International Development Planning Review

New media, new activism: trends and trajectories in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia

International Development Planning Review (2014), 36, (1), 91–109.

Abstract

Cyberspace offers the promise of platforms for free engagement, particularly where the public sphere is constrained or controlled. Comparing the experiences of Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia - states with relatively high levels of Internet penetration, but quite different media and political regimes - helps to disentangle the effects, potential and limitations of new media as both tools and modes of contemporary socio-political activism. Specifically, I explore how the creation and use of cyberspace complements or contests physical public space as a terrain for mobilisation. While ‘new media’ do free up access to information and reshape political trajectories, impactful activism still requires mobilisation beyond media, however lively the conversation (or monologue) online. The question thus remains of who controls, uses and shapes cyberspace, from citizens seeking greater voice to political (or otherwise powerful) authorities eager to move the contest online and, perhaps, offstage.

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Weiss, Meredith