Friday, October 11, 2019

On Being Alone Together

Research has shown that there is an increase in loneliness in the 21st century. This systemic problem is the socio-psychological effect of rapid industrialisation and urbanisation which has shaped hyper-competitive individuals. However, human beings, as most mammals, are social beings. We are evolutionarily ingrained to live socially while our society, in the past two centuries, has developed in a way that forces us to live individually.

This is why, I think, any study regarding social media and loneliness need to place it within broader social changes in post-Fordist societies. It is less about social media’s effect in individualising human behaviour, than it is about social media exacerbating an already economically-driven social disconnect between neighbours, co-workers, and family members. It is a fact that must be accepted as our social reality before any serious try to find an antidote. Perhaps, it can only come in the form of a simple “hello” to the stranger next to us on the train.


Friday, September 27, 2019

A Call for the Politics of Redistribution

As part of this week's Foundations to Writing Class that I am teaching, I'd like to talk about politics and young people in a digital world by taking the case of Indonesia.

After Indonesia's Reformasi, the largest demonstration took place at capital city Jakarta on 2 December 2016. The mass movement, in which young people comprise of most of the participants, was coined as the 212 rally; directed to demand the trial of then governor Basuki Tjahja Purnama for blaspheming against Islam. It was the most massive religiously-driven mobilisation in the history of the heterogeneous, secular country, which is also the fourth largest democracy in the world.

Studies have shown that while Islamic politics featured prominently in the demonstration, it was grievances over social and economic inequality felt among large sections of the lower and middle classes that drove them to be part of the Action to Defend Islam--#aksibelaIslam. Islamic morality provided a cultural resource pool for both the political elites to mobilise during elections, as well as bind together an otherwise fragmented lower and middle class ummah. In these process of mobilisation, the role of social media was prominent. Multiple platforms were used by campaigners to inflame demonstrators.

It is with that in mind that I'd like to approach the student-led demonstration on 22 May 2019, and I'd like to begin with this excellent article at Coconuts.

Source: Coconuts.

The demonstration occurred in multiple cities across Indonesia, with an estimated 10,000 in Jakarta alone. Global media portray students as having a historical role in Reformasi, and that it is reminiscent of the 1998 student protest demanding then president Suharto to step down. Political analysts have argued that in 2019, a huge driver was the weakening of the Corruption Eradication Commission and criminal codes pervading the private lives of citizens, happening under president Joko Widodo's administration previously seen as an alternative to New Order elites.

While the binding agenda at the student rally demand constitutional rights that are non-discriminatory, which is starkly different from the Action to Defend Islam rally, a fundamentally common narrative is discontent towards the current political elites. Social media hashtags #ReformasiDikorupsi (Reformation is Being Corrupted) exemplifies this.

Young people born after 1980s, comprising of 40% of the total voters, are natives to the digital world. This has made the role of social media prominent in both instances. As such, they objectively have the upper hand in influencing election results, the direction of the government's policies, as well as having an ethnographic command of political trolling and/or cultural jamming. However, social media platforms have also become war zones for by buzzers and fake accounts, engineering sentiments benefiting their political purpose. Therefore, it is only with having a common agenda, such as as addressing the widening gap between the rich and the poor, that Islamic and student politics can develop a binding purpose that is shared. I would argue that, looking at these two movements, it should be less about divisive, religious or secular narratives engineered by campaigners through social media than it is about a more long lasting, common demand to spread wealth from few to many. In that, there must be a shift from the politics of representation to the politics of redistribution.

After all, in a time where our attention span has become shorter and misinformation has become abundant, having endurance is a more a necessity than a virtue.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Teaching in a Digitally Converged World

I am writing this post together and in solitude with my students from the Foundations to Writing Class. The class is part of the International Undergraduate Class in Communications. They are first year students and the session was aimed to practice writing.

Fig. 1. Foundations to Writing Class 13 September 2019.
Source: Author.

They work in groups each week; choosing topics in relation to social media. This week, it was really nice seeing them discuss the topic they want to write about, and after, each student needs to develop their own short section as part of the group's blog post. You can see their work here, here, here, here, and here. When they have begun writing seriously, I decided I too would practice what I teach.

This is a blog post to share about lecturing in a digitally converged world. In this post, we connect with each others' work through hyperlinks. We are writing together, alone. We share a physical room, and are connected in the digital space.

Fig. 2. Extending and multiplying message spaces.
Source: Author.

It feels nice and quiet. This is how learning should feel like. It goes beyond time and space.