The proposed panel aims to bring together scholars for the purpose of exploring the social and political impacts of Information and communication technologies (ICTs) in Iran since the disputed presidential elections in 2009. The panel will mainly focus on social media as Internet-based applications that operate as networks of sociability with political potential. The emergence of networking cultures in Iran goes along with the development of new ideas, discourses and group solidarities through means of digital technologies, which produce social relations in virtual fields of interaction. The panel participants seek to rethink the informational dynamics in Iran in terms of the complex relationship between society and state. They consider the Internet as a site of not only reproduction but also challenge of cultural practices, and a platform to both regulative and transgressive potentials. The panel presenters will address several questions: How do political institutions and collective processes (social movements) manifest themselves or interact through the Internet? How have social media practices through Facebook, Instagram, Cloob and other networking sites contributed to new forms of interaction and sociability in relation to class, ethnicity, gender and sexuality? What has been the role of state power in regulating the Internet since 2009 (and, by extension, the complex unintended consequences of a centralizing censorship regime with the establishment of the Supreme Council of Cyberspace in 2012)? How do state actors benefit from the potential of social media? How has Internet culture change since the election of Hasan Rouhani in 2013, particularly in the context of US-Iran relations and the ongoing nuclear negotiations? By discussing the role and the effects of social media practices since 2009, the panel seeks to deepen our understanding of current social and political developments in Iran.
This paper provides a critical analysis of the Persian social networking sites, with a focus on the popular social site, Balatarin. Founded in 2006, Balatarin is, as aptly described by its co-founder, Aziz Ashufteh, a kind of “news and content aggregator” that promotes dynamic interactivity between Persian speaking users on both national and transnational levels. Balatarin serves as a distinct collective blog site with crowdsourcing capacities that exemplify a transnational Persian language site in the form of an alternative platform for political discussion, circulation of information and news. The paper argues Balatarin, similar to various online practices in emerging Persian social sites, facilitate and also limit political activism in the broader context of transnational communication and market processes. The site involves an exclusionary politics, a process that accelerated after the 2009 election unrests, when discussions on the site effectively became more regulated by administrators, primarily comprised of Green Movement activists, who subscribed to Balatarin. The study provides analysis of case studies of such exclusionary political practices in its online format, and discusses the discursive ways such exclusion is performed in the context of social media processes. The paper concludes with the claim that all forms of politics, including online politics, are about a contentious field of idealism and practice, and varied ways through which online political communities become products of historical circumstances and of competing political persuasions.