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Watching Indonesia: an ethnography of the ether

Atkinson, Stephen Peter (2002). Watching Indonesia: an ethnography of the ether. PhD Thesis, Northern Territory University.

Document type: Thesis
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Author Atkinson, Stephen Peter
Title Watching Indonesia: an ethnography of the ether
Institution Northern Territory University
Publication Date 2002
Thesis Type PhD
Subjects 1699 - Other Studies in Human Society
Abstract Since 1976, Indonesian television has been transmitted to the nation and beyond via a series of geo-stationary satellites. In the early 1990s, the number of television stations using this system grew from one to six. All could be received clearly in Darwin, Australia by anyone with access to a parabolic antenna. The increasing availability and affordability of this technology gives rise to the possibility of a new kind of inter-cultural research that allows television viewers to engage with the culture and politics of other nations via its broadcast television. The thesis proposes that an ‘ethnography of the ether’ can illuminate sites of contestation within a given nation while contributing to our understanding of the televisual medium itself. Such a method raises issues about interpretation; about the subjective positioning of the viewer/researcher; about tensions between the ‘local’ and the ‘global’; and about the limits of audienceship for national television services. Indonesia and Indonesian television went through major changes over the period covered by research for the thesis. These culminated in the resignation of president Suharto in May 1998 in the wake of severe economic collapse and widespread political protests. Following this, Indonesian television, which had previously been the site of official attempts to contain its narratives, began to openly embrace a hopeful, new era of reform.

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