Cartography of Iran’s Online Publics

New information and communication technologies (ICTs) have transformed our societies dramatically. New ICTs also contributed to creation of online public spaces under repressive cultures. In the past few years, we have witnessed how new ICTs have been central to debates and socio-political movements around the world, from Tehran to Tahir, from Occupy Wall Street to Occupy Central. Social media and social networking sites were cited as the new catalysts of social change in these contexts; however, controversies still exist about the role new ICTs played in these movements. Studying these online spaces is a challenge, considering the pressure of repressive cultural environments. In such environments, accessing users freely is not possible in most cases. Moreover, the scale and complexity of data requires employing multiple methods to achieve a more nuanced understanding of online publics. To overcome these challenges and to gain a better understanding of the dynamics of the online public environments in Iran, Khazraee and his colleagues at the Center for Global Communication Studies at University of Pennsylvania started a project for the Cartography of Iran’s Online Publics. The goal of the project is to collect empirical evidence that helps us to achieve a high resolution image of public online environments in Iran. This project does not have a platform-centering approach. It aims to include a variety of platforms which are used for public communication, emphasizing the ecology created by the new ICTs.


In the past two years Cartography project have done a few projects including:

  • Cartography of Persian Facebook
    • Interviews
    • Content analysis
    • Online survey
    • Crawling public pages and public posts
    • Studying campaign pages
    • Photobiography
  • Cartography of Persian Twitterverse
    • Iran presidential election in 2013
    • A few hashtag storms (to understand how online crowds self-organize in the face of emergent events)
    • General Crawling of twitter data about Iran to understand the dynamic of Persian Twitterverse
  • Two new streams of research are in the their initial steps:
    • Invisible Social Networks: Messaging Apps
    • Online News Outlets


List of Publications:

Novak, A. N., & Khazraee, E. (2014). The Stealthy Protester: Risk and the Female Body in Online Social Movements. Feminist Media Studies, 1–2. doi:10.1080/14680777.2014.975438

Center for Global Communication Studies (2014). Liking Facebook in Tehran: Social Networking in Iran. Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania.

Khazraee, E. (2013). Cultural context of social media use: How do Iranians adapt and use Facebook? In iConference 2013 Proceedings (pp. 742–745). Retrieved from

Khazraee, E., & Unsworth, K. (2012). Social media: The new opiate of the masses? International Review of Information Ethics, 18, 49–59.


Primary Investigator:

Emad Khazraee, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Center for Global Communication Studies


Briar Smith, Associate Director, Center for Global Communication Studies

Xiaoyi Ma, Ph.D., Linguistic Data Consortium, University of Pennsylvania

Alan Black, PhD Candidate, College of Computing and Informatics, Drexel University

Alison Novak, Ph.D., Visiting Assistant Professor, Media Studies & Production,Temple University

Kristen Unsworkth, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, College of Computing and Informatics, Drexel University