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Abstracts

The limits and prospects of nerd politics in Indonesia

John Postill, Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow at RMIT University, Melbourne

In this paper I draw from recent anthropological fieldwork to track the rise of a new class of political actor in Indonesia in the post-Suharto era: politicised nerds. These are ICT or media specialists of various kinds (e.g. geeks, hackers, tech journalists, internet lawyers, digital artists) who work at the intersection of technology and politics in pursuit of greater civic liberties and ‘digital democracy’ (demokrasi digital) (Postill forthcoming). Like their counterparts elsewhere, Indonesia's tech-pol nerds have been actively engaged in digital rights and data activism (or 'speaking data to power') for some years. However, unlike some of their brethren in the Arab world or Europe, to date they have largely steered clear of social protest and institutional politics. I examine the reasons for this discrepancy, and the prospects for future involvement in street protests and party politics amid the country's growing Islamisation and social unrest.

 

SNS and Civil Society Online in Japan

Muneo Kaigo, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba

The presentation covers the main analysis results of a five-year research project designed for connecting civil society organizations, citizens and local governments through online communication via social media for promoting higher levels of citizen engagement in Japan. It will provide insight into the development of an online community for connecting citizens already participating in civil society. The project was fielded at the Tsukuba Science City in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan located 60 kilometres north of Tokyo and is currently being managed through the municipal government of Tsukuba city. Among the majority of the Japanese local government Facebook pages that focus mainly on tourism or promotion of local industry, the Tsukuba Civic Activities Cyber Square is the most successful and largest online community in Japan that focuses solely on civic activities with a respectable level of online engagement.

 

Cyber-Urban Space: Digital Media and Protest Movements in Malaysia and Indonesia

Merlyna Lim, Canada Research Chair in Digital Media & Global Network Society, Carleton University

From #Bersih protest in Kuala Lumpur to #aksi212 in Jakarta, in the last decade we have witnessed numerous mass protests took place in Southeast Asia. The causes, goals, and relative success or failure of each differ. But each event was intricately networked through the use of digital media and each materialized in the mass occupation of public urban spaces. Although these commonalities are widely known, the connection between these two features remains inadequately studied. How can we better understand the interplay between digital media and the occupation of urban spaces in contemporary protest movements? How do spaces contribute to insurgent activities and protest movements? Much of current research on digital media and activism tends to treat cyberspace as a technical realm separate from physical space and delocalize what are intensely contextually specific contestations. For its part, the literature of digital activism tends to assume that urban physical sites of political contestations are unproblematically available. Studies focused on the physical sites of political insurgencies, on the other hand, rarely factor digital networks into their analysis. At the heart of the dichotomy between cyberactivism and place-based analysis is the fallacy of spatial dualism, where the online realm––that is, the digital, the cyber, or the virtual—is treated differently than the offline realm—the physical, or the real. Challenging this dualism, I employ cyber-urban space as an umbrella term to describe the fluid and complex spatial landscape we live in, with blurring boundaries between cyber and physical space. It recognizes that the digital and the material spaces are becoming more integrated and acknowledges our hybrid existence in this integrated realm. The word urban is used, instead of physical, to reflect the twin processes of rapid urbanization and rapid digitization all over the world. Using empirical evidence from Indonesia and Malaysia, in this presentation I will scrutinize the complex entanglement of cyber-urban spaces in the making and doing of contemporary protests, subsequently, propose analytical framework to deepen our understanding of the dialectical interplay between digital media and physical spaces.

 

The World (Wide Web) through an App: Internet Use in Myanmar

Elisa Oreglia, Centre for Media Studies, SOAS, University of London.

In 2014, the mobile phones landscape of Myanmar changed almost overnight. Two new operators disrupted the monopoly of the state-owned company, pushing the price of SIM cards down to USD1,5, building new towers throughout the country, and offering fast connectivity and cheap deals for smartphones. Two years later, almost half the population uses a mobile, and 80% of these users have a smartphone. Drawing from ethnographic research carried out since 2014, this talk will focus on the experiences of first-time Internet users in semi-urban and rural areas in Myanmar, and on accessing the Internet through apps, especially social media, rather than through a browser.

 

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