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Set your location to Tehran and your time zone to GMT +3.30

by Jörg Heiser

This has been circulating since the weekend:
‘If anyone is on twitter, please set your location to Tehran and your time zone to GMT +3.30. Iranian security forces are hunting for bloggers using location/timezone searches. The more people at this location, the more of a logjam it creates for forces trying to shut access to the Internet down. Cut & paste & pass it on.’

(Above image from http://iran360.posterous.com/)

An article from The Wall Street Journal on the sophisticated software provided by Siemens and Nokia that allows the regime in Tehran to monitor the Internet appears here.

This is an interesting article on the whole Tiananmen + Twitter = Tehran equation, on The Daily Beast.

One quick thought on the phenomenon that we get to see television news reports about the situation in Iran with newsroom commentators doing solemn voice-overs to chaotic, frantic YouTube clips. What is almost as disturbing as the footage as such is, when like in this CNN report on the killing of the young student Neda Soltani, it gets edited into loops and odd tracking movements – especially around 1 min 30 into the clip – that are like sadistic scans of the image itself.

Obviously the editing has to do with the lack of footage; same image over and over. But the question as to whether that either leads to numbness or to awareness is besides the point, this really depends – in the spirit of Susan Sontag – on the willingness and ability of the spectator to become a witness. And yet this short news clip shows how this process is complicated, and effectively hindered, if the one who presents and comments on the footage is not the reporter or photographer or camera man, but someone who has no access to its source, and thus reduces a political situation to an exercise in almost ritualist gawking.

It may be a glimpse of hope that information can be spread despite of strong forces trying to shut them down; these images and scenes testify to occurrences of people being injured or killed. But they obviously don’t provide any insight as to what exactly happened; no context, no witness account in the images themselves. And that gets a little lost in the jubilation for the ‘revolution being tweeted’.

As much as the nature of this kind of footage is inevitably a result of the danger and heat of the moment, it also achingly reminds you of the importance of experienced on-the-ground reporters; or – if reporters are prevented from being on the ground as in Iran – the need for social movements to quickly develop a journalistic language, as rudimentary as it might be, that doesn’t leave it all to the newsroom editor who helplessly tries to apply streamlined TV parameters to anarchic Internet sources.

About the author

  • Jörg Heiser's photo

    Jörg Heiser is co-editor of frieze and co-publisher of frieze d/e. He is based in Berlin.