Context plays a significant role in how a design is received and shaped. This is due to the nature of a design for when it is realised into the larger world, the designer loses any ability to influence it in the finite and controlled manner that they have interdicted to be accustomed to. In this light the design’s new identity encapsulates its context defined by the adaptations to its original form. As an example of this continuing product design journey, we can examine the pervasive and vivacious part that the motorcycle plays in Indonesian culture.

Due to a rapid increase in purchasing power of the average Indonesian within the last 20 years, motorcycle use is experiencing a boom. Currently some 77 million individual motorcycles are registered to drive on Indonesian roads, up from approximately 40 million in 2008. Such a rapid technological take up is seemingly unprecedented in a developing nation such as Indonesia, as it does not seem economically feasible. However, when examined more closely, the issue reveals itself to be more complicated.


Image of the streets of Jakarta in rush hour. (Google image, 2008)

In the last three decades, motorisation and urbanisation have been the trend in many metropolitan areas in developing countries. Lack of job opportunities and public facilities outside major cities has initiated rapid urbanisation in many metropolitan areas.“Such consumer culture is strengthened by the market expansion of industrial products from advanced countries, carried out by the process of globalisation.”( Scriven, 2012) This is indeed the case in Indonesia, as the urban population has significantly increased from 22.3% in 1980 to 42% in 2000, and it is estimated that by year 2020 urban population will reach 50%-60% of the national population. (Jakarilitass, 2008)


The streets of Yogyakarta. (Google image, 2011)

Increased motorcycle use has been attributed to a failing in the public transport system, a political and economic issue. As Indonesia is rapidly propelled from its agrarian labour economy into an urbanised industrial economy, the nexus of its populous becomes a pressing issue. Citizen travelling to work from rural areas are forced to find their own way as the government’s public transport infrastructure fails them, in turn put more strain on the roads connecting economic and urban centres.


The car park at the Watch Tower, Banjarmasin. (Clifton, 2018{My own image})

These implications are outlined in the ABC’s article examining transport in Indonesia. The interviewee Dedy Budisetiono, states that having his own motorcycle is ‘invaluable’ as it is ‘cheaper and a lot faster.” (Budisetiono, 2011)

Furthermore, examining on a more localised scale, many factors become apparent that indicate how the actual design of motorcycles has facilitated their uptake and pervasiveness on such a large scale. Motorcycles are accessible as a technology. Coming from farming implements and predominantly petrol based mechanical equipment, the motorcycle’s engine is easily serviced and maintained. Researchers noted even in the 1930’s, that the “Natives in Java, as elsewhere in the East, have seized on the opportunity given them by the petrol-engine to set up in business on a small scale with taxis and motor-buses.” (Davidson 2007). Building on this, the increasingly popular practice of repurposing 2 and 4 stroke engines into boats and other vehicles has proven the versatility of the technology and ensured its place as a staple artefact in the day to day life of the Indonesian population.

This is a modernisation of the technology that deals with its context. The small size of motorcycle make it an easy way to navigate a cityscape and weave in traffic. Comparing this to the use of motorcycle in Australia where the ratio of motorcycles to people are drastically lower speaks of the differing context. The large size of our cities and population makes cars are more viable choice as the vehicle is required to travel greater distances. As such, this may be an explanation why motorcycles are more considered a luxury or specialised vehicle opposed to the Indonesian’s high consumption of the technology which has seen them become cultural populous

This is expressed in a study of Australian motorbike riders, ride because ‘it provided a sense of adventure, it could free their mind temporarily, it felt like freedom, it was a great hobby, and allowed them to practice and share in social relationships.’

This outlines a different culture value of the design. Moreover, this epitomises a different adaption of the design across culture.

It is clear from this example that the motorcycle has, in the context of Indonesian culture and society, been heavily shaped and altered beyond its original intent. This organic evolution has facilitated its adaptation and growth in popularity, and in turn continued it on the next step of its design journey, affecting both the original design, and the end users who integrated it into their day to day lives. It is thus shaped by its context, mirroring the unique Indonesian culture.

Reference List:

Living in Indonesia 2015, Motorcycles, Jakarta, viewed 28 April 2015 <>

Millsap S 2013, Video: How Do You Get Around Jakarta?, 17 November, Article and Video, viewed 26 April 2015, <>

Davidson J, Henley D 2007, The Revival of Tradition in Indonesian Politics: The Deployment of Adat from Colonialism to Indigenism, Routledge Contemporary South East Asia Series, 12 Mar 2007, pp. 98-99.

Bowles, C, February 16th 2013, ‘Designing With Context’, viewed on 19th April 2015,

Rakun, F, Oct-Dec 2014, ‘Urban Stickers Surfacing In Time’, Inside Indonesia, Edition 118, viewed online on the 19th April 2015,

Setiawan, N, December 12th 2013, 1:54 PM, ‘Remembering City Stickers, Aya-Aya We,

Sparke, P (March 1988), ‘Design in Context’, Book Sales, United States

Google Images. 2018. Motorcycles Indonesia. Viewed on 2 February 2018 .Available at:….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..5.15.2299…0j0i67k1.0.Ys6shxXlkW0.


Google Images. 2018. Motorcycles Indonesia. Viewed on 2 February 2018 .Available at:….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..5.15.2299…0j0i67k1.0.Ys6shxXlkW0.



“Its so cheap (to buy cigarettes), its like buying candy and its everywhere either advertised or sold.” (Fatiana, 2018)

Tobacco advertising in Indonesia is extremely aggressive and innovative, and tobacco advertisements saturate the environment. Tobacco companies are politically and financially powerful in the country because they are one of the largest sources of government revenue. As a result, there are few restrictions on tobacco marketing and advertising. National surveys reveal that 65% of Indonesians are smokers. Smoking is firmly embedded into everyday life, and is perceived by many to make up historically the social and cultural fabric of Indonesia. The tobacco industry reads, reproduces and works with culture as a means of selling cigarettes. This is all achieved in the guise of the tobacco companies as ‘supporters of Indonesian national identity’.

Ampihi Mangaramput! 3 copy

Statistic shown during the Vital Strategies presentation about the rise in youth smoking over the last 4 years. It is a major concern that they are working to reduce. (Image: Vital Strategies. 2018.)

I interviewed Rayda Nurlies Fatiana (21), a local university student, hoping to understand further and gain an insight into there home town of Banjarmasin, why it is that smoking is a rising issues especially among the youth to hopefully provide a window more broadly into the social paradigms of Indonesia.

Rayda is part of a youth organisation that conducts projects that aim to inform youth of the wicked implications of tobacco. They aim to promote health and positive change throughout her city. When I asked who the tobacco company target, she responded in a mater of fact tone ‘the youth’. She further explained that it wasn’t just with posters on main streets and in residential areas or posters out the front of school yards but their marketing ran deeper; “they run music concerts with international musicians playing! It was hard even for me to resist.” (Fatiana, 2018)


Statistics produced by CNI documenting the percentage of males over 15yrs smoking in the South-East Asia area.(CNI,2015)

Indonesia can best be described as an “advertiser’s paradise”, as it is a largely unrestricted regulatory environment. Cigarette marketing in Indonesia is among the most aggressive and innovative in the world. As Sampoerna noted in their annual report in 1995: “Indonesian companies have almost total freedom to advertise their products in any format and through any communications vehicle in the country”.(Sampoerna,1995) This statement is as true today as it was over a decade ago Rayda explains; “there is very little regulation. Companies still advertise outside schools.”(Fatiana, 2018)

Another prominent form of advertisement in Indonesia is the sponsorship by the industry of local and international jazz and rock concerts, cultural events, and sporting events such as Formula One and national and local basketball and soccer competitions. The tobacco industry offers numerous scholarships to attend colleges.


Concert advertisement poster for popular American singer Kelly Clarkson sponsored by tobacco brand ‘L.A. Lights’ (Java Musink Indonesia, 2010)

“its just sad to think that these big companies have so much power because they’re rich and they don’t have our (Indonesia) interests at heart.” (Fatiana, 2018)

For the young and impressionable youth they sell and aspirational image of what it is to be a man and not only that its so cheap, ‘its like buying candy.’ (Fatiana, 2018)a-mild-mula-mula-722x400

Billboard depicting a youthful, carefree ‘aspirational’ couple. ( L.A Lights, 2011)

As Rayda explained this and her hope for the new generation to different, to alter the generational values. However, with a culture  where tobacco is so strongly invested so deeply in the economic, social, and political fabric, the need for not for profit organisations like Vital Strategies who work as an independent unit become crucially clear.


Reference List:

Schewe, E. 2012, ‘Why Do So Many Indonesian Men Smoke?’, Tobacco Control, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 306-312, viewed 23 January 2018, <;

Vital Strategies. 2018, ‘Ampihi Mangaramput!’, PowerPoint presentation, viewed 08 January 2018

World Health Organisation. 2014, Global Youth Tobacco Survey, Indonesia, viewed 23 January 2018, <;

Steinberg, L. & Monahan, K. C. 2007, Age differences in resistance to peer influence, Developmental Psychology, Vol 43(6), 1531-1543

Senthilingam, M. 2017, Chain-smoking children: Indonesia’s ongoing tobacco epidemic, CNN, viewed 22 January 2018, <;

Sohn, K. 2014, A note on the effects of education on youth smoking in a developing country, Vol. 19, Iss. 1, viewed 22 January 2018, <;

Google images. 2018. Tobacco advertising.…36724.38898.0.39313.….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..1.0.0….0.eTv2z_rPWCM#imgrc=CUgrmmUF0NOWBM:. [Accessed 25 January 2018].

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India’s tobacco control regulations and laws are regarded as leading globally with many  initiative methods of tobacco control. With the growing evidence of harmful and hazardous effects of tobacco, the Government of India enacted various legislations and comprehensive tobacco control measures.

The Government enacted the Cigarettes Act (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) in 1975. The statutory warning “cigarette smoking is injurious to health” was mandatorily displayed on all cigarette packages, cartons and advertisements of cigarettes. Some states like Maharashtra and Karnataka restricted smoking in public places. In the case of Maharashtra, specification of the size of boards in English and Marathi were prescribed, declaring certain premises as smokefree. Tobacco smoking was prohibited in all health care establishments, educational institutions, domestic flights, air-conditioned coaches in trains, suburban trains and air-conditioned buses, through a Memorandum issued by the Cabinet Secretariat in 1990. Since these were mainly Government or administrative orders, they lacked the power of a legal instrument. Without clear enforcement guidelines and awareness of the citizens to their right to smoke-free air, the implementation of this directive remained largely ineffective.


Youth led anti tobacco campaign. (The Gradian, 2011)

Under the Chairmanship of Shri Amal Datta, the Committee on Subordinate Legislation in November 1995 recommended to the Ministry of Health to enact legislation to protect non-smokers from second hand smoke. In addition, the committee recommended stronger warnings for tobacco users, stricter regulation of the electronic media and creating mass awareness programmes to warn people about the harms of tobacco. In a way, this Committee’s recommendation laid the foundation of developing the existing tobacco control legislation in the country.


Map depicting the different amounts of smokers per state. (The Indian Government, 2010)

Between 1997 and 2001, several litigations were filed for individual’s right to smoke-free air and five states responding with smoke-free and tobacco control legislations, clearly gave the signal for the Government of India to propose a comprehensive law for tobacco control. The Government enacted the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act (COTPA), in 2003. The provisions under the act included prohibition of smoking in public places, prohibition of advertisements of tobacco products, prohibition on sale of tobacco products to and by minors (persons below 18 years), ban on sale of tobacco products within 100 yards of all educational institutions and mandatory display of pictorial health warnings on tobacco products packages. The law also mandates testing all tobacco products for their tar and nicotine content. Although the Rules pertaining to various provisions under the law were notified during 2004 to 2006, there were many legal challenges which the Government had to face in view of the tobacco industry countering most of these Rules in the court of law.


(The Indian government campaign, 2012)

India has often been credited for their targeted tobacco control at youth. When smoking is seen on either television or a movie screen, the law states that an anti tobacco slogan must be displayed at the bottom of the screen. It reads: ‘ smoking causes cancer and can lead to death. No actor on this screen supports or endorses smoking.’ This is only the tip of the iceberg of what the tobacco control is trying to achieve in tagging youth. Programs are run mandatory in schools, educating children in the risks of smoking. This method of having text to discourage the ‘cool’ fracture of smoking is a system that is focused on the youth and is successfully informing the society in a widely accessible and consumed medium – film and television. This anti-smoking control methods for a developing country, is seeing India at the forefront of control in Asia and globally recognisable for their initiative methods, especially at their youth focus targeting.



HM Sampoerna 2015, Annual Report of Indian tobacco control, <> viewed 2 December 2017

Wong, S. 2017, Cheap Cigarettes Are Winning in World’s Second-Biggest Market, Bloomberg, viewed 7 December 2017

HM Sampoerna 2015, Annual Report, viewed 2 December 2017, <>

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Screenshot 2017-12-31 04.15.10Indonesia is a country with a long history and a rich and vibrant culture. In more recent times, it has seen the country gaining independence from a colonial past. This has seen a new cultural identity emerging, negotiating between a traditional old heritage and a developing global country.

However, this rapidly changing country is not without its battles, facing challenges such has corruption, poverty and natural disasters.

In 2010, Taring Padi, a political art collective from Yogyakarta, Central Java joined the people of Sidoarjo fora four-day collaborative project. Known as “Reflection in the Mud,” this project focused on reviving the collective memory of the Sidoarjo community. In 2006, a large-scale mudflow eruption was caused by a technical error during an oil exploration in the Sidoarjo District of the East Java province of Indonesia. The mudflow spread widely, encompassing 12 villages and forcing around 40,000 people to relocate. The mudflow is still spreading, and will continue to do so for the next 30 years.

sidoarjo-mud-flow-6[2](Taring Padi Collective, 2011)

figure 1 taring padi lapindo

(Taring Padi Collective, 2010)

Angry at the displacement and destruction of their homes and lives, the inherent corruption and  lack of government support, Taring Padi invited participants to communicate their feelings about the loss and sorrow caused by the Lapindo disaster while encouraging individuals not to dwell on their pain but rather to continue the fight for their rights. With the growth of a collective memory, Taring Padi hoped that cultural ties would be reinforced, breaking down tension that had grown amongst victims. The development of a collective memory was intended to not only reinforce solidarity between victims but also to serve as a statement to the public that similar incidents cannot happen again.

Carrying the puppets, banners, and masks over the mud, these objects were intended to symbolise the oppressors who had robbed residents of their livelihoods, voices, and histories. This parade ended with a carnival and concert where citizens and artists alike sang together, expressing their discontent and continued concerns for the future of those affected by disaster and corruption.


(Shari, 2011)

The style that the posters used gave rise to a new type of art that referenced comic style. They like comic books where allegorical, telling the story of the Sidoarjo community.


(Sinaga, 2010)


(Sinaga, 2010)

Taring Padi’s work with the community of Sidoarjo is exemplary of this group’s engagement with local communities in Indonesia and abroad. Artist Dolorosa Sinaga describes the emergence of Taring Padi in December 1998, shortly after the fall of Suharto’s oppressive 32-year New Order regime stating,

“Through art, they began building an understanding amongst the people to fight against injustice, helping to forge a community aware of environmental, social, political and cultural issues, inviting the community to be active and courageous in voicing their real life experiences and their opinions on the performance of government.”(Sinaga, 2012)

With a desire to continue the fight of the student movement, which had played a key part in the demise of the New Order, the founders of Taring Padi set forth with a goal: to create art that would both help to educate and give voice to marginalised communities. Work created by Taring Padi never holds the signature of a single artist but rather is the product of the collective and the communities they work with. While the production of art is a significant aspect of their work, the process of communication and collaboration is held superior to the production of objects. This type of art practice can, in part, be seen as a type of “social practice” or “socially engaged” art.

This is a subcultural movement motivated against corruption and injustice. This collective has through their art has brought attention to flighting injustice that the country locally, nationally and humanity globally.

This collective has continued make art that bring awareness to social issues that face Indonesia.


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