User:Tash/grad thesis outline1

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Thesis Outline Draft 1


2) An analytical essay exploring related artistic, theoretical, historical and critical issues and practices that inform your practice, without necessarily referring to your work directly.

  • plus annotations written from a personal point of view, to situate the research within my own context and practice

Key topics:

  • Social & networked media as democratic or emancipatory tools
  • Freedom of speech / freedom of connection / freedom of religion
  • The rise of alternative media / pop culture and its role in contemporary nation-building
  • (Self-)censorship, cultural regulation and revisionism (“New media, Old wounds”)
  • Meme culture as a mode of civic engagement, a way of imaging dissent
  • Archiving (remembering) as an active political practice (and post-colonial tool?)
  • Alternative ways of sharing knowledge, and their social aspects (“We publish to find comrades!”)
  • Weaponization of the internet, propaganda wars in the comments section


I. Introduction
Background: As a publisher, I have always been interested in the way netizenship informs citizenship and vice versa. As an Indonesian, recent events in Indonesian politics (like the 2016 prosecution of progressive Jakarta governor Ahok on so-called ‘blasphemy’ charges) lead me to believe that there is a rising problem of (self-)censorship in our country, and an urgent need for alternative platforms and modes of discourse. At the same time, I see how engaged young Indonesians are with social media and meme culture, often using them as forms of political participation. Following this, I’m fascinated by the participatory potential of memetic media, and want to explore how it could be used as a democratic tool in present-day Indonesia.

Thesis Statement: While in Indonesia today, social media has had generally positive effects on the democratic process, deliberate digital activism (including the likes of critical memetics, progressive propaganda, trolling and culture jamming) is needed to turn these spaces of reaction into meaningful platforms for political discourse.

II. Body
First Topic: The roles of mainstream vs alternative media in Indonesia

Point A: Historically, mainstream Indonesian media industries (newspapers, books and film) do little to challenge existing social and political hegemonies.
e.g. film as propaganda and psywar
e.g. omissions and erasures of events from collective memory, like the 1965 genocide
e.g. new forms of censorship: Anti Pornography law, blasphemy law, defamation law

Point B: The emergence of pop culture and screen culture represented a new kind of media by the people, for the people.
e.g. Web 2.0. and social media flourished in post-colonial contexts like Indonesia, Phillippines etc. allowing anonymity, expression, debate (freedom of speech)
e.g. Internet as a way of creating new networks of people (freedom of connection), reference Hito Steyerl’s In Defense of the Poor Image and Balaguer & Cramer’s Moral of the Xerox

Second Topic: Social media as a democratic tool
Point A: New media has had a pivotal role in recent political processes around the world.
e.g. The use of social media campaigns during recent presidential elections (Indonesia 2014).

Point B: Memes and meme culture has become a fundamental new mode of civic engagement for Indonesian citizens.
e.g. Discuss examples of recent political memes in Indonesia and their impact
e.g. As analysis, explore humour as a mechanism by which politics is made accessible to the masses
e.g. and the participatory nature of memetic media, which uniquely allows individuals to make links between the personal and the political

Third Topic: Dissecting the counterarguments: the weaponization (and other pitfalls) of the internet
Point A: Social and memetic media are sometimes dismissed as trivial, empty forms of political participation.
e.g. they are only reactive, only create more polarisation
e.g. they are easily exploited by special interest groups, weaponized by political parties

Point B: Social media may provide alternative platforms for discussion, but they are not exempt from (self)-censorship.
e.g. Examples of rising social pressures from the Muslim majority, making certain subjects taboo.
e.g. Comment moderation and other forces which curate / manipulate social dynamics online.

Point C: Artists, activists and publishers can intervene in social media’s mechanisms to challenge existing modes of engagement.
e.g. Look at examples of comment section activism, cases for editing wars, trolling for good
e.g. Existing programming or publishing tactics which create new, specific moments for connection, like Bibliotecha or Ethira

III. Conclusion
For a country whose mainstream media is becoming more and more sensitive to dissent, meme culture – with its polyvocality, and capacity for both critique and humor – represents a valuable space for young Indonesians to engage and experiment with alternative political discourse.

Notes & questions

  • Shift focus from meme culture as an agent of political discourse, to it as a reaction or tool to negotiate (self-)censorship ??
  • So: key topic would be censorship in Indonesia, how this impacts current and past political discourse, how it translates to the digital sphere ??
  • looking at how censorship as a state mechanism is internalized by citizens, especially in the context of Asian cultures of shame / denouncement
  • repositioning: instead of saying memes & social media are important for political discourse, ask how (self-)censorship plays out on those platforms and how we can intervene

Feedback from Zhibin & Joca

strong connection to project proposal

tell more about the impact of social media culture
Zhibin: very curious to know how the thesis relates to other countries in similar contexts, what is the potential for use in China? Malaysia, other countries?
maybe add more about postcolonial context?
tell more about your personal stake