Call for Papers:
From Tehran to Tahrir: Public Space Redefined
The Center for Global Communication Studies (and its Iran Media Program) will hold a workshop on February 1, 2013. The subject is the reconceptualization of “public space,” in the 21st century, drawing on potential shifts influenced by the events of the Arab Spring and the contested Iranian election of 2009. The workshop will have Iran as a focus, but locates changes in a comparative context, both temporally and geographically.
Public spaces within cities are often idealized as spaces where discourse and demonstration are at least tolerated, if not celebrated. But this ideal is often absent and the ideal is under institutional and popular pressure. Ambiguous sets of spaces emerge as individuals and groups find alternate ways to exercise their speech rights, gain information, and enrich their ways of building community. These spaces can be tangible, such as the takeover of a privately owned park, virtual, as was witnessed in the uses of social media in the Arab Spring.
Tehran is a striking case study in the defining of public space. The physical space itself is abundant, with nearly 1,800 parks and green areas in the city. The workshop will be an opportunity for modes of presenting how these spaces are used and abridged and in what ways groups and individuals cope and consider implications. Using physical space freely and openly is problematic, and spaces for discourse, leisure, and protest must be delineated in different ways. As an example, one popular way is to secretly install and maintain satellite receivers. When the government inevitably jams the satellite signals, “satellite men” are called to re-orient receivers and allow information (in the form of news and entertainment programming) to flow again. In this way, the satellite receiver opens up a space for political dissent and cultural protest that is not found in the streets and reimagining the definitions of public and private.
Creation, destruction and recreating public space is an issue in a variety of contexts (in the Middle East and elsewhere). We invite submissions that discuss how the use of public space for political or social purposes is rendered illegitimate or contested in many parts of the world and how alternatives are engendered. How does the magnified role of social and digital media affect methods of communication and assembly in redefining public space? In short, how does public space emerge in different urban, cultural, or political conditions? “From Tehran to Tahrir: Public Space Redefined” invites case studies, scenarios, and speculations that explore the evolving relationship between urbanism, media, and the mutable definition of public space.
This one day workshop is designed to be interdisciplinary. Together, the resulting speculations are intended to provide a new understanding of the definition and agency of public space in some contemporary cities. Some topics to be discussed are:
• Rethinking public space in Iranian political discourse
• Spatial tactics of assembly and protest through uses of satellite channels
• Urban design and the rethinking of public space: examples from the Arab Spring
• Public Space, international broadcasting and global views of public space in the Middle East
• Comparative perspectives on legitimizing and delegitimizing public Space
• New technology and urban culture: Sentient cities and new forms of public space
• Religion and the definition of public space
• Art and media as defining and enriching public space
• Managing global representations of uses of Iranian public space
• Crowdsourcing and narratives of public Space
• Violence as a mode of disrupting public space
This event is sponsored by the Iran Media Program at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania (http://www.iranmediaresearch.org/en). The Iran Media Program is a collaborative network designed to enhance the understanding of Iran’s media ecology. Our goal is to strengthen a global network of media scholars and practitioners working on Iran-related topics (the Iran Media Scholars Network) and to contribute to Iran’s civil society and the wider policy-making community by providing a more nuanced understanding of the role of media and the flow of information in Iran.
Funding will be made available for paper presenters’ travel related costs and accommodation. Following the workshop, participants are expected to yield a variety of possible products, including for some, a publishable paper by a set deadline for an anticipated edited volume.