Professor Mark Hobart
I have worked on Balinese culture and indigenous philosophy, and Indonesian discourses of development, from 1970 until it became difficult to ignore the social consequences of television. The mass media raised ethnographic and theoretical challenges about how to analyze and understand what was happening, which led me to research theatre, television and audiences from the late 1980s. My current research is on public life as performance as the mass media increasingly permeate Indonesian society.
My recent research has been into changes in contemporary mass media in Indonesia. In particular I have been interested in the role of television, radio, print and the Internet in framing public discourse – how Indonesians imagine themselves and others in different media. This is part of a longer-term project on how maritime South East Asians are represented in Euro-American media as against how South East Asians understand themselves and the rest of the world in their media. I am trying to address the problems of over-interpretation of media ‘content’ by looking at intermedia commentary and, through ethnography, at production practices in television stations and newspapers in Central Java and Bali to understand how Indonesians engage with the media in their professional and personal lives.
The current theoretical confusion in media and cultural studies has attracted my long-standing interest in the philosophical problems in the human sciences. For disciplines that began in theoretical critique, media and cultural studies are now remarkably under-theorized and critiques from post-structuralism and elsewhere largely ignored. So I have written about the presuppositions behind ideas of articulation and representation, culture, media and ideas about the human subject.
Another research interest is performance, media and audiences. Since 1988 I have been working on theatre in Bali as the means by which Balinese argued over who they were and their place in the world. Central issues were how audiences understood what was going on and what happened when culture became increasingly mediated by television. This led to a study on regional television and the articulation of ideas of culture in Indonesia. The research raises questions of performativity and practice. It is instructive to consider public life itself as performative and to contrast Euro-American ideas about the function of theatre and performance with Indonesian understandings. There is also a stark contrast between intellectual accounts or reviews of theatre performances and television programmes and the practices and understandings of producers, actors and audiences.