Like many in the geek trade, part of me has been professionally fascinated by the impact of social media in the events in Iran. Certainly this has been a developing meme, since the disturbances in late 2006 in France that the social media, blogs, twitter, facebook, flickr and the rest have been more effective in getting the message out than the traditional media and news gathering organisations.
Here in Australia, our own publicly funded ABC has rolled over and taken to relaying tweets and flickr images since its journalists were asked to leave Iran.
And it is certainly fascinating how the social media ecology has come together, so that someone with access to the internet, a $100 camera and a $400 netbook can post images and messages from the frontline. Add a $300 video camera, etc etc.
And this is where I start to feel unease. I have never been to Iran, but I have the impression that it is not unlike Turkey in a demographic sense. Large relatively westernised cities with more secular attitudes, a large and poor rural religiously observant population, and a problem with large numbers of peasants moving from the poor countryside to the cities, in the case of Turkey the informal settlements (I was going to write shanty towns but many are more developed than that) that ring Istanbul and in the case of Teheran the poor areas of south Teheran.
Now these people have a right to be heard. We see this in Turkey with the rise of more islamic and less secular political parties. We saw this in Iran, where while the media liked to show pictures and interview attractive english speaking people prior to the election, they also showed pictures of the poor of south Teheran lining up to vote.
These people are also poor, less educated, less likely to have internet access, or the $100 camera, the netbook or whatever. And there is a risk here. We see the demonstrations againts the election result. We do not see the reactions, the attitudes of those who supported Ahmedinajad, and many undoubtedly did.
The consequence being that we cannot truly tell what the majority think. Traditional news media may have been able to tell us, but now they've been banned we can only guess what these people think, and to what extent they want change.