Singapore elections and social networking

On 7th May 2011, Singapore held its general elections but the Singapore media noted that social networking media made a difference in this year’s election as compared to previous years. Indeed, social networking media definitely played a part in swaying the voter’s hearts for the big night.

Nicole Seah, a 24 year old contesting politician for example, made her online presence on Facebook and garnered 18,900 fans on her page surpassing another politician, Foreign Minister George Yeo’s 18,700 fans, who had a headstart for three years. Young politicians like Nicole Seah are using social media to reach out to young voters in Singapore who were once apathetic about politics. Soial networking tools like Facebook and Twitter are a great way to engage with these young voters who are heavy users of social media.

Nicole Seah's Facebook page

Her use of social media has been described as a “breath of fresh air” in this year’s election. While political party People’s Action Party (PAP) has been dominating the elections in the previous years, Nicole Seah’s move on the social networking site means that first of all she will be able to express views and thoughts without the traditional gatekeeping mechanisms of old media. Where once politicians had to put out views and thoughts that aligned with the government on Singapore’s state-controlled media, politicians can now speak outside of the control of dominant media- and still be heard.

Secondly, with her move to the social networking site, Nicole Seah is not just speaking to her voters. She is hearing them speak as well. Voters can raise issues they would like to see addressed and can leave comments and support for politicians.

I think it’s a great way of getting young people who are typically apathetic about politics to start using a platform they are familiar with to voice out issues. Typically, Generation Y voters often feel threatened by politics and formal political space such as Meet-the people’s session, parliament sessions, Minister’s speeches and so on. Social networking space is a great way to get them interested in politics at a site where they are comfortable with. And Gen Y’s don’t even have to talk about big issues, they can always start with local community issues at the grassroots level – schools, neighbourhoods- things they not only have a genuine concern about, but also things they are familiar with so they don’t feel intimidated by ‘big issues’ often raised in public spaces and know that they can still contribute to the local politics scene.

In fact, I believe that when politicians start putting news excerpts, articles or political event invites on Facebook, youths can be more attuned to what is going on in politics because these information are aggregated on the news feed pages of Facebook for these young people and the information is that much more visible for them to take notice in the private space. Politics on Facebook is such a crazy, but good idea.

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Flipboard

So, I was just wondering how many of your out there know about this iPad app, called Flipboard? Well, basically it is touted as THE social magazine app and it works by aggregating news your friends have posted up on different social networking sites you are part of. So for example, 1 page of the virtual magazine may contain news stories posted by your friends on Facebook, another page Twitter and so on.

View the ad below if my explanation sucked, (or even if it was awesome, cos the ad is pretty nice!)


Some rights reserved by gadgetsNgames

The guy behind the app which was also touted by Apple as the “iPad App of the year” is Mike McCue who explained that the virtual magazine works by only revealing snippets of the entire news stories on the virtual magazine which encourages users to click-through to the original publisher’s website to read the full story. The app has been wildly successful of course with people downloading it by the thousands seconds after it was launch.

I’m guessing that one of the reason the apps was such a hit and received so many downloads is the exact same reason why Facebook and Twitter are having so many users. Creators of these softwares basically tap on human’s desire to be constantly connected with friends, families and what they are doing. In the same logic, Mike McCue pushed this app out an age-old logic, people want to know what their friends are doing, people want to know what their friends are READING. If you think about it, that’s what all successful apps these days are about. Take Foursquare, for example, this app allows people to know their friend’s current location and believe it or not- almost EVERYONE bothers to check in on foursquare when they visit a new place. And I mean I get the point, such an app is great.

But if we are only constantly expose to news that interest our social circles and friendship groups, I feel that we are not giving our attention to a wider range of issues and news that are out there. Places we visit, news we read then becomes so limited to the people we know. It kind of defeats the purpose that new media is there to help you learn more, share more and find more- because we are not finding more, we are just finding more of the same thing.

 

 

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Piracy in China

Medosch argues that: “piracy, despite being an entirely commercially motivated activity carried out in black or grey markets, fulfills culturally important functions” (Reader, page 318).

Armin Medosch (2008: 81) correctly points out that ‘piracy fulfils an important role by giving access to cultural goods which otherwise would be completely unavailable to the vast majority of the people.’

A good example to illustrate this point would be the film piracy industry in China. As Armin Medosch (2008:81) also notes ‘in markets such as China, piracy not only serves to provide access to the products of mainstream commercial movie industries, may it be Hollywood, Bollywood or Korea, it also fills gaps in provision and provides access to art movies and more difficult fare which does not get official distribution for whatever reason.’ and piracy ‘gives people access to information and culture goods they had otherwise no chance of obtaining.’

Shujen Wang (2008: 52) notes that in China, thirty-six percent of households own VCD players, with more converting to DVD players. In 2002, there were over 5.3 million DVD players in China and pirated DVDs were being sold for $0.75. In contrast, movie ticket prices have skyrocketed in China for the past 20 years and they are largely considered to be a luxury item. Movie tickets are sold for as much as 150 yuan (approximately USD 18). Shanghai Jiaotong University’s Li Yichung commented to China Youth Daily “A movie ticket is equivalent to 1/400 of per capita monthly income in the United States, but about 1/20 in China—20-fold higher than the former.” According to China Daily, the average movie ticket price at 36.38 yuan (2009) is 2.5 percent of a month’s discretionary income, 0.5% percent higher than in developed countries. The news article also quoted that the average Chinese only goes to the movies once in every 5 years and according to China Youth Daily, in China there is only one screen for every 190000 people’ (Lee Valerie, The Epoch Times, 1 Sept 2010). All these points to an almost non-existant movie-going culture in China, a culture where people necessarily have to turn to piracy to obtain cultural products they would otherwise not have a chance to gain access to. In this case, price is deterring citizens from obtaining these cultural products.

In China, the state-controlled China Film Corporation has exclusive control over the importing of foreign films (Laikwan Pang 2004: 106). China Film Corporation is known to be ‘extremely selective’ about what they import and the average Chinese audience is only able to consume foreign films through pirated copies (Laikwan Pang 2004: 108). Furthermore, larger provincial distributors team up with smaller regional distributors to prevent others from buying directly from the studios. In this way, movie-goers still have very little choice over their movie choices because films continue to come from the same regional source (Laikwan Pang 2004:106).

In China, piracy is very much within the “private sphere” such that no one single power controls the films ‘pirated, distributed or watched.’ This means that Chinese can gain access to a wide array of films which they will never be able to via official distribution channels (Laikwan Pang 2004: 114).

Pirated DVDs for sale in China

AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by sinosplice

Through the case study of China’s piracy market, I thus argue in a similar vein to Medosch, piracy despite being a commercially motivated industry that may operate in legal, illegal or even in-between spheres, still fulfills important cultural functions by providing citizens access to cultural products they would otherwise not have an opportunity to consume. For these people, piracy fulfills a cultural function and is not merely an illegal distribution network .

References:

  1. Armin Medosch, (2008) ‘Paid in Full: Copyright, Piracy and the Real Currency of Cultural Production’, in Deptforth. TV Diaries II:Pirate strategies,  Deptforth TV, Lonson, pp. 73-97
  2. Valerie Lee (2010), ‘China’s (Relatively) Small Cinema Market Reflected in its Cost’, The Epoch Times, Sept 1, extracted from http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/china/small-cinema-market-china-41970.html , 21 May 2011
  3. Laikwan Pang (2004) ‘Piracy/Privacy: The Despair of Cinema and Collectivity in China’, boundary 2, Fall, Vol. 31 Issue 3, p101-124
  4. Shujen Wang (2003) ‘Framing Piracy: globalization and film distribution in Greater China’, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, United States of America


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Creative Commons rock

Following week 10 tutorial’s exercise, explain why you chose the Creative Commons license that you added to your blog and discuss the relevance (or not) of adding the license.

The Creative Commons licenses was created to ‘give current copyright holders the option of making creative work available for copying and distribution by granting various exceptions to the rights they hold under copyright.(Garcelon 2009: 1309)’ One advantage of Creative Commons licenses is that they do not require legislative alteration to the current copyright laws for the license to be valid (Garcelon 2009: 1309) thus big corporations can keep their copyright to their works but as and when the need arises, they may also make exceptions to the rule and allow people to use their their work for remixing, modifying and so on. In this way, copyright and the commercial interest of the original author of the work is protected and at the same time, the public’s interest is also protected and creative works are still available for the public to remix and modify so that newer derivatives of creative work can be produced and the flow of creativity in the public domain is not interfered or restricted.

Attribution Some rights reserved by jorgeandresem

Creativity flows with Creative Commons: 2500 CC images used to recreate the CC logo, commemorating Creative Commons 25th annivesary

AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by qthomasbower

Creative commons licenses are thus an attempt to ‘revive, clarify and expand fair use  eroded by the intellectual property reframing of copyright law (Lessig 2004: 141-5, 160).’ Creative commons licenses remain important in ensuring that citizens have access to information needed to make informed choices and upholds citizen democracy (Garcelon 2009: 1310).

The Creative Commons project also works to provide small companies with an alternative method of distribution under the existing oligopolistic control major corporations hold of distributing creative work (Garcelon 2009: 1311). Thus, with Creative Commons licenses, smaller record labels for example, can allow consumers to sample full versions of their creative works under many web platforms (last.fm, WebJay, iRate etc.) and because full version creative works are available for sampling, consumers can pass it on and share the music with friends, families etc. without legal implications. Thus, new, unknown artistes or simply artistes under minor record labels can get more exposure and marketing and users can download copyright-protection-free full quality creative works to enjoy and is important in allowing small companies to compete with major record labels distribution efforts.

Victor Stone, editor of Creative Commons agrees ” [Y]ou have the struggling artist who’s unknown and… it only makes sense to put music in the commons…Because… if you reserve your rights, and you make criminals of other people who listen to your music, then guess what- no one will ever hear your music…”

Obviously, Creative Commons licenses extend beyond music to include all forms of creative works such as images and text. Flickr.com for example, has almost 30 million images available for use under Creative Commons licenses so for students for example, who require images in their assignments or projects, they can easily make use of these images from Flickr.com without legal implications.

In short Creative Commons licenses seek to empower minor audiences: students, unknown artistes, smaller record labels, the public etc. and is largely created to protect the interests of the public and these minor audiences. I for one, believe in the need for minor audiences to be empowered and since the Creative Commons licenses provides such an outlet, I am happy to place the CC license on my blog for anyone to use, remix, modify or play with my work. It’s all for the interest of the BIGGER PUBLIC, i say! And it keeps creativity alive too! Why not?

References:
Marc Garcelon, (2009) ‘An Information Commons? Creative Commons and Public Access to Cultural Creations’, New Media & Society 11.8, pp. 1307-1326
Lessig, Lawrence (2004) Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity, Penguin, New York

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YouTube celebrities are not actually celebrities

Burgess and Green argue that: ordinary people who become celebrities through their own creative efforts “remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (Reader, page 269).

Nick Couldry (2003) argues that ” ‘ordinary’ citizens can only become celebrities  when the ordinary person gains access to the modes of representation of the mass media, making the transition from what Couldry calls ‘ordinary worlds’ to what he refers to as ‘media worlds.’ (Burgess & Green 2009: 22) ”  Although many optimistic scholars argue that YouTube celebrities can leap from their ‘ordinary world’ to the ‘media world’ through the ‘democratization’ of cultural production and distribution that YouTube is famous for, according to Turner (2004, 2006), YouTube does not represent ‘democratization’ persay but rather ‘demoticization’ in which ordinary people still rely on traditional structures of the media industry to determine whether an ordinary person has crossed over to the ‘media world’. Thus, the celebrity structure of YouTube cannot be seen as providing an alternative system to turn ordinary people into celebrities but rather it has reproduced and still hinges on the structures of an existing celebrity system represented by the dominant media industry. Although new media technologies can allow for the commercialization of amateur content and at times bring fame to the producers of its content, “markers of success for these new forms is measured not only by online popularity but by their subsequent ability to pass through the gate-keeping mechanisms of old media- the recording contract, the film festival the television pilot, the advertising deal. (Burgess & Green 2009:24)

So, if you would to consider Justin Bieber vs. Chris Crocker of the “Leave Britney Alone” fame, one would consider . Justin Bieber to be a celebrity but Chris Crocker would be considered by many to be YouTube personalities/celebrities at most. The latter two groups of people cannot be considered to be celebrities in the existing traditional media industry because they have not unlike Bieber, passed through the gatekeeping mechanisms of the old media. They are famous in YouTube of course, but their success arises from a much different form from Bieber.

Bieber started off posting videos of himself singing on YouTube and was later discovered and signed onto a record label Raymond Braun Media Group (RBMG) and later with Islands Records. His debut release, My World was certified platinum in the United States. Seven songs from My World debuted on the album chart Billboard Hot 100. His first full studio release, My World 2.0 debuted at No.1  and within the top 10 charts of several countries and was again certified platinum in the United States. His single, Baby was worldwide top-ten single and peaked at No.5 on the Billboard 100. Bieber has also been awarded several concert deals including his My World Tour and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. He has also won several awards and have been recognised within mainstream award shows such as Artist of the Year at the 2010 American Music Awards, and being nominated for Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Album at the 53rd Grammy Awards. Thus, Bieber has attained celebrity status within the existing dominant media world because he has pass through the gatekeeping mechanisms of old media- he has a record label, concert deals and have been recognised as a celebrity by the old media.

Some rights reserved by JustinBieberVEVO

Now let’s consider Chris Crocker. Chris Crocker has emerged as a celebrity based on YouTube’s internal system of values that doesn’t necessarily match with the dominant media system’s values of determining celebrities. YouTube celebrities can be famous for being obnoxious, notorious or annoying but because these values are not the values that the traditional media industry uses to determine celebrities, YouTube personalities like Chris Crocker cannot be acknowledged as celebrities within traditional media industries because he has not conform to values used by traditional media industries in determining celebrities. Furthermore, unlike Bieber, Chris Crocker has not managed to pass through the gatekeeping mechanisms of old media because he has obviously not been signed on by record labels, or have received concert, advertising deals and so on which are the determinants of a celebrity status within the traditional media industry.

Some rights reserved by itschriscrocker

References:
Couldry, Nick (2003) Media Rituals: A Critical Approach, Routledge, London and New York
Turner, Graeme (2004) Understanding Celebrity, Sage, London
Turner, Graeme (2006) From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Steward Brand, the Whole Earth Network and the Rise of Digital Utopianism, Chicago University Press, Chicago
Jean Burgess and Joshua Green, ‘YouTube and The Mainstream Media’, in YouTube: Online and Participatory Culture, Polity Press, Cambridge, pp. 15-37

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Alan Lui: visual metaphors

Alan Lui discusses the use of visual metaphors from older media in web design and argues that such metaphors “naturalize the limitations of the new medium by disguising them within those of older media” (Reader, page 228).

Discuss while giving an example of a website.

Graphics, icons and other visual images communicate and summarize information through symbolic visual connections. Willis (1999) explains that visual images can be used in Web design to present visitors with a quick idea of what the web message is about. Visual metaphors help cue general references and visual associations in the viewer’s memory. This cueing gives the reader an immediate understanding of the website and allows viewers to store a visual image of the website in their memory so that they can easily retrieve the website when they are searching for this information again. (Sheree Josephson & Susan B. Barnes 2010: 12)

An example of such a website is papermarket.com.sg. In his discussion that metaphors “naturalize the limitations of the new medium by disguising them within those of older media”, Alan Lui suggests that the networked nature of the Web as a medium makes the form unstable and always changing. The designing language of the Web- HTML can only describe in broad terms what display formats lie at the receiving end of the client machine. Monitors differ in screen size, resolution, colour depth, aspect ration, graphic cards, software browsers, operating systems, browsers, dimensions of display window, font type and size. such that as a new medium of design, the Web has many limitations. The limitations of the Web as a design medium is broadly speaking spatial-temporal.

Examples of spatial problems include: Spaces between text or graphic elements may stretch or contract depending on the client machine, the lack of a bottom line to any Web page makes it difficult to design vertically as different users with different sizes of display screens will have to scroll down different distances, grid like design structures which maybe incompatible with user’s browser configurations. (Alan Lui 2004: 223-224)

Temporal problems occur because of the unpredictability of the speed of the Web which may cause some webpages to take too long to load (usually those design to contain alot of images) (Alan Lui 2004: 225)

Thus visual metaphors are used to musk such spatial-temporal problems. In the case of papermarket.com.sg, it is the online website for a store selling paper supplies and scrapbooking materials. The website is designed to look like a scrapbook which is an appropriate visual metaphor for the website. Alan Lui (2004: 228) gave the example of a jukebox console which explains fixed-width menu of selections. In a similar way, papermarket.com.sg is able to “explain” its use of fixed width menu, gridlike design structures and multiple images with the use of its visual metaphor- the scrapbook. That is because, scrapbooks are supposed to have fixed width, grid-like design structures and multiple images. Although it does not overcome spatial-temporal problems posted by the Web, it conceals, embrace and “explains” the limitations of the Web as a new medium by building those limitations into part of its design (as a visual metaphor).  Using the metaphor as an interface and striped texture instead of the plain look of a modernist design, the webpage embraces not hides from the seam full collage of Web craft.

As a Graphical User Interface (GUI) , the use of visual metaphor will enable users to employ previously learned modes of information retrieval. Just as users are able to recognise symbols and interpret universal meanings from symbols, so to will users be able to interpret meaning from the visual information of papermarket.com.sg, this is then good user interface design. (David Whitbread 2009:131)

Another way in which metaphors can “naturalize the limitations of the new medium by disguising them within those of older media” is by overcoming the limitations of the Web as a new medium. An example is toyrus.com.au. This is a “liquid” page which will appear attractive both in narrow and wide screens. Instead of assigning a fixed/static value (in pixel terms) to say, the width and height of the webpage, “liquid” pages assign a percentage value to the width and height of the webpage (width=100%) which instructs the webpage to display in relative percentage terms to the end user’s screen display resolutions so that the webpage does not look stretched or contracted. This can be applied to the fonts, dimensions of the webpage and so on, thereby overcoming the spatial problems of the Web as a new design medium.

References:

  1. Willis, D. (1999). Effects of using enhancing visual elements in Web site design. American Communication Journal, 3:1. Retrieved May, 9, 2011 from http://www.acjournal.org/holdings/vol3/lss1/articles/Willis.htm
  2. Sheree Josephson & Susan B.Barnes (2010) Visualizing the Web: Evaluating Online Design from a Visual Communication Perspective, Peter Lang Publishing, New York
  3. Alan Lui (2004) ‘Information is Style’, in Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004, pp. 195-230
  4. David Whitbread (2009), The Design Manual, University of New South Wales Press, University of New South Wales
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Uses of Blogs

Lovink (Reader, page 222) also argues that: “No matter how much talk there is of community and mobs, the fact remains that blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self”.

While it is true that blogs were traditionally started up for use as personal online diaries or for social interaction among friends (Axel Bruns: Joanne Jacobs 2006: 11), blogs have also started a host of other uses and practices which disagrees with Lovink’s statement.

Axel Bruns & Joanne Jacobs (2006) explores the uses and practices of blogs which include news blogging, event logging.

News Blogging
A great many blogs do cover the news at least from time to time. Online news often “appears to present a micro-local focus, featuring content of interest to small communities of users defined either by common interests or geographic location or both”. Bloggers are often present to witness and observe news event happening and therefore “have more access to first-hand information”. In this way, citizen journalism plays an equally important role in news reporting side by side traditional news companies. (Axel Bruns, Joanne Jacobs 2006: 14-15). Take for e.g. SOuth Korea’s Ohmynews. This news blog was started up by Oh Yeon Ho and now employs 40 traditional news staff who contributes to 20% of the news content published on the blog. The rest of the news come from citizens who send in stories, pictures, videos of real-life events they observe.


Some rights reserved by 지호 | Ji-Ho | 志浩

Event Logging
In industries where employees work by shift, it is important for employees to know what are the issues and problems that occur in the previous shift. Traditionally organisations such as Disney do this by logging in the problems that occur in a book. Employees of the next shift then consults the book to get an idea of what the problems are, what has been done and what needs to be done. Mike Pusateri, Vice president of engineering, replaced the book with a database and incorporated a new blogging software which allows employees to search, comment, tag and archive entries. This not only added value for the old practice but also ensured that the handover processes were more efficient.(Axel Bruns, Joanne Jacobs 2006 :61).

Political blogs
Australian political blogs such as Andrew Bolt’s Blog gives citizens a new platform for news setting, facilitates debate in political and public conversation, spiking citizen’s interest and participation in politics. The interactivity of blogs make them more attractive to a public increasingly distrustful of formal authoritative sources of information. It is more attractive to readers than the increasingly ritualized and often hackneyed commentary of old media. Blogs can make contribution to politics and to public debate and activism (Axel Bruns, Joanne Jacobs 2006: 139-140).

Thus with wide ranging, emerging new practices of blogs, it is evident that what started out as traditional uses of blogs- as online dairies and for the management of one’s life structure is significantly changing to be used in different areas such as the examples listed above.

References
Axel Bruns, Joanne Jacob (2006) ‘Uses of Blogs’, Peter Lang Publishing, New York, USA

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