Social Media Festival Highlights Indonesia's Love Affair with the Internet

More than 40 thousand attendees packed the three-day Social Media Festival held in Jakarta last week from 22-24 September. The event, held by internet media companies SalingSilang and DailySocial took over all eight floors of fX Lifestyle X'nter in Central Jakarta. It recognized and celebrated the adoption and influence of social media by individuals and various organizations in Indonesia as the country features significantly among users of social networks and online services such as Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, Mig33, and so on.

The event highlighted dozens of communities who take advantage of the internet, social media and technology to further their cause, raise awareness, and organize their activities. Musicians, filmmakers, actors, comedians, bloggers, talk show hosts, and various other professionals took part in the festivities to meet directly with members of the communities and engage offline in a way that may not be possible online.

RollingStone magazine for example showcased their campaign to instill music appreciation skills as well as nurture musical talents across the country by giving out a thousand guitars and running workshops to less fortunate children so they can express themselves through music.

Indonesia Berkebun took a massive space within the mall to display various urban farming activities that's currently happening across the country. This movement was also recently highlighted by Google as one of the company's web heroes by including it in its recent Google Chrome media campaign.

Urban farming in Indonesia had only began less than a year ago and spread its message through Twitter and Facebook to encourage people to join and participate in its activities. Around ten Indonesian cities are now involved in urban farming. Google itself had a booth within the urban farming space and took the chance to talk about the web and its possibilities to expand horizons and distribute information.

Lentera Indonesia is a support group that aims to raise awareness on sexual harassment and abuse and explain what it means, its consequences, and how to deal with such cases should it occur. It brought private discussions into a more public space by holding a talk show at the festival. Previously, the group makes itself known only via word of mouth and through its Twitter account. It realizes that while this particular issue is sensitive and very private, the public needs to recognize that sexual harassment is no laughing matter.

Twitalk is a live talk show that happens on Twitter every Thursday night, in which the host interviews various figures of interest in social media, which could be a celebrity or anyone who has a keen interest or insight into a particular subject, or people behind popular Twitter accounts in Indonesia. The show claims to be the first ever live talk show that uses Twitter as its only medium. Already in its third season, it brought the talk show to a live stage for only the second time ever and held its first daytime event.

Acer also ran a 24 hour hacking competition to discover talented mobile application developers who are keen to create applications for its Iconia Android tablets running Honeycomb operating system.

Even the national police held a session to talk about how they use social media to deal with the city's traffic and inform the public of what is happening in the street in various cities.

A number of startups also participated in Social Media Festival and some had come forward saying that it boosted their membership numbers. Location-based game Bouncity, traffic information service LewatMana, deal site NawarTrus, and social sharing site Rockto, and greeting card site Kartumuu were among the higher profile startups making their presence felt at the festival.

The event had several stages set up across all floors to hold multiple sessions concurrently as there had been a dozen or so sessions scheduled to happen in each day. A number of musical performances were also held on each day spread throughout the event.

Shafiq Pontoh, spokesperson for the event said that Social Media Festival opens opportunities that may not have otherwise happen or would be difficult to organize between participants. He put forward an example of Indonesia Berkebun and Jalan Sutera, a culinary interest group, which could collaborate in creating an activity of some sorts involving organically grown food and plants.

He also said that unlike many other conferences or events, this was a community driven show in which participants decided what they wanted to do at the event and how they wanted to do it. The organizers facilitated and managed the various requests from all participants and worked to ensure those requests were fulfilled. This was an event to show the strength and bond of each community.

According to Pontoh, Social Media Festival initially was meant to be a gathering of communities after the Idulfitri celebration, an extension of the traditional family gathering after the month-long Ramadan, but the level of interest took it to a much higher level and ended up becoming a full-blown public event.

The organizers are planning for Social Media Festival to be an annual event. While there had been requests by those who live outside of Jakarta to hold it in their cities, plans for next year's events are yet to be put together. If it's possible to run the event in other cities, it may happen, but it's also not out of the question should communities outside of the capital wish to run their own unrelated but similar event.

In any case, Social Media Festival showed how interconnected each community can be and how these communities exist not only on the internet but also in physical form. The use of social media and the internet plays a large part in bringing members of these communities together and as such, is an important factor into any study on how Indonesians take advantage of the world wide web.

Song credit : “Love Saturday” by bottlesmoker
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