March 5th, 2013

The Southeast Asia 2013 Lecture Series presents: “ON/OFFLINE CLEAN UP: SOCIAL MEDIA AND POLITICAL ACTIVISM IN MALAYSIA”

Merlyna Lim
Asst. Professor
Consortium For Science Policy
1:30-3:00 PM
LL 13

Focusing on the Bersih (clean) movement, the largest populist movement in the history of contemporary Malaysia, in this lecture I examine how social media shapes the participation in offline social movement protests. This lecture provides a detailed account of how social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, were used not only to communicate and organize protests but also to contest the power (of the authority) figuratively in online space and to strategize against physical control and repression in public spaces. Empirical data from the latest massive protest in April 2012 (Bersih 3.0) shows that social media and physical urban spaces (especially in Kuala Lumpur) have become networked spaces and interdependent dimension of political insurgencies. By analyzing the complexity and dynamics of the relationship between participation in social media and on the streets, I offer a critical approach to the promise of activism. Other than viewing social media activism as a harbinger of democracy or dismissing it as a mere click-activism, in this lecture I explore the ways in which social media changes (or not) the notion of participation in public sphere and the relationship between citizens and the state, and subsequently challenges the conventional form of citizenship.