FLEFF Profile: Iskandar Zulkarnain

By Rachael Geary, March 19, 2021
Iskandar Zulkarnain researches and teaches in the area of global digital cultures and transnational media studies

Iskandar Zulkarnain first got interest in researching media today by being involved in Indonesia’s underground music scene.

Zulkarnain will be part of FLEFF’s event, Conversations Across Screen Cultures, where he will be interviewed by Ithaca College professor Enrique Gonzalez-Conty about Zulkarnain’s career as a film and media scholar, as well as his current research project.

Zulkarnain is researching internet buzzers in Indonesia, which are individuals hired to attract attention to certain products or messages on social media. Internet buzzers have been creating much public discourse in Indonesia recently due to its role in political campaigns, misinformation, and disinformation, Zulkarnain said.

“My research focuses on the overlaps between the construction of Indonesian buzzers and the global practice of micro-celebrity and influencer culture,” Zulkarnain said.

Zulkarnain got interested in global digital cultures and transnational cinema through his long-time interest and participation in subcultures, like punk, Zulkarnain said.

“Back when I was in college when I was active in underground music culture, the internet was introduced in my country,” Zulkarnain said. “It then became a dominant outlet for the Indonesian underground music scene to connect with underground scenes in other countries like Singapore, the US, and Canada.”

After graduating from college, Zulkarnain had the opportunity to work with filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer on a documentary about the effects of globalization in the global south, Zulkarnain said.

“This was when I began to critically think about neoliberal construction of globalization and capitalism and its various adverse effects,” Zulkarnain said. “It got me interested in learning about emerging and popular media technologies from global and postcolonial perspectives, especially in thinking about the experiences and voices of people who live with limited access to media infrastructures.”

This experience contributed in Zulkarnain’s interest in researching internet buzzers and other emerging media and popular culture phenomenon.

“This project aims to highlight the importance of considering the Indonesian buzzer phenomenon in light of its interconnections with cultural contexts specific to the country, rather than merely conflating it into the framework of internet influencers and micro-celebrities.”