I actually forgot to post it here, so behold:
Esra’a Al Shafei is the founder and Executive Director of MideastYouth.com, an award-winning, independent, interfaith network whose mission is to inspire and provide young people with the freedom and opportunity of expression, and promote a fierce but respectful dialogue among the highly diverse youth of all sects, socio-economic backgrounds, and political and religious beliefs in the Middle East. Esra’a gives a tour of her cyber community, and discusses the challenges of activism in the Middle East, where speech and information are often tightly controlled.
The Challenges of Activism in the Middle East:
Taken from here:
Darius Cuplinskas, head of OSI’s Information Program, frames the discussion by pointing out that all the three stories we tell ourselves about the effect of new media on society — Don Tapscott’s utopian picture in ‘Grown Up Digital’, Andrew Keen’s dystopian version in ‘The Cult of the Amateur’ and Cass Sunstein’s more nuanced approach in ‘Infotopia’ — are largely based on research in open societies, especially on the US. There’s very little work on the effects of new media in other parts of the world, especially in closed societies.
John Kelly talks about his map of the Iranian blogosphere (PDF) and his ongoing efforts to develop similar maps of the blogospheres in other countries, including Russia and China. The maps basically group blogs belonging to a country or a language into clusters based on the linking behavior between the blogs and the content on the blogs.
The English language blogosphere, for instance, has four main clusters: US progressive political blogs, US conservative political blogs, technology blogs and UK blogs.
The Iranian blogosphere has several distinct clusters based on political and religious leanings, apart from a big cluster of poetry blogs. The reformist political blog cluster is the most visible in the West, and is also the most censored within Iran, but the other clusters are also censored to different degrees.
It’s difficult to map the Russian and Chinese blogospheres because linking behavior in these countries is driven by the platform the blog is hosted on. For instance, the Russian blogosphere is difficult to study because most bloggers use LiveJournal and only link to other LiveJournal users.
Kelly suggests that rewards related to social capital and recognition by fellow bloggers and journalists are important for the blogosphere to function as a vibrant online public sphere.
Ethan Zuckerman talks about blogging about politics (and the politics of blogging) in Africa and says that a blogosphere needs well-connected and influential bloggers for it to perform the role of a public sphere and aid democracy. He suggests that bloggers move from bridge-blogging in English to native-blogging in the local languages, as their blogosphere matures. He also points out that the usual content on a popular blog isn’t really an indicator of its political impact because many bloggers who don’t usually blog about politics inevitably become involved in political debate during a crisis.
He also suggests that censorship can take many forms, from blocking SMS services in the entire country, to blocking individual blogs or blogging services, to the more sophisticated and selective censorship being used in China. He suggests that widespread surveillance and pervasive censorship in China may force activists to use web 1.0 tools like bulletin boards, which are less powerful, but harder to control.
Evgeny Morozov also talks about the limitations of using quantitative techniques to map the public blogosphere in repressive regimes when the real activists are more likely to remain semi-private to protect themselves. He also uses examples of cyber-hacktivism in the Russia-Georgia Ossetia war to argue that censorship can be both hard and soft and it can be carried out by both state and non-state actors.
He suggests that governments are becoming increasingly sophisticated in using new media to support government ideology, using a combination of censorship and propaganda and employing new techniques like denial of service attacks and astroturf campaigns.
It’s a great panel discussion, except that Porochista Khakpour, an Iranian-American writer who talks about how the Iranian diaspora uses the internet, looks a little out of place on the panel.
I was forwarded this video link, it is extremely relevant to my work and very interesting particularly the analysis of the Iranian blogosphere.
A Revolution Without Rights? Women, Kurds and Bahai’s Searching for Equality in Iran (Executive Summary in Farsi)
Geoffrey Cameron and Tahirih Danesh
This is the Farsi translation of the Executive Summary of the new Foreign Policy Centre pamphlet written by Geoffrey Cameron and Tahirih Danesh, in which the authors examine the religious, legal and social obstacles to equality faced by women, Baha’is and Kurds in Iran.
I’ll definitely be using this very current piece as a reference point in my work.
Download (PDF) :
I’ve tidied up the write up and will be shortly going though the archive of a selected blog, though I’m still in need of more methodological guidance. But I’ve got an online survey done for the authors of Baha’i blogs, please contact me via e-mail for the link.
I managed to meet with a representative from the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa Israel, we discussed my research and I got some great suggestions for the project.
My research title is pretty much set now: To what extent can the ‘blogs’ of sympathisers and representatives of the Baha’i Faith be seen as interactive channels of communication that report on the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran?
Also I’m going to be using a multi method approach with some online surveys to supplement my main documentary research approach, which will look at the online blog content that I will sort through and analyse (all experimental by the way, blame the academics for not enough literature).
Check out this book it critics the production of ‘Amateur’ Internet culture brought about by the influx of new media, and interestingly argues the impact of blogs is largely negative:
Naturally I disagree in the case of blog posts reporting on the persecution of the Baha’is, as I believe the blog medium is opening up compelling channels of communication to new audiences.
Back to rewording the question…but finding some good articles and this news feature kind of confirms my choice of focusing on http://www.bahairights.org:
Iran might be famous for Avicenna, the Cyrus cylinder, and its leaders’ scathing remarks, but for over 6 million Baha’is across the world, it holds a special significance, as it is the birthplace of their faith.Founded a century and a half ago, the Baha’i faith encourages the independent investigation of “truth,” and calls – among other things – for the unity of religion and humankind, and the elimination of gender inequality. However, one of its central tenets – that Islam is not the final revelation of God – has led to it being declared a heresy, and its adherents denounced as apostates.The earliest followers of the Baha’i faith in Iran experienced imprisonment, expulsion and execution, but as the faith’s followers grew in number and spread over more countries in the region, it soon became evident that other states would not provide a safe haven for Baha’is to freely practise their faith.Communities from Morocco to Egypt, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere underwent an onslaught of propaganda attacks and arrests, and several countries placed a ban on all Baha’i activities.While in recent years the situation of Baha’is has improved (with Indonesia, for instance, repealing a ban on Baha’i activities), Iran remains the only country where Baha’is experience grave persecution. To date, however, hardly any Muslim-majority countries recognize the Baha’i faith as an independent religion. The lack of recognition rendered many Baha’is incapable of obtaining identification documents, effectively denying them their right to equal citizenship…