Cultural Reproduction Through Kaskus.us as the Media

oleh Ahmad Fardhil Khalidi, mahasiswa Bahasa dan Sastra Inggris Universitas Negeri Jakarta

Globalization drives societys to be more open in finding new information as much as possible. Supported by more easily and cheaply it is obtained, encourages them to be thirst for the modernization through the media. This is the reason why the owner of kaskus.us, Andrew Darwis cs, creates it as a tool to hegemonize Indonesian society, so exact that he innovate something new, which attract almost seventy percent of the population in order to civilize it as the new culture, or even absorb profit as much as possible. In this analysis, I will relate this phenomenon with the concept of hegemony by Antonio Gramsci, mass media by Walter Benjamin and The meaning of style by Dick Hebdige.

What is Kaskus?

Kaskus.us is the biggest sites of virtual community in Indonesia which the user called as ‘kaskuser’. It born in 6th November 1999 by the contribution of three Indonesian youngster, Andrew Darwis, Ronald Stephanus, and Budi Darmawan, who was studying in Seattle University, U.S.A, as the early pioneers. It needs no longer time to be contracted by PT. Darta Media Indonesia, which is known as the one of richest company of informaton technology. This site, which has more than 2,5 million users spreading all over Indonesia, is not only created for domestic society,  but also other society outside this country such as Malaysia, Phillipies, U.S.A, Japan, until some countries in Europe. Its users generally come from adolescents and adults.

Kaskus, which is coming from the abbreviated Kasak-Kusuk, as we see today,  begins just by an hobby derived from a small community who later developed into the most favourite site in this country. It is visited by at least 900 thousands society, and has more than 15 millions page view everyday, which until now, it has more than 250 millions posts. According to Alexa.com, in December 2010, this site lays in 251st  world rank , and have 6th rank in Indonesia as the most site visited.

Kaskus has some features such as ; KasPay, Kaskus Radio, and Kaskus Mobile. Through KasPay, the users can easily share their money as a tool of doing transaction in virtual world, for example when society want to buy something, they doesn’t need to be directly meet the seller which perhaps located in other city, like Bandung to Jayapura. What they have to do is using one of banks like BCA, BNI, BRI and etc to send their payment to the other users in other cities. If the funds are registered, the seller deliver his/her order through some services delivery such as Tiki, JNE, and DayTrans. The second feature of this site, Kaskus Radio, is regarded as an Internet Radio in Indonesia that lies under the kaskus community. Kaskus Radio or familiarly called ‘KR’, has more than 20 announcer. This radio which goes on the air for 24 hour non stop, is not only playing Indonesian song, but also English, Japanese, Mandarin, Korean,and so on.

The third feature of this site, Kaskus Mobile, is a feature where the site can be changed into minimalists, so that it will be easy for cellular-phone users accessing it. This mobile site is m.kaskus.us or kask.us and only accessed from cellular-phone.

Until 31 December 2010, appropriately to the original site, has five sub-forums such as ; Kaskus corner, CAS-CIS-CUS, LOE-KE-LOE, Kaskus Regional, and FJB (Forum Jual-Beli). Kaskus corner regarded as a place where the users get the information related to the certain event, such as charity, gathering, seminar, which is held by Kaskus itself or the users registered as a member. This Sub-Forum has some sub-sub-forum such as ; Kaskus Celeb, Kaskus Event & Bakti Sosial, Kaskus Promo, Cinta Kaskus, Cinta Indonesiaku, and Lelang amal Kaskus – Putri Indonesia. The second one, CAS-CIS-CUS, is a place where the users can talk and share about free topics started from politic, general news, until talking about private problem. It has sub-sub-forum such as; Welcome to Kaskus, The Lounge, Surat Pembaca, Berita & Politik, Militer, Business Board, Can You Solve This Game?, Debate Club, Disturbing Picture, Education, English, Girls & Boy’s Corne , Heart to Heart, Jokes & Cartoon, Event from Kaskuser, Seputar Pemilu 2009, Indonesian Young Excecutive Communtiy: Young On Top, and Nokia Messaging Arena. Then LOE-KE-LOE forum, or which is familiarly called as ‘from you to you’ is a forum where the kaskuser can find and discuss about certain topic, like ; hoby, lifestyle, and everything they interest in. It has sub-sub-forum as a follows ; All About Design, AMH (Anime Manga Haven), Arsitektur, Computer Stuff,  Cooking mencooking + restaurant guide, Fitness & Health Body, Gadget & Gizmo, Games, Handphone & PDA, Ilmu Marketing, Health & Medical, Lifestyle, Model Kit & R/C, Movies, Music, My Pets, Otomotif, Outdoor Adventures & Nature Club, Photography, Sports, Supranatural, Tanaman, Travellers, Wedding and family, Activity & Hobby. The forth is Kaskus Regional, which is known as a place where the users can communicate between one to another who are domicilied in the same region. This sub-forum has some sub-sub-forum such as; Australia, Eropa, Indonesia, Asia, U.S.A, and other regional. The last one but not least is the Forum Kaskus Jual Beli. It is a place where the users can sell and buy something that they want. It is one of primary kaskus forum, which is signified by a lot of sub-forum that lays in. The stuff is sold is various, starting from Rp.50.000 t-shirt until land ownership for Rp. 260.000.000.000

Kaskus Hegemony

Hegemony is the political, economic, ideological or cultural power exerted by a dominant group over other groups. It requires the consent of the majority to keep the dominant group’s leader in power. While initially referring to the political dominance of certain ancient Greek city-states over their neighbors, the term has come to be used in a variety of other contexts, in particular Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci’s theory of cultural hegemony, the term is often mistakenly used to suggest brute power or dominance, when it is better defined as emphasizing how control is achieved through consensus not force. As he stated in the book of John Storey, Popular Culture (p.119) :

Hegemony is used to refer to a condition in process in which the dominant class(es) doesn’t merely rule but leads a society through the exertion of moral and intellectual leadership. In this sense it suggests a society in which there is a high degree of consensus, a large measure of social stability, in which subordinate classes appear to actively support and subscribe to values, ideals, objectives, cultural meanings, which bind them to, incomporate them into, the prevailig power structure.

In the case of kaskus phenomenon, the word hegemony has been properly labelled since it influenced society to use it as modernity. Actually, related to Gramsci, the owner and the company doesn’t force them to be bow the neck to the necessicy, but it is the new thought, or maybe have purpose to reach the profit as much as possible, in which conceptualized into a new cultural reproduction of Kaskus as the media. This situation seems perfectly natural or virtually beyond serious contention, because in fact, the users in which their mind has been setting up to be proud of being a modern society, do not know what is the exactly real purpose behind it. They do not know whether if it, let say the profit is allocated to strengthen Zionis Israel, or it is the best way from western capitalist, through modernity, set the Indonesian society thought to release their pure custom and change into it.

In this case, eventhough the three pioneers’ nationality is Indonesian, they can be belonged into dominant class(es) or group(s) because some reason; first they continually support the western thought of modernity by giving the prototype of ‘gaul’ if they use or become a member of Kaskus, second they maintained (or must be continually maintained) of making concessions to the subordinate classes or group. Based on my opinion, the reason why the society can be easily evoked is, related to the Gramsci concept, in which the dominant classes (in this case is the pioneers), know what society need by supporting and subscribing to values, ideals, objectives, and cultural meanings. They combine every concepts from previous separated sites into one, in Kaskus. For example, if previously we known the sites or forums only served certain category, for example only politic, only sport, only games, until only selling – buying. However, it was new penetration of what they did by combining all of these into one, so easily that someone can find it from one site. The other aspect in which support this success is, they elevate pride and status of society who are become its users by giving a prototype ‘modern people’, for example ; they will be called as ‘anak gaul’ if use it. There are a lot of specific terms and style of kaskus identity like ; cendol, bata, maho, CoD (Case on Delivery), agan, sotoshop, hoax and etc, and the kaskuser tend to called aku as ‘ane’, thread as ‘lapak’, admin as ‘mimin’, moderator as ‘momod’ and write ‘pertamax gan’ if there is someone who firstly post of the threads.

Mass Media

By using Benjamin’s concept, we emphasise the age of mechanical reproduction placed on Kaskus.us as the masses and their relation to art. Once emancipated from the “purpose” of ritual, a measure of the social significance of art became its enjoyment by the masses. Rather than the distance that accompanies aura, the masses prefer to bring things spatially closer and destroy uniqueness by accepting the reproduction of reality. It is of course, effectively contemplated amongst modern society who are setted their mind becoming false-conscious. The capitalist, in this case is the owners, have certain purpose to absorb great profit on it, and they colaborate between the aesthetics of stereotype ‘modern’ with the development of technology. It is great momentum, I think, considered it as the transformation which has remained at the core of mass arts, whose success and importance is directly linked to its appreciation by large social  numbers.  In this way, exhibition and display become the key distinctions between previous value and after mechanical reproduction.

“taking mass culture seriously not merely as the source of the phantasmagoria of false consciousness, but as the source of collective energy to overcome it” (Benjamin, 1935)

As one example let say there is an University student who can be categorized as kaskus addict. Everyday he/she spends around 5 – 7 hours only posting, reading, and getting some fresh information, even rare information that other people doesn’t.  Of course, he/she enjoy it because everyone has labelled him/her as modern people, because of his/her knowledge about the world, and his/her style in writing, and communicate with other. But in other side, he/she doesn’t realize that his/her money is allocated to this site which moreover, he/she is doing something unimportant like laughing, gossiping, listening to new music, rather than doing some benefit things such as discussing, learning something, working, and etc. This is absolutely a perfect condition for the capilist in which people has pretentious tendency to depend in this site.

In another perspective, as the function of Kaskus as a place where the users can sell and buy something that they want, it becomes major part of this activity where the users are provided and pempered with a good system. In the side of seller and buyer, it is substantial because they doesn’t need to be fussy for finding stuff they need, they has not any trouble for selling merchandise or searching employee to be joined to their firm. Kaskus disappears such weaknesses by creating systematic features in orther to give beneficial for the users. Different with the previous case, this is can be called as ‘win – win solution’ where the creators have benefit, so that the users.

“Aura” is an another concept for Benjamin, as both fundamental to the power of representation and diminished by technological reproducibility. What is new in mechanical reproduction, a mode in which to “ask for the ‘authentic’ print makes no sense,” is the rejection of authenticity and thus the authority of the actual art object and the “traditional value of the cultural heritage. The aura is clearly attempted in the case of Kaskus as new cultural reproduction. By eximining it more further, we can see that slowly the pure identity will be lost. People now tend to do practice activities rather than maintain their culture heritage. It is because of the attraction of ‘Kaskus’ aura’, which the society can be easily determinded  into fascinating condition, for example they will be proud if communicate with other people by using kaskus style like ‘gimana gan? , hoax itu gan, pertamax diamankan!, bawah ane maho, salah kamar gan’ and sometime can be like this, write certain symbols or codes in sms (short message service) textbox or chatbox (facebook, yahoo messanger, twitter) such as ‘:hammer, :ngacir, :kiss, :sup2, :igo, and etc’. This aura of course attracting people since it represent as new and fresh representation of mass media.

The Meaning of Style

No cultural study book has been more widely read than Dick Hebdige’s 1979 Subculture: The Meaning of Style, from which this essay is taken. It brought a unique and supple blend of Althusser, Gramsci and semiotics (as propounded by Barthes and the “Prague School”) to bear on the world of, or at any rate near to, the young British academics and students who first became immersed in cultural studies. 

For Hebdige two Gramscian terms are especially useful in analyzing subcultures: conjuncture and specificity. Subcultures form in communal and symbolic engagements with the larger system of late industrial culture; they’re organized around, but not wholly determined by, age and class, and are expressed in the creation of styles. These styles are produced within specific historical and cultural “conjunctures;” they are not to be read as simply resisting hegemony or as magical resolutions to social tensions – as earlier theorists had supposed. Rather subcultures cobble together (or hybridize) styles out of the images and material culture available to them in the effort to construct identities which will confer on them “relative autonomy” within a social order fractured by class, generational differences, work etc.

Although the concept of subculture by Dick Hebdige is created as a symbol of hegemony-encounter, however, in this concern, it still have close relationship since the writer see that it fulfills the requirement to be categorized as subculture by approaching the concept of ‘conjuncture’ and ‘specificity’. This is actually considered as the result of hegemony that is emerged by capitalist, in which obviously aimed to release the essence of previous custom. Regarded as ‘conjuncture’, according to Hebdige concern, the meaning of style is the line between subculture as resistance and commercial culture as both provider of pleasures and an instrument of hegemony is in fact very hard to draw especially when youth markets (in this case is new values which is created after the emerge of Kaskus) are in questioned.

The new subculture of Kaskus hegemony is not privileged form as they do not stand outside the reflexive circuitry of production and reproduction which links together, at least on a symbolic level, the separate and fragmented pieces of the social totality, however, it is  representation  of the representations, and elements taken from the ‘picture’ of ‘lower-class’ life (and of the social whole in general) are bound to find some echo in the signifying practices of the various subcultures.

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