Re-Envisioning Iran Online

Photoblogs and the Ethnographic ‘Digital-Visual Moment’

In: Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication
Author: Shireen Walton1
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  • 1 University of Oxford, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, UK

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Digital photography and the Internet play important roles in contemporary cultures. They can create semiotic spaces in which ‘local’ imaginaries are projected in ‘global’ frames and cultural representations can be collectively challenged. This article discusses the genre of popular photography and its convergence with the Iranian social web in the form of photoblogs (photography-oriented blogs). It describes how everyday images posted on photoblogs playfully move beyond representative tropes that constitute a visual legacy in contemporary Iran. The findings provide insights into contemporary Iranian online visual-cultural production and develop wider theoretical understandings of the social uses of digital photography, including notions of ‘everyday aesthetics’. The ways in which Iranian photobloggers select, curate, exhibit and manipulate personal digital photographs on their photoblogs are shown to be exemplary of a contemporary ethnographic ‘digital-visual moment’ of popular cultural storytelling, existing at the interface of local and global, as well as actual and virtual publics.