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Title: Cyber-activists as innovators : online technologies and the power struggle in Iran
Author: Anghaei, Arash
ISNI:       0000 0004 5990 4485
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis analyses key social and technical capabilities and functions in Iran through the lens of the National Innovation System (NIS) model, focusing on processes influencing the on-going online encounter between the regime and local and expatriate prodemocracy cyber-activists in the aftermath of the country's contested presidential elections in June 2009. Conceptually, it is located in Science and Technology Studies (STS), with an emphasis on constructivist theory including Social Shaping of Technology (SST) as its creative backbone. In the original Nordic conceptualisation of the NIS model, openness is considered a given. This prevents the model from adequately explaining the dynamics of innovation in repressive countries. In Iran, nationwide innovation processes are distorted by high level security officials' ideology-driven approach to the generation and diffusion of scientific knowledge and the influence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) over Iran's national economy. Bifurcated due to significant political differences, the Iranian NIS has become dysfunctional in the absence of an integrated, democratic structure, making the country highly dependent on foreign expertise. The overreliance of Iran on cross-border technological contributions is reflected in the state's internet surveillance apparatus. Currently, major European information and communications technology (ICT) companies aid the core of the censorship infrastructure employed by the Iranian regime, while a great majority of the anti-filtering software used by the cyber-activists is developed by North American universities, research centres and human rights NGOs. This, in turn, highlights a limitation in the EU export policy regimen, which fails to promote the development of pro-democracy online innovations and remains relatively weak in terms of its ability to regulate the overseas trade of telecommunications technologies. Laying emphasis on the social responsibility of large international telecommunications companies based on the outcome of a combination of weblog content analysis, semistructured expert interviews and document reviews, the results of this project are expected to help improve Western policies on dual-use ICT exports to repressive countries. A focused attempt at the dynamisation of relevant legislation by the European Parliament (EP) can help more effectively foster egalitarian values in emerging economies through supporting legitimate, bottom-up dissent. The main body of data used by this research was collected through a longitudinal observation of 65 Persian activist weblogs evaluated against an inductively crafted checklist. The preliminary findings of the weblog content analysis were later on examined in relation to the scripts of direct discussions with 17 active scholars and practitioners sampled largely by snowballing, as well as to an extensive archive of legal and journalistic documents.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available