Disciplining Dissent: Freedom, Control, and Digital Activism in Southeast Asia

I just published a piece titled “Disciplining Dissent: Freedom, Control, and Digital Activism in Southeast Asia” [PDF].

Urbanized parts of Southeast Asia have been places with the most vibrant digital activism for the past two decades. And, yet, the region has been marginalized from “global accounts” of the role of digital media and activism that have predominantly emerged in the European and American context, with the exception of the Middle East which gained a temporal prominence immediately after the “Arab Spring”. This chapter attempts to sketch a comparative analysis of the relationship between digital media and politics in the region. Due to the diversity of contexts and non-linearity of political change, the question of the role(s) of digital media in supporting civil society and civic activism has no unequivocal resolution in the abstract. Rather, answers will emerge from the historical and societal experiences in specific local contexts. So, too, vary the realization of the roles of digital media to “liberate” civil society from the fetters of state control over media and communications as well as from “uncivil” elements within civil society itself. The distinctive constellations of forces at play underlie dramatically different cultural and sociopolitical configurations among the nation-states of this region. Experiences from Southeast Asia suggest that while digital media can have and has played an important role in political reform, it can equally play the role of furthering social divides. The role cannot be determined by technology itself, but rather by the interplay between technology and society, which while globally influenced is still substantially locally constituted.

This work is published as one of the chapters of the Routledge Handbook of Urbanization in Southeast Asia edited by Rita Padawangi.

Downloadable [in PDF] from:

(1) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329089698_Disciplining_Dissent_Freedom_Control_and_Digital_Activism_in_Southeast_Asia or

(2) https://carleton.ca/align/wp-content/uploads/Lim_DiscipliningDissent_2018.pdf

(3). https://merlyna.files.wordpress.com/2019/06/lim_discipliningdissent_2019.pdf

[Publication] Dis/Connection: Internet infrastructure in Indonesia

Another publication is just out. Titled “Dis/Connection: The Co-Evolution of Sociocultural and Material Infrastructures of the Internet in Indonesia“, my latest article is part of the special issue #105 of Indonesia (published by Cornell University’s Southeast Asia Program) on “Infrastructures”. (The article is also published at JSTOR archive).

About this article, I wrote:

From warnet to mobile social media (social-media platforms accessed through mobile devices), from researchers and hobbyists of the 1990s to Indonesia’s urban youth of the twenty-first century, the Indonesian internet has evolved socially, culturally, and materially. In this article, I tell a story of the Indonesian internet by looking at the historical development of the its infrastructure, especially the internet’s access points. My goals are two-fold. First, by teasing out the technical properties of the Indonesian informational network, I aim to materialize the ephemera of sociocultural practices in relation to internet access points. Second, by focusing my attention on the everyday vocabulary of the internet infrastructure, I intend to reveal how the infrastructure works, in relation to spaces and places, access and uses, and connection and disconnection, among others. Rather than simply being a backdrop of technological and sociocultural practices, the infrastructure is an active dimension that shapes and is shaped by these practices. There are multiple ways to conceptualize the relationship between the internet and society. Studying the infrastructure of the Indonesian internet is one of the new ways to unpack the complexity of this relationship. Furthermore, I also demonstrate the value of investigating and disassembling the elements of internet infrastructure as a method of understanding the internet and society in Indonesia and, possibly, elsewhere.

This is my contribution to the study of infrastructure, the history of technology, communication studies, as well as Indonesian studies.

About this piece, here is my musing:

“I remember that I wrote this piece on 12 March 2016, after going out with my friend for 9 hours (involving lunch, a long walk, dinner, and a party). I started at 10:40pm and finished it in the morning at 6:30am. It was hours in the making (the publication process was long, but that’s beyond my control). This piece, however, was based on multiple field observations, started in 1999 when I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life (so I was just hanging out at cybercafes and writing to myself a lot) and ended in December 2015 when I had chosen what to do in life (yet still didn’t know what life’s all about). Yes, unintentionally, the research was spanning over 16 years! Long life the longue durée!”

If you have MUSE or JSTOR library access, you can also download it from: (1) https://bit.ly/2JjChHp or (2) at Researchgate: http://bit.ly/2CFcCYv

Challenging Technological Utopianism

I am truly excited to announce the publication of a special issue on “Challenging Technological Utopianism” in the Canadian Journal of Communication, Volume 43 No. 3.


cjc_coverAll of the authors are affiliated with the communication program at Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication in Ottawa, as graduate students and faculty members. This special issue is in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the program and it offers notable insight to mark the occasion.

It was a privilege to work with amazing scholars from my own academic home — they are great writers and critical thinkers as well as kind, generous, and decent human beings!

Continue reading “Challenging Technological Utopianism”

Roots, Routes, Routers


I am excited to announce that Roots, Routes, Routers: Communications and Media of Contemporary Social Movements is out as a monograph, accompanied by commentary by wonderful colleagues and experts in media & social movements – Emiliano Treré, Orley Durán & Clemencia Rodríguez, and María Paula Martínez.

link: http://journals.sagepub.com/toc/jmoa/20/2

or if you don’t have access to it, here is a PDF  version.
Continue reading “Roots, Routes, Routers”

#Reformasi@20: The Internet and Politics in Indonesia

In preparing an essay for the month of May, where Indonesia marks the 20 years of “Reformasi”, I came across what the-much-younger-me published 16 years ago — my first publication, in my pre-doctoral-program-life, written while I was in nomad. I re-read it for the first time since it was published. Relieved to find out that it’s not embarrassing for my today’s standard 😉 Also, I am surprised to discover that it is still very relevant today. Here is an excerpt from its conclusion. Continue reading “#Reformasi@20: The Internet and Politics in Indonesia”

ALiGN Media Lab

The media lab I’d been working on for years was finally launched on September 18th, 2017. It is called ALiGN Media Lab — ALiGN is short for Alternative Global Network. The launch went well, attended by colleagues, (future) partners, students, and friends. It was quite an adventure to prepare for the launch itself. But beyond the launch was years of work I had devoted to building various elements of the lab, especially on essential intellectual and practical work–research and public engagement as well as fun/creative work–that became the foundation of the lab. It’s quite a good feeling to finally pull everything together in the form of the lab. Continue reading “ALiGN Media Lab”

Podcast: social media, politics and the ‘freedom to hate’

“The Jakarta gubernatorial election, held earlier this year, was perhaps the most divisive and bitterly fought campaign seen in modern Indonesian politics. Social media and the internet played a large role in the campaign, which was characterised by racism and sectarianism. But how much can we blame the internet for the bitterness of the campaign and how much is it explained by Indonesia’s conservative turn more generally? How did technology impact on this election? Are we seeing a new platform for organisation and political activism in Indonesia, based on a freedom to hate?”
Talking Indonesia Podcast host, Dr. Jemma Purdey, exploring these questions in her interview with me. Click the link below to listen.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/337781614″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Freedom to Hate: Social Media, Algorithmic Enclaves, and the Rise of Tribal Nationalism in Indonesia

Sometimes, when emotion runs high, I take a really long walk, daydream, debate with myself, and then write a lot. Oh well, probably “write a lot” needs to be expanded to: sleep, write, write, write, sleep, sleep, sleep :-D. My latest article article was produced in one of such moments. Of course, this situation is neither an aberration nor a norm.  It is just it is.  Some other times,  I just sulk & watch a lot of Netflix movies or bang mellow songs on the piano & depress my office-mates ;-). Or just sleep a lot. Eh, not true. I do sleep a lot whether emotion runs low, high, or in-between. In sleep I trust, indeed ;-D

So, here is the article. As you can tell from its title, it’s a gloomy article.

Lim, M. (2017). Freedom to Hate: Social Media, Algorithmic Enclaves, and the Rise of Tribal Nationalism in Indonesia. Critical Asian Studies.

Continue reading “Freedom to Hate: Social Media, Algorithmic Enclaves, and the Rise of Tribal Nationalism in Indonesia”

Malaysian #Bersih Sweeping the Unclean

Here is my last #publication from 2016; an article on Malaysian #Bersih electoral reform movement, focusing mostly on the roles and limitations of social media platforms and their contributions to the shaping of the movement’s imaginaries, practices, and trajectories.
Feel free to download, if you’re interested.
See you with more work in 2017!