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Vahid Online responds to Douglas Rushkoff

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Vahid Online


The internet has had a profound effect on both the personal and public
sphere in Iran. For many Iranians online, it has been a crucial step
toward self actualization. In the Iranian blogosphere, we're
constantly learning from one another. The comments section of a blog
or news item is the space we've carved out to debate and hash out
ideas. It's where experts on a topic share their knowledge. As more
people raise their knowledge and self-awareness through these
interactions, it's bound to have a bearing on society as a whole.

For me personally, it's made me who I am. When I write on a certain
topic, or make a comment, I have to learn to stand by it. Over time,
it has made me a more idealistic person. You detect that among other
Iranian bloggers, too. They may not admit it, but you often see that
when the topic comes up again in a different context, they have
shifted their views. Because we can't have democracy in Iran offline,
the internet is where we are learning to practice it.

Of course there is the double-identity problem here. Because of the
nature of the Iranian government and the huge gap in culture from one
generation to the next, many of us have one personality and set of
ideals online, and another in the other world. So while some bloggers
may spout about democracy online, they may act contrary to it in real
life.

The downside to the internet for many of us who live online is that we
deal with issues on a more superficial basis. No one bothers to read a
book or well thought out analysis anymore. It's too long. It requires
too much focus. We skim headlines. We're interested in the next quick
fix. With a blog post, at least there is the potential for debate. Few
bother to engage in that same debate in the comments section of
Facebook or engage in a back-and-forth on Twitter.

In terms of those tools changing the focus of activists from the
streets to the computer screen, I don't think the overall percentage
of Iranians actually in Iran using Facebook and Twitter are
significant enough to make a difference.

posted February 2, 2010

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