Twitter as Public Domain
The social media/old media war continues both in Iran and in the west. Twitter continues to morph and respond to the events in Iran and perhaps even shape it while the Iranian government uses the state media and threats against foreign journalists to contain the discussion and keep the local and global opposition in check.
For the most part foreign journalists have been left to muse on events from their hotel roofs or beyond Iran's border and have had to rely on amateur video and images posted to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter as sources of information and conformation of what is unfolding in Tehran and beyond. They have either had to acknowledge that the people participating in the event are their main source of information or use those mediums to help get their own message out or figure out how to do it. Apart from the expired visas and government restrictions that have removed them from the frontlines of the story, the institutional inertia of the television networks in particular has not mediated the volume of interest or information that is trying to integrate. The other habit of the TV networks that is starting to prove a bit wonky is their reliance on "experts" to voice some insights on what is happening. The reliance on the university Ph.D to provide analysis of the events. Once a talking head is slotted in for an interview, the network is committed to making the best of their analysis for that 4 or 8 minute timeslot, regardless of the bias and the questionable credibility. There is, of course, need to squeeze in the regular dose of the absurdity formerly known as human interest.
Throughout the events in Iran, the social media have remained responsive and nimble to events taking place. Twitter, which first basked in the spotlight of the inane Ashton Kutcher/CNN race to 1,000,000 followers just a few weeks ago, has morphed into a source of news and a spine for the revolution unfolding in Tehran. Within the activity that can get a bump in attention on Twitter there are a wide variety of events that can gain attention, ranging from the results of the NBA finals to the rumours of a celebrity death that seeks, but does not receive confirmation.
As with the celebrity rumour, news coming out of Iran has sought confirmation and crystalized into reliable information as the protests and ripostes take place. Recommendations of reliable news sources, whether bloggers or mainstream media, have helped news seekers find direction and given shape and credibility to information that has inundated other sources. There is still plenty of dross and garbage in the infoflow but the exchange of interested Twitterers has defined the discussion.
Throughout these discussions there has also been information exchanged to allow the social media to thrive in response to the attempts by the government to track down and stop social media activity as it takes place. Tweets have provided new internet service provider addresses and other information to help sustain the flow of news and information. The more important development over the last few days has been Twitter's response to events. Faced with a maintenance shutdown that would stem the flow of information, Twitter rescheduled to limit its impact on the Iranian audiences who have become so reliant on the service over the last few days. If the mainstream media had the flexibility and responsiveness to its users, it would be able to rival this platform as a source of information.