New Media and Social-political Change in Iran

Author(s) Mohammad Hadi Sohrabi-Haghighat
Contact M. Sohrabi-Haghighat, Swinburne University, Hawthorn, Victoria 3122, Australia. E-mail:
Issue CyberOrient, Vol. 5, Iss. 1, 2011, pp. 90-109
Published May 10, 2011
Type Article
Abstract The increasing penetration of new communication technologies into everyday life has attracted a growing interest in the social, economic and political implications of these technologies. Most studies have looked at Western democratic societies and the literature on the developing countries is unfortunately small in comparison. In 2009 Iran witnessed a political upheaval in the aftermath of the presidential election in which the Internet was utilized effectively by the political opposition. News and videos of police brutality and repression were uploaded online, including onto social networking sites, in what was called the ‘Twitter Revolution’. Expectations rose on the capacity of new media to bring about democratic change in Iran. Later developments, however, showed that ‘mouse clicks’ alone do not produce profound political changes. In this article we look at the role of the new media and the social and political functions it took on in the post election period. We suggest that, firstly, new media has helped ordinary citizens and the political opposition challenge the government’s monopoly of information. Secondly, we suggest that new media have paved the way for the emergence of a global public sphere for Iranians across the globe. This article also looks at the social and cultural impacts of the satellite channels which have been an ongoing source of concern for the Iranian conservative regime. Finally we take a critical stance and analyze the effects of new communication technologies in light of the ‘digital divide’ and ‘the radicalization of the Green Movement’.
Keywords activism, digital divide, Iran, censorship, social aspects, information and communication technology, democracy