Digitizing Production of Carpets & Tiles: Social Media, Design / Decorative Economy, and the Changing Notions of Work in Post-Revolutionary Iran

Babak Rahimi, Literature, UC San Diego

Despite high unemployment (as high as 34%) and a major fall in the value of its currency in 2012, due to U.S.-led sanctions, Iran’s weakening economy is increasingly embracing new media for economic activities in the design economy with the aim for reaching out to the global market. The use of social media sites like Facebook and other Persian social sites is providing new ways for young, educated Iranians, mostly of middle-class background, to organize, collaborate and compete despite increasing state regulations over the Internet. Social media has now become a powerful medium for building new business models with an emphasis on employing and adopting new labor practices in mostly the carpet and tile industries for consumption in Western Europe (e.g. Italy) and East Asia (e.g. China) markets. But the study also shows how the labors too, mostly from rural in provinces such as Kashan, Kerman, Isfahan and Tabriz, are also using new media, in particular mobile and Internet technologies to create networks and labor solidarity across the country, and even abroad among diaspora worker communities in Dubai and other major economic centers in the Middle East.

 

Babak Rahimi is Associate Professor of Communication, Culture and Religion at the Department of Literature, University of California, San Diego. He earned his PhD from the European University Institute, Florence, Italy, in October 2004. Rahimi has also studied at the University of Nottingham, where he obtained an M.A. in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy (1997), and the London School of Economics and Political Science, where he was a Visiting Fellow at the Department of Anthropology, 2000-2001. Rahimi’s research examines the relationship between culture, religion and politics. His book, Theater-State and Formation of the Early Modern Public Sphere in Iran: Studies on Safavid Muharram Rituals, 1590-1641 C.E. (Brill 2011), studies the relationship between ritual, public space and state power in early modern Iranian history. His work has appeared in Thesis Eleven: Critical Theory and Historical Sociology, International Political Science Review, The Communication Review, the Journal of the International Society for Iranian StudiesRahimi has been an expert guest on various media programs like The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, BBC  and CNN, in addition to NPR and On the Media. Also, he has been a visiting scholar at the Internet Institute, University of Oxford, Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies, Freie Universität Berlin, and the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. Rahimi has also been the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Jean Monnet Fellowship at the European University Institute, and was a Senior Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace, Washington DC, 2005-2006. His current research project is on the relationship between digital culture, politics and religion.