements than the common risk averse, the possibility that the current limitations may have converted the Internet in Iran from a household item perceived as a safe practice into a habit which requires risk-taking is alarming. To add to the extent of the challenge, the Iranian state media continually portrays the Internet as the cause of social and personal despair. Such circumstances do not constitute proper grounds for mass participation and involvement.
Arash Abadpour, “Thoughts on the Iranian internet question”, in Computer Crimes in Iran: Online Repression in Practice, Article 19, 5 December 2013 (pdf)
With any new development in Iran, the “Iranian internet Question” pops back into the domain of conversations on the web and elsewhere. What is known is that the internet is one of the only remaining functional platforms for public discourse in Iran. Communication and collaboration on the web is still possible in Iran, as long as individuals and organisations are willing to make the effort to connect and communicate. Fortunately, evidence shows that this is still the case. In effect, it is fair to say that Iranians are online and that this is no doubt an asset for the community of Iranian activists, many of whom are now based outside the geographical borders of the country. For this group, the internet is one of the only channels to receive information in order to stay relevant, and to transfer content in order to remain active, and to communicate in order to stay in touch with the motherland.
While no significant argument seems to exist against the claim that the internet is an important component in the socio-political evolution of the Iranian society, the jury is still out on the optimal way of utilising cyberspace in order to yield the best results and cause the least harm. The big question is how the internet could be a contributing factor to the improvement of life for Iranians in particular. The internet, the filtering regime and the Cyber Army are the reality on the ground. The question is, what is the strategy to fight back and gain some ground?
Arash Abadpour, “An Open Letter to the Future President of Iran, Iranian Internet users describe better Internet in an open letter to Dr. Hassan Rouhani, the President-elect of Iran.“, June 2013 (pdf).
An open letter addressed President-elect Hassan Rouhani the day after his victory in the Iranian presidential race was announced. The letter asked the future president of Iran to address the many troubles Iranian Internet users have to face on a daily basis. The more than 5,000 Iranians who signed the letter, about 90% of whom stated that they are based inside Iran, reminded Dr. Rouhani that they used the Internet to facilitate his passage to the office of the President of Iran.
Alaadin Al-Radhi, Arash Abadpour, Fahd Btayneh, Fred Andon Petrossians, Rafik Dammak, and Mohamed Omran, “Internet Governance, The Quest for an Open Internet in the Middle East and Northern Africa“, Hivos, June 2013. (pdf) (source)
Arash Abadpour and Collin Anderson, “Fights, Adapts, Accepts: Archetypes of Iranian Internet Use“, Iran Media Program and Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, March 2013. (pdf) (source)
The narrowing space for dissent and free exchange of ideas in the Iranian public sphere and in public space has been one of the driving forces behind Iranians’ use of cyberspace as a mechanism for expression. The Internet is one of the few remaining platforms where Iranians can practice some level of open debate, less susceptible to social and political limitations. Research on Internet use in Iran sheds light on a large online community engaged in a diversity of activities and expanding at a significant pace. This study seeks to complement standard online research techniques by providing a richer picture of Iranian Internet users. The novel research method utilized in this study features ‘archetypes’ whose characteristics are described in vignettes, and who are defined based on their relationship with the Internet. Taking this approach, our study considers the Internet as an ecosystem, and works toward providing a more realistic narration of the diversity of Iranian Internet users and online environments.