A Communication Blog.

Archive for September 2010

My immediate reaction upon hearing about the collaboration between the two was that it was rather… odd. After all the two parties have practically nothing in common. One is an imaginary children’s character aiming to educate our young and the other a pop star famous for her quirky song lyrics. Both have different audience demographics, children and young adults respectively. However, that was precisely what aroused my curiosity and caused me to check out the video on YouTube, which featured a play date duet between the two.

The video, which went viral less than a week after release and has almost three million views as of writing, was not aired on television after producers received feedback from parents about the video’s supposedly questionable content. Katy Perry’s plunging neckline was too revealing, many complained. While Perry rebutted by claiming that a flesh coloured mesh had been donned all the way till the neck, it was left to no avail as the idea of promiscuity had been communicated, albeit non verbally. One school of thought was that children would watch the clip and somehow glean the idea that short hemlines and revealing cleavage were perfectly acceptable in public. I would like to say that technically it is tolerable, depending on occasion and venue. Even in semi conservative Singapore, we often see women slip on clothing that would raise more than a couple of eyebrows on Orchard Road and when they hit the clubs. Plus, it has been commented that Perry’s dressing resembles that of Tinkerbell, a popular Disney character.

However I do agree that the video does not have much value, apart from being mildly entertaining. The song has a club worthy beat and its lyrics have the educational value of a Happy Meal toy. Besides being an obvious publicity stunt, I guess its other purpose was to entertain general audiences rather than educating four year old toddlers. It is true that opposites attract, and in this case, opposites attracted truckloads of attention (and controversy). An outright ban on the three minute video would be a tad ridiculous though, which I suppose is why the producers deemed it acceptable to leave the clip on YouTube, where self censorship could be practiced. (rather than have children inadvertently discover Katy Perry’s relatively admirable cleavage in the middle of watching Elmo and friends, which would somehow be a factor in premature sexual maturity as argued by some child rights extremists)

The reason why there was so much controversy from the video is largely related to the fact that many have picked up non verbal cues that have led to possible unintended innuendos. For example, Perry’s dress was deemed socially unacceptable on a children’s educational programme. After all, clothes are often read as a sign of character and are especially important in creating first impressions. In a video, communication is only one way (sender-based) and any feedback is delayed (people would only comment after a video is uploaded and viewed). Therefore, it was not known that her dressing would cause outrage only after the damage has been done. Moreover, perhaps due to personal constructs (Perry has been known for controversial song lyrics), parents would not want the latter to be associated with a show so commonly watched by their offspring.

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China, being segregated from the rest of the world for hundreds of years, has developed its own culture and language. Therefore, in order to adapt to China’s way of life, foreigners have to follow what is termed “cognitive schemata”. In the article, one aspect of what Mrs Fallows found different between America, her native country, and China was that the latter had table manners unlike from what she was used to. In order to conform, she had to follow a “script”, for example she adopted a Chinese habit of pouring tea for others before doing so for herself. While foreigners may see that as uncalled for (after all whoever wants more tea can get it himself or request for someone to pour it for him), the Chinese view this particular custom as a common and necessary courtesy. Not doing so would probably change their perception of their fellow diner, which brings me to my next point.

The way we view others, or perceive them, can be easily influenced by person prototypes. Person prototypes are idealized representations of a certain kind of person. The prototypical image of a Chinese citizen might be of one who “pushes and shoves” in public domain but at meal times, under the scrutiny of friends and family members, display what appears to be excessive politeness. The interviewee did not mention in depth about any individual but gave a largely genera l view of what the people of China seem to be. It is thus easy to assume that the average Chinese is openly uncouth yet under certain pressure, can exhibit laudable manners. While this may or may not be true, we cannot ignore the fact that the Chinese have an increasing number of philanthropists willing to dole out billions of dollars to help those less fortunate than they are, and that the government has been pushing campaigns on its citizens to be more mindful of decorum, which goes to prove that there are signs of a more enlightened society and increased efforts in improving social conduct.

Although China’s citizens do not have excellent etiquette all the time, it is important to note that the Chinese have been a rather new society in the sense that they have just joined the world. Societal norms that apply to what is known as the developed world should not be assumed upon them. It is important for us to not to depend on our “personal constructs” and instead develop what is known to be “cognitive complexity”, the ability to combine seemingly contradictory characteristics in creative ways, knowing that people are not absolutely good or bad, which is necessary for good communication. With time and a higher level of education, China is on the path to develop sophisticated members of society comparable to that of first world countries.

Click here for speech. (Scroll down to read English transcript)

            The National Day Rally is a yearly address by the Prime Minister of Singapore to the nation on the second Sunday after 9th August, attending to key concerns and future strategies. The Rally is done in a series of speeches aimed at separate communities. In a speech this year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addresses the Malay population and has to carry out certain rhetorical techniques, as well as ensure that the speech is shaped towards them, in order to effectively convey his message. This entry is an assessment of how he follows the Cannons of Rhetoric throughout the latter speech.

           The first Canon, invention, is necessary for the Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, to analyze audience (Malays), subject (addressing key concerns and strategies), occasion of speech to find material that would move people to belief and action. His major points were these: workforce and immigration, education and extremism. By identifying several themes and keeping to them, it is easy for the audience to have a clear idea of his message thus allowing them to follow up with action, if any is required.

            The Malays are a minority race in Singapore, and PM Lee has to find a way to engage with them despite being part of a majority race. Style is therefore important in increasing audience response. He brings up a Malay proverb (Paragraph 4, last line) when encouraging the race not to be overly complacent, something he knows that his audience would be able to easily comprehend and link to his argument. Such lines also appeal to the ethos of the audience as using the latter’s language can be seen as closing the racial gap between audience and speech maker. Throughout the speech, his sentences are kept short with paragraphs and key points rarely extending beyond ten lines. This helps to keep the message succinct for the audience, whose attention might wane after sitting through a prolonged duration of time during the Rally.

            For the next Canon, arrangement, the Prime Minister has to remember tact and carefully place his ideas in order of importance and justification. He starts the speech by advising the audience to be consistent in the midst of good results after recovering from the previous year’s stormy economic climate (Paragraph 2), which is important should continued progress in the economy be achieved. Early in the speech (Paragraph 5-8) he also addresses the worries of the Malay population and his plans to assuage them. Both points are kept at the beginning of the speech as they are primary concerns of the speech maker and audience respectively. The order of the speech is essential to logos, or wording and logic of the message. Logos is important as the Rally is televised. As a result, key arguments have to be well paced throughout the speech. By systematically bringing up different points, PM Lee ensures that countless who tune in at intermitting points would be able to follow his speech.

              Sensitive issues are brought up last as there is a need to foster goodwill between speech maker and audience before treading on what seems to be relatively thorny ground. In this speech, PM Lee congratulates and compliments the community on their many achievements, including accomplishments in the recent Youth Olympic Games (Paragraph 11-13). After ensuring he means no malice, he brings up the topic of radicalism in the Malay community, which is an increasingly controversial issue in recent years. He has to be careful not to marginalize the Malays, and watch his decorum and speech delivery. Delivery is the last canon and although considered the least important by many theorists, it is no doubt necessary in order to engage the audience and keep them interested – imperative if PM Lee intends to get his message across.

            In conclusion, the speech is well arranged and executed, considering many other factors. There is however little scope in this particular speech (there are only three main points) but this may have been countered by additional speeches in the Rally not considered in this entry.

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  • Alicia: This movie really illustrated how relationships can turn sour with varying perceptions of achieving a common goal. Sometimes, despite having open comm
  • Olivia: I think that the use of mass media and new media technologies actually constitute a generation gap. The older generation, most of whom are unaccustome
  • Olivia: Hi! I would just like to say that American, or rather western societies may not be as liberal as they seem. Some religious groups, such as christia

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