Awarded Digital Humanities Summer Fellowship for 2023: Digital Iran Reloaded

I have been awarded the Digital Humanities Summer Fellowship by the Simpson Center for the Humanities to continue Digital Iran in summer 2023.

Digital Iran Reloaded: Iranian Censorship of Citizens and the Gaming Industry builds on with the aims of creating dynamic online appendices for the dissertation “Affective Entanglements and Precarious Lifeworlds: Iranian Gamers as/in Culture” and contributing to the human rights organization Miaan Group’s Filterwatch project. With a Simpson Center Digital Humanities Fellowship, I led the Digital Iran team of a fellow PhD student and an undergraduate research assistant during summer 2020 to investigate how videogames are curated by state and non-state agents to produce discourse, narratives, and counter-narratives about Iran. We created short video essays, streamed live on Twitch to workshop ideas, and managed a Twitter account, which garnered attention from academics, gamers, and game industry developers. Digital Iran Reloaded deepens the scope of the preliminary project. Using the experiences of Iranian gamers and data from video games collected during two years of field research, the project will dive into how citizens circumvent oppressive censorship and surveillance tactics by state agents in Iran and US economic sanctions.

The appendices are a practical yet digitally dynamic guide to reactive and proactive regulatory measures taken by state and non-state agents in the Islamic Republic of Iran and the US to censor and surveil Iranian citizens (Rahimi 2015):

  • Appendix 1: three videographic criticism essays on video games’ sound and aesthetics through the lens of powerful propaganda used in US and Iranian made games. To also include a downloadable spreadsheet of the data collected.
  • Appendix 2: Mapping previously used and current (anti)censorship, (anti)surveillance, and strategies to access the internet and online video games in Iran by gamers.

In these models, I will provide information on recent internet shutdowns and documented throttling,[2] and contextualize elements from Iranian computer and internet laws. These toolkits will also be an integral aspect to my ethnographic dissertation since it will elucidate everyday users’ creative choices to circumvent information controls and provide counter discourses to the (trans)national narratives of Iran.

The urgency for Digital Iran Reloaded stems from the state’s galvanization to further control the internet and online content such as video games. Over the last several months, the Islamic Republic’s lawmakers have put significant pressure on the passing of the “Bill for Protection of Cyberspace Users,” which would give complete access to private information through monitoring of citizens. Scholars, the internet freedom community, and NGOs will benefit from deep insight into the insidious and complex nature of the Iranian censorship regime from gamers’ understudied perspectives, as well as the video game industry’s role in censorship. Ultimately, the project will benefit all Iranians in the short-term with a here-and-now answer to internet user needs and in the long-term through internet freedom advocacy.