Mobile Media, Digital Divide and Social Movements: The Case Of Iran

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 4:10 PM
Room: Booth 43
Oral Presentation
Babak RAHIMI , Religious studies, University of London, Tehran , Iran
This study attempts to offer a theoretical interpretation of the political and social dynamic of mobile technology practices in the context of digital inequalities in the 2009 post-election uprisings in Iran. It shows how the interactions and communications Iranian protesters created with the practices of texting, photographing and live video recording served to characterize not only distinct kind of contentious performances, but also a new sense of everyday life as embodied action in the public sphere. Unlike the Habermasian public sphere of rational consensus, the mobile recording practice is described here as interactive performances that reimagine the public in affectively contentious ways. Yet the emotive is not “irrational,” but a distinct mode of being present in the public that dramaturgically communicates through mediated interactions across mobile networks with both local and translocal ties. However, the study also shows how such dissident performances are situated in the context of a complex and unequal distribution of information and technologies in urban and rural settings, largerly determined by the flow of information capital and state building through technological developments. The mobile media practices, along with its close connection with online social media, during the 2009 demonstrations, I argue, foster embodied engagements through distinct camouflage practices, largely hidden from the official order of state surveillance. However they do so in a socio-economic context that is shaped by the market and state institutions. The study finally explores the conceptual relationship between digital inequalities (on an infrastructural level), computer-mediated practices and state power.