Paiom’s blog, Bayramali mostly revolves around nostalgia, poetry, culture, arts, “tanz”… he’s reading a poem/blog post about blogging. (I wonder if this is posted on his blog? Update: here it is.) – now it’s open for questions:
(I should note that a man just walked in the room with a Persian rug over his shoulder, which was very amusing had everyone distracted for a minute…)
Do you write other places or just this blog? Most of his work is done on his own blog, but now he also writes on Iranian.com sometimes.
Why did you start writing? He wanted to write for four years while in Iran, but when he moved here, he started for the similar reasons of isolation and wanting to find community.
What system do you use? Blogfa, and the format really helped him write; he’s not very technological.
Why is blogging so popular in Iran? Because it’s a vehicle for anyone to speak, without censorship.
Shena dar Shenzar
Shena dar Shenzar is the personal blog/diary of Ehsan Akhbari. He says, “I don’t really know why I blog; everything one does, doesn’t need to have a reason.” He’s reading what he calls a “nerdy” post, about corruption. I like how he is reading this; very nice inflection.
What format do you use? It’s “zoghali” – he uses Blogspot.
Do you have any problem blogging in Persian? As far as typing and formatting, it can be a little tricky to start. This weblog used to be called “Persian-Typing Practice” because that was one of the reasons he started it. Now the name has changed and he’s almost been blogging in Farsi.
Mandana is the blogger behind Baraneh, which also includes a photoblog. (I’ll interject here to say I really love the photoblog.) She says writes so she’ll have something to look back on someday, to remember how she used to think. She used to write for less personal reasons, and thought you can create change via blogs, but she now feels it’s just for her. For a while all her friends were bloggers, and her socializing was very web-heavy – and it took a while to get over that “addiction” and get back to her real life.
How do you interact with your readers? She’s generally quiet. Someone she was close to online once hacked all of her accounts.
What about inappropriate comments? That happened when she was single. Since she’s gotten married, that doesn’t have that happen so much.
Should one moderate or delete later; what’s ethical? It’s a matter of style/taste. She lets people leave comments and delete later, but says she doesn’t know how to moderate them in advance. She would like to filter certain words, that would be ideal for her.
Leva Zand writes Baloot (here’s her English blog). She uses Movable Type and writes about anything and everything. She’s going to read a story and warns that it’s a little R-rated. It’s pretty funny/snarky, about a woman seeing an acquaintance in the salon while getting her face threaded.
Why did you have a problem with this acquaintance? It’s fiction, no such woman exists.
What do you do with comments you don’t like? She says she deletes rude comments about other people. Sometimes she lets things go, but she thinks of her blog as her home and if others want to make such comments, they can start their own blogs.
Why is your blog popular? Iranian blogs abroad, she thinks, are updated more frequently because of their circumstances. And being outside of Iran can be interesting for people inside Iran. It gives them a lens.
Why is your blog filtered in Iran? She doesn’t know. She sent an email and they gave her an address Iran to visit to follow up. She clearly hasn’t gone to do that.
What’s your opinion on using somewhat objectionable language on blogs? Everyone has their own standards; Leva says it’s personal.
Nazy Kaviani’s blog is in English. She says one of the things that makes her different is that she’s older than other bloggers. She wants to be part of something exciting and fabulous, and the draw for her is being in touch with young Iranians. She has become a writer over the last year and a half, for various media, and having the blog is a perfect place to write. She writes in English because she lives in America and has two children who were born and raised here.
It is her diary, in a way, but it’s a medium for her to promote what she knows about Iran and America. She feels lucky because she has lived a good life in both places. She writes a lot of different things, both happy and sad. Today she’s reading about her younger son’s first girlfriend. Everything she writes is true, and she gets permission from the people she writes about. She got a lot of comments about her being a bad mother because she’d raised “shitty children.”
Sometimes your comments are very comprehensive; why do you pay so much attention to them? She says: I treat my commenters like guests at my house. Because the posts I write seem to have attracted really smart people, I try to engage them in dialogue.
You have a lot of smart readers from Iran; why is that? She’s not sure, but says perhaps it’s for them to practice their English. (Sorry, I missed the second part of this answer…)
Can you talk about using your real name vs. using a pseudonym? She says she would always use her real name, because she wants her readers to know who she is.
Sima Shahsari writes Farangeopolis, a blog that looks at Iranian blogs, which is what Shahsari studies. She hasn’t written on the blog in some time because she’s working on her PhD dissertation about gender and sexuality in the Iranian blogosphere (aka “weblogestan”). Her diss is “Blogging, Becoming, and Belonging.” Her MA thesis was about Iranian queer diaspora.
She almost chose LA-based Iranian satellite stations as her PhD, but discovered blogs accidentally when a friend referred her to queer blogs written in Iran. She wasn’t really interested in those blogs, but then learned about the larger world of blogging. The narratives on Farsi weblogs seemed very optimistic. Blogging was called the “turquoise revolution” several years ago.
Many Iranian bloggers live outside Iran, where freedom of speech is assumed to be a right. The figure of the Iranian woman becomes a signifier of freedom and democracy. In what context and how are issues of gender and sexuality discussed, though? She studies Iranian blogging out of DC and Toronto. She argues that post-9/11, Farsi weblogs were popularized. Her research is qualitative and not quantitative. (I apologize for not getting a lot of this – she is a really fast talker!)… Now she is reading an ethnographic account, about Sibil Tala, which Sima found via Hoder. Sibil said that a video interview she gave to the CBC was edited to show her only saying that she writes about sex, which caused her to be ostracized by the blogging community and contributed to the end of her relationship (which was abusive). She was misrepresented. This happened around the same time the Iranian elections were going to happen. Sibil said that many people admonished her via comments and Yahoo chat. This isn’t unique to Sibil; Sima says the expectation of bloggers’ readers turns into self-censorship. Traditional notions of womanhood seem to be upheld and have been transported to cyberspace. So while women are taking center stage in weblogestan narratives, they are subject to much disciplining. While some women take advantage of cyberspace as a new frontier, there are gender-specfici consequences for writing that can spill into real life.
Nazy Kaviani asks: Can you describe if there are any changes in your observations from the time you started studying this? Sima says: Iranian women have never been naive or unsexual, but the idea that speaking about this stuff is allowed is prevalent online. Just the fact that one person speaks about this becomes a sort of liberating disruption. Even if it doesn’t necessarily inform the reader, it still breaks down norms and may have a trickle effect.
Jahanshah Javid asks: What is the discussion about homosexuality like/reactions about things you’ve written? Sima says: Some people’s ideas haven’t changed over time, there hasn’t really been a wave of gay friendliness that’s washed over the Internet. Some comments have been that homosexuality is a disease, and she has received hate mail, but there is a lot of variety in responses.
Arash Aramehr blogs at Berkeley Forum. It started in March 2006, with three bloggers. Arash is now the main contributor, but there are others. It’s primarily political, but sometimes not – a few days ago, Arash posted photos about some deer he saw, for instance. Here’s the post he read. He chose it to show that the blog tries to be neutral (the post is more conservative).
Isn’t it the nature of blogs to be politically tilted? Weblogs are not news agency, so being neutral doesn’t seem like a necessary attribute for weblogs. Arash says: Blogging was something new in communication. There are many very influential and powerful blogs now. However, he doesn’t find that blogs necessarily need to be biased. You can have a blog to have lots of different voices. It’s not a con for blogs to offer a forum to be heard, to be neutral.
Who is your audience? I’m interested to the appeal to the second-generation Iranian audience. Arash says: Seventy percent of hits come from the U.S., and secondary is Iran.
Do people leave comments? Arash says: Sometimes, and Berkeley Forum doesn’t really delete – the only time they deleted stuff was when it was promotion of a porn site in the comments. He gets a lot of comments asking about why he writes about American politics if he’s an Iranian, and he believes it’s important to integrate in this society.
Why do you write so little? Saat Sheni says: I used to write more. Blogging creates this strange tension of wanting to be read or not wanting to be read… so writing becomes a little difficult.
How long were you in Iran? Saat Sheni says: I completed high school and attended college in Iran, but didn’t finish college there.
Do you get comments that are discouraging? Saat Sheni says: Not really, as most of my comments come from my friends. Strangers don’t leave a lot of comments.
Now Haji Agha is reading an email from someone in Iran… sorry, I didn’t catch the name (please leave a comment if you have it).
There’s now a ney performance…