Chapter 8

National Web Studies

The Case of Iran Online

Richard Rogers, Esther Weltevrede, Erik Borra, and Sabine Niederer

Introduction: National Web Studies

In 2007, Ricardo Baeza-Yates and colleagues at Yahoo! Research in Barcelona published a review article on “characterizations of national web domains” in which they sketched an emerging field that we would like to call national web studies. Of particular interest in the article is the distinction the authors made between studies in the 1990s on the characteristics of the web and those a decade later on national webs (Kehoe et al. 1999; Baeza-Yates et al. 2007). The term “national web,” we feel, is useful for capturing a historical shift in the study of the Internet, and especially how the web's location-awareness repositions the Internet as an object of study. A national web is one means of summing up the transition of the Internet from “cyberspace,” which invokes a placeless space of email and packets, to the web of identifiable national domains (.de, .fr, .gr, and so on) as well as websites whose contents, advertisements, and language are matched to one's location. In other words, we are at once foregrounding a change to the object of study and asking how to study the new dynamics online. How should we approach the web after cyberspace? The notion of the national web, we argue, is also useful beyond the conceptual level. It enables the study of the current conditions of a web space demarcated along national lines, as Baeza-Yates ...

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