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When you think of media censorship, which country most prominently and instantly comes to your mind?

For myself, I think of China

We, Singaporeans are always unhappy and dissatisfied of our so called “strict” media censorship. However, if one would simply allow himself to make a comparison of the media censorship we have to that of China’s; I believe one would eventually learn to be more appreciative of the censorship we have in Singapore.

Censorship in China encompasses a wide range of subject matter. The censored media include essentially all that capable of reaching a wide audience – newspapers, television, film, music, internet, short message service and video games.

 

Here is an insight on China’s Internet Censorship:

 

 

In sync with what the world already knows about China censorship measures (as mentioned above), the recent outburst of the Liu Xiao Bo incident only served to reaffirm China as the most appalling nation for her extreme censorship efforts.

 

 

Here is a video to learn more about the incident:

(To learn even more about it, please refer to the links at the end of the post)

 

 

In response to learning that their captive prisoner Liu Xiao Bo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, extreme censorship actions were taken by the Chinese authorities to deny the Chinese people’s access to any information about Liu’s Nobel Peace Prize.

It is clearly evident, that once again, China reacts in a way that she does best. Her actions further reinforced my conclusion about China’s censorship scene; we can arrive at two major conclusions:

Media Hegemony exists in China, where the media only represents the views of the powerful elite; it is influence by those who hold economic and political power. As a result, the media monopolize opinions, which drive society in a way that benefits them – powerless groups are silenced; there are no oppositions.

Only the Communist Party of China is in the position to act as gatekeepers for media content – those who can call attention to a topic or increase the importance people attach to it through the amount, order, and quality of coverage they give it. The party heavily manipulates the Agenda Setting Function of the Media to benefit her motives. By selectively choosing the news coverage that appears in all forms of her media content, she successfully influences the users of mass media in her country. Issues that receive the most and best coverage by media sources will be seen as most important by the audience.

At the end of the day, my question is, by engaging in extreme censorship efforts, what does China get in return? Are her actions justified and worthwhile?

In the past, it was possible to isolate one nation from the rest of the world, to “protect” her citizens; this has been the stand that China has adopted for decades now. However, clearly this no longer holds the same for today, where we have come to an age that there is proliferation of mass media content brought about by the globalization of mass media.

As with this incident, we can see that despite China’s elaborated censorship efforts, word about Liu managed to spread amongst the Chinese, even to the rural part of China. Therefore, I believe it is only a matter of time that people will recognize the truth and motives of the government’s actions and this will eventually bring about greater social instability and uproar.

 

 

Even extreme censorship measures can never outdo and curb the strong influence and proliferation of mass media content. Hence, it is better to work around it and tailor it to one’s advantage than to go against it.

Maybe it is time for China to adopt a better strategy.

 

Links to find out more about Liu Xiao Bo’s Nobel Peace Prize Award:

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2024405,00.html

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2024775,00.html

http://en.rsf.org/chine-news-blackout-on-liu-xiaobo-s-09-10-2010,38525.html

http://en.rsf.org/chine-arrests-censorship-and-propaganda-13-10-2010,38536.html

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Traditionally, the term mass media in mass communication was associated with things like television, radio, or newspapers. Today, it also can be applied to various communication channels and processes that occur via the formats like internet and other emerging new media.

This transformation has definitely given an individual more power than it did before; to be specific, computers have empowered individual users to act as sources of mass communication. As such, an individual can now, also in many ways, exploit the mass media to the individual’s benefit. In short, it is the individual whom now holds the reign of power; through his exploitation of the mass media, he has become so formidable such that he could bring harm to someone, from the minimal psychological disturbances to the extensive and extreme – taking away another’s life (though it was his unintended intentions); the media has become just a tool for the individual to achieve his so called, benefits. This is the power of new media.

To exemplify the power of media, specifically new media, here is a noteworthy incident that I came across just a few days back. An American couple from Trenton, Michigan was reported to have engaged in despicable cyber-bullying acts to attack a dying girl, battling Huntington’s disease. The cause of the cyber-bullying acts stems from the culmination of a long-running neighborhood dispute.

This is what they did:

This is a photo of the  victim,  Kathleen Edwards,  with her  face superimposed  onto a  skull, above a set of  crossed  bones. This picture  was  posted on Facebook by  the  couple.

Also, this is yet another taunt from the couple; a picture of Kathleen Edward’s dead mother in the arms of the Grim Reaper.

To find out more about their thoughts on their cyber-bullying acts, this is an interview of the wicked couple.

Clearly, the couple exploited one of the many new media forms, the internet, to express their unhappiness and hatred for their neighbors, the Edwards family. By engaging in these cyber-bullying acts, the couple taunted the Edwards family, in the hope to incur their wrath, and ultimately the couple would derive satisfaction from it. This is not only unethical but lowly of the wicked couple. However, at the end of the day the couple managed to successfully bring much unhappiness to the Edwards family. This clearly, highlights the fact that mass media is indeed powerful.

The take away point of this happening is that, as media users, we need to recognize the evolution of mass media, and the increased channels and complexity of emerging media. This clearly allowed for the proliferation of mass media messages, regardless positive or negative it ultimately presents us with potential challenges; hence we need to exercise media literacy – an individual’s overall ability to engage in mindful and informed interactions with mass media. We need to counteract the powerful influence of the mass media, such that we do not get set adrift in the process.

Lastly, we need to give credit to the local news broadcast, and the internet. It displayed one of the many crucial functions of the mass media, which is surveillance. As Charles Wright stated – Mass media sources provide us with news and information about our environment that individually we would otherwise be unable to obtain. This function of mass media has certainly shed light on the rising social issue of cyber-bullying.

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Medal of Honor

I am not a fan of video games; however, the recent controversy over a particular video game has allowed me to enter and discover the world of video games. It has led me to ponder and realize that at times video games can be more than just a form of entertainment; it can evolve into a global or national social issue. This controversy has definitely shed light on the perspective that it may be time for video games to be treated with the same respect as film, television and books.

First up, let me tell you more about the video game Medal of Honor:

Medal of Honor is produced by Electronic Arts (EA), an international developer, marketer, publisher and distributor of video games.

At the point of my writing, it has yet to be release; it is scheduled to be release in 15th Oct 2010 in the U.S.

This game is just like any other warfare game, with the main objective of eliminating enemies. However, the controversial part comes in when it was revealed that the setting of this game is in modern warfare Afghanistan; the game allows players to assume the on-screen, fictitious identity of a Taliban member and fight against the U.S troops.

Here is a preview of what the game Medal of Honor is about:

Calling to all avid video gamers out there, would you engage in the latest Medal of Honor video game?

Well, in Singapore’s context it calls for no immediate attention whether or not you engage in the video game; however, when put in the United States context, it is a whole different ball game. The introduction of this video game has caused a heated uproar in the U.S.

As we all know, the U.S. has been engaged in war for the longest time now; moments now, families are suffering from the lost of their fallen soldiers at war. Hence, given the present situation, the release of the video game is deemed inappropriate and controversial to the welfare of the nation.

In response, out of “sensitivity to the life and death scenarios this product presents as entertainment”., the U.S military dealt with this by enforcing a ban on the sale of the game at on-base GameStops and PX operations around the world. It is clearly stated that the Army and Air Force Exchange Service will not stock the game in more than 180 outlets and on its website. Also, the Marine Corps Exchange and the Navy Exchange will not to carry the game.

In the U.S military response, we can see that it has adopted a collectivist stand point – displaying that the focus is on the collective as a social unit. By enforcing the ban, the U.S military is placing high value on the interdependence and social order of its in-group members. Through this measure (that some may perceive to be an extreme), we can clearly see that the U.S military regards the welfare of the group as the most important priority here. It is an act of respect to the fallen soldiers and their heartbroken families; an act of appreciation of the efforts of the current soldiers at war. The U.S military is clearly sending out the message that collective good is more important than an individual benefit – reaping entertainment joy from engaging in the game.

With regards to the U.S. military decision, there are those that adopted an individualistic standpoint who feel that the ban was unnecessary; take for example the avid gamers, who adopted the view that it’s fun to play the bad guy, the fact that it has become more common for players to be able to switch sides, Medal of Honor is no exception.

From a bystander point of view, my standpoint is that I strongly support the ban. I feel that by enforcing this ban, everyone is benefiting from the collective good. This video game not only affects the military in-group but also the U.S. society at large. In particular, it poses a negative impact on the young who indulge in the game. Even though it is just a game, the values children would learn from playing the bad guy would have a lasting psychological effect on the young. The negative impact on society definitely outweighs the individual benefits, hence banning the sale of the game was the right way to go. The move made by the U.S. military clearly showed its concern for the welfare of it‘s people, and its people should be appreciative.

At the point of my writing, EA has decided to drop the Taliban name from Medal of Honor in the face of political pressure and requests from the friends and families of fallen soldiers. The in-game enemy previously known as Taliban will now be called the Opposing Force, but nothing else was touched,

Although “Medal of Honor” will not be sold in stores on U.S. bases, it will be available at all other major video game retail outlets beginning Oct15.

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Over the weekend, while surfing the internet for up coming movies to catch, one movie caught my attention – “Life as We Know It”. Here is the trailer of the movie.

In this romantic comedy “Life as We Know It’, Holly Berenson is an up-and-coming caterer and Eric Messer is a promising network sports director. After a disastrous first date, the only thing the two have in common is their dislike of each other and their love for their goddaughter, Sophie. But when Holly and Eric suddenly become all Sophie has in the world, the pair is forced to set aside their differences. Juggling career ambitions and competing social calendars, they’ll have to find common ground while living under the same roof.

What drew my attention to this movie was that it presented the possibility of a unique development of an interpersonal relationship. I must applaud that the script writer did not allow the main characters to develop an interpersonal relationship which follow through one of the most influential models of relationships, the Knapp Model of Relational Development – a model which describes the progression and development of relationships.

According to the Knapp Model of Relational Development, the progression and development of relationships can be broken down into phases of ”coming together”, and “coming apart” (In this film only the process of “coming together” is relevant). The “coming together” process consists of 5 stages, in the order – initiating, experimenting, intensifying, integrating, and bonding.

We can see traces of the Knapp Model of Relational Development in many romantic films. As an audience, I feel that the prevalence of this adherence to the Knapp Model of Relational Development has dulled the many elements that contribute to the success of a romantic film. Overtime, I believe movies with such interpersonal relationship plot development will be unable to garner high viewership.

“Life as We Know It” differs in that despite the failure of the initial stage, the main characters eventually managed to bond and form a relationship. Hence, allowing the movie to posses the element of surprise.

After the very first date, both parties concluded that the other person is not a potential suitability as a relational partner; they also established great hatred for one another. According to the Knapp Model of Relational Development and just as many viewers would expect, this interpersonal relationship should end after the first date – the initiation stage. However, as we follow through the movie, we realized that the pair eventually ended up falling in love with each other. How so? This was the element that made the movie interesting.

The development of this relationship was unique in that if the pair was left to develop the relationship on its own, it would have ended on the first date. However, despite starting off with a bad footing, the pair was eventually brought together under unforeseen circumstances. Audiences get to see how the circumstances gave the pair the opportunity to get to know the other party, dispel their initial hatred for the other, and eventually allowing them to fall in love, proceeding to the following stages – experimenting, intensifying, integrating and bonding. This is where the beauty of the movie lies.  

By tweaking the process, the script writer has allowed the development of the romantic film plot to be interesting and surprising to watch, this heightens the romantic plot development with the element of surprise, allowing this movie to be not just another romantic movie.

How have you imagined your ideal interpersonal relationship to come about?

Starting off with physical attraction, discovering shared similarities with the other party, and eventually falling in love?

Well, personally I find that a boring process, therefore this movie greatly appealed to me.

Just as myself, if you enjoy watching not just another romantic movie, this movie is a must watch!

“Life As We Know It’ is scheduled to be release on 14th October 2010.

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This video clip of the Swiss finance minister’s speech during a parliamentary address has been viewed by more than 300,000 people on YouTube and other websites since Monday.  What was so interesting about his speech that could garner that much attention from people all over the world? This got me really curious.

The video clip showed the Swiss finance minister, Hans-Rudolf Merz breaking into giggles and convulsing with laughter as he gave his speech about the import of cured meat. He started to crack up as he read a stream of unintelligible bureaucratic language in his script. Despite so, the outgoing finance chief’s hilarious delivery was greeted with howls of laughter and even thunderous applause from fellow ministers. Was he applauded for delivering a good speech? Did he successfully convey his intended message? Regardless, this incident has caught both the positive and negative attention of many others.

After watching the video clip, from a communication student point of view, I believe it wasn’t the content of the speech that had attracted the world’s attention. I believe the huge attention was attributed to the various inappropriate nonverbal cues that the minister had sent out while delivering his speech. The anomaly of this was the main reason that caught people’s attention.

Generally, we associate speech with verbal communication, but spoken words may have nonverbal properties associated with them as well. And in my opinion, Hans-Rudolf Merz’s speech was a good demonstration of how nonverbal cues can function with their verbal counterparts to achieve a negative effect. The sources of nonverbal stimuli stems from the vocal nonverbal stimuli, we can see this in the much punctuation of laughter, and giggles that the minister uncontrollably burst into, while delivering his speech; also the nonverbal cues originating from the minister’s body language, posture, mannerism, and facial expressions, all which constitutes to the personal nonverbal stimuli.

Were these nonverbal stimuli appropriate? I believe not so. Given the context and setting that the minister was giving his speech in, the speech should be delivered with utmost seriousness. For a minister who is addressing a nation wide issue, his mannerism and flippant attitude simply showed a great lack of sincerity. Clearly, the nonverbal message the minister had sent out contradicted with his verbal message, hence it was inappropriate. In my opinion, his speech was a sign of disrespect to the nation, and all politicians.

However, to many, nonverbal communication is subjective, as attaching meaning to these nonverbal cues inherently involves interpretations and judgments. Therefore, a specific cue may mean different in different contexts or to different people.

We can see this despite the contradiction of his nonverbal cues and verbal cues, not only were the audience amused, and responded positively, but also, his speech has now even prompted one maker of air-dried meats to advertise their wares with the slogan: Never lose your sense of humour.

In contrast, let’s put this in the context of Singapore, can you imagine this happening?                                                      

I can’t. In the history of Singapore’s parliamentary address I doubt there has been one such incident. 

Hence, I conclude, the meaning of any nonverbal cue is always in the eye of the beholder to some degree.

Through this incident, we can see the pervasive and significant influence that nonverbal cues have in our communication. By giving out unintentional nonverbal cues (I am assuming the minister had no intention to send out those contradictory nonverbal cues), it could convey an immense range of specific meanings. Nonverbal communication is the unnoticed, but immensely powerful form of communication. In my opinion, having this awareness could help him or anyone, be a more knowledgeable and effective communicator.

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This is Pamela Anderson’s latest vegetarian campaign for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). In this advertisement, Pamela Anderson is seen clad in a skimpy bikini, with her body labeled with words associated with cuts of meat. Words like, “rump”, “ribs” and breast”.  This advertisement was meant to promote vegetarianism, with logo reads, “All Animals Have the Same Parts.” However, it sparked a huge controversial debate instead.

This provocative vegetarian advertisement was set to launch on Thursday, July 15 at Montreal, Canada’s Place Jacques-Cartier. It was at the last minute that the permit was denied by the Canadian officials. Pamela Anderson was only inform of the ban on the launch date itself; her initial plans had to be scrapped and had to have a change of location to a privately-owned Restaurant Globe in the city.

The reason given for the ban was stated in an email by Commissioner Josee Rochefort who wrote, “I have to inform you that we, as public officials representing a municipal government, cannot endorse this image of Ms Anderson. It is not so much controversial as it goes against all principles public organizations are fighting for in the everlasting battle of equality between men and women.”

In light of this controversial debate, my question to you is, as audience, do you see this as just another sexist advertisement or creativity in promoting vegetarianism?

In my opinion, I believe that as audience our differences in perception are largely guided by our cognitive schemata.  We establish our perception based on our default organization templates. Hence, more often than not we quickly tend towards a specific initial perception.

For many who adopt the former perception, I feel that it is the work of their personal constructs, in particular the physical constructs and psychological constructs.  Simply based on Pamela Anderson’s sexy and skimpy physical appearances, many of us unknowingly infer other personal characteristics. In our minds, we label Pamela as a sexual icon simply based on her outlook and the presentation of herself in the advertisement. Hence, in making our judgment, the biasness we bring in erodes all possibilities for Pamela to be classified as a woman “using her own body in a political protest over the suffering of cows and chickens”. We unknowingly strip off her identity as an advocate for animal rights. On top of which , based on what we have seen in the mass media content we have consumed, we have so quickly established psychological  constructs of Pamela Anderson.  We draw on our knowledge of what we know of Pamela in the media scene, from the Baywatch actress, to the Playboy model.  It is the result of our past knowledge of Pamela that allowed ourselves to form a negative perception that this advertisement is just another that adds on to the bulk of sexist advertisements in the media. The biasness we bring in immediately shuts out any considerations and possibilities that this advertisement could very well be a good advertisement. Is this fair?

In my opinion, I honestly think that this PETA advertisement presented an extremely creative concept. The notion that “All Animals Have The Same Parts” employs the appeal of pathos to reach out to people. It differentiates itself from the usual boring advertisements, that simply harp on the notion that being a vegetarian benefits our health, the animals and the world. Also, who better to star in this advertisement other than Pamela Anderson? An active member of PETA and a vegetarian herself.

Will you be motivated by the regular posters below that aim to promote vegetarianism?

For me the PETA Pamela Anderson advertisement has more persuasive power, and I simply adore it!

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What do you think of the art form on the right? Do you associate it with fine art or vandalism?

Our perspective of a subject matter is widely shaped by the social constructionist perspective our society adopts.

In the video clip below, Graffiti is regarded as an art form worthy of display in galleries and exhibitions. The video highlights that there is a significant graffiti tradition in Sao Paolo – a city within Brazil. Until the first week of October, Sao Paolo will be hosting its first International Graffiti Fine Art Biennial showcase. The Sao Paolo people adopt the view that it is time to address Graffiti as a fine art. To them, Graffiti is an opportunity to let loose with imagination, to show others what inspires them. The Graffiti works evoke emotions, just as any other form of Art and hence it is regarded as a serious fine art.

In light of this, I cannot help but notice that there is a stark contrast across the world in viewing Graffiti as a serious art form. Many others in the world, including Singaporeans, associate the subject matter of Graffiti with vandalism, not so much as a fine art.

Do you remember the outburst of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) vandalism graffiti saga in May 2010? From the response of Singaporeans, it is evident that the social constructionist perspective adopted in Singapore is very different. True, it was an act of vandalism because it was an act of damaging public property without permission. However, apart from this, has anyone viewed this saga from an artistic point of view? That is, Graffiti is an art; it is a way of communication and expression of one’s inspirations and creativity?

In response to this episode, the government took on a strong stand by placing great emphasis on having the vandal (or artist) punished. I agree that it was important for the government to step in and shape what is deem culturally acceptable. It was necessary to send out the message that such act of vandalism will not be condone. However, I feel that in the process of enforcement, coupled with the overwhelming focus on the act being wrong, this unknowingly takes away almost any form of relation that Graffiti is an art. As a result, this naturally forms the impression in Singaporeans mind, that Graffiti is closely associated with vandalism. Such that till date, Graffiti as an art form that is much frowned upon in Singapore. Because of the way our culture tools (symbolic codes, cognitive customs, cultural traditions, shared roles and rules that guide our actions) shape us, hence the way we experience and talk about the world is different. We take what is culturally recognisable ways, connect them to the other factors that we know, and respond to them in ways our culture considers significant. Thus, more often than not, we become narrow-minded; we are not encouraged thought to think out of the box, we become less accepting to differences. Hence in viewing of this video, some may even find the Graffiti culture that Sao Paolo has, appalling and shocking. In actual fact, I feel that we are actually inhibiting the development of just another beautiful art form.

Through this comparison, we can immediately identify the weakness of the social constructionist perspective. It points out that when we come into contact with people, who communicate differently; when there is no collective representation of reality, we let what shaped our mind deem what reality is, hence make judgement about another’s culture – more often than not in a negative way.

In my opinion, as much as I feel that it is important to have our own identity, we should not blindly allow the communication model to distort our communication – accepting cultural myths and stereotypes without thinking. That is, viewing Graffiti as an act of vandalism. We should exercise respect with open-mindedness for a different culture, such that when being thrown in one, we do not judge with biasness, and make comparisons with unnecessary negative judgement. This will allow for a more enriching life.

References:

Picture – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:OlindaGraffiti.jpg

An example of the highly decorative graffiti typically found in Olinda, Pernambuco, Brazil. Source: Travel photos by the uploader, see more at http://www.pvv.org/~bct/brasil3/

Video – http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xers3y_graffiti-is-a-fine-art-in-sao-paolo_news

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