Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Other Side

One of my docents told me that he had been invited by the Army to present his view about the conflict in Mali. Suddenly, he moved from being an outsider to an insider. The question is not only about  being critical but also about being strategical and at the same time, to conserve the idealism. He mentioned that there were many consultancies that were already involved in giving advice for the Ministry but most of them did not know the real situation. So Ferguson (1990) and Mosse (2004) all over again. Wrong approach because of wrong assumptions and consultancy agency talked in the language of the clients (on efficiency in military operation) and not about the real situation in Mali. Different epistemic tradition, where he had to talk to man in uniform with different openness and also a shift in strategy from critical to strategic. 

The discussion related with our earlier discussion about identity and struggle. Identity is always being contested in different situations. There is evil in good things and there is good things in evil. As one of my favorites proverb says 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions.' Being an insider creates an opportunity for greater change but probably it may also change one into a different person via all the negotiations and bureaucratic details. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014


Being in Enschede always stimulates nostalgic feeling. I still remember the first day I was there when one f colleagues picked me up from the station and we went to the office. There was a FC Twente match that day so we had to return home before 4 PM. There many things happened since that day, too much to remember in details. So when I visited the place again yesterday, I was wandering whether my memories betray me or not. And there my friend was greeted me with the same smile as I remembered. In the old days, we shared a journey together to Utrecht and to Delft and we were kind of sharing the same research, so being in Enschede felt right. Time surely change things, but there are also other things that remains the same. The warm feelings, the station and the people, things that feel really familiar like breathing.

Sometimes I play the 'what if' game. I am wondering why my life looks more like a patchwork than a normal blanket where there is always a constant adjustment. But again during my journey, I met many wonderful people who I love dearly. So probably having a patchwork life makes me love more people and teaches me how to love the moment since I'd never now when it's going to last.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Caranya tersenyum membuat Kemala teringat pada Rangga. Ia kangen senyum itu, senyum yang ia peroleh tiap kali ia merasa hilang. Bagi Kemala, senyum Rangga adalah rumah, ia tahu ia akan baik-baik saja tiap kali melihat Rangga tersenyum seperti itu padanya. Dan kini Rangga ada entah dimana, tiga bulan berlalu tanpa kabar dan ia tahu ia harus melanjutkan hidup.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Frenemies: STS & Development

Is technological failure a good thing? This question crossed my mind when I attended a lunch lecturer on nano-technology and development. The way the presenter framed his narrative reminded me on dialectic where he played between critics and defenses where one of the defenses suggest the performativity of failure. While I like the way he made a balance between STS and development, at the end of the presentation, he felt into a typical STS conclusion. That we have to include more actors to make an innovation works. If I am using my (critical) development studies, my focus will not about how to make the innovation works but rather what kind of socio-technical change will emerge if the innovation works. My Foucauldian fellows would argue innovation as a form of governmentality, while my STS or my transition fellows would argue there is a sustainable justice that would benefit all the actors. The former sees the latter as naive, while the latter sees the former as negative.

Some scholars suggest to add politics into STS through interaction with development studies. For me, this suggestion is running out of stream. There are good STS scholars that are able to capture politics in innovation. The absence of politics in STS is not a matter of method but more about the scientist's sensitivity to capture what happening in the field. The main difference between STS and development studies lies on their ontology where STS, or to be more precise innovation scholars start from an assumption that human tends to help other, while (critical) development studies start from assumption that human tends to harm other.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Sebuah artikel baru di majalah New Scientists, "Can men and women be friends?" Seorang teman pernah melontarkan pertanyaan itu padanya dan saat itu ia dengan yakin menjawab bisa meski sulit. Dan nyatanya memang sulit untuk mempertahankan pertemanan di saat yang lain menginginkan lebih. Mungkin ia harus lebih peka terhadap perasaan orang lain dan tidak hanya menerima semua perhatian tersebut tanpa prasangka. Di sisi lain, ia lelah dengan segala sesuatu yang tak pasti. Kalau suka bilang, kalau tidak maka ia akan menganggap semua kebaikan itu sebagai bagian dari menjadi manusia.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Chaos and Order

After checking my four pockets, I realized that I left my office key somewhere. The biggest chance was to left inside my office. So I asked my promotor whether he know where the master key was. We ended up in opening several rooms where one room brought us to a key to enter another room, although without any luck of finding the right key. At the end, I waited down stairs for the security to come and asked them to open my office room. And found my key lying nicely at the table.

Life is unexpected and in certain degree, I like to keep it that way. But as a chaotic person, I prefer to live in an orderly environment. Whenever I mess up, I always know my way to return. I locked my self out but I knew the way to get my self in due to the orderly environment. As a scientist, my current position is that everything has an order; what tricky is how to understand this order. In Indonesia, for instance, the key to find my self back whenever I get lost is by asking. But then the order to find my way back is to find a good and knowledgeable person that will provide me with the right answer. The algorithm becomes a bit longer than in the Netherlands.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Presentation Review: Similarity/Difference

"What makes your case different with other countries? The case sound similar with any other innovation stories."

It was the second time I got the same question and I could response by saying that the formal and informal institutions were different and also the values were different, but then I chose to save the answer for later. I am not sure that I can answer the question without going to a debate between actor-network theory and construction of technology. Scholars from the latter tend to accuse the former as only being interested for innovation in the making and not after  a closure or stabilization. Scholars from the former, on the other hand, tend to accuse the latter as doing black-boxing since there is nothing stable; things are always in a constant negotiation. As an actor-network theorist, my response for that question will be, "What do you mean by being similar? Define similarity."

I had a long conversation with one of the audiences after I finished my presentation. We discussed about methodology and framing. It was quite a refreshing conversation since we tried to opening the black-box behind different comments/questions that I got in the seminar. He described my approach as using bottom-up approach where lacuna is created through showing similarity, while the person who asked my the question was using a top-down approach where lacuna is created through showing difference. The key is to find a balance between these similarity and difference.

I guess in front of scholars with different ontology/epistemology background, it is better to have a seminar on what is research.

Self-critique: my presentation is way too ambitious. First, it offers innovation as practice (trying to combine practice theory and process approach); second, it tries to contribute to STS by offering valuation and thirdly, it tries to contribute to valuation studies by offering a conceptualization of crossing. I can make four papers out of this single presentation, each of which has its own literature.

What I like about my presentation: I understand what I am presenting, which usually is not the case :D