Dienstag, April 08, 2008

Internet & Democracy project releases study of "Iran's online public"

Internet & Democracy project releases study of

"Iran's online public"

We are pleased to announce a major research release from the Internet & Democracy project: "Mapping Iran’s Online Public: Politics and Culture in the Persian Blogosphere."

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Our research indicates that the Persian blogosphere is indeed a large discussion space of approximately 60,000 routinely updated blogs featuring a rich and varied mix of bloggers. Social network analysis reveals the Iranian blogosphere to be dominated by four major network formations, or poles, with identifiable sub-clusters of bloggers within those poles.

We label the poles as

1) Secular/Reformist,

2) Conservative/Religious,

3) Persian Poetry and Literature, and

4) Mixed Networks. (View the full map.)

The secular/reformist pole contains both expatriates and Iranians involved in a dialog about Iranian politics, among many other issues. The conservative/religious pole contains three distinct sub-clusters, two focused principally on religious issues and one on politics and current affairs.

Given the repressive political and media environment, and high profile arrests and harassment of bloggers, one might not expect to find much political contestation in the blogosphere. However, we identified a subset of the secular/reformist pole focused intently on politics and current affairs and comprised mainly of bloggers living inside Iran, which is linked in contentious dialog with the conservative political sub-cluster.

Surprisingly, a minority of bloggers in the secular/reformist pole appear to blog anonymously, even in the more politically-oriented part of it; instead, it is more common for bloggers in the religious/conservative pole to blog anonymously.

Blocking of blogs by the government is less pervasive than we had assumed. Most of the blogosphere network is visible inside Iran, although the most frequently blocked blogs are clearly those in the secular/reformist pole.

Given the repressive media environment in Iran today, blogs may represent the most open public communications platform for political discourse.

The peer-to-peer architecture of the blogosphere is more resistant to capture or control by the state than the older, hub and spoke architecture of the mass media model.