WATTPAD AS A STORY-SHARING WEBSITE

 
 
3rd English Language and Literature International Conference (ELLiC)   Electronic ISSN: 2579-7263
                                   Proceedings – (ELLiC Proceedings Vol. 3, 2019)     CD-ROM ISSN: 2579-7549


                  WATTPAD AS A STORY-SHARING WEBSITE
                       Is it a field of literary production?

                                          M. Yuseano Kardiansyah
                                        Universitas Teknokrat Indonesia
                                                   Indonesia
                                           yuseano@teknokrat.ac.id

                                                   Abstract
      This article investigates the existence of Wattpad as a cyber-platform to produce literary works
      through socio-cultural paradigm. By adopting Pierre Bourdieu’s theoretical framework, the
      discussion is intended to further elaborate whether such a story-sharing website – firstly launched
      in 2006 – has some typical natures as the field of literary production. The objective of this study is
      to explore how currently the influence of technological reformation is toward the practice of literary
      production. Eventually, from the exploration conducted to Wattpad, it is found that there are some
      typical characteristics that bring consideration to see it as a field of literary production. However,
      those characteristics must be seen contextually for it is conditioned in cyber space, yet the logic of
      conventional practice is carried over into it.

      Keywords: Wattpad, Bourdieu, cyber space, field, literary production



Introduction                                               about cyber literature in Indonesia started to
The massive advancement of technology has                  develop not only among litterateurs, but also
now brought very significant behavioral                    public in general. Nevertheless, he also
changing toward society all around the world.              believes that there was no such a significant
In the context of Indonesian social interaction,           distinction between cyber literary works and
the influence of social media platforms such               conventional works – published in
as Facebook, Instagram, You Tube, Twitter,                 newspapers and magazines – because cyber
etc, is very significant. Based on social media            literature failed to offer its special
overview – conducted by We Are Social                      characteristic but medium of expression.
Institute – in January 2019 [1], the total                 Therefore, Indonesian cyber literature in the
number of active social media users in                     previous decade only transferred the
Indonesia are 150 million, that is included 130            conventional way writing into internet,
million who access social media via mobile                 without giving any significant change upon
devices. If it is surface assumed, without                 the substance of works produced.
thoroughly consider multiple accounts owned                     Since the early of 21st century, the social
by an individual, we can see that around 56%               media as platform for global social interaction
out of Indonesian total population have now                has been developed in various types and
interacted at cyber social space. A condition              functions. Different with platforms that have
that influences socio-cultural activities,                 been mentioned previously, in the domain of
including the production of literary work.                 literature or creative writing people are now
     In the history of Indonesian literature,              familiar with a story-sharing website namely
cyber literature has been known since two                  “WATTPAD”. Established in 2006 by Allen
decades ago. Roekminto [2] explains that the               Lau and Ivan Yuen, after 13 years long
first Indonesian internet literary site namely             development has brought Wattpad as the
cybersastra.net was established in 1999 by                 biggest reading and writing in the world, with
poets Nanang Suryadi, Yono Wardito and                     social community reaching more than 70
Donny Anggoro, then followed by                            million users in a month, and more than 565
uncountable number of literary sites                       million original stories uploaded [3]. Beside it
afterwards. Since then, many discourses                    offers readers around the world to access any

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M. Yuseano Kardiansyah
3rd English Language and Literature International Conference (ELLiC)   Electronic ISSN: 2579-7263
                                  Proceedings – (ELLiC Proceedings Vol. 3, 2019)     CD-ROM ISSN: 2579-7549


preferable literary genre available for free,             gain more capital by publishing their works in
Wattpad also provides space for both                      printed form.
professional and amateur writers to actualize                  According to those studies, we can see
their interest in writing novel, short story or           that Wattpad has become a social space where
poetry anthology, then publish their works –              authors can freely explore any story genre that
even though Wattpad is not intended as                    they prefer to write and resist the hegemony
publishing platform – to readers all around the           of traditional publishing system, or even gain
world without passing through the complexity              popularity as a form of social capital.
of      traditional     publishing      systems.          However, the fact that Indonesian Wattpad’s
Furthermore, this platform also provides                  authors still crave on more capital from the
feature      that     enables      asynchronous           real life leaves some socio-cultural questions
communication between writer and readers,                 upon the existence of Wattpad as cyber or
so that typical interaction that commonly exist           digital field of literary production in
in other kind of social media can also be                 Indonesia: a. “Does it really give ideal
created among the users.                                  legitimation for its authors as literary men?”
     The existence of Wattpad is relatively               And prior to that, we need to know b. “Does
well-known so far among scholars. It is                   it have typical criteria as the field of literary
proven by some studies that have been                     production?”.
conducted upon it. Stephanie Benzaquen-                        Here, further investigation is needed to
Gautier [4] for example investigates stories              get better understanding about Wattpad as a
that talk about the Holocaust based on their              social space for literary production. Such a
intrinsic elements and tries to understand their          study is beneficial for revealing how far is the
impact on reader according to gender                      influence of technological advancement to the
construction and facts in the past. She also              dynamics of socio-cultural aspect, especially
analyzes external materials such as history,              literature, in Indonesia. In order to answer
fiction and writing that possibly influence the           those questions, in this particular study,
materialization of those Holocaust stories and            Watpadd as a story-sharing website will be
the impact of online platform like Wattpad in             investigated through Bourdieu’s theoretical
shaping digital participatory culture. Miriam             framework to see whether it has typical
J. Johnson [5] – even though not specifically             criteria to be considered as field of literary
talk about Wattpad – scrutinizes the relation             production.
among genre fiction, digital social platform,
citizen author and citizen authors’ strategy to           Methodology
alter power relationship in the industry. The             Before coming to data collecting and
study results conclusion showing that digital             analyzing part, Faruk [7] believes that
space has stimulated many production of                   researcher must determine both material and
genre writings that causes a shifting power               formal objects in their study. Material object
dynamics between citizen authors who prefer               is the domain where a research is conducted,
to work in it and traditional publishing                  while formal object is the perspective taken to
industry, blurs distinction between high and              examine the material object. In this study,
low art, and glorifies gender issue. While Arif           Wattpad as story sharing website is taken as
Budi Mawardi [6] studies the macro                        the material object, while the formal objects
phenomenon in Indonesian context related to               are all typical elements that can possibly
commodification of digital literary works                 construct Wattpad as a field of literary
from Wattpad into printed works through                   production, and give legitimation for its
Independent (Indie) publishers. Based on his              authors to be recognized as literary men. The
study, it is found that many Indonesian                   data for this study are some relevant
Wattpad’s authors are not satisfied with their            qualitative materials from Wattpad itself,
popularity in cyber space, therefore they try to          such as texts from home page, discover page,


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M. Yuseano Kardiansyah
3rd English Language and Literature International Conference (ELLiC)   Electronic ISSN: 2579-7263
                                  Proceedings – (ELLiC Proceedings Vol. 3, 2019)     CD-ROM ISSN: 2579-7549


community page, etc. Besides, the data are                structuralism theory to examine the socio-
also taken from previous research, some                   cultural dynamics of literary production.
reviews and testimonies about Wattpad that                Furthermore, Bourdieu [8] then explicitly
are found in the internet. All data are                   states that “the genetic structuralism I
compiled altogether by conducting digital                 propose is designed to understand both the
observation      and      archiving    method.            genesis of social structures – the literary field
Afterwards, those data are selected and                   – and the genesis of dispositions of the habitus
classified based on the needs of the research             of the agents who are involved in these
in order to answer questions that have already            structures”. Therefore genetic structuralism á
formulated previously.                                    la Bourdieu is a combination between an
     In analyzing the data, this study adapts             analysis of objective social structure and an
Bourdieu’s way [7, pp 16] in analyzing levels             analysis of genesis of the socially constituted
of related social realities as follow:                    mental structure, internalized into particular
 1. Analyzing data that contain information               individuals, which results practice.
     about typical works, literary producers                   Generally, this theory tries to answer
     and their practice in this kind of social            every problem including social conditions of
     media platform;                                      production, circulation and consumption of
 2. Relating the result of first analysis to all          symbolical goods, in which literary work is
     data that inform the structure of Wattpad            attached inside. Therefore the context of
     as cyber space for social interaction,               studies related to this theory includes:
     where each literary agent competes to                   1. The exploration upon work producers in
     gain legitimation in that space;                            terms of their strategies and trajectories,
 3. Relating the result of second analysis to                    based on their individual and class
     all data that inform the position of                        habitus, as well as their objective
     Wattpad as social space compared to                         position within a field;
     other kind of social space, in order to                 2. Analysis of field’s structure (position of
     prove the level of legitimation gotten by                   the writers or artists), consecration and
     Wattpad’s literary agent.                                   legitimation which make cultural
                                                                 products as they are (public, publisher,
Findings and Discussion                                          critics, gallery, academy, etc.);
To make it well structured, this part will be                3. Analysis of field’s position, such as
divided into three level of discussion. First, as                cultural field, in a broader field of
the beginning of discussion, this paper will                     power such as economy, politic, etc.
discuss the basic concept of field of literary                 The science of literary field, according to
production in order to give frame of thought              Bourdieu, is a kind of sites analysis that
in understanding all findings gotten from this            determines every position is subjectively
study. Second, Wattpad as the material object             defined by distinctive properties system that
will be analyzed to see whether or not this               shows one position can be situated among
platform can be considered as a field of                  others. Furthermore, Bourdieu sees literary
literary production that provides some sort of            field as ‘field of force’, along with ‘field of
ideal legitimation toward authors who                     struggle’ that tends to transform or conserve
practice in this cyber space. Now, we will                this field of force. This field is formed by
start with Bourdieu and his concept of literary           objective relations based upon different
field.                                                    positions the agents possess during struggle to
                                                          defend or improve their position. At the end,
Bourdieu and Field of Literary Production                 the strategy used for that struggle depends on
The field of literary production as a term is             force and occupied position of agents in the
very close to Pierre Bourdieu who has                     power relations.
developed genetic sociology or genetic


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3rd English Language and Literature International Conference (ELLiC)   Electronic ISSN: 2579-7263
                                  Proceedings – (ELLiC Proceedings Vol. 3, 2019)     CD-ROM ISSN: 2579-7549


     The structure of field itself is seen as             culture (e.g. mass-produced literature), in
space of positions, as structure of capital               which it relies on a large and complex culture
distribution of specific properties that                  industry and economic capital based
supports to succeed in the field and win the              hierarchy. Although its nature is different
external profit (financial) or specific profit            with the field of restricted production, in
(prestige). The structure of a field, in that             Bourdieu’s view the field of large scale
specific sense, is determined by positions of             production tends to adopt the spirit and
agents in that particular field, whereas the              dynamics from restricted field in order to
changing position of agent will also change               renew (or improve) itself.
the structural order of the field. Therefore in                Therefore from those explanation, it can
every field, agents are always involved in                be seen that there are four assumptions about
struggling to take over authority, the authority          literary field in the perspective of Bourdieu’s
in a form of legitimation, consecration and               genetic structuralism, as follow:
prestige. Eventually that will influence the                  1. Literary field is – a space of position –
correspondence between two homologous                            formed by objective relation among
structures, which are the structure of works                     different positions that its agents
and the structure of cultural field.                             occupy, thus its structural dynamics is
     Regarding to its position and structure,                    related to the dynamics of agents
cultural field such as literary field is believed                position;
to exist in a subordinate or dominated position               2. Thus, literary field is a dynamic
within the field of power [8],[9] for it                         structural system that must be
possesses high degree symbolic forms of                          understood structurally, in relation to
capital but it is lack of economic capital. That                 the probability of agents’ position
is because the legitimacy in field of power                      changing that can also change the
determined by the possession of economic or                      structural order of literary field;
political capital. The field of power itself is               3. The structure of literary field is also
defined by Bourdieu [9] as “the space of                         formed by an opposition between two
relations of force between agents or between                     sub-field, ‘the field of restricted
institutions having in common the possession                     production’ and ‘the field of large scale
of capital necessary to occupy the dominant                      production’;
positions in different fields (notably economic               4. The structure of literary work is
or cultural)”. It is the site of struggles                       homologous with the structure of
between the holders of different power (e.g.                     literary field, for it is believed that an
artists and patron) that determines the                          agents’ position and struggle in the field
transformation or conservation of different                      is the origin of literary structure they
capitals’ relative value, as it also determines                  create.
related forces to be engaged in these
struggles.                                                Wattpad and Possibility as Field of
     Related to that, the structure of cultural           Literary Production
production field is formed by an opposition                    According to previous explanation, the
between two sub-fields: ‘the field of restricted          core points to see whether Wattpad has proper
production’ and ‘the field of large scale                 criteria to be considered as a field of literary
production’. The first sub-field refers to                production lie on Bourdieu’s basic
production of what is called as high art (e.g.            assumptions about literary field that have
‘serious literature’), where the competition              been comprehensively explained previously.
between agents is merely symbolical that                  In the lens of Bourdieu, social spaces –
involves prestige, consecration and artistic              including literary field – is constructed by
celebrity. Meanwhile the second sub-field                 agents’ position and their objective relation.
refers to so called as ‘mass’ or ‘popular’                Objective relation in this case is in a form of


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M. Yuseano Kardiansyah
3rd English Language and Literature International Conference (ELLiC)   Electronic ISSN: 2579-7263
                                  Proceedings – (ELLiC Proceedings Vol. 3, 2019)     CD-ROM ISSN: 2579-7549


binary opposition between the dominant and                likes-viewers, from their practice as literary
the subordinate, which shows a literary field             agent in Wattpad. If in the real world the
is preserved through a mode of power relation             dominant agents have interest to conserve
inside.                                                   their position, in Wattpad as long as they write
      Although it shows identical activities as           something acceptable then everybody can get
in the real world, the situation found in                 popularity.
Wattpad is entirely different with the                         Thus, if literary field is a dynamic
condition of literary production in the real              structural system where the probability of
life. Firstly, unlike what happen in the context          agents’ position changing can also change the
of traditional publishing, there is no barrier to         structural order of its field, it is a little bit
publish a work of an individual in Wattpad,               problematic to see Wattpad as social space
and secondly, every step of publication                   that Bourdieu believes in. It is not because
processes, such as selecting-processing-                  there is no probability of authors’ position
distributing, can be managed by the author                changing, but although the authors have
itself, so that the role of agency, patron and            reached popularity, it is almost impossible for
publisher is no longer relevant in here.                  them to avoid someone new to get popularity
Seemingly, this platform provides a high level            even higher than they do. The only struggle
of independence toward the authors in                     they do is just being more and more
expressing what they want to write. However,              productive along with supplying the demand
as Mawardi [6] shows in his study, the readers            of the readers in Wattpad. The popular one is
can be – as long as consented by the authors –            indeed visible due to the rank features and
the authoritative agents who control what                 awards provided by the platform, but the
must and must not be written by the authors,              authority seemingly belongs to the readers.
since Wattpad gives feature between writers                    Regarding to the structure of literary field
and readers to interact each other.                       is also formed by an opposition between two
      Furthermore, Mawardi also explains that             sub-field, ‘the field of restricted production’
most of authors in Wattpad are beginner in                and ‘the field of large scale production’. It is
literary or even writing field. Therefore if              also problematic to categorize Wattpad in one
their orientation is to gain popularity and               of those two sub-field, or even claim that it
existence, it sounds logical if the writers try to        contains such a polarization inside. It is
accommodate what becomes the willingness                  because the characteristic of Wattpad cannot
of the readers to grab as much followers and              be identically matched with either restricted
likes as they can. It shows that Wattpad users            or large scale. If it is extremely necessary to
is just like in other platform of social media.           choose one of them, maybe the nature of large
But the most important point in this issue is a           scale production is the closer one compared to
potential of readers to become the taste                  restricted production. After all, if the
controller upon works produced in this kind               parameter of large scale production is counted
of social media. So it seems that the role of             from the width of readers’ access, every work
readers is more superior compared to authors              in Wattpad is accessible worldwide.
who just try to serve the demand of their                 Nevertheless, the free access nature of
followers or readers.                                     Wattpad then again backlashes the nature of
      In the other side, the relation between             large scale production, as a complex culture
dominant and subordinate author can just be               industry and economic capital based
more appropriate if converted as popular and              hierarchy. In this digital field, economic
newcomer author. This perception is                       capital seems not that relevant to be converted
relatively taken due to the fact that there is no         as any capital available in the field. Both
room for popular authors to intervene or slow             readers and writers can put themselves in
down the struggle of the newcomers to get                 practice without necessarily have economic
more and more incentives, such as followers-              capital based.


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3rd English Language and Literature International Conference (ELLiC)   Electronic ISSN: 2579-7263
                                  Proceedings – (ELLiC Proceedings Vol. 3, 2019)     CD-ROM ISSN: 2579-7549


     Eventually, a basic assumption that says                 3. Social capital or social networking
the structure of literary work is homologous                     possessed by agents in relation to other
with the structure of literary field can be seen                 agents that have power;
logical in this case. As explained previously,                4. Symbolic capital in a form of
it is believed that an agent’s position and                      accumulated prestige, status, authority
struggle in the field is the origin of literary                  and legitimation.
structure they create. That notion can explain
the practice of each author in the platform, in                Nonetheless, there are two paramount
which the more popular an author is, the more             capital considered in the field of cultural
acceptable the work he/she creates in the lens            production [8], which are symbolic capital as
of the readers. That can also be seen the other           combination between agent’s knowledge and
way round, in which the less popular an                   recognition before other agents, and cultural
author is, the less acceptable the work he/she            capital as a form of cultural knowledge,
creates. So the structure of the literary works           competences and disposition. In this context,
produced in Wattpad correspond to the                     when the agents have come into a field, then
structure of the space due to the position                all of their capitals have already automatically
occupied by each author inside.                           invested to gain more capitals from the
                                                          involvement to that particular field. General
Wattpad as a Source of Capitals and                       logics to be used in this case is that none of
Legitimation                                              them want to get lost from the game they play
     Regardless the peculiar nature of                    in that field. Therefore, the orientation of an
Wattpad as social space where people                      agent to come to a field is certainly to gain
produce literary works, there is an interesting           profit (either symbolical or economical), to
findings related to the function of this social           win it, not the opposite. The practice of
media as a source of capitals. Related to                 producing literary work, in this case, is the
literary agent’s practice at literary field, the          manifestation of how an agent fights to
discussion will be related to what Bourdieu               struggle and gain some profit in the literary
calls as capital. In a simple way, capital can            field.
be understood as a set of force and power                      This discussion is closely related to
resources that can be used by agents to deal              Mawardi’s [6] explanation about the
with field of literature. In this case, Bourdieu          commodification of Indonesian Wattpad’s
[10],[11] categorizes capital into four types:            works into printed form with ISBN.
    1. Economic       capital     that     covers         According to him, in this practice Wattpad
       production tools, material and money.              authors prefer to work with independent
       Economic capital can also be reversed              (indie) publishers due to easiness they can get
       or patented as individual right. This is a         compared to work a lot harder to convince
       relatively independent capital for it can          major publishers. However, it is found that
       be easily used or transformed into                 there are some authors who are well-
       another field, also flexible to be given           recognized by major publisher, even their
       or inherited to somebody else;                     works are ready to be enjoyed via silver
    2. Cultural capital as a holistic intellectual        screen. In year 2019 [12], there are eight
       qualification that can be produced                 Wattpad works listed to be filmed, as follow:
       through formal education or family                 Wulanfadi’s Matt and Mou, Faradita’s Sin
       tradition. This kind of capital implies a          and Invalidite, Wiwi Syanti’s She’s the Boss,
       long process of learning, so that it               Alnira’s Friendzone, Eko Ivano Winata’s
       cannot be so easy given to somebody                Senior, Almira Bastari’s Resign and Luluk
       else;                                              HF’s Mariposa. Besides that, there are also
                                                          some works that have already been filmed so
                                                          far [13], they are Erisca Febriani’s Dear


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3rd English Language and Literature International Conference (ELLiC)   Electronic ISSN: 2579-7263
                                  Proceedings – (ELLiC Proceedings Vol. 3, 2019)     CD-ROM ISSN: 2579-7549


Nathan and Serendipity, Wulanfadi’s A,                    once they have accumulated sufficient
Christa Bella’s Revan & Reina and Indah                   capitals, the readers are softly dominated to
Riyana’s The Perfect Husband.                             help the authors accumulating much more
      Those phenomena show that Wattpad is                capitals beyond cyber space.
also used by its users to accumulate some                      Ironically, regardless the popularity
capitals that can be used outside of Wattpad              gotten by those popular authors, they are still
as cyber space. There are two capitals that are           weak in the term of symbolic capital. As a
identified in this matter: social capital and             capital in a form of accumulated prestige,
cultural capital. From this study, it can be seen         status, authority and legitimation, symbolic
that cultural capital as a holistic intellectual          capital is the most powerful weapon for any
qualification cannot only be produced                     literary man to have ideal legitimation in the
through formal education or family tradition.             field of literary production. As Wattpad
As a capital that is accumulated through a                cannot be categorized as restricted scale sub-
long process of learning, those Wattpad’s                 field, the final legitimation that this field can
authors have successfully used this platform              give to its agent is just popularity. There is no
as a space for learning by doing the skill of             such a prestige, status or even authority
writing that is widely demanded by the                    provided by Wattpad to its Indonesian most
readers, even beyond Wattpad. While social                important writers, as long as the authoritative
capital or social networking possessed by                 agents belongs to Indonesian field of literary
them in relation to other agents that have                production do not see Wattpad as impactful
power in Wattpad space, who are readers                   platform that fits with the ideal taste those
themselves. It can be clearly seen that                   agents have constructed and conserved so far.
Wattpad has been used to collect social capital           Probably that is one of reasons for Wattpad’s
in a form of followers and fanatic readers that           popular authors to go beyond cyber space and
can eventually be brought beyond cyber                    dare to struggle in wider space that offers
space.                                                    more ideal legitimation.
      In the context of conventional publishing
system, social and cultural capital are crucial           Conclusion
in gaining economic capital. It is proven by              In conclusion, according to all findings
society reception toward Wattpad’s authors                discussed previously, there are some points of
who eventually publish their works                        view that must be re-emphasized as the last
conventionally [14]–[16]. It means that, the              part of the discussion in this paper as follow:
social and cultural capital gotten from cyber                  1. As social media platform that support
social space can be converted into economic                       the production of cyber literature,
capital in the real life. Another interesting                     Wattpad has peculiar characteristic as
finding from Mawardi’s study is that a trend                      a social space, since this short
of fetishism from fanatic followers toward                        observation cannot clearly be matched
Wattpad’s popular authors. He sees that in                        with Bourdieu’s concept of field, it
some extent, reading is no longer relevant to                     needs deeper and more comprehensive
be the reason for those followers to buy the                      study to explain it as a field of literary
printed version of Wattpad’s popular stories.                     production;
It is more as life style instead of the necessity              2. Wattpad is a source of social and
of reading, because if they crave of reading,                     cultural capitals that can be maximally
they’ve got t it for free before those authors                    obtained by its popular authors, so that
expand their practice to the world beyond                         they can bring it out and converted as
cyber space. At this level, the relation                          economic capital;
between authors and readers has reversed. In                   3. Wattpad is unable to provide any
the early time of their writing career, those                     symbolic capital that causes this space
authors are dominated by demanding readers,


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M. Yuseano Kardiansyah
3rd English Language and Literature International Conference (ELLiC)   Electronic ISSN: 2579-7263
                                  Proceedings – (ELLiC Proceedings Vol. 3, 2019)     CD-ROM ISSN: 2579-7549


       is lack of legitimation to be given to                  University Press, 1993.
       their popular authors;                             [9] P. Bourdieu, The Rules of Arts of the
    4. Wattpad’s popular authors then                          Literary Field Genesis and Structure
       presumably try to expand their                          Translated by Pierre Bourdieu Printed in
       practice for getting more capital and                   Great Britain. Standford: Standford
       ideal legitimation as literary man in                   University Press, 1992.
       the field of Indonesian literature.                [10] P. Bourdieu, The Logic of Practice.
                                                               California: Standford University Press,
Acknowledgments                                                1990.
This work was supported by the Research                   [11] K. Y. Karnanta, “Paradigma Teori Arena
Fund provided by Teknokrat Education                           Produksi Kultural Sastra: Kajian
Foundation and academic guidance facilitated                   Terhadap Pemikiran Pierre Bourdieu,”
by Humanities Sciences Ph.D Program of                         Poetika, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 3–15, 2013.
Faculty of Cultural Sciences Universitas                  [12] N. Hadiyanti, “Deretan Novel Wattpad
Gadjah Mada.                                                   yang Akan Difilmkan di Tahun 2019,”
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