Much has been made of the role of Twitter in the recent elections in Iran, from an excellent article on this site by Emily, to countless articles in the mainstream media (try putting “Iran” and “Twitter” into Google News).
Twitter’s role in the ‘Green Revolution’ in Iran has largely been that of a dissenting voice against the election results on the 12th, and the covering – and creating? – the street violence that followed on the result, and publicising it to the outside world. In this role twitter has been hailed as revolutionary, and instrumental in events – achieving things not capable of traditional media.
Yet a quick check on Iran’s history suggests this may not be the case. The 1979 revolution was fomented by audio cassette tape (yes, those same cassette tapes you used to listen to Rick Astley on). Recorded tapes of Ayatollah Khomeini’s sermons in Najaf were distributed through the underground, to undermine the brutal and secular regime of the Shah. The medium was new, flexible, easily used and easily disseminated and delivered messages all across Iran which the regime could not control.
In short, while Twitter may be a feature of these events, it is not the cause. In the term Social Media it is the social, the message, that is important, not medium itself, which is of course just a means of delivery. Indeed within Iran itself the distribution of paper leaflets and the use of mobile phones have been the most popular means of actually organising the demonstrations.