Facebook Me

Can you imagine living in the 1960s? Where there were no iPhones, Blackberrys, macs and desktops? Technology has made communication so convenient for us and I think without it, more than a hand full of us might go a little crazy. Technology in communication is defined as a medium through which information is transmitted between communicating parties. As advanced as technology is, there are still some constraints in communication such as time, distance in terms of coverage or reception, speed when it comes to the rate of information being transmitted, bandwidth, which is the amount of information being transmitted and synchronous which is interactivity.

Technological diffusion, which is referred to the rate at which technology is adopted by society is influenced by cost-benefit tradeoffs and functionality. We have witnessed how technology has evolved over the past few decades. Back in primary school, the trendy gadget to have was a disc-man, which has now been replaced with an itouch or ipod. This therefore demonstrates substitution in technological diffusion. Substitutes refers to the ability of one product to replace another, especially in terms of providing cost or performance advantage. Complements, on the other hand is another aspect of technological diffusion when an existing technology is combined with something else enhances the utility of both products such as the internet being accessible through the use of computers.

Facebook has taken the world by storm with a database of 800 million active users. It is evident that convergence was one of the key elements in making Facebook such a successful project. Convergence is the movement of communication technology toward common digital formats that allow for the interoperability between distinct services and applications. With Facebook, one can chats with users who are online, share videos, voice notes and data such as pictures. People in the world are no longer not left with only one form of communication, which is the telephone. Computer mediated communication is what holds us together and what keeps us in touch with one another. One might ask, what is computer mediated communication? It is defined as any form of communication using computers and computer networks, which includes e-mails, electronic conferences, newsgroups and web chats. It also allows access and interaction between people and databases all over the world.

Facebook has almost every single characteristic of computer mediated communication. Firstly, a computer is used as a medium (although now Facebook can be accessed through smart phones and ipads). Facebook has evolved from previous programs like MSN or ICQ where it was fully text-based where communicators express themselves through words, smileys and emoticons. It takes place on a virtual platform with no limitations when it comes to time zones or physical spaces. With Facebook, information can be accessed quickly at a click of a button. Skype, has also been successful in introducing face time. It makes communication effective as it can be one-to-one, one-to-many or many-to-many.

It is for a fact, that computer mediated communication has invaded almost every facet of human activities. Without Skype or Facebook, how expensive would it be to make collect calls to our friends and family overseas? With technology being so advanced, now not only can we talk to our loved ones who are miles away, better yet we can see them on our screens just as if we’re face to face! Being in the know of what your friends are up to by reading twitter posts, blog posts or Facebook statuses, we no longer have to try and phrase awkward questions in our heads in trying to pry information about who’s dating who and conversation topics.

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Made in USA

Although Singapore is an Asian country, I believe that we are influenced very strongly by the American culture, and this is mostly due to the globalization of mass media. Globalization of media refers to the competitive process by which media companies attempt to acquire a larger share of the profits available in the international markets. Singapore’s television based company Mediacorp is definitely no exception. Mediacorp establishes a two-prong strategy by helping its viewers develop strong domestic roots as well as establishing an international development strategy by airing US television shows on our local channels such as America’s Next Top Model, Lost and The Walking Dead, just to name a few. In order for us to enjoy even more international programs, we subscribe to SCV which allows us to enjoy television programs for almost every major global media company, be it a US based company or not.

Even though Singapore, being part of Asia is known to be the fastest changing region over the past three decades, we are still not considered as a major market for global television program export industry as there would be language barriers, government restrictions, differences in cultural backgrounds and might not sit well with local viewers and limitations of television transmission and reception from certain countries. We have our home-grown directors and locally produced movies such as I Not Stupid and Money No Enough and local television programs such as The Little Nyonya, which was such a big hit among our citizens, but the exports of these media products to other regions are very limited. If I am not wrong, these media products were only distributed to Malaysia at best. With Asia being the largest regional producers of motion pictures worldwide, especially Bollywood films from India, Japan and Hong Kong but few of these films are distributed outside of Asia, not even having a chance of infiltrating into USA theaters.

We might feel as if we have several television programs to enjoy with SCV, but the truth is that there are so many more television shows available online. Why is this so? I feel that it is because of the government controlling the information flow into our domestic market for various different reasons. Shows like Jersey Shore or Teen Moms might be frowned upon by a large group of Singaporeans as it is deemed to be trashy and teaching the younger generation in here that getting pregnant at the age of 16 will catapult you to fame.

As much as several of us enjoy watching television, I believe that there is no cause for alarm over the quantity of American media products available for our viewership as long as the viewers are able to discern for themselves which is applicable to their culture and which is not. More over, it is due to the globalization of mass media that has allowed us to learn from other cultures and experience and learn about different things without having to leave the comfort of our homes.

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Mirror mirror on the Wall

If you ask any female “are you contented with what you see in the mirror?”, the answer is most likely to be that of a negative one. As females, I think it is relatively safe to say that we are always unhappy with how we look one way or another. With complaints that our hips are too wide, thighs being too thick, arms being too flabby and our stomaches hanging out of our shorts, why is it that so many of us are never contented and comfortable in our own skin?

I personally believe that we feel inadequate because of what beauty is being portrayed by the media using mass communication. Mass communication is defined as a form of communication through which institutional sources address relatively large, heterogenous and anonymous audiences physically separated from one another. Although media messages are large, heterogenous and anonymous, in other words, media messages cannot be individualized, women still tend to fall prey to wanting to conform to the media’s norms of looking thin. The problem is, almost every form of mass media communication portrays beauty as being thin. Moreover, media messages are non-exclusive and temporal. Meaning that the messages that are being transmitted are public and that they are often timed to reach most audience members simultaneously. For example, the local news airs on channel 5 and channel 8 at 9pm and 10pm respectively. This is due to the fact that majority of their viewers would be either done with dinner and kicking back on their couches to enjoy some television or would be off work by that time. Therefore, being timed in such a manner allows maximum viewership.

Based on the powerful effects theory, all of us are aware that the mass media is influential. With the audiences being passive, it is easier for women to be “brainwashed” to want to become skinny, just like what they watch on television or movies or what they see in magazines. In accordance to the agenda setting function, it has been established that the media able to influence you to believe what they would like you to believe, even if it may not be true in reality. Several women fall victim to consuming diet pills which are currently flouring in their sales, seeing how many different brands there are available in the market just so that they can drop a few dress sizes to look like Jessica Alba or Heidi Klum. It is evident that these consumers know that diet pills alone are not going to transform them into Hollywood superstars, yet, they still purchase them in hope of looking the slightest bit like their idols. This therefore shows how successfully mass media has influenced the mindsets of their viewers. Thus making the media extremely influential.

With that said, it is also stated in cultivation theory that the media does not influence its audience’s attitudes directly but instead, cultivate indirectly with it’s influence being gradual and cumulative. As we expose ourselves more to the media, we risk being enslaved into whatever messages are  being portrayed and in this case, being thin.

Although we are able to resist media messages if we wanted to, I think it is safe to say that many of us have fallen prey to being influenced heavily by media messages and I for one, am not exception.


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Manning Up

Being in the 21st century and living in a civilized and modern world, when we hear of those weird and sometimes even hair raising rituals being conducted to initiate a boy coming into manhood, all that comes to our mind is that they have lost their marbles. In short, they must be crazy!

In this video, a tribe in Papua New Guinea conducts a ritual for boys to assume the title of a man by donning the marks of a crocodile on his body. It is not just 1 or 2 limbs that have to get scarred by his entire body. This ritual lasts for approximately 6 weeks where initiates would be kept in a hut known as the spirit house, which is inaccessible to women as only men are allowed to enter the hut. With no age bearing of the initiation ritual, initiates range from ages 11 to over 30. Therefore, regardless of your age, even if you are 40 and part of a tribe, you are not considered as a man until you have the marks of the crocodile, which is considered sacred to them carved onto your body.

Culture is defined as “templates for living”, and that it tells us who we are, what groups we belong to and how we live our lives. We can see how true the characteristics of culture are, especially for these tribe members. It is evident that their cultural beliefs represent their understanding of what is true to them and that culture is also passed down from generation to generation. Also, we can see that culture involves the programming of the mind. These tribe members think that it is only normal to go through such an initiation process whereas if you put someone who has been born and raised in America for the past 20 years, it would be unlikely that he would be able to accept this form of initiation and may even regard it as a form of torture. Through this 6 week long initiation process, which the carving of the skin being the final stage, we can observe the collectivist culture of this tribe. Social norms and duties are defined by the group, in this case the tribe members, rather than for self pleasure, beliefs are shared with the ingroup rather than to distinguish oneself from the ingroup and there is great readiness among the tribe members to cooperate with the ingroup members. This tribe also demonstrates the characteristics of a collectivist society being high interdependence, conformity, readiness to be influenced by others, and self sacrifice for ingroup members are just a few examples.

All around the world, there are many different countries embracing different cultures. In the United States of America, however, individualism is definitely more evident in their society as compared to collectivism. In America, social behavior is largely determined by personal goals, attitudes and values of collectivities, where the citizens create their own ingroups, rather than conform to tradition. There is low dependency on one another and many ingroups all across the country where only specific aspects of a person’s life is influenced by an ingroup. I believe that the USA is one of the most individualistic societies today as freedom, honesty, comfort, social recognition and reward distribution which is based on individual performance in almost every aspect of their lives.

With so many different cultures in the world, I personally feel that as Singaporeans, we should expose ourselves and learn to embrace the different cultures out there to avoid having a myopic view on any aspect of our lives.

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For better or for worse

When the topic of interpersonal communication was being discussed during lecture this week, one of the several movies that came to mine was 50 First Dates. In the movie, Lucy suffered a bad injury during a car accident several years back, which resulted in her losing her short term memory. In other words, she is only able to remember things prior to her accident and everything that happens after that is only remembered for one day and anything else is somehow foreign to her the second she wakes up the next morning.

From this movie, several aspects of interpersonal communication and communication in relationships can be observed. Dyadic primacy can be observed through the communication between Lucy and Henry. Dyadic primacy refers to a series of exchanges between two persons. Also, dyadic coalitions are apparent between Lucy’s father and Henry as they try to help Lucy in knowing that she is dating Henry in terms of aiding her in renewing her memory every day. Dyadic coalitions is the strategic alliances between two persons within a group.

As the movie progresses, we witness the development of Lucy and Henry’s relationship, especially in the engagement and the management phase. The engagement phase refers to the first contact to richer interpersonal relationships while the management phase refers to the use of communication to maintain a relationship. In the cafe where Henry was having breakfast one morning, we see how physical appearances are usually the start of potential relationship. Henry was first attracted to Lucy due to her appearance. As physical appearance has the biggest impact in the early stages of a relationship, we see how its impact slowly gets diminished over the course of Lucy and Henry’s relationship. Both Lucy and Henry are relatively different people in terms of character and this ties in with another communication concept which is known as dissimilarities. Dissimilarity is the tendency to form relationships with those who are different from us. Also, their relationship developed due to proximity as seen from how Henry always goes to the same cafe that Lucy has breakfast in every morning. Proximity aids in the development of their relationship as relationships are often formed with people around us as there is greater opportunity for interaction and less intimidation and uncertainty.

Through self disclosure, Lucy and Henry get to know each other better by the sharing of information about themselves that the other person is unlikely to know. This form of relational maintenance is crucial as it exhibits trust and commitment to the relationship. Although almost everyone in that town knew of Lucy’s condition, it was Henry who stepped up to the plate to make a difference and to help her be aware. It was only until years later that she realized she was living in the past. Henry was the one who helped her realize it by bringing her to get the relevant tests done and by making video tapes of the time spent together, in order for her to remember who he is. The fact that Henry did not lie to Lucy about who he was and what his occupation was showed that he was willing to commit to this relationship with Lucy as he would often fabricate stories about who he was to previous women that he met.

Although no relationship is identical, I believe that they share similarities one way or another or even share similar differences and that all the three stages in communication in relationships is very applicable to real life situations and not just in movies. 

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Blasphemous or artistic?

Surfing Youtube has always been something that I enjoyed very much since the start of the year. With countless of videos uploaded on a daily basis, one is able to find a video on anything or everything on this amazing website. Upon browsing through videos over the weekend, I chanced upon Lady Gaga’s most controversial music video yet- Judas. In this video, Lady Gaga is portrayed as Mary Magdalene with the male starring in this video as Judas, who is one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and betrayed Jesus into the hands of the chief priests as mentioned in the New Testament in the Bible.

This music video was compared to Madonna’s “Like a Prayer”, in 1989 which outraged the Catholic community and the video was even deemed as blasphemous. Likewise with this video, members of the Catholic faith have found this to be blasphemous. However, the question is, is her music video really classified as blasphemous or artistic? Several of Lady Gaga’s other music videos have received criticisms saying that from what her music videos portray, she is a devil worshipper and the list goes on and on. This is where we can see how communication and behaviors are based on how we perceive reality. The difference in our communication is due to the way our surroundings are perceived and based on our past experiences.

Perception is the process by which we make sense of the world around us. One of the three processes which occurs during perception is selection. This therefore refers to how we attend to or select information from our environment for processing. What influences selection are mainly mass media, individual characteristics, social network, our environment and lastly our psychological state, priorities and motives. This is where I believe is the cause for Lady Gaga’s music video, Judas to ruffle so many feathers of such a large faith. The mass media always communicates any form of religion with utmost respect at all times, and therefore that causes us to view any forms of faith in that manner. Because we are all so accustomed to that, having a music video depict a story from the Bible in such a way is just not favoured by hundreds of people. Individual characteristics, I believe are the main cause for viewers either classifying this music video as artistic or blasphemous. For example, church goers would probably classify Judas as blasphemous or as “a disturbed vision of hell” even. This is due to past experiences and knowledge, combined with one’s social network and from being in a Catholic family, growing up knowing all these biblical stories and always having the best impressions of all the characters mentioned in these biblical stories to suddenly seeing them scantily clad and having the story twisted in some perverted way or another.

On the other hand, non believers of the Catholic faith would not be as offended as the Catholic community was. I personally, am not a Catholic and when I watched this video for the first time, I did think it was disrespectful but ironically, artistic. As Lady Gaga said herself in an interview, she viewed this music video as a “social or cultural statement” and that it was a “metaphor and not a biblical lesson”. Yet again, it all boils down to how we perceive everything around us. Even a music video on the internet, which does not directly harm anyone has raised several controversial issues on blasphemy, for example. Being in the 21st century, I feel that people should not take whatever they see, hear or read literally all the time and to allow ourselves to be more open to other ideas or cultures even, that we are not familiar with. This can perhaps, sculpt the way we think and perceive things in a way that might surprise us.

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Just one more try

With the opening of the integrated resort at Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands, the Singapore government, encourages it’s citizens not to gamble by campaigns and airing anti gambling commercials on local television channels.

In this short commercial promoting anti-gambling, we can see a father persuading his very young daughter to hand over her piggy bank so that he can “win it all back”. Through this commercial, we can observe the use of rhetoric, which is the study of effective speaking and writing, and the art of persuasion. Viewers are able to perceive how language is at work orally. Although the father is persuading his daughter to hand over her piggy bank, the message conveyed through this infomercial is one against gambling. It is evident, that persuasion appeals work together to achieve logos, which is the appeal to reason and pathos, which appeals to the audience’s emotions. Piggy banks are often associated with the initial stages of learning how to save when one is just a child. The spare change that a child receives after buying a meal during recess, perhaps, is often encouraged by his or her parents to be kept in the piggy bank.

Here, the appeal to the audience’s emotions is very strong with the use of a father asking his child for money. As in normal society, a parent, particularly a father, is known to be the breadwinner of a family. We see how ironic it is, that the father, who most of us would assume to be a working man has to try and convince his daughter to lend him money that she has saved. By using such a young, innocent child, the audience would feel pity for the young girl since again, we assume that she does not have much saved due to her tender age.

I feel that when it comes to gambling and debt, people do not pity grown-ups who choose to put themselves in such a situation by thinking that gambling could be a possibility of earning quick money. However, when a child is used, the emotions of the audience would be stirred. This would therefore, be a more effective way of conveying the message of not gambling or perhaps, curbing a gambling addiction as “people who really suffer from problem gambling aren’t the gamblers”. When I watched this commercial on television for the first time, I felt genuinely sad for the young girl as I thought of how my parents taught me to save by giving me a cute looking piggy bank. They told me that this money that I saved, would be for my future, which consisted of my education, for emergencies and for my family. Seeing how this father, was only thinking about borrowing money from his young daughter, so he could gamble was really heart breaking. It implied how selfish he was as by doing that, he was ignoring all hopes of helping his daughter build a good and secure life for herself  by teaching her the importance of saving.

Therefore, I feel that when commercials such as these use pathos, mainly to convey a message, it strikes the audience and leaves a deep impression, which I dare to say, has succeeded in delivering it’s intended message.

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