Song of the Sirens

Posted in Uncategorized by songofthesirens on February 13, 2011

Hello! I have relocated my Communications blog to:

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C:\yber\@Bullies

Posted in Computer Mediated Communication by songofthesirens on July 11, 2010

Victimization on Cyberspace is spotted as an increasing trend, reported CBS News on March 29, 2010 (“Cyber Bullying Continued After Teen’s Death”). The leaps and bounds of burgeoning technological advancements have given rise to a plethora of social networking and virtually interactive sites, as well as chat rooms. Due to the Internet’s multi-faceted nature, the identity of individuals is effectively concealed. Consequently, this results in escalating episodes of Cyberspace bullying.

There are, indeed, a multitude of benefits that come with the World Wide Web technology. For one, the Internet is accredited with authorizing the anonymity of its users. Henceforth, this particular ‘invisibility cloak’ indubitably empowers individuals who may be reserved synchronously (in real-time) to be critical and forthcoming asynchronously (in the virtual arena). However, the issue of Cyber bullying arises when such emancipation is taken advantage of: The cordiality of the online society is destroyed when bitter words are strewn relentlessly across the Web pages.

It is unfortunate that victims of cyber ‘terrorism’ (as I deem it) are traumatized by such excoriation on the World Wide Web. Moreover, as CBS News revealed, a number of adolescent suicides was attributed to Cyber bullying. However, as much as denigration is degrading and demeaning, one must understand that such disparaging remarks are only but superficial. One should also realize that the uploading of information, photographs and/or comments onto the World Wide Web is equivalent to a public broadcast of one’s life; ergo, one should be resilient to criticisms. While detractors may faithfully ‘spam’ (a vernacular that describes irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent on the Internet to a large number of recipients) one’s web blog or profile, unless it is actualized synchronously, there is simply no need to feel threatened or demoralized by the slanderers who dwell in the virtual world.

What really interests me is the claiming of a ‘new’ and perhaps ‘enhanced’ personal identity in the virtual world. It purportedly seems as though the Internet is a splendid opportunity for individuals to get creative in the construction and reconstruction of their identity. It could, perhaps, be justified with “If I can’t be someone better in reality, I want to, at the very least, be better on the Internet.” This in turn may have had translated into an open door paving the way to alternative realm; subsequently resulting in experimental blasphemy on Cyberspace.

Incontrovertibly, the Cyberspace, a Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) platform, presents to the world’s populace a myriad of infinite opportunities. People who exploit the perquisites (even with innocuous intentions) of the Internet can end up hurting other people – from shattering self-esteems to taking a life. While experimenting with different sets of identities are acceptable (albeit… Perculiar), the unspoken code of morality and ethics that apply to life in the real world should, without a doubt, be asserted in the virtual realm as well.

Embracing Cultures

Posted in Inter-cultural Communication, The Social Constructionist Perspective by songofthesirens on July 4, 2010

Here’s a short entry for the weekend to evince my stance towards intercultural communication:

Culture is pervasive and omnipresent. Similar to people who distinguish one culture from the other through interaction patterns, linguistic exchange, fashion styles, traditions, rituals and in many cases, skin colors and Gods worshipped, I, too, believe culture is best differentiated by its idiosyncrasies. Bigoted detractors of intercultural communication, however, often overlook distinctive idiosyncrasies that vary from culture to culture. Ways of disregard can take the form of stereotyping, generalizing, bearing prejudices and discounting or omitting other cultures altogether. While I am not inveighing against such inevitable notions of the layperson, I am discouraging the subscription to such an intransigent attitude.

Casting aside all entrenched beliefs, one will realize that there is much to learn from disparate cultures. Should one adopt the social constructionist perspective (that communication creates individuals), more experience can be acquired from the humble, intercultural interaction. For instance, due to the fundamental dissimilitude between different cultures, intercultural interaction may shed an entirely new approach of perceiving things, both tangible and intangible, in our lives. For that, we become more perspicacious.

However, to achieve this state of sagacity has its incontrovertible prerequisites. Negative social inclinations and critical, judgmental attitudes must be discarded. Moreover, one must be valiant enough to step out of his/her comfort zone. As the comfort zone is only a temporary social space that provides solace to the individual, the individual’s quantum of solace will indefinitely increase accordingly as he/she ventures out of it. While one may experience cultural shocks, such as overwhelming feelings of intimidation and/or stigmatization, defense mechanisms, such as being guarded or introverted, should be avoided; these defense mechanisms will only serve to further distant oneself away from the culturally different. Instead, embrace the dissimilarities with a sincere smile and a genuine heart.

Intercultural communication may be daunting at its initial stages as ingrained beliefs and ideologies may lie on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Yet, in time, with patience and diligent effort, the insights gained from intercultural communication will be bountiful!

The Tube Attack

Posted in Cultivation Theory, Mass Media, Mean World Syndrome by songofthesirens on June 27, 2010

Technological advancements have burgeoned as we stride across the bountiful millennia. In the urban homes of citizens residing in the developing and developed nations, therein lies a solid piece of standardized property: the television. With its plethora of unyielding channels, the television serves the purpose of engaging, entertaining and informing. This effectual tool of the mass media takes the form of commercials, films, movie blockbusters, soap operas, drama serials and documentaries. From amusing new-born infants to engaging the decrepit senescence, fanaticizing about Japanese anime such as Naruto to thrill-seeking American television serial dramas like Prison Break, intellectually educating nature-bound National Geographic to the mindless E! Entertainment gossip about Hollywood celebrities, it is incontrovertible that the existence of the TV has impacted our lives in a multitude of ways.

Insinuating by nature, television programs exerts its influence on the audience subtly and cumulatively. In this, the Cultivation Theory (George Gerbner, 1976) is highlighted, referring to the social theory which examines the long-term effects of television on the audience. As with this theory, scientific studies have thus far concluded that people who spent more time watching television were more likely to perceive the world in ways that reflect the most common and recurrent themes/messages of the world of television, as compared to the people who were less of a TV addict. Moreover, esteemed Gerbner also founded the ‘Mean World Syndrome’, an idea that the manifestation of television violence will result in individuals depicting the world as a place more morbid than what it really is. Even so, the Mean World Syndrome, I feel, is just but one of the mere effects of television consumption in the world today.

Due to the filmmakers’ need to boost viewership, many a time, television productions are an exaggeration of reality. Such distortions indubitably give rise to not only the Mean World Syndrome, but also to the far opposite of it as well. Sex, for instance, is a highly repetitive motif in the movies these days, especially in Western productions, because of the producers’ notion that sex ‘sells’. As such, adolescents targeted as the majority audience have become manipulated into perceiving sexual intercourse lightly; that pre-marital sex is a social norm. Moreover, as youths of the MTV generation predominantly grew up with the TV, the effects of the TV are more significant than people of other ages. Yet, although television influence is a strong determinant in this case study, it is not the only source of influence.

Another parallel to the Mean World Syndrome would be the overly romanticized ideals portrayed by the mass media, through television. While romance is mostly screened with antagonists attaining their true love and ergo a happily ever after, reality reflects otherwise. Due to this disparity between illusive television and reality, a mismatch of expectations occurs. This results in the dissolution of interpersonal relationships, and for married couples –  divorce. Undoubtedly, the symbol of marriage, relationships, love and romance has changed over time; however, through the television (and hence also the mass media)’s influence, issues are unwittingly brought forth and henceforth aggravated.

Violence is yet another theme that the mass media portrays, more often than not. Catering to the pernicious, sadistic characteristic of mankind, violent films depicting gore and bloodshed are increasingly popular amongst the television viewers nowadays, in spite of censorships in place. For instance, the thriller-gore movie ‘Saw’ was so enthralling that five sequels succeeded it, all of them as grotesque and as bloody as the premiere. In this case, two mindsets may develop from violent television consumerism: the first being the Mean World Syndrome, where the individual perceives violence in reality as ubiquitous and unavoidable because the mass media depicts that is so. Secondly, individuals may become desensitized to the concept of violence, whereby an act that may have once been regarded as appallingly undesirable will be morphed into an acceptable norm.

In summary, the television, as one of the many forms of mass media, is an effectual medium in underscoring themes of war, terrorism, poverty and on a more personal level — relationships. However, insidiously, television consumption has the potential to vastly alter our perceptions and lives. Be it a once-a-week TV patronage or a 24/7 TV addict, we are required to be discerning at all times. Only then can we differentiate the TV world from our grounded reality and ergo maximize the benefits of this ingenious (yet insidious) invention.

Pink [Dot] Singapore

Posted in Group Communication by songofthesirens on June 20, 2010

“Singapore, May 15, 2010 – Over 4,000 pink-attired people gathered at Hong Lim Park today at 6pm to form a giant pink dot in a show of support for inclusiveness, diversity and the freedom to love. This makes Pink Dot 2010 the largest public gathering ever seen at the Speakers’ Corner since its opening in 2000, and is nearly twice the number of people who turned up at last year’s event.”

Pink Dot Singapore is a non-profit movement started by a group of disparate individuals with the aims to raise awareness and foster deeper understanding of the basic human need to love and be loved, regardless of one’s sexual orientation. Not only was this group formed to underline the evolving societal viewpoints towards accepting the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in Singapore — more importantly, it was established to allow individuals who are radically inclined towards being LGBT in the conservative Singapore society to feel a sense of belonging. In that, sexually disoriented Singaporeans are given the opportunity to seek solace with fellow similar comrades.

While this relatively large group of people who support this movement is multiples more than the characteristic and optimal group size of 5 to 7 members, I would personally still consider Pink Dot Singapore to be effective in terms of group communication and in sharing a collective identity. The identity of this immaculate congregation is seen in their enthusiasm of gathering (despite the sweltering Singapore weather) to depict that love is best built on a foundation of trust and honesty instead of fear and shame. Truly admirable is the spirit of this collective, as some of the subscribers to this event and this movement are people who belong to the heterosexual community. In that, the ideals of this cohesive group dutifully supports its members emotionally and psychologically, ergo allowing LGBT individuals to feel included, despite the widespread prejudice against LGBT individuals in the Singapore society.

Even though certain communities and social groups characterize and delineate groupthink (Groupthink is the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility) symptoms, such as the pressures exerted on dissenters and the blind following of collective rationalization, I believe that Pink Dot Singapore is healthily balanced with a moderate groupthink combined with individuality: All advocates were encouraged to be adorned in pink (a stereotype LGBT colour though reasonably justified with “Pink is the colour of our ICs and also the colour when you mix red and white – the colours of our national flag. Pink Dot stands for an open, inclusive society within our Red Dot, where sexual orientation represents a feature, not a barrier.” —Pink Dot Sg Facebook) for the event, yet, the community in itself celebrates and embraces diversity and equality, qualities vastly opposing to groupthink.

Last but not least, Pink Dot Singapore appropriately underscores Poole’s Multiple Sequence Model. We witness the Task Track (the process by which the group accomplishes its goals) and the Topic Track (the series of issues or concerns that the group has over time) of the group through their appeal to society to accept the LGBT community, and internally present, amidst the supporters of Pink Dot Singapore, is the Relationship Track (the process by which interpersonal relationships is shared amongst the group members) clearly being depicted by the video (below) as parents of LGBT individuals give their testimonials and mete out intimate information.

Personally, I subscribe to this congregation because of its wholesome ideals: To accept each other for the similarities and differences combined. As a Singapore citizen, I feel proud to know that there are activists out there, not violently demonstrating against the detractors and judgemental critics, rather, they are diligently conveying to us that every one indeed should be respected, despite of diversified mindsets, belief systems and of course, sexual orientations.

*Click “More” (below) to view the 3 minute long video.

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The Facebook Syndrome

Posted in Interpersonal Communication by songofthesirens on June 13, 2010

Last Saturday at work, my 55-year-old colleague, Josephine, announced to me that she has a Facebook account. Indubitably, I was caught by surprise for all the while I had limited Facebook technology to ages ranging from 10 to 40 (other than Facebook users for business and corporate accounts purposes, of course). With this golden news, the two of us paid employees then sneakily logged on to the website. There and then I taught her the basics of the Facebook technology: Leaving a public message on someone else’s “Wall” and sending someone a virtual gift or hug.

Facebook is so user-friendly that it has displaced the other social networking site, Friendster. On Facebook, virtual exchanges through people’s “Walls” on a “Profile” occur. One can immediately match an individual’s face to a name with the inventive concept of “Tagging” and “Untagging”. Similarly, one can “Like” or “Unlike” someone’s personal status with just a mere click of the mouse, as well as “Comment”, “Reply”, “Rate”… The existence of millions of “Apps” (Applications) and games to fiddle with has resulted in an indiscriminate boost in active users ever since the founding of Facebook (2004) by Mark Zuckerberg. This uprising phenomenon has incontrovertibly taken communication to a whole new level.

This immense platform, also termed as new media, is 21st century’s communication fashion. Through Facebook, geographical boundaries have shrunk with the almost-instantaneous exchange of messages occurring online. Corporations and/or social groups use Facebook to broadcast certain events, having people to “RSVP – Attending, Maybe Attending, Not Attending”. In some ways, such social networking sites have made us closer. I quote Elizabeth Bernstein on The Wall Street Journal, How Facebook Ruins Friendships – “Thanks to the Internet, many of us have gotten back in touch with friends from high school and college, shared old and new photos, and become better acquainted with some people we might never have grown close to offline.” However, despite Facebook’s, as well as other social networking sites’, beneficial effects on our lives, with all these accessible features available, it is not at all bewildering that interpersonal communication (face-to-face interaction, Trenholm 2004) is gradually creeping into oblivion.

Our social life, where real, human, interpersonal communication takes place, is slowly being disregarded. For people who befriend strangers online based on (through the use of digital-imaging software like Photoshop and Picnik) their enhanced physical appearance alone, relational formation becomes solely grounded upon the superficial traits. Discernment of characteristic attributes become impaired as everyone looks good online – Photographs of individuals on their “Profile” are self-selected and thereby more polished.

Self disclosure, on the other hand, is intensified during Facebook or any form of online social interaction. Under the guise of a monitor screen or an alias (hence assimilating a protective barrier from society), many of us become witnesses to our friends’ and families’ passive-aggressive behavior. Kimberly Kaye, 26, an arts writer in New York said, “Suddenly, things you wouldn’t say out loud in a conversation are OK to say because you’re sitting behind a computer screen.”

Through a multitude of ways, Facebook like any other social networking sites, can strengthen or weaken interpersonal relationships. Whilst virtual interaction and proximity on cyberspace is a widespread communication tool, nuances expressed during face-to-face interaction, such as body language and non-verbal cues, are undermined in this form of communication. With all that in mind, one must not take for granted any relationship, that because of Facebook, it is excusable to not meet up, and be able to discern virtual companions from the true comrades present in reality.

Gaga Communication

Posted in Non-Verbal Communication by songofthesirens on June 12, 2010

Recently, I stumbled upon some interesting Lady Gaga news on the Daily Mail (Refer: Pucker Face). The article was last updated on 12th June 2010 and it depicted numerous photographs of what I term as “Gaga Communication”.

As a mere onlooker of this famous pop singer/songwriter’s enthralling behavior during the Padres-Mets baseball game in New York, I am only able to observe Lady Gaga’s characteristic traits and come to certain conclusions about her intentions. Her non-verbal cues displayed during this game, as portrayed by the various photographs, moreover, are contradictory. Hence, it is only fair that I give this successful artiste the benefit of the doubt and assume that she is just but eccentric and extremely original.

 

Lady Gaga adorned only a studded bikini, a head scarf and fish net tights to the baseball game. (In her defense, she put on a leather coat at one point in time.) In the bleachers, the “Poker Face” star then showcased a public display of affection with her brunette female companion. This included a kiss that lasted for more than a few moments. Moreover, on top of the mystery brunette, the singer was also accompanied by friends who were casually (and appropriately) dressed in T-shirt and jeans, thereby highlighting her extraordinary attire. In my point of view, by the style of her dressing (a spectacular bikini to a baseball game!) and her exhibition of affection with a female,  I am inclined to think that she is intentionally creating a scene for the paparazzi present; in other words, she is attracting the attention of all in view. In addition, the combination of all the different non-verbal cues (ie. Appearance, behavior, etc) alongside my own personal past experiences have allowed me to arrive at such a conclusion. This is a clear example of, from day-to-day, how the association of any one person with a specific personality occurs, even though the person is someone whom we may not be acquainted with.

Yet, despite the celebrity’s exhibitionist demeanor, another photograph illustrated Lady Gaga flipping (the photographer) the finger, during the very same game. Common to our knowledge, we are aware of the meaning behind this non-verbal, non-linguistic kinesics of finger flipping. This is one clear example of a non-verbal cue that is infamously widespread in all societies around the world as it is a cue with a specific and well-defined meaning. Henceforth, in this I find strange and contradictory as there was a clash in the signals Lady Gaga was sending out (ie. It obviously contradicted with the former intentions of her display).

As DailyMail.com suggested, “Perhaps her consistently over-the-top stage outfits have desensitized Gaga to the weirdness of her wardrobe.”

Nonetheless, these contradictions only emphasize Lady Gaga’s personal identity: Her confidence is delineated by her scantily clad bikini to a baseball game; her showcase of the homosexual kiss goes to show her open-mindedness; her vulgar demeanor of flipping the finger conveys her indomitable and care-less spirit (of the world’s perception of her).

The Grafitti Train

Posted in Non-Verbal Communication, The Cultural Studies Perspective by songofthesirens on June 5, 2010

Disclaimer: I am not, in any way, anti-establishment or attempting to create a controversy.

For the entire 18 years of my life, my perspective of Singaporeans remained (more or less) the same, that Singaporeans were conformists and were obedient followers of the governance. (This is not me complaining about the Singapore rule. In fact, they have done a pretty impressive job.) Hence, imagine my astonishment when I chanced upon the news of the vandalism (Graffiti) on the local trains, also known as the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT)! This masterpiece was splashed over the newspapers (The Straits Times) and the Internet (YouTube, STOMP.sg) in video or photograph formats. The vandalism occurred in mid-may, but yesterday (4th June 2010) was when the newspapers announced the culprit, a Swiss man, 33, Oliver Fricker‘s capture.

This episode can be deemed as an act of vandalism, or an expression of non-conformity, or perhaps even an artistic exhibition, is entirely dependent on one’s perspective. Personally, I would regard this as the second and last viewpoint. Judicial laws may have been imposed strictly to deter vandalism of public property, yet, if we tweak the angles of our cognitive schemata, the laws imposed may become just another rule to follow, or in some cases, to break. On top of feeling immensely amused with this anti-establishment, non-conformist attitude, this episode makes me ponder about the unyielding inflexibility of the Singapore governance, as well as the bigoted viewpoint of Singaporeans.

An email was sent by a fellow citizen to STOMP.sg, raising this entire episode with much frustration and exasperation, “The case of the vandalized MRT in today’s (4th June 2010) papers made me so angry I don’t even know where to begin. […] The Swiss vandal also needs to be severely dealt with. […] This is a clear case of the kind of lousy imported values these foreigners bring with them. Why are they being anti-establishment when it’s not even their country?” Indeed, she has a point (In this I mean only her last statement). Could there be an implied meaning in this spray-painted art piece? If yes, what then, is his non-verbal message?

Nevertheless, no unholy blasphemy nor profanity was splayed on the MRT. Secondly, act of vandalism aside, it is an artistic masterpiece. In fact, barely anyone realised that it was graffiti vandalism on the MRT when the train first travelled the railway tracks. So why can’t close-minded Singaporeans overlook it as being a trespass of public property and appreciate the artistic expression in the display? Instead of trying (too hard and too often) to emphasize that Singapore is a culture-rich nation with much appreciation for the Arts, namely by constructing the Esplanade, Theatres by the Bay as well as hosting road shows of self-expression such as Noise! Singapore, why can’t we begin with the smallest (and least costly) step of being more open-minded?

The reason is simple. Fricker’s arrest is sends out an important message. A non-verbal warning from the very government. In light of the cultural studies perspective, we arrive at the understanding that social, oppressive forces have subdued Fricker’s artistic expression, consequently reinforcing the idea that in Singapore, non-conformists (and of course, vandalism, which is an act of non-conformity) will not be tolerated.

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When A Toddler Smokes

Posted in The Social Constructionist Perspective by songofthesirens on May 29, 2010

The photograph embedded left sparked a great wave of critical comments when it’s story was reported on CBC News (21st May 2010) and then its video posted on YouTube (26th May 2010). (Please click on the ‘More’ tab to view video or this YouTube link.) According to CBC News, this smoking toddler, Ardi Rizal, was witnessed by a reporter who recently visited his home in the fishing village of Musi Banyuasin, in Indonesia’s South Sumatra province. At a tender age of only two years old, this little boy is a smoking addict who makes do with an average of forty cancer sticks every day. Ostensibly, it was his father who had introduced him to smoking at eighteen months old. During his interview, he defended the intense, bad habit, “I’m not worried about his health, he looks healthy.” In response to this, Daily Mail has reported that 3.2 percent of five to nine-year olds in Indonesia are active smokers.

Personally, it was frightful to watch this documented clip, and even more harrowing to recognize the parents’ disregard for their child’s personal health (Because watching a two year smoking presses on our pathos (appeal to emotion) and logos (appeal to reason).) Similarly, a multitude of people from all over the world looked upon this issue the same way I did. In modern societies, people are generally educated, and even those not so, understand perfectly the evils of this vice. With criticism streaming in from detractors all over the world, I began questioning myself. And finally, by viewing this issue in the social constructionist perspective, I arrived at the discrepancies of the typical mind belonging to an urban society dweller and the parents’ of Ardi Rizal (as well as like-minded parents).

This particular perspective occurs when communication creates individuals, instead of the other way around. Many of us are wired to think certain ways and do certain things in the very way society influences us to. And in this, notions that are established in our minds are merely based on what we are exposed to. Likewise, the society that Rizal’s family resides in are what constitutes the majority of influence exposure. Henceforth, they see no crime in allowing their son of 18 months to indulge in cigarette smoking — Simply put, they want their son be contented. This issue, moreover, highlights the result of the disparaging perspectives — When there is no collective representation of reality (ie. When people view certain issues and communicate differently), we judge and we criticize. Instead of pointing fingers at Mohammad Rizal being a bad parent, we should consider the low levels of education in Indonesia and perhaps, take action.

With these muses in mind, I implore you, to not be insular. As the saying goes, “While the narrow-minded see only differences, the open-minded see the truth in a multitude of things.” Human nature may impel us to view things in black and whites, yes’ and no’s. Yet, I prefer to view everything, as much possible, in shades of grey. And in that, perhaps, there is more to be seen.

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