A Communication Blog.

Archive for October 2010

          With the emergence of technology and hence the new media, the power of the mass media is getting eroded, albeit slowly. While a decade or so back the media agenda was largely set by those in power – media owners, producers, advertisers and political groups, it appears that even the average Joe gets to say his piece to the world. The advent of blogs and immensely popular social networking websites like Twitter means that everyone has a platform to announce his or her views.

          This has many repercussions on the mass media, or rather the print media. The demise of several newspapers can be partially blamed on the new media; many people have turned to the cheaper alternative of reading news online. You get to read news that you want to read, rather than have a newspaper which has news that may or may not pertain to you. With more people choosing to go online for their daily dosage of information, the new media is definitely gaining more power. While it is still untrue (and this might always be the case) to say that the new media is an equal representative of the views of everyone in the world, we have an increased power to access and post different kinds of information, because of the new media.

          According to this article, the trouble now is that we might face an overload of information. How do you achieve what you are truly looking for? Which information is most relevant to you? In order to battle fatigue (from having to sift through so much information to get what you need), there are search engines like Google and Yahoo! which allow you to read articles only with the keywords you seek.

an example!

          There are also online communities such as Tumblr, famous for their websites with specific interests. For example, if you are a fan of the sit-com How I Met Your Mother, you would be extremely pleased to discover that there is a site specially dedicated to the show, with several screenshots of memorable moments as well as humorous quotes from the characters. The owners of such blogs are known as the new gatekeepers of the media or more plausibly, “curators”. They “filter the most relevant information and add context through their commentary and insight, like the explanations on the gallery walls of an art exhibition”. Although the ownership of a blog rests on an individual or maybe a small group of individuals, what is different this time is that ownership can belong to anyone from a chief executive of a Forbes 500 company to a schooling eighteen year old. Ownership of the new media is far from elite.

          I guess this is an interesting concept, because it means the media is getting increasingly split among the masses. No longer is the power to influence the people concentrated in a certain elite group, nor is the minority silenced by the majority’s views. The spiral of silence, which is Elisabeth Noelle-Neuman’s theory that people have a tendency to refrain from expressing unpopular ideas for fear of isolation, does not apply as much to the new media as it is now easy to associate yourself with a like minded group of people online.

(Images from Google Images)


Michelin mascot, Bibendum with the Michelin Guides

          A quick search on Google with keywords “Michelin guide” would lead to websites declaring the Guide to be “respected”, “a classic guide to exceptional restaurants”, and “comprehension selection to suit all tastes”. While both the print and online media worldwide consider the renowned Michelin Guide to be trustworthy and unbiased, this article claims the opposite.

Old versions of the Guide

          A simple history on the Guide (from Wikipedia): The Michelin Guide is a series of annual guide books published by Michelin for over a dozen countries. It started as a car and road trip guide to the best restaurants and accommodations available along the travel route of motorists. Reviews are held by inspectors that remain anonymous, even to Michelin’s top executives. Now the oldest such publication in the world, it is considered the most well-known and influential guide in the culinary world. It has a rating system from one to three stars, with three stars being the best.

Jean-Luc Naret, Director of Michelin Guides, pictured with a Michelin Guide. From Getty Images AsiaPac.

          Evidently, the Michelin Guide has had a wide repertoire of experience when it comes to reviewing restaurants. To have earned just one of its stars would mean that a chef has reached the epitome of his career. Newspapers, magazines, and even the average blog quote this periodical guide when it comes to culinary excellence. Yet it is undeniable that it is not omnipotent, even with its “famously anonymous” inspectors. The agenda settling function of mass media takes place as the Michelin Guide deals with unobtrusive issues. For example, a tourist visiting France might be unfamiliar with the territory, and is more likely to rely on the Guide (thought to be a reliable source of information) for information on where he or she should dine. Moreover, given its reputation and very, very high up placing in the culinary industry, it has a greater effect compared to a critique in a provincial newspaper.

Announcing its Michelin accreditation

          The periodical guide, published every year or so, has the media functions of surveillance (information) and correlation (analysis and evaluation). However, this function is somewhat limited. The Guide has been based in France since it was first set up. The guides have only recently started to focus on countries outside Europe. Their expertise in international cuisine might be limited, or that they might judge restaurants beyond the European border with criteria that does not apply to the restaurant being reviewed. For example, a Japanese restaurant might have certain customs regarding food or its preparation that are hugely different from European styles. Moreover, with Michelin’s just 50 over reviewers, it is hard to ensure that all 4000 restaurants reviewed keep up their standards, despite a claim that a survey is done every 18 months.

          To conclude, the Michelin Guide might not be as reliable as previously thought to be. Although it shows signs of accuracy (many restaurants with 3 stars are widely agreed by both culinary aficionados and industry insiders to be at the top of their game), it is wiser to acquire information from various sources before reaching a conclusion. This not only applies to the Michelin Guide, but to various media sources which may have their own agenda when it comes to releasing information.

Related links:

Wikipedia on the Michelin Guide
Famously Anonymous Inspectors
The Michelin Guide

Pictures from Google Images

It is said that Singapore does not really have a culture. Or that we have more than a culture, depending on which race you are looking at. I think we do have a culture. We are not unlike typical Asian societies. We are tight lipped about issues that are not widely accepted. We study hard. We study very hard. In school, teachers expect nothing but diligence and steadfastness in our work. So what happens when school and controversy clash? Check this out. It hit the headlines a few days back and has caused more than a couple of parents to cringe. ACJC seems to have a culture of havoc kids of late. Remember the ragging incident in ’08? This seems to be a repeat of that, just more extreme and way more controversial. Two girls having sex is already a big issue, but to be caught on tape in school would indeed stir up some major controversy and certainly in many others, disgust.

Now consider this issue. Tyler Clementi was a talented musician and seemed destined for a bright future until a video of him making out with a fellow male student was leaked onto the internet by his college roommate, resulting in his suicide. What ensued was a public outcry for schools to draw up new anti-bullying laws and brought attention to a public campaign to assure homosexual kids that “it gets better”.

Before I go off a tangent here let me state that what I’m trying to do is to draw the differences between Singaporean and American society. It may be a somewhat poor and unfair comparison. After all, one act was done in privacy and the other in public domain. However, both have breaches in privacy. A very significant difference is in the public’s reaction after both incidents. America was disgusted, but not at the video itself, but at the brutality in his roommate’s actions and at the unfair violation of his (Tyler’s) privacy. America seems to have a more liberal and open culture, more individualist than collectivist. Social behavior is largely determined by personal goals, attitudes and most importantly, values. As for Singapore, it has been commented that the video was “disturbing” and that disgust has been directed at the two girls and the video. I guess Singapore has more of a collectivist culture than individualist. We conform to the norm, which is to work hard and try to keep in line.

          The Social Network is a movie that on first impression probably doesn’t sound too exciting. It is about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and the beginnings of the social networking website. I first thought it was going to be a documentary chronicling the advent of Facebook and its exponential growth or something along those lines until I read more about it in Time magazine and Wikipedia. While the movie is obviously about Facebook and how it started, it focuses on Zuckerberg, especially his failed relationships with various parties, including a girlfriend, a business partner, and school mates. In fact, after watching the movie (or maybe just reading about it), you would think of Zuckerberg as one who has failed terribly in communication.

         Zuckerberg was an awkward loner in Harvard College whose relationships with his fellow peers were not just unsuccessful, but downright awful. For example, the movie begins with his break up with girlfriend Erica, who dumps him after stating that being with him was akin to being with a Stairmaster. While the earlier stages of Knapp Model of Relational Development weren’t portrayed in the movie, we can safely state that the couple is at the coming apart phase and to be precise, stage 10, Terminating.

          We can also examine the relationship between Zuckerberg and his best friend, Eduardo Saverin. Tension arose when the business partnership, which was what cemented the two, was threatened with the introduction of Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster during a meeting. While Saverin was wary of Parker, Zuckerberg was keen on having him join Facebook as they shared the same ideals. This difference in perception (incompatible goals) eventually led to conflict, when Zuckerberg insisted on including Parker in their partnership, against Saverin’s opinion. His ability to resolve this conflict was dysfunctional, evident in his decision in cutting down Saverin’s one third share in Facebook to less than one percent and therefore resulting in Saverin’s lawsuit against him.

         It is ironic, as stated in the tagline from the first picture above, that this man has had more than 500 million “friends” but in reality, has probably burnt more bridges than formed. His outright betrayal of Saverin and the unscrupulous way in which he stole the original idea for Facebook from three Harvard school mates merely demonstrate his disability to realize the importance of communication, especially conflict management. However, it cannot be denied that there is a possibility Zuckerberg did realize the consequences of his actions, but chose to ignore them in the pursuit of wealth and status, something the movie did hint on. After all, the same man chose to set up the somewhat degrading Facebook predecessor Face Mash, which allowed the Harvard population (but mostly aimed at the males) to rate pictures of female students online, in order to raise his social status. The movie, based solely on the director and screenwriter’s opinions and completely unaffiliated with Facebook or any significant personnel related to it, could still be skewed in order to dramatize events. Therefore, the audience has to discern between myth and fact.

Related links:
Official Page of The Social Network
Movie’s Wikipedia page
Interview with Vanity Fair


  • None
  • 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