Seminar on “Youth Digital Participation in Indonesia’s Anti-Corruption Movement”

In this seminar, Dr Yatun Sastramidjaja explores the role of digital media in keeping the anti-corruption movement going, expanding and developing it online long after the protest has receded, in a context where traditional movements are increasingly difficult to sustain.


Friday, 28 February 2020 – Dr Yatun Sastramidjaja, ISEAS Visiting Fellow at the Indonesia Studies Programme and Regional Social and Cultural Studies Programme, put forward the hypothesis that digital media has helped to nurture anti-corruption ideas and new forms of political engagement among Indonesia’s youth over the past decade.

Dr Yatun Sastramidjaja (right) explores the role of digital media in keeping the anti-corruption movement going. Dr Siwage Dharma Negara moderated the session. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

She began by laying out the demographic of Indonesian ‘digital generation’ and highlighted that the youth demographic (age 15-29) is the most frequent internet user, mainly by mobile phone, though it distributed unevenly in national-scale. Most internet and social media users are from urban areas, part of the middle-class community, and educated to be a potential agency for Industry 4.0. Although this sample could not represent the whole millennial population as well as a growing proportion of fundamentalist youth in the country, the rise of new political generation, Dr Sastramidjaja argued, seemed to represent a break with previous generations or drastic reconfiguration of the needs to do politics.

Dr Sastramidjaja then examined the development into a new hashtag-based movement among Indonesian “citizens of the internet.” In the late 2000s, success stories from online-based movements of ‘Coin for Prita’ and ‘Kadal vs Buaya’ movement had developed into a discussion beyond clicks and added public attention for offline protests. Contrastingly, hashtags like #Dildo4Indonesia and #SayaGolput had grown beyond cynicism to show public disappointment as a fountainhead of political agency. In the case of anti-corruption protest, hashtag #ReformasDikorupsi first came up during demonstrations in September 2019 where diverse groups rallying behind single identity against the government. Then it has developed to the current #TolakOmnibusLaw movement against the new employment bill. Dr Sastramidjaja viewed this movement as multi-mediated action that remixing old and new repertoires of youth activism.

In analytical notes, Dr Sastramidjaja pointed out three important points on how the multi-mediated ecology of youth activist is helping to shape to new political generation and to create new liminal citizenships with the sentiment. First, she mentioned that the affective affordances of new media enable people to tune in effectively to evolving news stories by contributing their affective mini-statements. Second, it also creates a multi-mediated collage of political experience not yet codified into the narrative. Finally, she addressed the creation of new political identity from traditional youth activist to activist youth that creates new modalities of politics on the ruins of the old.

The seminar drew 20 participants from diverse backgrounds including academia, activists, journalists, and the public. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

During the question and answer session, topics raised included the pattern of crisis that triggers demonstration in Indonesia; demonstration fatigue; a transnational movement that influences domestic activism; the agenda setter of student demonstration; conceptual analysis of the movement; and the influence of Indonesian political history to the current youth political movement. The seminar drew 20 participants from diverse backgrounds including academia, activist, journalist, and the public.