The Middle East has long been constructed as the West’s “other” and can be seen as a boundary condition to globalized network culture. The spectacular political mobilizations witnessed in Iran in 2009 and across the Arab World in 2011 were built on longer and less visible political processes and pre-existing social movements, and can be seen as momentary conjunctions of on-line and off-line practices. These moments of participation were democratizing in that they summoned new actors and provided space for voice and for agonistic politics – but have the potential to be squelched by the installation of the spectacle of formal democracy.
Annabelle Sreberny is Professor, Centre for Media & Film Studies and Chair, Centre for Iranian Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London. She is President of the International Association for Media and Communication Research. Her research has focused primarily on the field of international communication and debates about globalization with a specific focus on international news, questions of diaspora and with a strong feminist orientation. For over thirty years, her work on Iran has examined the nexus of politics and communications, from the process of the 1979 revolution in Small Media, Big Revolution (1994) to the emergence of a dynamic and contentious Persian-language presence on the net in Blogistan: The Internet and Politics in Iran (2011).
Manuel Castells is University Professor and Wallis Annenberg Chair in Communication Technology and Society at the University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles and Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. He is, as well, Research Professor at the Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona, and Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley.