Online Social Research in Iran: A Need to Offer a Bigger Picture

Author(s) Ali Honari
Contact Ali Honari, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands. E-mail:
Issue CyberOrient, Vol. 9, Iss. 2, 2015, pp. 6-32
Published November 10, 2015
Type Article
Abstract Given the limits of in-country and survey research in closed societies, the World Wide Web – in particular online forums - offers an alternative field for observing and understanding these societies and their development. However, the praise given to the Internet’s role in bringing about political change in Arab uprisings and the 2009 elections post protests has resulted in a tendency in the existing literature to focus on very narrow political discussions and behaviors on partisan online forums. Consequently, various areas of interest to Iranian users have been neglected or ignored. The aim of this review is to identify the major online spheres of the Iranian web, the most important online forums in each sphere, the issues being discussed, and the characteristics of the users of each sphere and forum. By doing so it recognizes the theoretical and methodological drawbacks of existing online research on the Iranian Web. This review concludes with some suggestions for further online social research in Iran.
Keywords social media, internet, media studies, Iran, information and communication technology, Internet studies, communication studies