New information and communication technologies (ICTs) have transformed our societies dramatically. New ICTs also contributed to creation of online public spaces under repressive cultures. In the past few years, we witnessed how new ICTs were central to any debate of socio-political movements around the world form Tehran to Tahir and form Occupy Wall Street to Occupy Central. Social media and social networking sites were cited as the new catalysts of social change in these contexts. However, still controversies exist about the role new ICTs played in these movements. Studying these online spaces becomes a challenge considering the pressure of repressive cultural environments. In such environments, accessing users freely is not possible in most cases. Moreover, the scale and complexity of data requires employing multiple methods to achieve a more nuanced understanding of online publics. To overcome these challenges and to gain a better understanding of the dynamics of the online public environments in Iran, Khazraee and his colleagues at the Center for Global Communication Studies at University of Pennsylvania started a project for the Cartography of Iran’s online publics. The goal of the project is collecting empirical evidence that helps us to achieve a high resolution image of public online environments in Iran. As part of this project, he has conducted research on the Twitter use among Iranian users during Iran’s 2013 presidential election. Findings of this study illustrate how political landscape of Persian Twitter is different from Persian blogosphere (Kelly & Etling, 2008). The study, also, reveals the structural difference in information diffusion networks between Persian and English and the differences in the role of various political communities and their influence on the larger communication network.
Emad Khazraee is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Global Communication Studies at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his Ph.D. in Information Studies form College of Computing and Informatics, Drexel University. His research is formed around the interplay between social and technical phenomena, and his doctoral research focused on knowledge production processes in data-intensive, collaborative and multidisciplinary communities of practice.