In her earlier post on this weblog, Donya pointed to remarkable transgressions on the eve of the national elections in Iran. In the public protests following the elections we see another major innovation: the unprecedented use of new digital media. The newest digital tools for social networking, especially Twitter and Facebook, turn out to be crucial means to mobilize people and report events to the outside world, as Newsy.com points out in this video:
This raises important questions for anthropologists. What role can new media play in making political agitation effective? How do these new media give people opportunities to change their world? (Recall Moussavi’s statement in the video: ‘One person=one broadcaster’!) To what extent may the digital revolution transform traditional social and political relationships? Does it change the relation between ‘ordinary’ people and those in power? May the use of internet even affect relationships in the family and those between men and women?
More and more anthropologists are studying the role of new media in people’s lives. In our department for example, Lenie Brouwer looks at Internet use among migrants in the Netherlands, and Donya Alinejad at that among Iranian migrants in the US. Birgit Meyer studies the role of new media in religious practices. Indeed, anthropology has long moved away from the stereotype of studying tribes and clans as isolated groups in exotic places. Instead, it focuses on the very ways people’s lives are changing in the modern world.
By Daan Beekers, PhD student at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology (VU University).