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The Matrix of Communication in Social Movements

A Comparison of the 1979 Revolution and 2009 Green Movement in Iran

Roozbeh Safshekan

Communication technology has played a central role in the last two great socio-political uprisings in Iran’s history: The 1979 Revolution and 2009 Green Movement. By identifying three distinct elements of the communication process, this paper explores how the ability of the political opposition to communicate effectively contributed to the success or decline of these movements as one factor among a broader set of key factors. The first element is the ‘mainstream media’, which is professional, hierarchically structured and often funded by states, big corporations or major publicly funded organizations. ‘Alternative media’, in contrast, is amateur, has a participatory and horizontal working structure and often limited funding. The third, the ‘social network’, is a collection of actors who seek iterative and persisting exchanges among themselves based on common interests, beliefs, and other ties. This trinity constitutes what has been called the ‘matrix of communication’ in this paper.