Monthly Archive for January, 2005

Blogging Beyond Yourself…

Now that the Singapore Youth & Media Conference 2005 has concluded, I discovered (literally to my horror) how youths in Singapore view blogs as simply a way for people to keep online (very public) diaries or journals. Even more interesting was how factual such blogs are, complete with the young blogger’s name, location (e.g. school), age and even contact, instead of using a moniker! I asked weblog presenter Masturah Ismail from the National Institute of Education whether this was an “Asian thing”. She remarked that she doesn’t view blogging as having geographical distinction, but I seriously beg to differ. I think this is a cultural issue that might be worth investigating… that is, do youths use blogs differently depending on culture?

While personal blogs are very popular, political blogs truly are an excellent example of how blogs can really be effective towards communicative action. It is a form of activism which I see as not only healthy, but essential. While political blogs exist in Singapore, they are not the only way in which blogs can be used. There are research blogs, which mine tries to be but tends to be personal in nature too. As my professor says, personality adds a sense of authenticity to your work… your signature. Just what other kinds of blogs do we have? I’m sure much more, but to end for now, consider the potential of educational blogs. While not new, deploying it on a mass scale to all students in a particular school can be a daunting undertaking. Just read this news article from BBC today…

On a number of campuses in the United Kingdom, blogs have begun to migrate from the technology fringes to the mainstream of educational tools. At the University of Warwick, more than 2,500 students and staff have signed up for the university’s blog service, making it one of the largest academic blogging operations. John Dale, head of IT services at Warwick, said, “We believe that blogging may open new opportunities for students and staff.” Robert O’Toole, a Ph.D. student at Warwick, said his blog has allowed him “to speak to academic communities across the U.K. and [to gain] knowledge from strangers. Blog[ging] has allowed me to write in a single place almost daily and develop things in fairly cohesive fashion.” Esther Maccallum-Stewart, a history researcher at Sussex University, uses a blog in her research and her teaching. She said her blog has become an invaluable part of her work and argued that academic institutions need to avoid becoming “too insular, constructing their own language and cliques which do nothing to promote the getting of knowledge.” On the other hand, David Supple, Web strategy manager at Birmingham University, cautions universities not to rush into new technologies. He advises considering how best to implement tools such as blogs “without creating legal and reputational issues for the institution.”

Source: BBC, 23 January 2005

In the US and European countries, I’ve seen how blogs are used as a “swiss-army knife” communication platform. How a blogger uses it depends very much on his imagination. Perhaps Singaporean youths have not realized the potential democratic/equalizing power blogs have to offer as an alternative media to the mainstream. Perhaps this is due to the diffusion of innovation issue of blogs being invented in the US and has not been fully realized in Singapore?

SYMC Presentation Session 2 @ Block 68E

Transcript of Session 2 @ Block 68E. This was mostly on Internet research.

Internet Dangers: Impact of Pornography & Violence on Youths
Prof. Angeline Khoo
National Institute of Education

• PAGI – Parents Advisory Group Internet
• Boys continue interest in porn compared to girls who decline
• Touch Community, MCYS: Use Peers to guide 15-16yrs

‘Blog Thyself’: What Singapore Youths reveal in Weblogs
Masturah Ismail
National Institute of Education

• “Push Button” democracy
• Most persistent expression of identity online: ‘liminal’ space between public & private
• Ongoing conversation; comments
• Blogs allow for continuity with past
• Blog variations: rejected publications, update friends on local / foreign issues / outlet for emotive / artistic expression
• Imprint Uniqueness by modifying templates
• Blog of Ex-government scholar now graduate student
• Political blogs
• Anonymity vs privacy vs credibility
• 12 year old schoolgirl
• virtual vs real selves: Xiaxue blog
• Why reveal factual details?
• Hyperreality require bloggers to validate using traditional documents that undersign identity
• Challenging authoritative discourse: Identity negotiation & experimentation
• Invite unique perspectives that challenge authoritative discourse (rebel)
• Challenging subjectivities
• Identity play – acts of identification & differentiation

SYMC Morning Panel on Youth & Media

Here is a transcript of this morning’s SYMC panel session on youth & media. The audio recording was way too soft for me to fix, so I’m not putting it up.

Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam
Minister for Education

Full speech now online
• Singaporean Youths labelled as Political Apathetic
• Not just a Singaporean problem, but an international issue as well
• Minister of Education and even the Prime Minister addressed this issue
• Advent of Web Blogs, Tsunami mobilization by students
• We need not just the dissemination of information, but a way to galvanize societies into taking action

Mr Han Fook Kwang
Editor in Chief
Singapore Straits Times

• Younger population not reading newspapers, though the actual figures are actually better than other countries in terms of penetration of young newspaper readers (92%)
• Internet is at the epicenter of 26th Dec Tsunami event
• Straits Times newspapers have to compete online, with CNN, Google News, Blogs
• How do newspapers stay relevant to a world of instant communication?
• Bill Gates predicted death of newspaper in 2000
• Engaging the young is a life and death business
• Tried very hard to tap broad readership of 1.3 million readers (15yrs onwards)
• Lifestyle and sports section most popular
• IN newspaper and Youth Inc for youth
• Govt wants youth to partake in active citizenship, get them to shape the future
• ST wants to encourage greater diversity to encourage the young to be engaged
• “To be yourself” means restless, questioning, non-conforming
• Great challenges = Great Opportunity

Mr Shaun Seow

• In US elections, more youths voted in 2004 than any other year
• Politics now at grassroots
• MTV’s Choose or Lose: Wanted 20 million, 21 million showed up
• Music for America
• Star Power for politics
• What media can do for youth involvement in politics:
– Act as catalyst – “Politics is Local” Tip O’neil
– Help to inculcate sense of community and belonging (this is where you live)
– Show diversity in views (we need to be inspired by hero and role models)
• DPM had a TV session with students; same as when Bill Clinton met students in a town hall
• TODAY newspaper: take outside contributions
• Believes in packaging of political content
• whack-a-pol – Interactive media
• Youth: age group most looked at, but least listened to
• Media is a cheerleader for youth pursuit
• Passion to act for fellow citizens; be a leader
• Singapore Idol example of activism, democracy
• Imagine channeling this energy to politics
• Jim Rohn’s quote: But not you

Mr Ang Peng Wah
Dean @ School of Communication
Nanyang Technological University

• Idealism
• Youth should channel their dynamism, energy
• About OB markers
• Singapore is one city, unlike US with many cities, thus Singapore is sensitive to change
• Sense of moderation is good for Singapore

Singapore Youth & Media Conference 2005

I’m all set to give my SYMC presentation tomorrow on our research study entitled “The Internet & Social Capital: Exploring the Web presence of Youth Organizations for Civic Engagement”. There’s quite an interesting lineup of presenters at this conference, which will be attended by fairly well-known personalities in the various media and governmental agencies. Prof. Pauline Cheong and I have been working continuously on furthering this study. We’ve recently managed to interview a few organizations in our sample on how they use the Internet as a means for communicative action with their community of members. We certainly hope for SYMC to provide good exposure for our study so that we can improve our work by making it more relevant to community-based organizations.

If you’re interested in our study, you may download our report on “The Internet & Social Capital” below. I only ask that you leave your contact should you wish to be updated on our research:
Research Paper (PDF)
Related Appendices (PDF)
Quick Definition on Social Capital (Web Link)

Lookster: For people who look similar

As a matter of observation, I’ve seen people who look disturbingly similar to people I know. In a somewhat pointless exercise, wouldn’t it be interesting to build a directory of people who look similar and build connections based on that? Heck maybe even call it “Lookster”, as opposed to Friendster. Unless some advanced facial recognition algorithm can be build as a web crawler to scour the web for photos of people, this would have to be a manual process, with the reward being having the ability to boast that you got the best finds on the Internet.

Perhaps a little story might start the ball rolling…
I was watching some local Chinese television drama series called “Kung Fu Soccer” (based on Stephen Chow’s “Shaolin Soccer” movie) when I noticed that the female lead not only looked attractive, but looked very familiar. I soon realized that she resembled my real-life belle, Penny. Searching the web, I found more pictures which might help prove this claim. Just take the glasses off Penny and you’ll see how close they look. Photo on left is Penny, on right is HK Singer/Actress Joey Yung.

Penny vs Joey

What do you think? Any similar ones you’ve found so far?

iPod Shuffle: Why it will sell…

iPod Shuffle Macworld 2005

With no LCD screen, many mp3 flash-based player manufacturers are “surprised” by Apple’s move with the iPod Shuffle. Creative’s CEO Sim Wong Hoo has the following to share…

“Actually, to me it’s a big let-down: we’re expecting a good fight but they’re coming out with something that’s five generations older. It’s our first generation MuVo One product feature, without display, just have a (shuffle feature). We had that — that’s a four-year-old product.

“So I think the whole industry will just laugh at it, because the flash people — it’s worse than the cheapest Chinese player. Even the cheap, cheap Chinese brand today has display and has FM. They don’t have this kind of thing, and they expect to come out with a fight; I think it’s a non-starter to begin with.”

The diffusion of innovation theory has shown us that throughout history, a product’s success cannot depend on just features alone, but a series of factors which make up the product’s environment, aka the “whole product”. (See debunking VHS vs. Betamax urban myth)… the most dominant product isn’t always about being simply the best in terms of capabilities, but of how well received it is in society. Granted Apple has the upper hand having literally created a “market” for the iPod, but while I am certainly not a normal computer user (I keep telling my ETC colleagues that we should be considered “godlike” in terms of computer users), I have the same basic needs as any fellow techno-newbie… I want something that works.

In the iPod Shuffle’s case, “less is more” when it comes to making the music listening experience a painless one. While my hand-me-down 20gb iPod (thanks dad!) is great for storing and searching a large portion of my progressive music collection, it’s only great for long trips. Even that is a little clumbersome when I wanna listening to something between a short walk from one end of the campus to another. This is where the iPod shuffle excels… to me I think of it as a “fire & forget” mp3 player. You buy it relatively cheaper than competing mp3 players and use it as it was meant to be, barely any user interaction during quick trips. From the user’s end, the best feature is the low price. Couple this with simple tasteful design and decent product support, the iPod Shuffle makes for a great product usage experience.

From the Apple’s perspective of things, another strong theory would be the marketing aspect of the iPod family. If there were an LCD screen, the pricing wouldn’t be too far from the iPod mini, which already has a decent market share. So there you go, Apple captures all three market segments of the mp3 player scene with sensibility to boot.