Sep Kamvar and Jonathan Harris: I Want You To Want Me

Check out the work of Jonathan Harris and Iranian-American Sep Kamvar at the MoMA in NYC. Their project entitled I Want You To Want Me is part of the new Design and the Elastic Mind exhibit. If you can’t make it to New York, there’s a YouTube video above that demonstrates the project, which pulls in data from dating sites to create a visualization of human desire. Very awesome.

Harris and Kamvar have worked together on other projects, including the clothing company Distilled. Kamvar also leads personalized search at Google and teaches at Stanford.

Here’s a video from Sarah Meyers/Pop17.com that includes snippets of an interview with Kamvar and Harris (I love the way it’s shot):

Read more about Kamvar’s work on his website. And see Jonathan Harris’s other projects here.

Iranians on Video Site Big Think

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I’ve made no secret of my fandom of Iranian novelist Porochista Khakpour, whom I liked before I even read her book. She’s one of very few people so far that has managed to be Iranian and write a really great book of fiction in the English language, and she also talks honestly about not really feeling the whole “Iranian woman” genre of recent times. That takes balls.

After seeing her in these Big Think videos (27 of them!! Confession: I did not watch them all), I think my fascination with her as an author is slowing being overcome by a fascination with her hair. See bangs, above, and then see previous jaunty blonde streak in an artful, Veronica Lake swoop. PK, how do you do that?!

Big Think, for the Internet-erati that haven’t heard yet, is a video interview site that only talks to important people (er, big thinkers?). They don’t allow embedding, which is dumb from a content-distribution standpoint [Correction: They totally allow embedding. There’s a tiny “Share” button that I missed. Whoops.] And it’s clear they’re going for a very TED-like vibe, calling their videos “ideas.”

Khakpour’s not the only Iranian on the Big Think site, though she is the only person discussing mostly literature. Here are Reza Aslan (still pontificating about rich LA Persians), Vali Nasr (surprisingly handsome! charming accent!), and Azar Nafisi (is allegedly neo-con fabulous the Iranian version of ghetto fabulous?), mostly talking politics and the Middle East.

The common thread, though, is that Big Think serves up Iranian-themed videos with an unintended side of irony: all of these videos have really funny blanks in their transcripts. Basically, nearly all the names of Iranian poets and writers that are discussed by the speakers have been omitted from the transcripts that appear alongside the videos (i.e., Ferdowsi? That’s _______ to you, mister!). That’s probably because their transcriber or transcription software just isn’t up on the Iranian literary canon, but it’s still amusing to see it on a site with this level of intellectual chops.

Which Iranians would you like to see on Big Think, and what “ideas” do you want to hear addressed by them?

Shahrnush Parsipur’s New Book: Men From Various Civilizations

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Renowned Iranian writer Shahrnush Parsipur recently published an e-book, Men from Various Civilizations. It’s forty pages long and costs just $3, making it a perfect last-minute gift for the literary Iranian in your life – just buy and download it from Parsipur’s website, print it on some high-quality paper, and you’re done. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even get it bound at Kinko’s. (And I know what you’re thinking, but don’t be a cheapskate – pay for every copy you print. It’s a book, and it costs less than the overpriced latte you’re likely sipping.)

I’ve just downloaded the book and will write a review when I’ve finished reading it, but considering the high quality of Parsipur’s other work, Civilizations is probably pretty great, too.

Illustration: Nur Karlica Iverson

Iranians on Facebook

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Word on the street is Facebook is banned in Iran, but there are about ten jillion global Iranians on the social network anyway, and if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them. Sadly, there are not nearly as many cool Iranian-related applications (Or maybe that’s a good thing, because application invites are getting really annoying – no, I do not want to be a zombie/vampire/pirate, you loser! And stop writing on my nonexistent FunWall!) but one I’ve found so far is the clever Faal e Hafez, which simulates the popular Iranian custom of fortune-telling via Hafez’s poetry.

More recently, Kiosk guitarist Babak Khiavchi created the Iranians of the Day application, which pulls current content from what is, arguably, Iranian.com’s best section – the one that highlights ordinary and extraordinary Iranians and satisfies your (okay, fine, my) inner Iranian-Internet voyeur. Seriously, without Iranians of the Day I don’t think I really would have gotten sucked into the whole Iranian thing, so if you’re on Facebook and you’re still waiting for an RSS feed for this section of Iranian.com, install the app and you’ll be content.

And another thing about Iranians on Facebook… it’s a really good way to connect with long-lost cousins (true story – I’ve found peeps from both sides, even) and get in touch with some pretty fancy professionals.

How do you use Facebook to get down with your Perzhian-ness? Leave a comment and I’ll update this post with your genius.

Interviews with Young Iranians: Azad, Life Goes on in Tehran Photo Blogger

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The photo blog Life Goes on in Tehran highlights ordinary Tehran life in an effort to dispel Western myths and poorly slanted media coverage about Iran. It has a very insider quality that makes you feel like you’re on your own Tehran visit. The man behind the site, 28-year-old Azad (last name withheld for reasons outlined below), documents his life there on a camera phone and updates the site with new pictures and captions each month. We sent him some questions by email, and here’s what he had to say.

Pars Arts: You are anonymous on your photo blog; without revealing your name/identity, can you tell us more about who you are and where you grew up? Can you also talk about why you’ve decided to be anonymous?
Azad: I was born and raised in Tehran and then moved to the Los Angeles area when I was 14. Following the awkward assimilation period of high school, I attended USC where I got my BA in Cinema-Television in 2001. After graduation I paid my bills doing web design, while affording myself the opportunity to make short films and travel for months at a time.

There are multiple reasons for wanting to stay anonymous. For one, I don’t want the website to become about me. I like it as it is; Tehran from the point of view of a former Los Angeles resident, regardless of who that resident is. Plus, I often point my camera at unsuspecting friends and family members at private gatherings and parties. In order to hide their identities, I feel like I should first hide mine. A more dramatic reason would be staying away from either Evin prison in Tehran or a secret CIA prison somewhere in Eastern Europe! But really, if someone tried hard enough, they could find out who is behind the photo blog. So what it comes down to is me trying to stay out of Tehran’s spotlight.

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PA: Why did you move (back?) to Iran?
Azad: Ironically, I moved (back) to Tehran to jump-start my film career. Most people go to Los Angeles to do this; I left. I think the Hollywood film scene is for when you’ve already made it. You don’t fare well in Hollywood as a struggling filmmaker. In order to meet my personal goal of making my first feature-length film before I’m 30, I weighed my options and felt that I would be more likely to do so if I were to move to Tehran. Plus, if I get started here, I will always have a base to come back to.

PA: What’s been the biggest surprise about living in Tehran for you? What’s been the most difficult part of adjusting to life in Iran? What do you miss most about your LA life?
Azad: I tested the waters with a couple of short-term stays before finally making the big move. So I had an idea about what life in Tehran might have in store for me and I can’t say there were any surprises. If anything, the fact that it’s similar to living in LA, for the most part, is a surprise in and of itself. It’s more about moving from one big city to another. I have, however, narrowed down the differences to three main things, the absence of which makes life in Tehran a tad more difficult: respect, trust and freedom to choose. Most everything that might annoy someone who has lived abroad fits in one or all of the above categories.

This is not to say that Iranians are disrespectful or untrustworthy. On the contrary, in personal interactions and relationships with people you know they’re perhaps more respectful, kind and trustworthy [than people in Los Angeles]. But when it comes to dealing with “them,” things get shady. And the place where this is most apparent is the relationship the government has with its people. All three are missing in that particular marriage. Needless to say, the three things I miss most about LA are: respect, trust and freedom to choose. I won’t get into specifics, but if I have done my job right, you’ll see examples of this on my site.

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PA: I’ve frequently wondered whether being Iranian-American (or any other sort of Iranian hyphenate) is a barrier or instead lends a certain cachet to those that grew up abroad and then move back to Iran for work/to live. Any first-hand observations/thoughts on this? Is there a sizable community of people who have moved back to Iran?
Azad: It’s definitely not a barrier. For some reason, people here take Iranians coming from the U.S. very seriously. Perhaps too seriously. This is surprising considering the type of junk-TV a handful of Iranians in Los Angeles beam to their living rooms. If my only image of Iranian-Americans were those of the LA pop stars and TV anchors as seen on satellite TV, I would question anyone who associated with anything American. But fortunately most everyone — at least among the middle-class Iranians — has a relative in the U.S. Because of these relatives, lines of communication are always open and the general public is aware of what life in the US can be like. So there’s this thought process of “Oh you lived in the US? Lucky you! Want to run my company? You single?!”

I am sure a medical degree from Harvard deserves the type of respect here as it does anywhere else in the world, but as for my own degree, well, my film degree means nothing to me or to anyone in Hollywood. But here, they introduce me as “So and so, who studied film in the US.” Before I have a chance to discredit my degree, they already take me for some genius that I am not. This I find amusing. Some people use this to their advantage. I’ve run into folks who have taken courses at Santa Monica City College who consider themselves “U.S. educated,” and you’ll be surprised to see how it opens doors for them. This is not to bash on SMC or any other community college, for that matter, but it perfectly demonstrates the type of weight being Iranian-hyphen-anything carries.

I have also decided to keep my U.S. citizenship a secret. What is shadier than being taken more seriously at what you do because of some U.S. education is finding yourself in a relationship with someone who likes you for your passport! Luckily I haven’t experienced this, but I am told to be cautious. It would be really sad to have that be a qualification (but unfortunately some fellow Iranian-Americans do).

PA: Several of your images capture and comment on Iranian media consumption (satellite dishes, newspapers, film, art). Are the art, culture, and media produced in Iran – and the various means of consumption that defy censorship – vastly different from what you thought they would be?
Azad: This is too broad a topic to try and tackle with a general statement on what art/culture/media Iranians produce and consume. I personally never had any expectations or pre-conceived notions of what this may be like in Iran. But because there are many more obstacles and bans on creation and consumption in Iran, people tend to not take for granted what is readily available in the U.S. For example, in the US you can watch any movie your heart desires, have access to any website or go to any play, but you don’t necessarily take advantage of this. Because you take your freedom for granted. When you come to Iran, you start to seek that which the government wants to keep from you. Suddenly watching a banned movie or going to a blocked website becomes a more valuable (and pleasurable) experience. Then in the process you feel more “cultured.”

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PA: A lot of your photos appear to be shot in northern Tehran – a more affluent part of the city. Much of the lifestyle press coverage coming from Tehran seems to be focused on this area also (or it’s very much the opposite, looking at abject poverty), but I think you do a good job pointing out the economic context of your photos in your short captions, which is where a lot of mainstream reportage about Iran fails. I assume you shoot mostly things happening around you, but do you have plans to venture further south in the city and capture a different socioeconomic scene also?
Azad: I am not a reporter and therefore I don’t go out of my way to report on life in Tehran (unfortunately many mainstream Western reporters do the same!). My main goal is show that life in general, my life in particular, goes on in Tehran. So I point the camera at my immediate surroundings, which happens to be that of the more affluent middle-class northern Tehran. There’s no shame in this. Because it is exactly this socioeconomic scene that is under-represented — by both the Iranian media as well as the Western press coverage. One could take away from this the very fact that Tehran is so large a city that you could live your whole life in one neighborhood and never cross paths with other less or more fortunate souls in other neighborhoods. Same is true with any large cities. Many Iranians living in Beverly Hills have never set foot in Compton or South Central LA, even though they’re only a few miles apart. That said, I do have a few photos from South Tehran. One in particular is of an elderly man near Khorasan Square in the south who had lived his whole life there and had never seen Pasdaran or other neighborhoods in the north.

PA: What kind of feedback have you gotten from people that follow LGOIT?
Azad: So far I’ve only received positive feedback. Many Iranians abroad write and tell me that the site brought tears to their eyes. They thank me for finally portraying life in Tehran in such a way that they can proudly share with their non-Iranian friends. I can relate to their sentiments, because I think when you live outside of Iran, the situation is such that it becomes really difficult for you to prove to your non-Iranian friends and family that Iran isn’t all that bad, that there’s more good than evil, more positive than negative, and most importantly that we are not backwards, but similar to them, that we share many of the same values and ideals.

I also get many emails from Americans and Europeans who thank me for showing a side of Iran they had no idea existed. One American visitor even joked about me receiving a Noble Peace prize for my efforts. Because he thought it would be much tougher for the Bush White House to start a war with Iran if the word on my site were to get out and more tax-paying Americans were to see it. And the word is getting out. As of this interview I have had thousands of unique visitors from 97 countries in over 1700 cities. I for one find all this very inspiring and with each new visitor I get more motivated to continue what I’m doing. What started out as a simple site to assure my friends back home that I’m safe in Tehran has gotten a life of its own. Hopefully I will one day look back at the archives of Life Goes On In Tehran and feel that I did my small part in changing world public opinions about Iran and stopping a catastrophic war.

(Photos courtesy of Life Goes on in Tehran)

What Persian blogs do you read?

Sorry to be brief and follow with another question, but I’m looking to populate my feed reader… do you have any recommendations?

Iranians on the Internet: Post-Mortem

So it’s been more than a week since the Iranians on the Internet conference happened in SF, and here are my thoughts, which I’ve been mulling over pretty much all this time:

1. Could blogs be the best teach-yourself-more-Persian tool for Iranian hyphenates? I think so! Some of the bloggers read some really good writing, particularly Leva Zand, whose profanity-peppered, satirical short story taught me at least one new choice word. (Sort of – I’m still trying to get someone to explain to me exactly what it means, but I’m not really sure who to ask because, well, it’s a bad word but I don’t know just how bad.) So while I’m not abandoning my efforts to find a good Persian book to read, I’ll be adding some Persian blogs to my feed reader. They’re much easier to read than news sites, seeing as blogs don’t generally employ the same horribly stilted, formal language of, say, Iranian newspapers.

2. Gathering does not equal conference. My expectations of the day were my own fault, because I expected a conference format – for instance, panels of bloggers instead of individual readings of blog posts. The event’s flyer clearly called it a gathering, though, which is what it was: a group of people who mostly knew each other from the online world, coming together offline. Gatherings and conferences are very different things. But regardless, two things that I was expecting from the day didn’t happen and I still wish they had. The first was an actual panel on Iranian.com, which I thought was going to happen because of the advertising about the day, but which actually turned out to be a surprise award ceremony with speeches about the site from various contributors. Jahanshah Javid definitely deserved the recognition but perhaps there could have been a panel talking about the site and its impact, and then the award? The second was a Balatarin.com presentation, which didn’t happen at all and which I’d really been looking forward to.

3. The music was awesome. Hamed Nikpay has some pretty legit pipes, man. I missed the first half of his performance because I was taking a breather outside and then kicked myself for it when I saw how good he was. And he had a non-Iranian guy playing the daf and miscellaneous accompanying percussion. Arash Sobhani of Kiosk was there, too, but unfortunately there was no singing from him.

4. Iranian bloggers = friendliest bloggers ever? Again, I think so. It was such a giving, open, friendly, and forthcoming group. I liked the questions people asked each other after each blog reading, and several times what I heard was that blogging was a crucial part of community building for recent immigrants of Iran to the U.S.

Also – lots of coverage of this event, which is cool… though I still wish they had a website for it all! See Iranican’s coverage below:
Part 1


Part 2
Also, photos: take a look at Talieh Shahrokhi’s pictures of the event.

22 Sep 2007, 8:57pm
Community Culture Internet
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3 comments

Iranians on the Internet: Wrap-Up

Unfortunately, I missed Part 3 of this event, which was a live video conference with Khorshid Khanoom (aka Lady Sun), so if anyone has any intel on what happened, please leave a comment or shoot me a note: editorATparsartsDOTcom.

I’m on a shaky road, typing on someone else’s laptop, so I’ll write a longer post on my thoughts about this event and some of the neat people I today when I get home and recover.

Iranians on the Internet: Part 2, Iranian.com

Change of schedule – Iranian.com will be part 2 of the day, not Balatarin. Nazy Kaviani is going to read a statement by Persis Karim, who couldn’t make it today. Karim’s letter talks about Jahanshah Javid’s role in the making of the Iranian diaspora via his foresight regarding the role of the Internet.

Kaviani is now reading her own letter about her “life-changing experience” of writing for Iranian.com. She highlights Jahanshah’s characteristic of not censoring or changing content, even when it’s profane or comes from “shameless or killjoy Iranians.” He was one of the first to realize that English was fast becoming the shared language of Iranians outside Iran.

Now it’s Bruce Bahmani’s turn, who is one of the first Iranian.com writers. The site allows him to express his observations. The question that stays is: when will all this talk translate to change? He’s reading this article about bowling that he wrote for the site in 2002.

Ari Siletz remarks on Call Me Anything You Want, Javid’s piece about his various names. He talks of names as larger signifiers. Words and names are powerful agents of creation. Iranian.com has given the term “Iranian” a physical presence of sorts. “What breathes life into this piece of silicon are the divine words, ‘Nothing is Sacred’” (Iranian.com’s tagline).

Elahe Enssani talks about realizing the power of Iranian.com when she announced a citizenship workshop she was running. She introduces Ross Mirkarimi, San Francisco politician (who, apropos of absolutely nothing, has the deepest, most booming voice I’ve ever heard). Mirkarimi says he has never written for Iranian.com but when he decided to run, the site was very instrumental to him because it helped rally the Iranian community in the Bay Area. Mirkarimi had 21 opponents for his seat when he first ran for his seat. When he was elected and inaugurated, there was a large group of Iranians in city hall to support him. As a first generation Iranian-American, Mirkarimi learned his own activism, doubled with learning his own identity. And he’s presenting Jahanshah with an award from San Francisco’s board of supervisors.

Finally, JJ is up: He’s thankful for this award and very humble – he says he doesn’t feel like the person everyone just talked about. He says, “All I have done is be a mediocre journalist who was very lucky to have Iranian.com in the beginning… 99% of what Iranian.com is, is what you all have contributed… thank you for your participation.”

22 Sep 2007, 2:53pm
Events Internet
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4 comments

Iranians on the Internet: Part 1, the bloggers

Bayramali
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.

Questions:
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.

Baraneh
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.

Questions:
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.

Baloot
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.

Questions:
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
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.”

Questions:

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.

Farangeopolis
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.

Questions:
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.

Berkeley Forum
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).

Questions:

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.

Saat Sheni
(The blogger at Saat Sheni asked me not to use her name earlier, so I won’t)… She’s reading a more comical post about Halloween.

Questions:

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.

Closing
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…