[iDC] Iran & the "Twitter Revolution"

Danica Radovanovic danica.radovanovic at gmail.com
Sun Jul 5 16:31:54 UTC 2009

Socio-technical dynamics and creating the networks during the political
transformations regarding the usage of mobile technologies is not a new
communication practice.
Remember the protests of the elections in the former Yugoslavia - Serbia
during Milosevic regime, a decade ago?
When all alternative and independent media were shut down by the current
regime, citizens, journalists have moved to alternative conversation
behaviour (beside BBS, emails, etc.). In the late 90's they were
corresponding with the outern world and among themselves by sending sms's
from their mobiles, creating local networks offline/off-the-Internet, since
many parts of the country were not computerized, and texting was the only
communication tool for information flow and networking.

Also, I want to point out here an interesting Global Voices article: Iran:
Myth and reality about Twitter [
where author tries to demystify positive and negative impact of Twitter in
the Iran election protest.



Danica Radovanovic
site: http://www.danicar.org
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/danicar
unique -> just like you

On Mon, Jun 29, 2009 at 9:09 PM, Dean, Jodi <JDEAN at hws.edu> wrote:

> At the risk of entering a thread too late in the discussion, I think the
> issues raised below are absolutely crucial. My own sense is that much of the
> reception of political
> events in Iran was motivated by two factors:
> --election-protest envy on the part of those in the US
> --social media fetishism on the part of net-enthusiasts: even as it's all
> the clearer that changes in new media are driven by (or, at the very least,
> quickly absorbed into) entertainment, fun, and
> neoliberal capitalism, there is an overwhelming desire to believe that
> media are more, that they will--all by themselves--lead to progressive
> political transformation. Iran was supposed to be the
> proof that Twitter wasn't banal.
> To me, a crucial question David poses below is:
> But since when is external observation an important part of revolution? It
> can help. But “we” have watched many failed revolutions from the outside.
> Does “our” knowing more of the details of the failure really change the
> situation?
> Jodi
> Jodi Dean
> ________________________________________
> From: idc-bounces at mailman.thing.net [idc-bounces at mailman.thing.net] On
> Behalf Of David Golumbia [dgolumbia at virginia.edu]
> Sent: Thursday, June 25, 2009 10:23 AM
> To: idc at mailman.thing.net
> Subject: [iDC] Iran & the "Twitter Revolution"
> I was just asked to post this on the Harvard UP blog, and hope some will
> find it relevant to the current conversations:
> http://harvardpress.typepad.com/hup_publicity/2009/06/revolutions-and-the-politics-of-networks.html
> “Revolutions” and the Politics of Networks
> ... with special reference to the role played by the internet during the
> recent developments in Iran.
> ----------
> Few words have been heard more often lately than revolution. The word
> occurs in two ways, but the connection between them is at best fuzzy. First,
> commentators wonder if Iran is going through a political revolution. Second,
> they speculate about an “internet revolution”—not merely a change in
> communications technologies, but something more significant for democracy,
> for political organization.
> Jeff Jarvis calls it “the API revolution”<
> http://www.buzzmachine.com/2009/06/17/the-api-revolution/> (referring to
> the ability, via software called an API, to for third-parties to “use” other
> applications—for mobile phone providers, for example, to route messages onto
> Twitter). Clay Shirky calls it “the big one”<
> http://blog.ted.com/2009/06/qa_with_clay_sh.php>:
> ... this is it. The big one. This is the first revolution that has been
> catapulted onto a global stage and transformed by social media. I've been
> thinking a lot about the Chicago demonstrations of 1968 where they chanted
> "the whole world is watching." Really, that wasn't true then. But this time
> it's true ... and people throughout the world are not only listening but
> responding. They're engaging with individual participants, they're passing
> on their messages to their friends, and they're even providing detailed
> instructions to enable web proxies allowing Internet access that the
> authorities can't immediately censor. That kind of participation is really
> extraordinary.
> When Shirky said this it was still plausible that the revolution in Iran
> would “take.” It didn’t. And what Shirky says about the benefits of “the big
> one” are odd: “people … are engaging with individual participants, they’re
> passing on messages to their friends.” I am absolutely positive that these
> have been critical aspects of every political revolution, regardless of
> technology. So what does Twitter change? “The whole world is watching.”
> Well, we outside Iran can watch in much more detail than we could before.
> But since when is external observation an important part of revolution? It
> can help. But “we” have watched many failed revolutions from the outside.
> Does “our” knowing more of the details of the failure really change the
> situation?
> At the very least, the failure of the Iranian revolution shows that the
> thesis that “network openness” leads automatically or directly to democracy
> is false—we have plenty of network openness, we keep celebrating it, and yet
> all we saw in practice was a near-revolution very similar to hundreds we
> have seen in the past. Other than the evidence we see on computer
> screens—other than the Twitter feeds and Neda YouTube videos—what actually
> changed in the process of or progress toward revolution in any substantive
> fashion?
> The point I hope to make here, and one that I make at greater length in my
> book The Cultural Logic of Computation<
> http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/GOLCUL.html>, is that so many of our
> commentators appear to live in a world where the equation between positive
> political change and network openness, or technological evolution, is so
> obvious as to be transparent. The hidden and most dangerous underside of
> this is that the only politics such people want most to examine are the
> liberatory potentials they have already decided are there.
> As Chris Rhoads and Loretta Chao discuss in an article this week<
> http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124562668777335653.html> in the Wall
> Street Journal, though—raising issues that are well known to those of us who
> pay close attention to what governments and businesses do with computer
> networks—the fact is that the Iranian government is using the network to
> surveil its citizens, to anticipate their plans, to identify dissidents, and
> to counter them. In an interview on NPR<
> http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=105775075&ft=1&f=1004>,
> Rhoads explained what seems never to occur to the techno-evangelists: Iran
> has kept the internet open because it provides them with much richer
> information to spy on its citizens.
> I am not suggesting and not hoping that we see a new generation of Clay
> Shirkys and Jeff Jarvises who blog exclusively about the advent of a new,
> real Big Brother. But there is a reason that it was a former Bush national
> security advisor who suggested<
> http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/06/22/former-deputy-national-security-advisor-twitter-founders-should-get-nobel-peace-prize/>,
> amidst the revolution-that-failed, that the Twitter developers deserve the
> Nobel Peace Prize, when in fact Twitter is being used to control and monitor
> dissidence. We have to find a way to explore in a sober way the political
> consequences of all parts of the computerization of the world, whether they
> fit or do not fit with our own hopes, and even to resist those parts of
> computerization that ultimately do not serve democratic ends.
> --
> David Golumbia
> Assistant Professor
> Media Studies, English, and Linguistics
> University of Virginia
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