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Mediated Civil Society and Governmentality in Southeast Asia (individual papers)

Saturday 21 March 2015, 1630 – 1830, Lecture Theatre 8

Chair:
Vivienne Wee
Association of Women for Action and Research
research@aware.org.sg

List of Papers:

  • Javanese Hacking: Local Particularities and Global Interactions of Hackerspace in Indonesia
  • Social Media and Everyday Activism: Narratives From The Ground
  • A tale of two towns: Explaining variation in government response to environmental protests in Malaysia

 

Paper 1: Javanese Hacking: Local Particularities and Global Interactions of Hackerspace in Indonesia

Cindy Kaiying Lin
National University of Singapore
lincindy@rocketmail.com

This paper offers the first ethnographic account of Lifepatch, a “hackerspace” in Yogyakarta, Indonesia based on six months of participatory fieldwork. Lifepatch melds art, science and technology to produce innovative and effective real world applications. This paper seeks to dismantle the romanticized ideal of universal hacker geekdom through careful attention to the particularities of hacking in the Global South. I argue that hacking resembles “otak atik” – – a local Javanese term for “tinkering with something” – but often goes beyond it due to the need for complex negotiations with and between a local material and cultural economy and a globalized space of foreign donors, hackers and makers. This paper includes a discussion of origins — how Lifepatch emerged in a context quite unlike the first wave of hackerspaces in the developed world, focusing on its breakaway from its previous organization, The House of Natural Fiber; practices – how the artist-scientists in Lifepatch collaborate to produce a hybrid of local knowledge and imported technologies as exemplified by a coconut-encased water pollution monitoring system; and survival strategies – how it seeks to balance the need for foreign support through building working relationships with foreign geeks based in Asia and Europe while keeping to the founders’ aesthetic and political commitments. This ethnography allows me to critically examine the distinctiveness of hackerspaces in the Global South while also tracking evolving forms of interaction among and between hackers and makers in different parts of the world.

 

Paper 2: Social Media and Everyday Activism: Narratives From The Ground

Jowee Tee
Monash University Malaysia
jowee.tee@monash.edu

This paper aims to explore the extent of which social media facilitates activism through the lived realities of self-identified activists.

Recent civil society protest actions in Malaysia like the hugely popular Bersih demonstrations, calling for free and fair elections, have highlighted the significant role of social media in galvanizing large numbers of people onto the streets.

While social media has been crucial to the flowering of civil society movements in Malaysia, I argue that it is not enough to merely discuss social mobilization on these terms.

My thesis seeks to understand what have motivated everyday activist involvement in causes like Bersih. I also examine other causes upheld by these activists and how these individuals negotiate their ‘activism’ on a daily basis through the use of social media.

 

Paper 3: A tale of two towns: Explaining variation in government response to environmental protests in Malaysia

Wei Lit Yew
City University of Hong Kong
wlyew2-c@my.cityu.edu.hk

In addressing how environmental movements succeed in extracting concessions from their target, theories of resource mobilisation and political process in social movement literature have shown us that well-organised movements endowed with outside support that are able to exploit political openings tend to succeed. However, this movement-centric approach fails to explain why an environmental protest coalition in Malaysia that networked with foreign organisations and political elites could not achieve success at a time when the regime was at its weakest point. By contrast, the Malaysian government succumbed to the demands of a far smaller protest group precisely when it had a stronger electoral mandate. As such, this paper seeks to partially account for the variation in government response to these two different environmental protests in Malaysia. Combining institutionalist insights with rational choice theory, the analytical approach here adopts the perspective of the regime. It is argued that political costs of concessions, that are in turn determined by the perceived power of the challengers and the perceived political security, influence the regime’s decision of whether accepting or denying protesters’ demands. Based on media reports, the argument is presented by analysing qualitatively the 2011-2013 protest against a rare earth refinery plant in Gebeng and the 2002-2007 protest against a planned waste incinerator in Broga.