Archive | October, 2011

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?