Cyber-civic space in Indonesia: From panopticon to pandemonium?
The Indonesian experience shows that the internet can be a double-edged sword in facilitating democratisation. Responding to the debate about whether the internet leads to democratisation, is an Orwellian menace to democracy, or is a facilitator of global capitalist hegemony, this paper shows that these questions cannot be resolved in the virtual world of the internet itself. Rather, they are played out locally through struggles revolving around the creation and assertion of identities that coalesce and galvanise actors into contests of power and control over the public sphere. To better understand the outcomes of the localisation of the internet, the Indonesian experience is traced through two recent episodes: the student movement leading to the downfall of President Suharto in 1998, and the more recent rise of the Jihad Troopers. Whether the internet will be sustained as a cyber-civic space or will instead strengthen the tendency towards perpetual resistance and political crisis is the outstanding question in Indonesia today.