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          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

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.

Click here for article

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