Posts Tagged ‘blogs


OSI Forum: New Media in Authoritarian Societies

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.



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.


What is this blog about?


I’m beginning my dissertation for my undergraduate study in Communication and Media Studies BSc and it is going to be about; blogging, human rights and situation of the Baha’is in Iran. This is a rough title and may change as I work out my research approach:

To what extent can the ‘blogs’ of sympathisers and representatives of the Bahá’í Faith be seen as interactive channels of communication that report on the persecution of the Bahá’ís in Iran?

So I’m going to be looking at the effectiveness of blogging in the context of new media and communication, by analysing key blogs which have reported on this issue. And I’m going to try to underpin the dissemination of information and how a blog can impact a news article and an organisation or the other way around, this is something I need to explore in my research approach.

Check list:

  1. Make a research blog
  2. Work on introduction and methodology
  3. Conduct research
  4. Discuss findings
  5. Wrap up the whole piece


Updated – 05/04/09