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The Political Campaign Industry and the Emergence of Social Media in Post-authoritarian Indonesian Electoral Politics

Saraswati, Muninggar Sri (2016) The Political Campaign Industry and the Emergence of Social Media in Post-authoritarian Indonesian Electoral Politics. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This dissertation analyses the emergence of social media for electoral campaigning in post-authoritarian Indonesia. Using a critical political economy perspective, it examines the interactions between social media, the political campaign industry, which is understood as a product of “the cross-development of political and commercial persuasion techniques in the 20th century” (Stockwell, 2000, p. 3), and electoral players. This thesis evaluates how the political campaign industry intersects with social media-enabled production and distribution of campaign messages (content), audience (users) mobilisation and labour organisation. It also assesses the impact of the political campaign industry’s social media work upon the web of relations between candidates, donors and voters during electoral periods. The findings confirm that social media has enabled the growing Indonesian political campaign industry to develop social media campaigning services that have been adopted widely in Indonesian elections. These findings contradict previous studies that have suggested that social media contribute to the nurturance of democracy in contemporary Indonesia by enabling citizens to discuss alternative issues to elite-generated ones carried by conventional media (Nuswantoro, 2014; Suaedy, 2014). By contrast, this dissertation demonstrates that during electoral campaign periods social media were not autonomous from heavy industry-driven engineering. Instead, social media enabled the political campaign industry to further encroach upon Indonesian electoral politics and thereby generate greater profits for the industry.

These strategies were made possible because social media electoral campaigning serves not only as practical tool of persuasion but also a new mechanism to manage the temporary converging interests of political, economic and cultural forces during electoral campaign periods. Put differently, with the assistance of the political campaign industry, Indonesian political economy elites have been able to capture social media to safeguard their social ascendancy through competitive elections.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Supervisor(s): Hill, David and Hadiz, Vedi
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