STOMP – Citizen journalism or just one big joke?

23 Oct

Admit it, you love complaining. If you’re a Singaporean, you’re used to complaining. One might even say that a Singaporean who doesn’t complain is not a true Singaporean. I was prompted to think about this, after a question was posed to us during class:

“Has the Internet with its distinctive model of ‘citizen journalism’ affected the influence of the mass media?”

Think ‘citizen journalism’ in Singapore and I’m very sure you’ll think of STOMP – an online interactive platform for Singaporeans to share and upload news. Has STOMP affected the influence of mass media in Singapore? Highly unlikely, I feel. According to the 2003 report, We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information, citizen journalism is the “concept of members of the public playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information”.

Would posts such as the ones below really mean much to anyone else?

In Singapore at least, to say that citizen journalism has affected the influence of the mass media would be to say that one would rather go to STOMP than read The Straits Times. I myself will never bring myself to do that. In what way would news such as the above have any value for me? Granted, The Straits Times is not exactly objective at times (after all, it is partially controlled by the government), but at the very least, they do bring news that have value to us Singaporeans, news of the economy, of politics, of world events, etc. Are posts about young people not giving up their seats to elderly passengers on the train even news anymore? It certainly feels like a fact of life these days, and that says something about our society.

If anything, perhaps citizen journalism is where the theory, Media Determinism, is best applied. With this theory, it is argued that the medium is more important than the message. Singaporeans will perhaps be more wary of committing such acts of discourtesy and inconsideration if they were to see a camera pointing in their direction. It is not the fact that they’re doing something some may consider rude, but rather just more of the fact that they know they’re going to be on STOMP.

Can citizen journalism ever affect the influence of the mass media in Singapore? I believe it is possible, but maybe 3 or even 4 generations from now on. You see, with STOMP, it’s a vicious cycle. It was first set up as a venue for Singaporeans to air their grievance and now, over the years, it has become a place for Singaporeans to complain. The more they complain, the more they go on STOMP, and the more they go on STOMP, the more they complain. It will never end. If we want our citizen journalism to be a little more “professional” and maybe, even emulate South Korean’s examples, then maybe Singaporeans can reduce their complaining, and spend the time they use for uploading mindless stories onto STOMP, and instead do some real journalism like finding and writing stories that actually matter.

What do you think? “Has the Internet with its distinctive model of ‘citizen journalism’ affected the influence of the mass media?”


Setting the agenda in Singapore

16 Oct

As part of our Unit 4 teachings this week, we learnt about agenda setting. Agenda setting refers to the media’s ability, through repeated news coverage, to raise the importance of an issue in the public’s mind. The importance, as perceived in the media, may not be true in reality. Agenda setting doesn’t tell us how to think, but rather what to think about.

We also learnt about priming, which is the process in which the media attend to some issues over others and thereby, alter the standards by which people evaluate the issue.

Examples of agenda setting can be seen in our daily newspapers, such as in The Straits Times, The New Paper, Lianhe Zaobao, etc. For example, in this today’s edition of The Straits Times, the main stories are on sexting, how men are “training” for love, and even Bhutan’s Royal Wedding. We are not told how we should think about this issues, such as whether we agree with the paper’s views or not, but rather, because these issues are brought to our attention, we can now think about them and formulate our own thoughts.

A good example of priming would be the recent Presidential Election, or even the General Elections in May. If you had read the papers during those months, every day’s edition of the news would feature plenty coverage on the presidential/election candidates, their parties, what they stand for, what they have been up to, the issues they raised, any gaffes (if any) made etc. With so much coverage on the elections, the public cannot help but feel that the elections should be at the top of their minds, to be of the highest priority.

The ability of the media to set agenda also depends on several factors such as:

  • Obtrusive/unobtrusive issue
  • Volume of news coverage on the issue
  • Tone of media coverage
  • Salience
  • Images accompanying the issue

Taking “images accompanying the issue”, take today’s edition of The Sunday Times as an example.

Thousands of people in cities across the globe had take inspiration from America’s “Occupy Wall Street” pretests and were rallying against the corporate greed and government cutbacks. Singapore too had a planned Occupy Raffles Place protest but fell flat after the police intervened and warned the public not to take part in the protest as it was considered unlawful. The picture used, of policemen patrolling an “empty, peaceful” Raffles Place gives Singaporeans something to think about, not just about the protest but also whether we are slowly becoming a totalitarian nation.

So who sets the media agenda? Shoemaker and Reese in 1991 proposed 5 major categories of influence of media content: individual media workers, media routines, media organizations, outside, influence and ideology. They can include editors of magazines, newspapers; media owners, producers, advertisers, political parties, etc.

An example of this would be when WRS cancelled Halloween at the Night Safari. The public was outraged, participants who had helped out were crushed and even the media painted an unflattering light of the woman in the spotlight, Isabella Loh. Newspapers editors could have easily used a picture from the company’s corporate portfolio, etc, but instead, they used a picture that showed her face in a stern expression, unfriendly, someone unapproachable. The agenda has been set; the public then wonders if there is any truth to what people are saying, that Isabella Loh is some sort of an uncaring villain who carried out a silly and thoughtless act by cancelling Halloween at the Night Safari.

Do you think agenda setting in Singapore has been useful, or helpful? Or do you think that agenda setting is another way of the government in controlling our thoughts via mainstream media? Please share!

Singapore: A hypocritical, sexist nation

8 Oct

In this week’s lesson, we learnt about Intercultural communication, where culture was defined as a “template for living”. It tells us who we are, what groups we belong to and how to live our lives. We also learnt about individualism vs. collectivism.

Edward T. Hall (1983) theorized that culture “is an invisible control mechanism operating in our thoughts which kicks in only when we are severely challenged”. I believe this to be extremely true. Take the recent hoo-ha about the Abercrombie & Fitch advertisement at Knightsbridge, Orchard Road.

The big hoo-ha is, of course, the fact that the man is half-naked, with his jeans tugged so low that you can see his navel line, and his underwear. Oh, and the advertisement is four-storeys high. After four months, the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) decided to suspend the advertisement for “breaching local guidelines on decency”.

Singapore, for all intents and purposes, calls itself a liberal country, where there is a general sense of equality between the two genders. Singaporeans regard themselves as open-minded. But I feel that during this time of “severe challenge”, as introduced by Hall, this notion is a pack of lies.

Why wait four months before ASAS called for the advertisement’s suspension? Knightsbridge is at an extremely prominent location in Orchard Road. Thousands, if not hundred thousands, consumers would have passed the advertisement in those 4 months? If the advertisement did “breach local guidelines on decency”, surely they would have demanded its suspension the moment it went up.

This incident has proven that equality for both genders in Singapore is nothing more than a pipe dream. If the ASAS is so concerned with public decency, then why are there still lingerie advertisements featuring beyond scantily clad women in various seductive positions, posted all over public bus stops? Schoolchildren frequent these public bus stops, shouldn’t they be protected from indecency as well?

Bottom line is, Singapore’s culture allows the subjacency of women. It’s not okay for a man to be half-naked in public advertisements, but it’s okay for a woman. Why? Because that’s what women are meant for. That is the message Singapore is sending across. Women are objects, to be pretty, glorified and seen as sexual beings, valued for their “assets”. Why else would lingerie ads featuring women be allowed, and not advertisements featuring men in their underwear?

Of course, there will be those of you who argued that this is not your stand in the matter. You find it silly that we’re even debating about this. I can understand your feelings. But being an individualist in a collectivist society such as Singapore, we must work hard to make sure that such prejudices and sexist views are not passed to the next generation. Treholm (2004) theorized that culture is learned and shared. Culture is also passed down the generations. If we have scores of Singaporeans telling their children that the advertisement at Knightsbridge is an indecent and lewd one, and these same Singaporeans not telling their children that advertisements featuring scantily clad women can be viewed the same way, then these children will grow up having these views. They will think that it’s all right for women to be objectified but not men. This will do nothing in eradicating sexism and gender prejudice in our society.

What do you think? Should Singapore start practising what she preaches? Would we ever  be a sexist-free nation?

Communication in Relationships

2 Oct

This week’s lesson was focused on defining personal communication and communication in relationships. For today’s post, I will be writing on communication in relationships, focusing on relational formation and the “coming apart” stage of Mark Knapp’s Relational Development model. The model describes the progression and development of relationships as a series of 10 stages in two phases.

To better illustrate my blog post, I have decided to use the real-life example of Asian celebrity couple, Nicholas Tse & Cecilia Cheung. Their relationship, marriage and subsequent divorce has been nothing short of dramatic.

Reports first stated that the both of them started dating in early 2002 but later split up when Tse reconciled with his ex-girlfriend, singer Faye Wong. In early 2006, they were reported to be “getting back together” and in July 2006, Tse officially admitted to dating Cheung in a media interview.

Personally, I believe that physical appearance played a part in the early stages of their relationship, disregarding the fact that they broke up in 2002. It is obvious that both stars are good-looking and it’s said that “physical appearance have its biggest impact in the early stages of a relationship; its impact diminish over the course of a relationship”. Similarity (tendency to form relationship with those we perceive as similar to us) also played a part in their relationship, with the both of them being in the film industry. Going along this vein, it is assumed that proximity played a part in the formation of their relationship. Proximity, which is when we form relationships with people around us, explains the shared social contacts, which I’m sure the both of them have, having starred in 2 films together, Twelve Nights (2000) and The Promise (2005).

The “coming apart” stage of Mark Knapp’s Relational Development model is characterised by differentiating, circumscribing, stagnating, avoiding and terminating. In differentiating, communication and interaction is marked by overt conflict. This can be clearly seen in the media reports about the couple when their marital woes first surfaced. It apparently first started when Cheung took a picture with Edison Chen, a surprise meeting between the two onboard a plane. You might recall that Cheung was involved/implicated in the Edison Chen sex scandal in 2008. Reports that claimed that Cheung’s then-husband, Tse, apparently flew into a rage.

As months went on, tabloids reported intense conflict between the two. An example would be Cheung’s interview with Oriental Daily, where she accused him of “leaking false information to the public to depict a negative image of her as a gold-digger and troublemaker”. She also critized him for being a “neglectful husband and father” and told him to “stop pretending to be a good man, a good dad”. Tse, on the hand, refused to engage with her, with the paparazzi bearing the brunt of his frustration. To make matters worse, their conflict also involved several additional parties, with all of them giving their take on the Tse-Cheung marriage.

In circumscribing, communication is restricted to safe areas and there is shrinking of relational interest and commitment. When the troubled couple finally met in their home to discuss the custody of their children’s right, it was reported that Cheung only spoke three sentences to Tse, all of which were revolved around “safe” topics. She apparently only said, “You’re back!”, “Why don’t you play with the kids for a while?” and “Whenever you want to visit the kids, just drop me a call anytime”. The lack of any discussion about the divorce proceedings or custody rights are also a sign of the shrinking of relational interest and commitment.

In avoiding, parties avoid one another and they withdraw physically and emotionally. This is seen from the actions of Tse, who avoided and hid form Cecilia like a plague. There were also allegations that he did not show any concern for Cheung when she suffered a miscarriage.

Finally, in terminating, the relationship ceases to exist and parties move on from the relationship. This is evident from the couple filing for a divorce in August this year after 5 years of marriage.

Communication has always played a huge role in relationships. Besides the example used, below are two videos where the same theories can also be applied. Can you think of any other examples?

I Am Woman, Hear Me Whimper?

25 Sep

What is non-verbal communication? Non-verbal communication is “communication that occurs when a stimulus other than words creates meaning in the mind of the communicator”. Non-verbal communication contains intentional symbolic behavior and is also, receiver-oriented.

For this week, I will be discussing about fashion advertisements and the non-verbal communication they employ. Let’s start with this advertisement from Relish.

Bearing in mind that non-verbal communication is receiver-oriented, what kind of message is Relish trying to convey here. Perhaps the intention was that Relish’s women’s fashion are good, it’s practically against the law. But I suspect that most who saw this advertisement would get the message that officers of the law (presumably the men in the advertisement are police officers) are within their reasons to assault these women. The lady in white is clearly being restrained while the other officer seems to be touching the other lady in an inappropriate manner. This brings in haptics, a type of non-verbal communication, which is the study of touch in communication. From this advertisement, it is clear that the touch is an unwanted expression of power.

What about these advertisements from Dolce & Gabbana and Calvin Klein Jeans? Again, perhaps their intention is to portray their products, clothing, as something sexy and desirable judging from all the good-looking models being cast in the advertisements and their various state of undress. But it is important to remember that non-verbal communication is normative in interpretation, which means it has cues with socially agreed upon or culturally defined meanings.  The message that these advertisements are portraying, however, is that they are glorifying gang rape. Haptics can be applied to these advertisements as well. Clearly, we can see that the touches portrayed are an unwanted expression of power, seemingly restraining the women in a certain way. Proxemics, which is the study of space and distance in communication, can also be applied. It doesn’t seem that the characters in the advertisements know each other in an intimate manner and so it gives receivers the impression that the men are violating the intimate distance, or rather, the woman’s personal space.

In this Sisley advertisement, women are portrayed as “fashioin junkie(s)”, a play on the words “heroin junkie”. When people see this advertisement, they are first drawn to the women’s physical appearance. Dazed, disorientated, disheveled, with the lady on the left exposing herself. It gives off the impression that women who are attracted to fashion are, in essence, drug addicts. Perhaps Sisley is trying to convey the message that their fashion is very addictive but this is clearly not the way to bring across the message.

Women being portrayed in a negative light on fashion advertisements are not something new, but perhaps with newfound knowledge on non-verbal communication, the next generation of students who will go on to be the next generation of advertisers and designers will put an end to such sexist attitudes towards women in fashion. What do you think?

The fact that she’s even picking up a newspaper: smart and beautiful.. – Miss Universe commentator

18 Sep

The annual Miss Universe pageant has come and gone, and this year’s winner is Miss Angola. Aside from scandals and controversies that will emerge before and after each year’s pageant, making it worthy of a TV soap-drama, the main reason why I never catch the show live and will probably never watch it in my entire lifetime, is that it only serves to perpetuate the perception that women are nothing more than objects to look at and drool over.

This week in class, we learned that perception is the process by which we make sense of the world around us. It can be influenced by psychological factors (through our thought processes, character and experiences) and social factors (such as group culture, context, media).

Consider this: whoever who wins Miss Universe will embark on a year-long humanitarian journey where they lend their face and star power to which cause they choose to support. This is indeed a noble effort. But how much coverage is there after the pageant? How many of us actually know what happens after the winner is crowned. Unless there is some controversy or scandal involving the winner, we really don’t have much of an idea as to what she does after she wins the crown.

Also consider this: if the main idea is that Miss Universe will be a humanitarian after winning, why is there more time and emphasis placed on how she looks like half-naked during the pageant? There are photoshoot(s) featuring the contestants in barely-there swimwear before the pageant, they continue to parade in swimwear during the actual pageant, and half of them will wear skimpy evening gowns later on. How will all this help Miss Universe be a better humanitarian? The segment that can actually evaluate Miss Universe contestants on humanitarian efforts, is the short Q&A session, which is basically useless because it’s reduced to ONE question and most of the time, the questions are dumb anyway.

Yes, I get it. Miss Universe is a beauty pageant.

My question is this: why should it be a beauty pageant? Again, if the main purpose of the winner is to later go out on humanitarian efforts, must she be pretty? Must she be beautiful? Will her beauty put an end to world hunger, HIV/AIDS, etc? Will her beauty comfort those who have been displaced due to years and years of civil unrest? No, it will not. The late Princess Diana and Mother Theresa were not conventional beauties but they made a difference in the world. Why can’t they be the same for the Miss Universe contestants?

Instead, what the Miss Universe pageant does is perpetuate the misconception that if you look good in a swimwear, you can succeed in life. It allows young girls to believe the perception that real women look like the contestants and you need to be slim, svelte, and beautiful.



Sure, you can say that the modeling industry has been doing that for years, but see it from this angle. The Miss Universe pageant has always been branded as a “wholesome, women-empowerment” event. What kind of an event is it really if it allows women to be paraded like cattle?




On a parting note, I shall leave you with these. Do we really want young girls to become women who think of mice that eat moon cheese, who think that a woman’s advantage over a man is that she can strut out in a bikini and who think that a man can’t get pregnant right now, as opposed to them being able to be pregnant in the future?

In my opinion, Miss Malaysia is probably the only contestant I personally think didn’t embarrassed herself in her web interview, and if I have to pick a winner, I’d pick Miss Malaysia.

Jack Neo – What Has He Done This Time?

11 Sep

On Saturday, 10 September 2011, The New Paper ran a story on local actor-turned-movie director Jack Neo and a 121-line poem he had posted on his blog. In the poem, he commented on the recent cases of graffiti attacks on SMRT trains and the subsequent apology of SMRT’s president and CEO, Saw Phaik Hwa, had to make to the public. Also, in his poem, he was said to have written that the sight of an exploding MRT train with BBQed passengers was beautiful. Needless to say, his blog entry has angered some readers.

It was really tough on the SMRT chief, who had to apologize unreservedly and assume all responsibility for this mistake. Some people felt it was odd and could not understand why people got into trouble. My mother said it (the graffiti) was quite cute, and my son said the color combination was good. Vandal experts said it was the work of the experienced, the Government said it was an offence. Perhaps people don’t realize the severity of this act?

What if the vandals don’t mind extra work? What if after beautifying the train, they decide to hide a bomb inside? When the train moves off into a crowded area, the vandal, from his safe spot far away, detonates the bomb. Watching the brilliance of the explosion, where innocent passengers are being barbecued inside the flaming train.

Ordinary people will never be able to understand that this could happen, but thankfully the authorities are not sleeping. Don’t think they are exaggerating (on the severity of the situation) and that it’s merely graffiti vandalism.

Really, the chief has to take responsibility, though people may feel sorry for her. For she has much to handle – strange things happen daily, from people falling off the platform to being crushed by closing doors. Or some may choose to commit suicide by jumping off the platform; someone collected a large sum of condolence money in the past…

These are translated excerpts from the poem, taken from The New Paper, with no corrections made.

Other offending lines include “when someone commits suicide by jumping off the platform, his family gets a large sum of condolence money”. Netizens were furious by his entry, believing him to be insensitive and irresponsible. Some said “he had underestimated the severity of the situation with his seemingly mocking statements”.

When interviewed by The New Paper, Neo explained that “excerpts of his post was taken out of context” and “the meaning was misinterpreted”. In response to his “beautiful sight” remark, he said he was looking at it from a deranged terrorist’s point of view.

Could this be yet another case of Singaporeans overreacting?

Singaporeans are not strangers to overreacting. From the person who asked if the entire Bedok Reservoir could be drained after the discovery of a dead body in there, to residents of Serangoon Gardens protesting the building of a foreign workers’ dormitories in their estate to even a father questioning the difficulty of his son’s PSLE Math examination paper, Singaporeans can be trusted to overreact to anything and everything. But what about this case? Are readers grasping at straws or has Jack Neo really gone too far this time?

Using the canons of rhetoric, I do believe that Jack Neo’s poem was not the best message/communication he could have put across. Why? One of Aristotle’s modes of speech is ethos, which is the persuasive appeal of one’s character.

Jack Neo was an actor who later turned into one of Singapore’s most celebrated movie directors. His movies were immensely popular, using satirical humor to poke fun at aspects of Singaporean life, such as the education system and the work ethic in Singapore. Singaporeans looked up to him and many felt that he was a role model. Then, on 7 March 2010, local newspapers broke the story of how Jack Neo had engaged in a two-year long extra-marital affair with a woman, only 3 years older than his eldest child.

Overnight, support for him plummeted. As stories of more alleged affairs with even younger girls surfaced, he was chastised for being unfaithful to his wife as well as being involved with women a lot younger than he was. Despite his attempts to remain low profile in recent months as well as slowly regain the public’s trust through his new films, many still believe the worst of him. Speaking to The New Paper, some felt that “(his poem) was a publicity stunt”. His ruined reputation has lowered him in the eyes of Singaporeans and it seems that whatever he says now run the chance of being misconstrued. While I personally agree with the point that he is making, that the vandalism cases highlight SMRT’s security lapses, his tarnished character makes it hard for people to see things objectively and interpret his message the way he meant for it, which in this case, are the security lapses of SMRT and its CEO taking responsibility.

Style is also another canon of rhetoric, in which the “speaker must select and arrange the wording of the message carefully”. With regard to the “beautiful sight” remark, I do believe that it is clear to anyone reading the poem properly that the remark is from the terrorist’s point of view. But wording the poem in such a “creative” way clearly backfired, because while he is a movie director and takes pride in artistic creativity, many Singaporeans prefer something less “experimental”. His other line of “some may choose to commit suicide by jumping off the platform; someone collected a large sum of condolence money in the past” was also condemned as insensitive but I myself do not see anything wrong with this statement. It is true that some Singaporeans chose to end their lives by jumping off the train platform, and it is true that Singaporeans have donated large sums of condolence money to these bereaved families. For example, on 29 November 2010, a man was found dead on the MRT track at Queenstown station. Even more recently, on 17 April 2011, a man was arrested for attempting suicide at the Sembawang MRT station. In 2009, it was said that every 3 in 5 suicide victims end their life by jumping down to the MRT tracks.

But in a culture used to its generosity towards victims of ill circumstances, these remarks will only be seen as tactless. When Thai teenager, Nitcharee Peneakchanasak fell onto the tracks and had her legs severed, a group of anonymous donors donated $250,000, with another mystery donor giving her $50,000 to help with her hospital bill. In 2006, a man named Tan Jee Suan committed suicide by jumping onto the tracks, and Singaporeans collectively donated more than $500,000 for his grieving family.

Perhaps Jack Neo was simply trying to put across the point that such acts of generosity by the public are sending a wrong message to those in dire straits. By taking one’s life, one may help his immediate family amass overnight wealth. But it is my opinion that the line in question “some may choose to commit suicide by jumping off the platform; someone collected a large sum of condolence money in the past…” is merely Jack Neo pointing out the various situations SMRT’s CEO has to deal with daily. However, I do feel that it was wrong of him to have phrased it in a way where people thought he was mocking those who had suffered tragedies with the trains.

I still think that Jack Neo’s poem being lambasted is a case of Singaporeans over-reacting because if not for his past scandal, people would read his poem in closer detail and see that what he says makes sense. As a student who has studied literature before, after reading his poem, it is clear that the meaning of it has been misinterpreted in places. But perhaps Jack Neo should refrain from making his opinions on such sensitive issues known as it seems that whatever he does these days only serves to incite public outrage.