We now live with the Internet. Whether we’re conscious about it or not, the Internet has changed human behavior. We can do almost anything with the Internet: shopping, finding entertainment, engage in politics, searching for knowledge, creating a self-image, even to find love. In fact, the development of cutting-edge computer and the Internet technology has begun to create a virtual touch of the body; one of them is a device called Kissenger. This device allows two people who are in different places feel a genuine kiss. Many activities which previously require people to visit other places and interact directly with other human beings, now can be done from home via the Internet.
The emergence and increasingly widespread use of the internet opens up new possibilities in social behavior in Indonesia. since its inception in the late 90’s, Internet has been significantly contributing to some important political moments in Indonesia. It has been used in the context of the fight against Soeharto’s authoritarianism. Hill and Sen filed one of the arguments about the media’s role in the collapse of Soeharto is the change in the form of media and its globally cultural consequences resulting the damage of two important tools of the New Order government over the media, the propaganda and censorship.(1) At that time, Government has not been too aware of the existence of this communication media.
Now, the utilization of internet in Indonesia can be assumed to be almost evenly across Indonesian territory. You do not need to worry about losing access to the Internet. News portals and websites are blossoming like mushrooms in the rainy season. Many of them has fallen and then be replaced by others, some last and became invincible. The users of various social media are increasing from everyday. One social media replaced with another social media with various expressions of use: from a narcissistic celebration to raising a support for certain social activities. Thus the development of Internet technology on the one side was greeted with great joy and on the other side of the disturbing negative impacts brought. Akin to Janus, one of the gods in Roman mythology, who has two faces with such contrast: one is beautiful and handsome while the other one is ugly and scary.
Obviously, as all advancements in this country, the emergence of the Internet in Indonesia in the second half of the 90s did not occur evenly. Only major cities in Indonesia felt it. Data of Communications and Information Technology in 2010 showed that 67 percent of the distribution of computer and 70.05 percent of internet access is concentrated in Java and Bali , while other areas were still left behind . Availability of internet cafes or kiosks were just the same; they were still centralized in big cities in Java, Bali , Sumatra, and some capitals of other provincial cities(2). Even some means of communication that had emerged in Indonesia never felt by those who did not live in the big cities. Pagers (or beepers) for example, in my opinion they were not perceived by people outside the big cities. They probably known its existence through commercial advertisements or a song by the rap band NEO.
The telephone, which we can now refer as ‘old tools of communication’, was not evenly distributed throughout Indonesia either. As I recall in the 90s, for example, villagers in NTT sometimes have to go to the capital city or district and stay overnight there only to receive a call from relatives who migrated to large cities outside the province. Usually, their relative in Jakarta, for example, called the telephone of a family in the city districts and made an appointment to call a relative who lives in the village (of course vary the distance between villages and city districts). Then that family in the district town who had a telephone sent a letter regarding the appointment time to the relative in village so they could come on to the district town to take the scheduled telephone call. As I recall, the new changes occurred in the early 2000s when the telephones came into the villages and village telephone kiosks were born. At that time, residents of big cities in Indonesia have started to use the internet. Presumably this is due to the government program at that time titled Dering Desa (Ring Village) and Desa Pintar (Smart Village). What happened with the telephone in the early 2000s, now—in the second decade of the 2000s era—occurred with computers and the Internet.
Wireless Connection for Villages
An old friend of mine from the eastern region of Indonesia once came to Jakarta. In one rare opportunity, he asked me to create a Facebook account for him. His reasons were clear: “it was a rare chance for us to meet and to save twenty thousand rupiahs back home on the village”—where he had to go to an internet rental place to do so. I was astounded by his request.
In the early 2000s when I lived in Larantuka, a small town in eastern region of Indonesia, the Internet was something unfamiliar to me. Its presence in Indonesia was vaguely heard at the time, but the form of it was still a puzzle. Imagine how fall we were left behind. In 1997 or 1996, Kompas and the Jakarta Post had a report on that subject, but it took almost a decade for the Internet to come to our small town, in eastern Indonesia. Looking back at my friend’s request above, to create a Facebook account is very effortless, just like tapping our BCA Flazz Card on the ticket machine at Transjakarta Bus Stop. But that was the reality of our knowledge chasm. You certainly do not need time to guess that when I created that account, I also created his personal emails—with a series of advice about the importance of confidentiality and to remember his password. Alas, he entrusted me to come up and pick password for him. Preposterous, wasn’t it?
Never mind the Internet and all its supportive means, the same thing happened on cellular phone. I personally started to use the cellular phone in mid-2003 when I moved to Jakarta to study. My high school romance was far from the culture of sending short message service—moreover of sending my girlfriend a song via message service applications such as WhatsApp or Line. If I remember correctly, the cellular phone technology only reached my village two or three years after my departure. Of course there were many stories following the infiltration of cellular phone technology on my village.
Larantuka is a small town. The main road is only one stretching from east to west, that even at a moderate pace, you would only need less than 45 minutes to explore it from end to end. There are only two major routes of public transportation there: from the west to downtown and downtown to the east of the city. Geographically, the city is near the sea so that many residences make a living from fishing. They usually go to the sea at night. In the past, if a fisherman is ran out of bait, he would shout to his friend in the nearby canoe to ask for more bait. Now, with the cellular phone, sharing bait while fishing occurs in silence; they only need to text each other.
Before the trend of smartphone, the people in Larantuka used the word ha-pe (short for hand phone or cellular phone) not merely as a reference to the object, but also to mark all activities that can be done with the hand phone. So, to send sms and calls via hand phones is called “clicking-ha-pe.” The use of the word “clicking-ha-pe” was eventually changed when the smartphones and Blackberry™ started to spread there. There are too much applications in a smartphone that they could not be represented just by the word ‘clicking-ha-pe’. When the use of cellular phones began to bloom, anyone whose cellular phone rang in a public transportation would be pouted by other passengers, certainly with whispers, for unknown reason. And when China’s cellular phones began to enter the market, they labeled the Chinese mobile phone brands such as ‘Nokia’s Clone.” To hear such stories while I had become citizens of Jakarta, is amusing.
Internet for Villages
In the last two or three years, the Internet have reached to East Indonesia territories. In the early 2000s, the Internet, perhaps even the computer, is still unfamiliar in the eastern region of Indonesian, especially to those in the cities of the district. A little difference perhaps happened to areas on the island of Sulawesi. Since the late 1990s, the Internet seemed to have been accessible via Instant Telkomnet and Fixed Line Telkomsel in these areas. However, the price is too expensive—especially the telephone is not something that is very ‘populist’. It was not a commodity for everyone. Eventually, Telkom Speedy was the one who started the rise of Internet kiosks in the year 2009.
The year 2010 can be considered as the moment of extensive internet use in NTT. Through the Universal Service Obligation Program of Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, in September 2010, the District Internet Service Center (PLIK) reached over 223 sub-districts in the province. Not only to build a sort of kiosks in the cities districts, the program also intended to acquire an internet car and even a plan to procure an internet ship. Certainly a lot of hope is pinned on this progress. It opened an opportunity for the public to access information and other benefits via Internet technology(3). The question that then arises: is true that “Internet For Villages” really bring significant advantages and benefits to society in the remote areas of Indonesia?
Answering that question would require research and more detailed observations. Of course depends also from our point of view. At least, so far the opportunities for people in remote areas more wide open. Almost simultaneously with the widespread use of the internet, in NTT the awakening of literature was noticed in Jakarta. Literary exciters–especially those in the city of Kupang– were fluently sharing information with other exciters in other cities in Indonesia, such as Yogyakarta and Jakarta. The existence of the Internet also allows the literary writers to send their work to the media outside their territory. In addition, it also facilitated their involvement in the discussions and the latest literary discourses.
The situation was far different for NTT writers from previous generations. I once met a literary writer of NTT who in the 70s and 80s often filled the literature section in Yogyakarta and Jakarta newspapers. However, his name faded in the ’90s up to the present in these media. After some investigation, it turns out that his activeness in writing occurred when he was a student in one of the private universities in Yogyakarta. Sending his writings to a newspaper in Yogyakarta could be simply done by visiting the editorial office, while the post to Jakarta’s media would only take a few days. After completion of the studies, he decided to return to NTT and he no longer send his work to those media. The reason is simple. Almost all media publications in Jakarta and Yogyakarta at that time could not be obtained in the city districts in NTT. In addition, sending his works through the mail delivery would take much longer time.
According to Joseph Letor, NTT PLIK coordinator who has access to 223 PLIK of NTT, there are top five Internet usage in NTT: social networks (especially Facebook), research for a school project, browse for information about agriculture and fisheries (such as the price of cashew, fertilizer, etc.), online learning especially for students of Open University, and the use of email—which is very small in number(4). From this top five, there seem to be a sufficient positive utilization for the people in the village. Franco Nalele, a PLIK facilitaty internet kiosk manager in one of the villages in the city Larantuka, recognized that there are 30-40 people visiting his internet kiosk in a week. Most of the visitors were using the kiosk to do school resarch for their paper or homework and not much of the visitor came to use the social media. This was because most of the people access the social media through their smartphones. It is noteworthy, private internet at home is quite rare to find(5).
Regional Characteristic Meme
In the midst of such use of internet and wireless connection, people were begining to be familiar with digital image media—although not as much. As far as my observation, there were only two social media users in Larantuka who were also engaged in making meme. That, too, happened because they were the keeper of internet kiosks. The production of local meme maybe was more alive in Kupang which is a city of the province of NTT. From an interview with Franco Nalele, one of the Facebook in Larantuka who’s active in producing memes, he was inspired by a similar activity in Kupang, especially those from Facebook account named Kalapa Mati.
According to my observation, Kalapa Mati began created memes actively since five or seven years ago. These local memes seem to give rise to the phenomenon of local verbal expressions to digital media images by means of social media. Memes tend to use local verbal expressions. I’m not too clear of what triggered this phenomenon. Perhaps it is simply the local response and—then—production of what is available and consumed by them. It is a different situation to the stories of the writers above, that the existence of the Internet make them easier to communicate with each other in other areas. There was no intention to communicate or build a network with anyone or certain other purposes. As far as I’m concern, that is just a fun pastime. The product was not pretentious, and even it is rather difficult to be understood by anyone outside their local community. Consider the example of two memes produced by the Facebook account of a young man from East Flores.
People outside the local community will find the sentences that were used in both memes are hard to understand. If translated, yet, only the first meme can be fully understood. “Oa e… Foto bua gaya lee mireng macam orang tido banta tesala ni…? Supaya apa…??? Hahaerrooo” is translated as “Hi Miss, why are you taking pictures with tilted head like someone who’s been having neck cramp over a bad sleep? What for? Hahaha.” As for the second meme, “E, Oa e. Sunto yang lincah jo tata tonda melompa maso dalam bero le… Oa ni? Sebenta jo so tetenda dalam selimo….” roughly means “Miss, even a nimble squid will jump into my canoe on my direction. You? It will take only a moment to get you under the blanket.”
For the second meme we need to understand the symbols and practices of fishermen in the region. How difficult it is to successfully catch a squid compared to other types of marine animals. We also need to understand what kind of agility squids have when swimming in the sea. Whether intentional or not, the first meme only form of words, while the second is portraying an image of a front end of a boat sailing towards the shore. For me, this picture is strengthening the local characteristic even when exotism was there—intentionally or not.
Beside humorous memes as above, they also often make memes with a sense of spiritual with peculiarities that are similar to the local spiritual culture. Larantuka is also known to have strong Catholic tradition and devotio(6) to the Virgin Mary. Even in time of Easter, the people of the city make a procession that was a mix between Catholicism and the local culture. So no wonder, before Easter, a meme like this appeared:
The picture used in this photo is a delivery process of Jesus Menino Cross Statue of Tuan Menino Chapel in the series of Good Friday procession in Larantuka. The mixture of local fishermen culture in Larantuka and Catholicism(7) was highly visible. The phrase used was a typical expression of Larantuka people who use Malay Trade dialect: “Tuan Meninu, gape liko lindo torang se… Tuan Meninu lebe tau… Torang pu susa mo sena…”(8).
Localities also appear on memes in Kalapa Mati’s Facebook account.
For the first meme–as I recall coincided with the issue of rising fuel prices—with the phrase “Puji Tuhan, laporan harga BBM (Belis Buat Maitua) masih stabil“ we see how fuel which is commonly known as BBM (Bahan Bakar Minyak or Petrol Based Fuel), is being given another meaning (Belis Buat Maitua or Dowry for Future Parents in Laws) which is very localized. In this case it’s the customs. A customary marriage in NTT requires a dowry from the groom for the bride’s family—which price is often immeasurably. Regarding the sentence in the meme, they state their happiness because the dowry price does not rise (as the fuel). If the dowry price rises, getting married will be more difficult.
If the locality in the first meme is regarding the custom, on the second meme the locality lies in the commodity trade in the city of Kupang. The sentence on the meme means “Cari pacar yang setia tuu ibarat cari NABAS di KFC #manghayal too”. Nabas stands for Nasi Babi Sate (Pork Satay and Rice), the kind of food that is very easy to get on the pavement food stall in the city of Kupang. The menus for example yellow rice with pork cooked in a certain way and also pork satay. Nabas will of course be very difficult to get in other parts of Indonesia. Interestingly, Nabas on this meme is juxtaposed with KFC—a brand that has global existence.
Besides the original and distinctive locality memes, there are also the ones that seek to change the memes that emerge from Jakarta into local languages. For example:
The photo of this black man, as I recall, is often used as a meme with the phrase “di situ kadang saya merasa sedih (free translation: that is where sometimes I feel sad)” a popular phrase uttered by a policewoman in a television show. Pity, up until the completion of this writing I have not managed to find that meme in question. Meme shown above, in my opinion, is an attempt to paraphrase “di situ kadang saya merasa sedih” in the local Larantuka idiom, “menangi ka udan ni?” The two phrases have similar value of meaning.
The illustrations above I think represent the two extremes of internet use in areas outside the major islands of the western region of Indonesia. If we make a list, there are certainly much more of that happening in every region. Not to mention how the local languages speakers sometimes find it quite difficult to discover the letters that represent its pronunciation—particularly for regional languages without alphabet tradition—in the Roman alphabet used by computers in Indonesia generally.
The proliferation of internet usage in Indonesia also triggered a production of memes. In the 2014 presidential election, the campaign media was flooded with memes. Along with internet penetration in other areas in Indonesia, the production of memes emerged with a touch of locality.
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So there it is. For areas that are far from economic centers and government, like an old song, technological advances do not necessarily eager to greet them. Many experiences noted, two of them are telephone and internet, which took quite a long time until the community area could feel the technological advances; a progress which directly or indirectly accommodated by them. The village does not present without meaning; It is always present as a supporter of the developed cities that became a center of development, culture, technology, science, and so forth.
When the technology finally greeted them, sometimes they are ready, sometimes they are not. But the most important thing is their ability to quickly improve themselves and adjust to the pace of the world that exists outside them. Indeed, not all have that ability. The meme practice described in this paper, is the early proof. Not to mention the use of the Internet to search for information about agriculture and fisheries. But along with that, as the government program, the news of revoked internet network for some PLIK in the districts was heard(9). The unreadiness of the community on new technology emerged as an anecdotes and strange behavior in the use of the new technological tools. Behavior in their lives too, perhaps not drastically, also changing as the new technologies appeared.
To finish this article, I would like to recount a story about a man from Papua who buy a cellular phone. Once, a Pace from the village came to an electronics store in Sorong, one of the municipalities in the province of West Papua, to buy a cellular phone. In addition to it, he also bought a Telkomsel SIM card. Afterwards, he came back to his village. A few weeks later he came again to the electronics store while being angry because his cellular phone could not be used. The shopkeeper—let’s say, a migrant from Sulawesi—asked about the Pace’s residence so he mentioned the name of his village. The Shopkeeper smiled and patiently explained to Pace that the village is outside of the coverage of cellular signal. With heated emotion, The Pace replied, “If it is so, I will buy two signals straight away!”
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|1.||⇡||David T.Hill and Krishna Sen, The Internet in Indonesia’s New Democracy, (Oxon: Routledge), 2005, pg. 78.|
|2.||⇡||Yanuar Nugroho and Sofie Shinta Syarief, Melampaui Aktivisme click?: Media Baru dan Proses Politik dalam Indonesia Kontemporer, (Jakarta: Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung Kantor Perwakilan Jakarta), 2012, page. 51.|
|3.||⇡||Read, for example, “Joseph Letor Raih USO Award Dari Kementrian Kominfo” http://arsip.floresbangkit.com/2012/10/joseph-letor-raih-uso-award-dari-kementerian-kominfo/. Accessed on May 23th 2015.|
|4.||⇡||Interview by email with Joseph Letor on May 27th 2015.|
|5.||⇡||Interview with Franco Nalele by Facebook on May 26th 2015.|
|6.||⇡||“The word devotio originated from Latin devotio, which in Indonesian language may be translated as sacrifice, worship, piety, submission. Devotion is a tradition in the Church that continues to be maintained from time to time. Devotion also be understood as a form of appreciation and expression of faith through prayer or hymn of raise, at a certain time and place.” Quoted from http://www.katedraljakarta.or.id/berita-devosi.html accessed on May 28th 2015.|
|7.||⇡||Look up, for example “Prosesi Bahari Selat Larantuka, Sisi Lain Pekan Semana Santa 2012 di Larantuka”, arsip.floresbangkit.com/…/prosesi-bahari…larantuka/prosesi-bahari, accesed on May 27th 2015.|
|8.||⇡||Free translation: “Jesus Menino, reach and protect us…Menino God knows better…about our happines and sadness.”|
|9.||⇡||Look up “Kacau, Anggaran Internet Kecamatan Dihentikan Sementara”, http://nasional.kompas.com/read/2013/03/18/1924089/Kacau.Anggaran.Internet.Kecamatan.Dihentikan.Sementara, accesed on May 26th, 2015. Also an interview with Joseph Letor via email on May 27th, 2015.|