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The End of the Unit! (And a Note to the rest of the world …) November 26, 2008

Posted by Tama in : Uncategorized , add a comment

celebrate

Congratulations to the Masters by Coursework students – Anna, Ghee, Rouli, Alvin, Ramfel, Siyang, Benedikte & Man – who’ve completed iGeneration this year (2008): the final assessments are all done, the last formal blog posts and comments are in and, indeed, the hardcopies of your assessments are now available for collection from me in my office.  Thanks to everyone for your fantastic contributions across the semester – the discussions and the seminars you led were vibrant and engaging, and I’ve really enjoyed reading your major assessments for the unit!  Thanks, too, for the final kind words about the unit; I’m delighted so many of you enjoyed it!

About this unit & blog for those who weren’t iGeneration students: This unit has been collectively authored by Tama Leaver and the students who participated in iGeneration 2008 (a masters by coursework unit in Communication Studies at the University of Western Australia); all course materials, assessment items, links to readings that are freely available online (so, most readings, but not quite all), and the assessment items – the podcasts, essays, video projects, seminar outlines and blog commentaries, will remain online indefinitely.  The students and I agreed from the outset to treat this unit not only as a learning journey for them, but also a journey which may be of use to other people.  As such, we’re collectively decided to leave this unit online as an Open Education Resource that can be used by anyone who might find it of value or interest.  We’ve explicitly placed all original content under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial 2.5 Australia license, meaning that as long as you attribute the original authors (a link back to this blog will suffice; for posts which specify the author, it would be nice if you did the same) and don’t make money in the process (and, no, we don’t consider education for-profit thus all educational uses are legitimate) then you’re free to read, reuse, and remix as little or as much of the material here as you’d like! However you ended up here, we hope you find something of interest and maybe something of future use! :)

[Photo: ‘My favorite’ by uzi978  CC BY SA]

Self in Virtual and Real World: Exploration of Some Aspects of the Social Life of World of Warcaft Players. November 3, 2008

Posted by rouli in : Uncategorized , add a comment

There are many myths and misconceptions in the public mind concerning games and game players. Sometimes this stems from traditional beliefs about games or even from research based on a limited scope. Jenkins listed at least eight of these myths, (Jenkins, 2006) which include: games have led to an epidemic of youth violence; violent game play is linked with youth aggression; video game play is socially isolating. These myths also frequently connected to contemporary online games or usually called Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMO) or Massively Multiplayer Online Role Play Games (MMORPGs).

 

Based on these misconceptions, this essay aims to explore the social life of the gamers, especially those who involved in MMO. To narrow the study, this essay focuses on one specific MMO, World of Warcraft. For this purpose, simple research is conducted by interviewing and giving series of written questions to 4 interview subjects who actively engaged in, World of Warcraft. This essay does not try to make generalisations from the results of the study, but to show that results are based on the existing experiences among the people who play WoW.

 

Participants were chosen randomly and are male – aged around 19-24 years old. To maintain participant anonymity, pen name or pseudonyms are used to address the participants. Participants’ names are John (19), Sam (22), Bill (24) and Peter (23). Three of the participants, John, Bill and Peter still have statuses as university students, while Sam has recently graduated and is in the early stages of his career. Participants’ involvement in the game range from 9 months until 5 years.

 

In the next part of the essay, several terms will be used continuously. Participant is the term that used refers to interview subject or interviewee. Actual world or real world is the term that refers to the physical environment where the participant lived. Virtual world is the term to address the game reality or the space where the participant exist while playing the game.

 

The exploration focus on four issues related to social life. The first part will talk about the relation of the character of the participant in game and character in real life. The second part will explore on the issue of the creativity of the participants in relation with WoW playing. The third part will focus on the condition of social relation and interaction of the participant as a result of playing WoW. The last part will explore time related experiences of the participant in playing WoW.  These themes are discussed in the next part of the essay.

 

 

Character in the real world and character in the virtual world

Character is one of the aspects that frequently discussed when talking about games and gamers. In this essay, the term character refers to two aspects: personal trait of actual self in the real world and representation of self in the virtual world. There are several studies and research that try to explore character of the person who plays the game and the relation between character in real life and in virtual world.

 

Research conducted by Bessière, Seay, Kiesler tried to examine how the gamers explore the possibilities of the identity they want to present in online multi-player games (2006, p.1). They argue that online multi-player games nowadays offer appealing chances for the players to produce a representation of themselves through their character, and this enables the player to create a character that mirrors their idealised version. The research results show the relation of personality in the real world and character in virtual world are inexplicably linked. If players have low self-esteem and high Depressive Affect, they tend to create idealised character in the game virtual reality more than the players to have high self-esteem and low Depressive Affect (Bessière, 2006, p.6).

 

Research conducted by Blinka explored the relationship between the game and their avatar on different age groups, adolescent (12-19 years old) and adult (20-27 years old) (Blinka, 2008). He found that the younger player in the group strongly identified with their avatar, and did not differentiate themselves from the constructed character (avatar), as compared to the older players. He mentions there is “simple unity” between players and their avatars for adults – meaning that the player just sees the avatar is only part of the game mechanism or part of the entertainment, social efficacy, or social contact and nothing “more” than that (Blinka, 2008).

 

From the interview and from the data gathered on question list, there is a unique relation between the characters of participants in the real world with their gaming character. Bill said that he chose one specific character because it has a few resemblances with his actual character, but with no further connection. He chose the character as a “Elf Paladin” because he found that he likes to help other people.  However, it does not make him fully attached to the character – he just sees the avatar as part of the game mechanism, not part of the actual life. There is also another reason for choosing the specific character, and that is for aesthetic reasons. Sam chose to create character to look aesthetic pleasing in the game and this is one of his priorities in the game. Peter even created several characters to enjoy more of the game. Since Bill, Sam and Peter are categorised adult according to Blinka’s research, this fact corresponds with the results of research. Adult people tend to have not so strong attachments with the characters in the game, compared with younger gamers.

 

The interview also attempts to see how close the relation and identification of the participant to their character in the virtual world. Participants were asked: which character they prefer between actual self of virtual self in term of personal trait, and which one they consider more accomplishes, in term of ability to achieve the objective. Three of the participants, John, Sam, Bill, said that they could still make distinctions about themselves in actual world and in the virtual world. They stated that self in real life is their preferences, although they also felt special connection with their character in virtual world. About the accomplishment, they see that the self in the real world is better than in virtual world. However, Peter sees that both of the character that he has in actual and virtual world is synchronous, and it overlay each other. He sees self in actual and virtual world work simultaneously.

 

Other information gathered in the question list regarded the identification of the participant of their character or type of playing in the game based on the simple taxonomy of Multi-User Dungeon (MUD) from Bartle (1996). The reason for using this taxonomy is based on the argument from Mortensen that said there are connections of the old version of the old version text-based multiplayer game with the highly visibility of World of Warcraft (2006, p.397). As Mortensen stated, “These connections rage from player style through game-play option to social interaction and player-controlled social modifiers within both types of the game” (2006, p.37). There simple taxonomy is applicable to identify the type pf playing in WoW.

 

The taxonomy consists of four groups player type, which are Achiever, Explorer, Socialiser and Killer (Bartle, 1996). Achiever is the type of player who considers points gathering and increasing level, as a main goal. For this type of player exploring, socialising and killing is something worth doing in regard of collecting more point. Peter identifies one of his characters in WoW in this type. Finishing raids and upgrades level are part of the game that he found more interesting in his game play. He said that he has several characters in the game and he set different character with different type of play. Achiever is one of the types of his avatar (character). Explorer is the type of player who prefers to reveal and discover the “machination” of the game. They continuously explore and find interesting feature of the game. Sam, Bill and Peter identify themselves in this type. Sam argued it is because he found quest time is most interesting part in the game and he have more fun just moving around and trying new things in game realm. 

 

Furthermore, Socialiser is the player type that is more interested in people and aims to establish inter-player relationship. They treat the game as a backdrop, as a common place where everyone plays together. Bill also chose this type because he considers that it is essential in achieving objective in the game. Lastly, Killers are the type of player who gets fun from the game by inflicting other player. Based on this simple taxonomy from Bartle, two of the participant, Bill and Peter chose more than one type of playing. They see that there is no one exclusively type if player in one character. Their character in the game is the integration of two or more type in playing the game. Just one participant, John, did not identify his character with any of these categories while just playing the game – in which he played games just to kill time: with no connection to character whatsoever.

 

 Creativity and Learning Process

It has been a long time since scholars and academicians recognised the importance of the game. Contrary to the assumptions that games are unproductive and children’s activities, they see that games and gameplay are related to something more significant. Huizinga, for instance, stated that “play is older than culture, for the culture always presupposes human society” (1995; p.97). He also mention that there several attempts by scholars to show that play is a form of exercise and preparation of young creature for the serious work that will demanded from them in their adult life (Huizinga, 1995, p.97). There are also other arguments that show playing game is one effective method in student learning. Denzin stated that play is a tool for preparing children for their socialisation purpose and teach them to cooperate and interact with each other (Denzin, 1975, p.458). David Hutchison, is the academician who propose the idea that through playing video games that suit for the classroom use, student can learn many academics subject such as mathematic, sciences, history, geography, social sciences, language, art and many more (Jenkins, 2007).

 

To see how all assumptions applied to the participants’ game activity, several questions were asked in the interview to identify how game related to their skill and creativity. When participants asked whether their game activity accommodates learning processes and enabled them to gain some skills from the game that would be useful in their real life, all the participants say they are learning and acquired some specific skill. The specific skills that they mentioned can be grouped into: social skill, self-management, mental ability, physical skill, artistic ability, and even technological skill.

 

Among all the groups, social skill is the dominant answer that most all the participant mentioned. It range from ability communicate online effectively, ability tolerate people, ability navigate social network, leadership skill (for guild leader to manage all the members), social etiquette, and even diplomacy skill. All the participants stated that this social skill is one of the important aspect to be able immerse in the game and achieve the objective in the game play. Moreover, social skills in the virtual game reality may shape social skills in daily life. Two participants, John and Sam, mention self-management is the ability that they learn from the game. They see by playing the game, they learn how they can set good time management, life balance and sort the priorities in life, although they admitted is not always applied successfully in the real life. In the case of self-management, they admitted that this is not something that they learn from the game exclusively. It is something that they acquire from the interaction of the game itself with the game paly situation.

 

Furthermore, Sam, Bill and Peter mentioned some skills related with mental ability. They mention skills such as creative thinking, logical thinking, determination, resourcefulness, and research skill. Peter said that determination and resourcefulness needed particularly in regard of achieving certain grinding level. In terms of mental skill, their statements are equivalent to Thomas and Brown analysis of the learning process in World of Warcraft (2007, p.155). According to them quest in this game timed to be completed within a specific set of time, usually 45 minutes to one hour. This feature requires the player to focus of developing analytic and critical thinking to solve the puzzle and complete the mission. The fact that pressures come from time limitation, also give the chance for improving ability in management skill and expand the a player’s awareness to discern interconnections of many aspect within those time limitation (Thomas and Brown, 2007, p.155).

 

Peter mentioned he could also gain artistic skills because WoW enabled him to shape his appreciation of different cultural art style modelled after real life. Not only that, game also shaped the appreciation even perhaps it just pure fantasy world. In addition, Peter also said that physical skill is other ability that he can gain from the game. He said that he could train reflexes ability and hand-eye coordination by playing the game. Lastly, he also mentioned technological skills, when he engage to one experience where he can see someone is able eventually to learn new skill in assemble computer starting from the demand to get new graphics card for playing activity. Even though he did not experience this by himself, but based on experiences, he identifies this as a skill that someone can get from playing activity.

 

Despite all the statements regarding acquiring those skill form the games, Peter mention another aspect to be considered, which is predisposition. He stated that these skills and ability might be not attained from the game exclusively. It is possible that the players already have the specific skill inherently, but it does not mean that the game have no influence at all. Instead, the game becomes a medium where the players explore and sharpen their ability form the existing predisposition. In other words, learning experience from the game is not isolated event, but it was “part of a shared social experience that involves joint, coordinated action with others and the participation in a culture of learning and knowing that both defines and is defined by the game” (Thomas and Brown, 2007, p.155).

 

The connection of how experiences in virtual world trough playing game is the sources of learning in real world, and dispositions in the real world become a source of creativity in virtual world, is what Thomas and Brown indicate as “Convergence” and “Divergence”. As they stated,

“What transfers in MMOG learning are not just information or skills, but dispositions and the ability to translate those dispositions from inside the game to outside the game through an act of imagination. That moment of transfer is a point of convergence when experiences in virtual worlds are shared among or between players and produce a trigger that allows the player’s imagination to transcend the boundary of the game. These triggers are objects that are experienced and that are recognizable as having significance both within the virtual world and within the physical world” (Thomas and Brown, 2007, p.162).

 

Convergence is the condition when the social and cultural experiences brought together to the virtual world to create meaningful play and achieve the process of creation in game play realm. Divergence is the process of transforming the experience in the game reality into learning. It is the process of intellectual growth and the way by which acknowledge the experience and draw useful lessons from it. Imagination is the tool for translating experience into learning. (Thomas and Brown, 2007, p.164). These processes are what Tomas and Brown argue as the core of learning process through MMO that distinguish it form other training and learning processes that already exist.

 

 

Social Relations and Interactions

One of the appealing factors that attract may people to play WoW is that the game design is equipped by a set of features that enable player to engage with other player to built social interaction and virtual social reality. This set of communication features in the game enables players to contact and interact with other players in multiple ways. Players can contact each other through email in built-in instant message. There is also communication facility where player can “whisper” and “yell” to another players. Most players used all this communications feature throughout the gameplay to interact with another players, communicate certain strategy, bargain, buy and sell item or just merely to start of conversation or to chat with other player (Forghani, et.al, 2006, p.15).

 

The most important part in this game is that after playing for certain amount of time, players soon will realise that they cannot do the game by themselves. There are specific tasks designed to make players not be able finish by themselves unless they work together and coordinate the action with other players. For this purpose, the game facilitates the players with groups where they can work together on quests and build more stable relationship through “the guild”. This is the unique part of the game design, which enables the players to come together in a group for a short time to achieve one specific objective – whether to finish the quest or to kill the monster or other enemies. Therefore, virtual social interactions are one of the requirements in order to survive in the game and make it inevitable in the game.

 

When the participants were asked about their interaction the virtual world of the game, each of the participants gives various responses. When they are asked about their partners or playmates in the game time, John and Bill said that most of their friends or partners in the virtual game world are their friend in real life. Bill even stated that one of reasons he joined WoW is to continue the friendship that he had with all friends in his home country. Thus the game become one medium to maintain the real life relation and extended it in the virtual world. The fact that they already knew each other in the real world makes it easier for them to communicate and coordinate action in the game time. Peter stated that even though he have same playmate with friend in the real life, they also make new relations through the virtual world. For him this game is a way to start a meaningful friendship. Peter even mentioned that one his relationship with another player in the game ended up to being great friends for more than 10 years.

 

In terms of discussion with other players, all the participants stated that to some extent they prefer to discuss the topic that limited to the game theme. They tend to discuss topic such as raids and memorable time in the game, quest, new task, objective in WoW, and occasionally talking about other games. Only Bill stated that he also sometimes discusses some topics or issues in the real life with another players, although he still have to considers the closeness of the relationship with them. In other words, he actively chooses the people he wants to share conversations with.

 

However, Sam stated that physical interaction is one of the important factors that determined whether he wants to take the relations or friendships go beyond the playing situation. He stated that he found it is hard to find genuine friends in the game due to the lack of physical interaction. For him, the virtual world of WoW is not a place to establish meaningful friendships due to the lack physical interaction. This opinion is entirely different with Peter that stated it is possible to have a truly friend in the virtual world through WoW if someone can find person that have common interest and can discuss other issue beyond the game. True friendship in the real world can be started with a relationship in the virtual world, but it does not make friendship less meaningful. He saw that the line between the real world and virtual world is more and more vague nowadays.

 

The result of this interview corresponds to the research conducted by Forghani, Sosnovskaya, Chin and Boyns (2006).  From extensive field and virtual ethnographic observations, content analyses and in-depth interviews, they found that there are four distinctive dimensions around World and Warcraft game-play that strongly interrelated to each other. Those four dimensions are virtual reality, virtual social reality, real life reality and real life social reality. The first two dimensions – virtual reality and virtual social reality – refer to the experiences and understanding of players within the virtual world of game created both by the game designers and by player’s own actions and interactions. The next two dimensions – real life reality and real life social reality – refer to social relationships players outside of game-play (Forghani, et.al, 2006, p7).

 

 

Time Related Experiences of the participant in playing WoW

Another issue regarding the playing activities is the ability of the player to manage the balance between time for playing the game and time for other responsibilities in the real world. Several issues related to this topic are mostly concerned with time loss experiences, displacement real world activities, addiction to the game, disengagement with real life communities (friends and family) and many others. Scientific researches are also conducted to reveal more information about this issue. Research conducted by Wood, Griffiths and Parke (2007), specifically try to reveal experiences of time loss among videogame players. Based on the qualitative and quantitative analysis to relatively large group of video gamers, the result shows that most of the people that play videogames felt time loss experiences regardless gender, age and frequency of play (Wood, et.al, 2007, p38). In 2004, a survey conducted by American College Health Association of over 54,000 American students found 11% of females and 20% of males said their leisure computer use had significantly weaken their performance at college and university (2005). Another research by Cole and Griffiths also shows that players in MMOPRGs faced potentially serious addition effect from playing (Cole and Griffiths, 2007, p.528).

 

As part of the exploration of social life of the gamers who play WoW, experiences related to the time are also considered. From the data gathered from the participants, all of them seemed to experience issues with time management at some point while playing the game. John and Sam said there were times when they spend too much time playing the game than they are supposed to. Sam sain the he felt that he could have been use the time to other more “meaningful” activities, instead of playing the game. Another two participants, Bill and Peter, said that even though they spent relatively much time in playing WoW, they did not feel spend too much time, since they can put their priorities in order. In spite of this, in terms of difficulties to accomplish real life responsibility, only Bill that stated he did not face difficulties. Peter, Sam and John stated they occasionally faced difficulties to finish the responsibility, either academic responsibilities or other social responsibilities. They admitted that they frequently suffer of delaying other activities because of the game playing. Most these activities are related to academic activities such as delaying assignment, homework and studying. Peter even stated that he frequently delayed his bedtime due to play the game. John added that consequence of these activities displacement is the experience of guilty feeling because he committed himself more into game than people.

 

The experience of participants related to the time is similar with the result of the survey conducted by Wood, Griffiths and Parke. People who participate in the research also stated that they have negative experiences relating to missing and scarifying other things, such as appointment or sleep-time. Other than feeling guilty, participant also sometimes experienced social conflict when partners, friends, or relative felt that they are being neglected because their game playing (Wood, et.al, 2007, p.40). This shows that although there are certain boundaries in the virtual and real worlds, the virtual space is increasingly becoming naturalized and invading real life activities.

 

Conclusion

This essay explored the social life the players who involved in the in MMO, War of Warcraft. It focuses on 4 main aspect of social life, which is relation of character in the real world and character in the virtual world, creativity and learning process that player acquired from the WoW, social relation and interaction the player, in the virtual world and real world, and time related experiences of the participant in playing WoW. The study conducted by interviewing 4 active players, who involved in the game from 9 months to 5 years. The study found that, participants are able to draw the line between the character in the real world and in the virtual world. Even though they personal trait in real world is part of consideration in choosing the avatar, but it did not make them fully attached to the avatar. In terms of skill and creativity acquired from WoW, all of the participants said that they learn and gain some skill form playing WoW. Social skill, physical skill, artistic skill, mental ability is some of the skills that mentioned by the participant. In terms of social relation and interaction of the participant, the result shows that there are diversity among the participant whether partner in virtual world have the same meaning with friendship in the virtual world. On one hand there is opinion that stated physical interaction is significant in building meaningful friendship. On the other hand there is opinion that meaningful friendships can be achieved through interaction in virtual world regardless physical interaction. In terms of time related experiences, all the participants stated that they ever experienced game playing activity affect other real life activities. This shows that virtual space is increasingly becoming naturalized and invading real life activities.

 

 

  

REFERENCES

  

Bartle, R (1996) Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds and Spades – Player Who Suit MUDs http://www.mud.co.uk/richard/hcds.htm

 

Bessiere, Katherine; Seay, A.; Kiesler, Sara (2006) ‘The Ideal Elf: Identity Exploration in World of Warcraft’ American Sociological Association, Annual Meeting- Conference Papers p1, 23p; (AN 26643599),

http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=sih&AN=26643599&site=ehost-live [Accessed 15 October 2008)

 

Blinka, Lukas (2008) ‘The Relationship of Players to Their Avatars in MMORPGs: Differences Between Adolescents, Emerging Adults and Adults’ Journal of Psychological research in cyberspaces: CyberPsychology,

http://www.cyberpsychology.eu/view.php?cisloclanku=2008060901 [Assessced 24 October 2008]

 

Cole, Helena and Griffith, Mark D (2007) ‘Social Interactions in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Gamers’ Cyberpsichology and Behavoiur. 10 (4) http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdf?vid=4&hid=104&sid=e97196ff-ae52-4556-ab47-e711b4860179%40sessionmgr102 [Accessed 15 October 2008)

 

Denzin, Norman K. (1975) ‘Play, Games and Interaction: The Contexts of Childhood Socialization’ The Sociological Quarterly. 16 (4). pp. 458-478 http://www.jstor.org/stable/4105940 [Accessed: 29/10/2008]

 

Forghani, Sima; Sosnovskaya, Elena; Chin, Apryll; Boyns, David (2006) ‘MMORPG Worlds: On the Construction of Social Reality in World of Warcraft’ American Sociological Association, Annual Meeting Conference Papers. p1, 33p; (AN 26642718),  (http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=sih&AN=26642718&site=ehost-live) [Accessed 15 October 2008)

 

Huizinga, J (1995) ‘Nature and Significance of Play as Cultural Phenomenon’ Homo Ludens. Boston: Beacon Press.

 

Jenkins, Henry (2006) ‘Reality Bytes: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked’

http://www.pbs.org/kcts/videogamerevolution/impact/myths.html [Accessed 27 October 2008)

 

Jenkins, Henry (2007) “Why Grand Theft Auto Should Be Taught in Schools?: An Interview With David Hutchison (Part One)”, Confession of an Aca-Fan, The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins.

http://henryjenkins.org/2007/10/why_grand_theft_auto_should_be.html [Accessed 27 October 2008)

 

Mortensen, T.E (2006) ‘WoW is the New Mud: Social Gaming From text to Video’ Games and Culture, 1 (4).

 

Ogletree, Shirley Matile & Drake, Ryan (2007) ‘College Students’ Video Game Participation and Perceptions: Gender Differences and Implications’  Springer Science + Business Media

http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdf?vid=4&hid=108&sid=bdc8fa84-0dc3-4850-9f3f-e8a1d96e34e0%40sessionmgr107 [Accessed 25 October 2008)

 

Thomas, Douglas and Brown John Seely (2007) ‘Games and Culture The Play of Imagination: Extending the Literary Mind’ Games and Culture. 2; 149 http://gac.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/2/2/149 [Accessed 25 October 2008)

 

Wood, Richard T.A, Griffiths, Mark D and Parke, Andrian (2007) ‘Experiences Time Loss among Video Games Players: An Empirical Studies’, Cyberpsichology and Behaviour. 10. 1

http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdf?vid=3&hid=4&sid=e97196ff-ae52-4556-ab47-e711b4860179%40sessionmgr102 [Accessed 15 October 2008)

 

October 30, 2008

Posted by benedikte in : Uncategorized , add a comment

Muhammad was just a man

Introduction
The purpose of this essay is to compare national critical reactions in citizen media to the Muhammad crisis in order to examine how different cultures use and perceive citizen media. The comparison will be of citizen media produced by citizens of Danish and Arab origin respectively. Examining the different critical reactions in the context of the Muhammad crisis is especially interesting due to the general different view of freedom of speech in the Islamic and western world.
In order to analyse the critical reactions it is essential to give a brief summary of the conflict leading up to the Muhammad crisis. Secondly I will account for believes and convictions of the citizen journalists in order to understand the reactions expressed.

Background information


September 30th 2005 the Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten publishes 12 drawings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad which leads to the largest political crises in Denmark since the Second World War. What started as a domestic debate about self- censorship grew to an international crisis including boycotts, attacks on Danish embassies, burning of the Danish flag and increasing security alert for Danish soldiers and Danish citizens abroad.
The satirical drawings (which can be viewed following this link: http://www.kritiskportal.dk/g%C3%A6sterubrikken.htm) were a reaction against the difficulty encountered by the Danish writer Kåre Bluitgen, who was initially unable to find an illustrator who was prepared to work with him on his children´s book “Koranen og profeten Muhammeds liv” (The Qur´an and the life of the Prophet Muhammad). Three artists declined Bluitgen´s proposal before one agreed to assist anonymously. According to Bluitgen:
“One [artist declined], with reference to the murder in Amsterdam of the film director Theo van Gogh, while another [declined, citing the attack on] the lecturer at the Carsten Niebuhr Institute in Copenhagen”. (Politiken, 2005)
According to most Muslims it is forbidden to draw pictures of the prophet and therefore Jyllandsposten´s drawings of Muhammad evoke consternation and anger not only in the Danish Islamic society but also within the global Muslims community. Denmark suddenly became an issue in the Arabic world, not for its support of freedom of speech and democracy but for the affront of Islam.
On the other side of the conflict stood the Danes who felt restrained in their support of freedom of speech and democracy in their own country. The issue, which the children´s book about the prophet Muhammad created, became a symbol of year long conflict smouldering in the Danish society where more and more Danes worries about the increasing influence Islam have on the Danish society and values.
Some critics of the cartoons described them as Islamophobic or racist, and argued that they are blasphemous to people of the Muslim faith, are intended to humiliate a Danish minority, or are a manifestation of ignorance about the history of Western imperialism. The imperialism referred to dates from colonialism to the current conflicts in the Middle East.
Supporters have said that the cartoons illustrated an important issue in a period of Islamic terrorism and that their publication is a legitimate exercise of the right of free speech, explicitly tied to the issue of self-censorship. They claim that Muslims were not targeted in a discriminatory way since unflattering cartoons about other religions (or their leaders) are frequently printed. They believe that the cartoonists treated Islam the same way they treat Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions. And by treating Muslims in Denmark as equals they made a point: We are integrating Muslims into the Danish tradition of satire because they are part of the Danish society, not strangers. The cartoons are including, rather than excluding, Muslims. They question whether some of the riots in Muslim countries were spontaneous outpourings as they took place where no spontaneous demonstrations are allowed, and whether the images of Muhammad per se are offensive to Muslims, as thousands of illustrations of Muhammad have appeared in books by and for Muslims.

Believes and Convictions


Denmark society is based on Christian believes – the Ten Commandments – like most western societies. The church and the state are separated though which is an important detail in the conflict of the Muhammad drawings. The church has no power in the Danish society and so it is the state which rule in form of the legislative power (parliament), the executive power (government) and the judicial power (court of law).
The Danes are very focused on human rights and thereby the constitutional right to think, believe and speak freely. Two of the cornerstones in the Danish constitution are freedom of speech and religious freedom which means that everyone is entitled to practice any religion they wish and everyone is entitled to speak their opinion whatever their viewpoint – only restricted by defamatory statements, e.g. racially offensive viewpoints. This is the key factor to the publishing of the Muhammad drawing. The Newspaper Jyllandsposten wanted to express how the freedom of speech drowned in self-censorship due to the fear of provoking and anger the Danish-Muslim society.
The Danes are generally less sensitive when it comes to criticism of themselves and their beliefs than the Muslims are. On the contrary there is a long tradition, not only in Denmark but in all of Europe, of critical research of religion. Both with regards to Christianity and other religions, there is normally no limits and therefore critic of Islam is considered completely acceptable in line with criticism of Christianity, priests, Popes etc.

In Islamic societies such as Saudi Arabia or Iran religion and state are not separated and compared to European countries such as Denmark, religion has great influence on society and on both the legislative, executive and judicial power. Believing Muslims live by their interpretations and rules of the holy Koran. Islam includes many religious practices. Generally it is required to observe the Five Pillars of Islam, which are five duties that unite Muslims into a community. In addition to the Five Pillars, Islamic law (sharia) has developed a tradition of rulings that touch on virtually all aspects of life and society. This tradition encompasses everything from practical matters like dietary laws and banking to warfare and welfare. Islamic law does not distinguish between “matters of church” and “matters of state”.
Muslims in general believe that the words of the Koran are God´s words, hence holy and therefore they are not to be criticized, disrespected or doubted. Furthermore they see Muhammad as a role model, but not as divine and therefore they do not worship him. Still it is considered wrong or Haram (forbidden or sin) to picture Muhammad by most Muslims. This is not due to the words of the Koran, (which just like the Bible only forbid pictures of God) but rather due to a set of “Hadith-traditions” in which Muhammad proscribe pictures of any living creature in general. The thought behind the proscription is the risk of being lead astray worshiping pictures or persons rather than Allah which contravene the monotheism of Islam. This aspect is the essential problem in the Muhammad crisis. The Muslims interpret the Muhammad drawings as an insult and derision of their prophet and religion.
From the above written it is clear that the Muhammad crisis is based on the clashing of very different and strong believes and convictions. The problematic can seem irresolvable because one of the involved parts would have to bow to the other parts stance which would make them give up their own believes. The Muhammad drawings are a great example of the Danes trying to communicate that they are not ready to yield or compromise their convictions in order to make room in the Danish society for conflicting Muslims believes. At the same time the demonstrations, the burning flags and the outcries from the Muslims shows how some Muslims refuse to accept the Danish interpretation on freedom of speech.
Since the Muhammad drawings were published in 2005 people around the globe have posted their opinion on the subject in various media not least in cyberspace. New blogs and discussion groups are formed everyday based on the Muhammad crisis but often they are only a jumping-off point for further discussion on topics related to the western culture vs. Islam.

In the following I will compare citizen media produced by persons who either hold the belief of Islam or the conviction of the Danish society. The aim of the comparison will be to examine how the holders of these very different viewpoints will use citizen media, how their viewpoints gets communicated as well as how it is perceived.
Due to lack of language skills it has not been possible to examine any citizen media founded in Arab or Asian countries on the subject of the Muhammad crisis. Furthermore, blogs and discussion boards seems to be rare in the countries where Islam is the main religion, mainly due to poor online access and government controlled internet use (The Danish-Egyptian dialogcenter). Fortunately Danish Muslims with Arab origin along with Danish Citizens have been active on Danish discussion boards and blogs online which therefore primary will work as this essay´s frame of reference. On facebook various groups have been created, dedicated to the subject such as “Undskyld Muhammed” (Sorry Muhammad), “Ingen unskyldning til Muhammed” (no apology for Muhammad) “Where is the love” and “Undskyld Danmark” (Sorry Denmark). Facebook users join the groups either to show their support to the group´s agenda or in order to take part in the discussion boards within the group. Furthermore I will examine two blogs, one created by Pakistani Imran bin Munir Husayn, who is a language student at Copenhagen University and who have dedicated his blog to subjects regarding Islam. The second blog is created by a Danish citizen, who remains anonymous posting under the name “sbrant”.
How citizen media is used


The facebook groups, mainly function as a discussion board and the content therefore consist of dialog between the respective members of the group. Even thought, the name of the group indicate a certain viewpoint, people of the opposite opinion still join the group in order to give their point of view. One group “Ingen undskyldning til Muhammed” (No apology for Muhammad) was created as a retaliation to the “Undskyld Muhammed” –group (Sorry Muhammad). Only the preface, reveal the different approaches to the subject as both groups contain comments from both sides of the conflict. The communication is generally civil with no racially offensive expressions and no swearwords, which both must be considered downsides to citizen media and freedom of speech. In the following a few quotations is listed:
To show other people respect is always important in a civilized society, but it should be up to the individual person to draw the limit as long as he takes the consequences and full responsability of his own independent actions. We all have the right to be heard, as long as it does not limit the rights and freedom of others.

In Denmark we have freedom of speech and a free and independent press. This means that the government cannot interfere with the press and decide what to publish through censure, unless a law is violated. But no law has been violated. So what about respecting the democratic values and human rights? Those are sacred to us! Respect must go both ways.

A lot of people – even leaders of nations, people who should know better – feel themselves extraordinary offended by some few cartoons in a private owned, Danish newspaper, nobody had even heard about outside Denmark before the 30 of September 2005.” (Danish citizen expressing her opinion, Ingen undskyldninger til Muhammed,1)

“Has Jyllands-Posten insulted and disrespected Islam? It certainly didn’t intend to. But what does respect mean? When I visit a mosque, I show my respect by taking off my shoes. I follow the customs, just as I do in a church, synagogue or other holy place. But if a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy.

This is exactly why Karl Popper, in his seminal work “The Open Society and Its Enemies,” insisted that one should not be tolerant with the intolerant. Nowhere do so many religions coexist peacefully as in a democracy where freedom of expression is a fundamental right. In Saudi Arabia, you can get arrested for wearing a cross or having a Bible in your suitcase, while Muslims in secular Denmark can have their own mosques, cemeteries, schools, TV and radio stations.

I acknowledge that some people have been offended by the publication of the cartoons, and Jyllands-Posten has apologized for that. But we cannot apologize for our right to publish material, even offensive material. You cannot edit a newspaper if you are paralyzed by worries about every possible insult. I am offended by things in the paper every day: transcripts of speeches by Osama bin Laden, photos from Abu Ghraib, people insisting that Israel should be erased from the face of the Earth, people saying the Holocaust never happened. But that does not mean that Jyllandsposten should refrain from printing them as long as they fell within the limits of the law and of the newspaper’s ethical code. That other editors would make different choices is the essence of pluralism”. (Danish citizen expressing his opinion, Ingen undskyldninger til Muhammed,2)
“Dear all,
A lot of you got invited to this group to defend islam and the prophet.
You have been told to join because danish people are dissing our religion and that this group should be stopped.
Well I am a muslim ain’t? I am one of you..
But i think that there’s a misuderstanding somewhere..
If you take a look at the group description, you would find that there’s nothing in this group that tries intetionly to diss our DIN or our prophet.
They are a group of people defending a right.. their freedom of speach..
I know that you find the cartoons offending… They might be.. But you will never change anything by sending threats and cursing and dissing on the wall or in the discussion rooms..
You are just proving to everyone else that we are what they think we are..A Bunch of illetrate fools..
Some of you earned their respect among others..They managed by their communication skills and their ability to build a decent conversation, to build a bridge of understanding between the 2 sides..
I know one thing for sure.. If you truly love and honour prophet muhammad(pbuh), You will set a good example of his DIN”. ( Yasmin, a Arab immigrant living in Denmark expressing her opinion, Ingen undskyldning til Muhammed,3)

The content of the comments urge the participating parties to understand one another without forcing their opinion on anyone. The discussion is generally reconciling which is best expressed by the Arab girl Yasmin.
The blogs on the other hand have a more aggressive character. This could be due to the fact that they were created with the single purpose of one person to express one self and not as a dialog-friendly discussion group such as the Facebook examples.
The First blogs main purpose is probably to expose the twelve drawings again. (http://face-of-muhammed.blogspot.com/) The first line on the front page states: “I am reposting the 12 cartoons, because I feel like It.” which can be interpreted as provoking to some people. The rest of the content on the blog is pictures and quotes from newspapers and surveys on the subject mixed with “sbrant”´s personal comments such as:

“Dear muslims,
If you do not like my country, please leave.
If you do not like the way our women dress, please leave.
If you do not like our separation of politics and religion, please leave.
If you support violent responses to criticism of Islam, please leave.
If you support terrorism in any way, shape or form, please leave.
If you cannot accept satirical cartoons in our newspapers, please leave.
If you do not support democracy or the freedom of speech, please leave my country.”(sbrant,Face of Muhammad)

The statement is aggressive and the citizen media is here used to public a personal opinion which does not use direct argumentation and which is only informative to those who care for sbrant´s personal view on Muslims.
The second blog (http://www.muwatta.dk/default.asp?side=archive&m=1&y=2006) also has a personal and to some degree aggressive character. The blog is written in Danish which indicate that the message of the blog is directed to Danish speaking people, hence Danes and immigrants to Denmark. The comments about the Muhammad crisis are well argued and the text is informative referring to current events regarding the Muhammad drawings and references made to the Koran and Islamic believes alongside with factual information about Danish legislation. The tone is in some phrases condescending and aggressive towards the Danish government, the Danish society and the Danes. Examples hereof:

Først og fremmest er det værd at nævne at den danske lovgivning forbyder blasfemi og racisme, men begge disse ting er de mest fremtrædende i denne debat og de satiriske karikaturer er således i direkte modstrid med den danske lovgivning. De er i andre ord en form for kriminalitet – i teorien. I praksis, er det jo de samme folk der sidder på magten, som er en part i denne diskussion og derfor ville det være ret umuligt at få dem til at dømme imod deres “hellige ytringsfrihed”. Juristerne og dommerne er også danskere, og de føler en form for loyalitet overfor det danske folk. De ville hurtigt blive upopulære hvis de dømte i henhold til hvad der er rigtigt, snarer end hvad der behager de magthavende”. (Imran bin Munir, Den velbetrådte vej)


Freely translated:
“Firstly it is worth mentioning that the Danish legislation forbids blasphemy and racism but both of these are the most dominant aspects in this debate and so the satirical caricatures are directly against the Danish legislation. In other words they are a form of crime – in theory. In practice it is the same people in power, who takes part in the discussion and therefore it would be impossible for them to sentence against their “holy freedom of speech”. The lawyers and the judges are also Danish and they feel a form of loyalty for the Danish people. They would get unpopular if they sentenced in accordance to what is right rather than what pleases the authorities”.

Danmark er ellers det land der råber højest om respekt og tolerance, men hykleri er den egenskab der er mest synlig i offentligheden. Der er ingen respekt eller tolerance i Danmark, for så ville man udvise en form for respekt for muslimer, for Islam og for Profeten Muhammad (Allāhs fred og velsignelser være med ham) og ikke bagvaske, bespotte, nedgøre og tilsvine – alt sammen på falsk grundlag”.(Imran bin Munir, Den velbetrådte vej)


Freely translated:
“Denmark is talking about respect and tolerance but hypocrisy is the feature which is most visible in the public. There is no respect or tolerance in Denmark. If there were, people would show some sort of respect for Muslims, for Islam and for the Prophet Muhammad (Allah´s piece and blessings be with him) and people would not defame, blaspheme, demean, tarnish– all on false basis”.
Compared to the first blog Iman bin Munir´s blog is more factual and serious. His blog works as a forum for him as a citizen journalist and so not only the Muhammad drawings but many subjects are discussed, even though in a very partial way.

Conclusion


The two blogs and the facebook groups are all citizen media which is providing a forum for citizens to express themselves and to debate and report from the events regarding the Muhammad crisis and other aspects in the Muslim vs. western values – debate. Both Muslims and Danes have used the media diligently. In the examples given both Danes and Muslims use the media of facebook discussion groups to create dialog and to express their opinion in a diplomatic way in an attempt to understand each other´s points of view. Other examples show how both Danes and Muslims use the media of blogs to express themselves more aggressively. This does not conclude though, that facebook discussion groups only result in friendly dialog and that blogs always have a more aggressive character. What can be concluded is that Muslims as well as Danes enjoy using their freedom of speech through citizen media. Also it can be concluded that both Muslims and Danes despite different convictions and believes on the subject of the Muhammad drawings communicate both aggressively and diplomatic depending on the individual not on the religion or the race.

References


Face of Muhammed: http://face-of-muhammed.blogspot.com/ 25/10-08
Imran bin Munir:http://www.muwatta.dk/default.asp?side=archive&m=1&y=2006 25/10-08
1. Ingen unskyldninger til Muhammed:
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=8832907735 25/10-08
2. ingen unskyldninger til Muhammed: http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=8832907735&topic=4158 25/10-08
3. ingen unskyldninger til Muhammed: http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=8832907735&topic=6319 25/10-08
Politiken(Newspaper): htt://www.politiken.dk/Dybangst/forkritikafislam 18/10 -08
The Danish-Egyptian dialog center: http://209.85.173.104/search?q=cache:chCHdVENPeYJ:www.dedi.org.eg/dansk/artikler/den-nye-interaktive-mediegeneration/+arabiske+blogs&hl=da&ct=clnk&cd=6&gl=dk 18/10-08
Wikipedia: http://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammed 16/10-08 18/10-08

Critically Compare the Different Impact of Political Blogs and Mass Media on Public Opinion Regarding the 2004 Presidential Election October 30, 2008

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Critically Compare the Different Impact of Political Blogs and Mass Media on Public Opinion Regarding the 2004 US Presidential Election

1 Introduction

 The 2004 US Presidential Election

The United States presidential election of 2004 was held between Republican Party candidate and incumbent President George Walker Bush and Democratic Party candidate John Forbes Kerry. It is a special history moment of US, because existed the political background of the attack of terrorism in 2001 and invasion of Iraq in 2003. So there is no doubt that the next president will control the future fate of America who will be the important decider to lead the future of US. Those two candidates all have same strong Confidences to take over these history tasks to make America develop in a positive way. Therefore, they tried to master different medium to widespread their nomination political theme in order to shape public opinion which can strong support them during this 2004 Presidential Election.

 1.1       The Usage of  Mass Media and Blogs During the 2004 Presidential Election which Express that both Two Media Have Power to Effect on Voters

 The US mass media including TV, Radio, and Newspaper have been seemed to become a key weapon of choices in the trenches during the war of politics. The power of media to perform its roles as government advocacy, information provider and defender or shape the public opinions is on the existence of a particular set of political conditions. Mass media mainly serve politics and has direct-effect or indirect-effect function on shaping public opinions, “which indicates the mass media transmits powerful messages to audience members, who absorb the meaning passively or positively and are strongly affected by it” (O’Shaughnessy, 2005, p.99). The strong power of mass media as main stream media that we called them play an important role, during the 2004 Presidential Election, and mass media coverage the whole campaign and process in details and different angles to the American. They tell people their Candidates’ campaign agenda, foreign policy and political theme in order to get their support to fulfil their political dream.

However, with the advanced development of internet technology, during this 2004 Presidential Election, Political blogs were suddenly attracted by Candidates to use disseminate their political theme in another way. Indeed, political blogs can be viewed as not a complete novelty media, but perhaps the first opportunity to hear the words “blog” or “Weblogs” to the average people in US because of this presidential election. Trippi argue “Although Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean’s campaign ultimately failed, his success with using the internet and his blog to mobilize his supporters and raise campaign funds drew both the media’s and, by extension, the public’s attention to blogs” (Trippi, 2004). As Trippi, the campaign manager for Howard Dean explained, the sense of online community was the products of effective communication between the candidates and the supports using interactive features of blogs. During this 2004 campaign, candidates widely use blogs to join in their campaign, which shows blogs as a new form of media have similar power as well as mass media; as a result, mass media are not the only way to have a power to their audiences. Inspirited by what the Dean campaign achieved using the internet, other candidates such as John Kerry, George W. Bush, and Wesley Clark also adopted these same methods in their own campaigns. George W. Bush set up his own personal blog to explain and answer his political theme to his audiences and supporters which help locked their confidences about Bush (Kim, 2006, p3).

What is more important, both Democratic and Republican National Committees  invited some of the influential bloggers to cover their convention, which break the privilege granted only to traditional journalists until the 2004 campaign. So both candidates closely followed what was debated in the political blogosphere and used their own campaign blogs to respond and spread their own messages, And the main aim of their blogs have a vivid interactivity between candidates and the public , so not only candidates use blogs to shape the public opinion, but also they can get feedback from their audiences by discussion and understand what their think about me and think about my political theme in order to reshape their public opinion both in a positive and negative way in my opinion.  In addition, there is an argument that political blogs reportedly attracted higher number of readers than that of a major newspaper (Klam, 2004). In a word, the only aim of wide usage of blogs demonstrates that blogs have a power and effect on public opinion. (Kim, 2006, pp.3-4)

1.2       Mass Media and Blogs Have an Influence on Public Opinions Showing in Different Ways in Different  Social Groups

When it comes to election campaign, we always think while reaching the media and the members of a campaign staff are very important, but ultimately the major goal of any political party presence on media to attract voters and influence on their public opinions. So I think mass media and blogs will critically influence on public opinion in different ways in different social groups, because their of present time, times of usage, different participates, forms of participatory and the liking. Mass media have a long history, compared with blogs with only almost 10 year-history. It has been said, that mass media technology is inherently politics. Mass media as technology or as assemblages of technology meaning which is a special technology form, which transform political (Terry, 2002). As a result, one of the aims of them has a close influence on public opinion. So far, because of its long history and widespread, we always call them main stream media, in turn; blogs are referred as non-main stream media.  So I think it will expose that they will shape different public opinions according to different social groups. Another point of my view, when mass media were born, it is inescapable to sever for politics and it has a close relationship with politics, however, when it comes to blogs, they focus on the interactivity between bloggers and participants. And tell people the truth of political events without bias and take sides and sometimes as a main stream media watchdog to criticize the main stream political coverage. So generally speaking, I think Blogs will have an objective effect on public opinion. All in all, in the next section, I will address this different impact on public opinion, according to 2004 President Election in America. Seeing mass media are a little slower than blogs when they shape public opinion. And mass media have a bias impact on public opinion, while blogs have a comparative objective effect on public opinions.

 

2 Political Blogs have Effect on Main Group of Online Political Citizen’s Opinions during the 2004 Presidential Election

A new community of citizens online is defining the 2004 presidential campaign; these citizens indulged in surfing blogs, and support their candidates by posting their comments and join the discussion group, reading the political weblogs, and make political contributions over the internet. By those activities, blogs have impact on those people opinion, to some extent, they build up solid relationship to support each other and the same aim to support their same candidate in order to enlarge their range of influence. The study shows that “OPCs are nearly seven times more likely than average citizens to serve as opinion leaders among their friends, relatives and colleagues” (The Graduate School of political Management, 2004, p.2). So blogs not only have effect on OPCs’opinions, but also have an impact on the people around them. Indeed, blogs have an impact on those online political citizens; there is a study that Online Political Citizens are significantly more likely to donate money to their support candidates or their supportive party. “At the early stage of 2004 Campaign, 46% have donated to a candidate or political party in the last two or three months, compared with 10% of the general public” (The Graduate School of Political Manage, 2004, p.3). In addition, OPCs are willing to forward positively e-mail and comments on political blogs in order to show their opinions which will help influence on others such as their friends, family and colleagues, moreover join in the political groups and political chat much more often than the general public. ” (The Graduate School of Political Manage, 2004)

 

2.1 Who are Online Political Citizens?

In fact, OPCs only consist of a small group compared with a huge amount of the general public, but blogs have a strong power that I have mentioned before, which have an impact on their political opinion  when OPCs participate in political activities. On one hand, OPCs use easy and convenient blogs and internet resource to communicate, argue and discuss with each other. On the other hand, blogs help them build up their opinions about their better understand of politics and their supportive candidates. There is survey to demonstrate that “about a quarter of Online Political Citizens view or post comments on political weblogs (27%) or visit political discussion groups (25%). Very few people in the generate public do these activities (less than 4%)” (The Graduate School of Political Management, 2004, p. 6).

To really understand the definition and components of OPCs, I think that those group first appeared would be during the early of 2004 President Election. “We defined Online Political Citizens as people who have within the past two to three months (1) visited the blogs of a candidate or political party, and (2) taken part in political activities” (The Graduate School  of  Political Management,2004, p6). Look closely at the components of them, it is said that they are twice as likely as members of the general public to have a college degree which means they have a high education qualification and should be well-educated in different disciplines with the similar opinion of politics. And what is more important, these part of OPCs include some slightly younger who usually do not care about the politics in their daily life. But political blogs attract their eyes on politics and try to help them shape their political opinion and force those young people to activate in political activities. In America those of the OPCs are most white, single and male. In summary, Online Political Citizens are even more highly educated and wealthy. A majority of OPCs have had some past involvement with politics; most of them have never worked for a campaign, but do campaign donation, and join in the campaign event during this 2004 Presidential Election.

2.2 They are willing to Donate during the 2004 Presidential Election

Political blogs have four aims and four main activities, from the study of Mckenna. One of the main activities is to raise money to their candidates and their supportive parties. The power of Blogs tries to persuade their Online Political Citizen to donate their money to their candidates. And indeed, Online Political Citizens are more likely than the general public to donate money to their supportive candidates. By the end of 2003 to 2004 primaries were in full swing-about 46% of OPCs donated to a candidate or political organization in the last two or three months. One–half of those donations were made online. By comparison, it found that about 10% of the general population has donated money to a candidate or political party in the last two to three months, and 17% of that general population did on line. (The Graduate School of Political Management, 2004)

2.3 Mass Media Have Impact on Widely General Public Opinions during the 2004 Presidential Election

During the 2004 Presidential Election, all the media (TV, Newspaper and Radio station) in America coverage the whole process of this campaign. This campaign interfered in people’s daily life and become an important part of their life. Citizens in USA got the popular topics, when they have a conversation with friends, family and colleagues. Why this campaign was so popular among America? Many political analysts believe that since President Bush’s State of the Union address on January 23rd, 2004 many campaign themes, agendas, and possible all mass media all pay more attention to report his politics theme(Polsby et. al, 2004). So the answer should be this is the media effect.  I think mass media have a whole and wide impact on public opinion including any group of people, compared with blogs which only have mainly effect on OPCs and people around them. Mass media have a wide distribution and possibly have access to all the public anytime and anywhere. Sometimes we can imagine that mass media have how strong power to have impact on the general public opinion, and we can see that Mass media shape the general public opinion in directive and non-directive way as well. 

 

In addition, the public spend a lot of time on following and reading the report from all different mass media during 2004 president election. Effective mass media campaigns typically are good approaches which can strongly have impact on general public opinion, because they feature well-designed messages, and those messages are delivered to their intended audience with sufficient reach and frequency to be seen or heard and remembered. Indeed, it is noted that the public communication field has been perhaps too focused on issues of message design. And those designs are suitable to any average people in USA, but only to a majority of a certain concrete group. In a word, in my opinion, I believe that mass media interventions that seek to influence general public opinion directly or in-directly. So it seems that the audience absorbed the message and information from mass media like a sponge, or drugs are absorbed into bloodstream. Therefore, this kind of influence should be powerful to shape general public opinions.

We have to think about reasons about why mass media have a function to persuade people to shape their opinions depending on their access media or their supportive parties which they are interest in, not thinking about the truth of political events and candidate’s personal interest. What is more important? Some of the general citizen in US is not high-educated, and most of them have no correct idea about politics. They are easy to get an incorrect opinion instead of understanding the politics. Therefore, mass media have a possibility to have a bias on general public opinion.

3 Mass Media Have a Bias Effect on Public Opinion

Negative opinions regarding mass media and suspicion of possible their reports have been present when they served in politics, and according to recent surveys, that negative opinion toward the bias of mass media remains present even during the 2004 President Election. Indeed, much of today’s media within the United States have been labelled by some as liberal because of allegedly presenting the news in a slanted manner that seems to support the Democratic Party and oppose the conservative agenda or support the Republican Party instead of excluding the Democratic Party and their political agenda. It seems that liberal media bias in news reporting or in TV reporting seem to increase during times of 2004 USA President Election, but especially during the final months leading up to a presidential election. “There is probably not an American today who has not heard charges that the media are biased (Stempel, 2003, p. 133)”. It is well-known that the mass media is used widely to serve politics. There is a coexisting relationship between politics and the mass media. On one hand, news is essential to the mass media for programs production, but on the other hand, politicians also need the media to promote their political policies and their personal reputation. Media will focus on certain of political party disseminating to their audiences and pay more attention to attract the middle process-their audiences in order to make their report meaning and power.

 

Even former ABC anchorman, Peter Jennings, acknowledged that there is a liberal bias amongst today’s media. And this kind of bias will have impact on the general public opinions. The reason is that media itself label the liberal bias which follows the certain party. And which brings an aim to have impact on the public opinions to support their candidate. It should be misleading their audiences and readers who will grab bias opinions or mistaken understanding about reports and their supportive party. Jennings, whom the author labels as a liberal admits: “Historically in the media, it has been more of a liberal persuasion for many years. It has taken us a long time, too long in my view, to have vigorous  voices heard as widely in the media as they now have a bias impact on general public opinion”(Cummings, 2006,p. 4).

Indeed, there have been many accusations as well as a number of studies that show today’s media are very powerful in persuading or changing attitudes and opinions of its general audiences on matters of policy and politics. There is a truth to all of these presented evidences and accusations that some of the media are supporting liberal agendas and are not conducting a fair and balanced approach in their news reporting efforts. During 2004 President Election, they all help strongly advocate their supportive candidates at the final mouth of election. (Cummings, 2006, p.3)

 Mass media are to find evidence in favour of a particular presidential candidate or they were unbalanced in their overall coverage of the election. And several approaches are concerned with audiences, media paid more attention to their audiences, especially, audiences with low-educated or having limited political information. Assuming to influenced or effected on them, in some ways, media realise that they play a key role in communication chain.  So media are not possible to balance the political reports, the native and function of media has to inescapable to politics, presenting the news in a slanted manner that seems to support a certain party, and then they have been haven a bias or negative effect on the general public opinions.  This is the essence of the mass media.

4 Blogs Have a Comparative Objective Effect on OPCs and General Public’s Opinions

One of the main activities of political blogs is be a watchdog to check the main stream media’s errors and bias; political blogs are essentially media watchdogs. So in my opinion, blogs can give their audiences some precise information and have a comparative objective effect on their audiences’ opinions. As Trippi, “point out the benefits of blogs to assist in 2004 president election, to not only gather donations for campaigns, and advocate  their supportive candidates, but also they can censor the main stream bias and mistake” (McKenna, 2008). There is a report said that political bloggers, they write down some errors and omissions of newspaper or TV reports in their political blogs, which complete the function of filter and watchdogs. They are willing to tell their readers including both OPCs and general public about errors and omissions in the mass media. There is a study to prove that “Nineteen percent of bloggers with low traffic level (17 out of 89) frequently report errors or bias in the media, while 33 percent of high traffic levels are more likely to notify their readers about articles in the newspaper” (McKenna, 2008) . All of them try to notify the errors and bias in the main stream media, and in an objective way to tell the truth. And it is worth of trusting some comments from their political blogs, because I have noticed that most of online bloggers who have high quality of education and are good at understanding the politics, as we know, most of them are the main participants during the campaign or raise money and donate fund. In a word, blogs do link to the main stream media quite often; they also take a job as media fact checkers quite seriously as well. Blogs indeed, post some objective and truly political during the campaign, which can have a comparative non-bias effect on the whole public opinions. (McKenna, 2008)

5 Conclusions

During the 2004 America Presidential Election, both main stream media and blogs all play significant roles to disseminate those two candidates, but those of which seem to complete different functions and play different role in elections. Still, I think even though they complete different tasks in election, they are all the communicative tools for politicians to advocate and spread, consequently have a strong impact on the public opinions among the different social groups in order to achieve candidates’ aims in election and to more protect candidates’ interest. To some extent, those two kinds of media sound that they have the similar aim which just fulfil the function of communication among the participants. There is a special relationship between mass media and blogs-coexisting and collaboration, and they all have impact on the public opinion during the 2004 American Presidential Election in different ways.

However, it is said that blogs are smashing the mass media monopoly and giving individuals power in the politics ideas. This is a new development of political arena. Frankly speaking, by studying the 2004 President Election, it makes me make sense about the difference between blogs and mass media which have distinguished ways to have an impact on the public opinions. Furthermore, I also find some results about how they work in different ways.

1 Finding

Critically think about the impact on public opinions during the 2004 Presidential Election between blogs and mass media, they have influence on different social groups among American.  And much of number of the public, mass media as main stream media have a large amount of audiences than blogs have audiences.  So indeed, they work in different social groups with the different number of people. By studying the different impacted groups, blogs focus on having an effect on Online Political Citizens’ opinions and people around them. However, mass media have a wide effect on every social group’s opinions in a directive or in directive ways. Those results are showing mass media have a long history of development than that of blogs. And mass media have wide distributions including different forms of media such as Newspaper or TV. All the general public can have an easy access to communicate with mass media. To sum up, mass media are easier to have an impact on the whole social groups opinions, but blogs comparatively have an effect on a small amount of group called OPCs’ opinions.

2Finding

There is no doubt that media (mass media and blogs) have effect on the public’s opinions, but facts that I think mass media have an bias effect on the general public opinions and blogs try to be their watchdogs, which have an objective effect on the public opinion especially OPCs’ opinions during the 2004 Presidential Election.  Mass media is inescapable to cater for the politics which will have bias reports in order to support their candidate and oppose their opponents. To some extent, they maybe mislead their audiences and build up an error political opinion, however, blogs take the jobs to censor the media mistake and bias, which have an objective effect on the public especially OPCs’ opinions. 

 

In my opinion, mass media now are not one-side influence (medium have an influence on the public opinion , in turn, public opinions will give media a feedback), but compared with blogs, I still think they get their feedbacks more slowly and incompletely than blogs do the feedbacks or comments from their audiences. Blogs foster community and conversations by allowing readers to comment by posting immediately, in turn, media have to take some political poll to work out the results of public opinions after they reported news, so it is slowly when they work out those comments and feedbacks. To summary, even though, mass media and blogs have different ways to have influences on the public opinions, I still hope they can work and support together and help each other develop in a positive way.  And for us, we should have an ability to judge those two medium, make most use of the media resources and positively participate in this media world.

 Bibliography:

Cummings, Jimmie (2006) ‘Unbalanced Media Coverage and the 2004 Presidential Election: The New York Times VS. The Washington Times’. University of Alabama: The Manship School of Mass Communication.

Kim, Eunseong (2006) ‘Political and Non-political Bloggers in the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election: Motivations and Activities’. Indiana University: UMI.

Klam, Matthew(2004) ‘ Fear and Laptop on the Campaign Trail’. New York Times Magazine, 26 September 2004, 42-45.

Mckenna, Laura(2008) ‘ What do Bloggers Do: an Average Day on an Average Political Blog.’ Public Choice.134, pp97-108.

O’shaughnessy, Michael (2005) ‘Media And Society: An Introduction’ Jane, Strader(ed.), What Do the Media Do to Us? . Oxford: Oxford University Press, P99.

Polsby, Nelson(2004) ‘Presidential Elections: Strategies and Structures of American politics’ Aaron, Wildavsky(eds). Washington D.C. Post, 3 October 2004.

Trippi, Joe (2004) the Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, the Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything. NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

Terry, Flew (2002) New Media: An Introduction. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

The Graduate School of Political management (2004) Political Influential Online In the 2004 Presidential Campaign. Washington D.C.: The George Washington University.

Stempel, Guido (2003) ‘Meida Bias in presidential Elections’ Published: ABC-CLIO, p133.

 

Critically Examine Self-censorship via a Comparison of the Production of New and Traditional Media in Singapore October 29, 2008

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Critically Examine Self-censorship via a Comparison of the Production of New and Traditional Media in Singapore

 

INTRODUCTION

Singapore is known as much for its efficiency and cleanliness as for its government’s tight rein on the media. Since gaining independence in 1965, local authorities have kept close watch and control on developments in the local media arena. A major avenue is through its strict censorship laws, which serve to maintain the delicate balance of racial harmony and to protect national security. Most traditional media content producers choose to adopt the practice of self-censorship rather than risk running afoul of the law. Nevertheless, the proliferation of the internet has somewhat changed the status quo. As censorship issues play an important factor in participatory culture (as it can potentially limit the exchange of information and “marketplace of ideas”), this essay aims to examine the practice of self-censorship via a comparison of the production of new and traditional media in Singapore.

 

SCOPE & DEFINITION

Censorship, in the Singapore context, is often acquainted with politics. While this is true to a certain extent (probably due to the international media’s preference to focus on them), there are certainly more to censorship than politics – such as the portrayal of violence, drugs or “immoral” behaviour in the media. Nevertheless, the most contentious or debatable incidents usually converge on the political arena. On the other hand, while the design of self-censorship laws in Singapore has been alleged to serve the interests of the ruling party, this essay shall not extend to discussions of that nature.

Newspapers / publications, music, cartoons and television programmes are some forms of “traditional media” that will be discussed in this essay while websites, blogs and social networking sites will be classified as “new media”.

 

TRADITIONAL MEDIA

Traditional Media in General

Most traditional media (such as newspapers, television and magazines) content in Singapore is delivered to the masses through the productions of two agencies – the Singapore Press Holdings and Media Corporation of Singapore – both of which the Singapore government has specific interests in. The Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts (MICA) oversees all media content available in Singapore (and to a certain extent the Internet) through stipulated laws[1] and guidelines:

[MICA’s] policies are guided by societal norms and values, as well as Singapore’s multi-racial background and emphasis on nation-building. Our policies…serve to maintain racial and religious harmony, protect our children and the young against harmful content, and safeguard national interests (MICA, 2008).

MICA also encourages industry self-regulation and admits that publications are ‘largely industry self-regulated [and] local publications are not pre-vetted to encourage creativity and a flourishing of local works’ (MICA, 2007).

Indeed, no specific “OB Markers” have been set by the authorities except for the guidelines by MICA. While the guidelines seem to provide freedom of expression and information to a certain extent, the quest to “safeguard national interest” and “maintain racial and religious harmony” provides potentially wide-ranging powers to authorities[2]. Therefore, media content producers in Singapore thread delicately on the fine lines of the stipulated guidelines. ‘The vast majority of journalists practice self-censorship rather than risk being charged with defamation [or under other criminal laws]’ (Think Centre, 2007).  Nevertheless, there have been more occasions where the rules were breached and punitive action taken against media producers. These will be discussed further later.

Newspapers / Publications

The understanding of the practice of self-censorship in the Singapore newspaper industry begins with the knowledge of local legislation and policies. To begin, all newspapers in Singapore must be licensed and publishing permits can be revoked at any time. The rule also applies to any foreign media operating in Singapore. In addition, legislation such as “The Newspaper and Printing Presses Act” (TNPPA) of 1974 allows the government to determine the composition of a newspaper company’s board of directors. This is because, in Singapore, newspaper companies must be locally owned public companies. Their shares would be divided into “ordinary” and “management” shares. As the government can dictate who holds management shares, this ensures that newspaper boards comprise members who have little or no interest in upsetting the political status quo. This, in turn, almost guarantees that only “politically trustworthy” journalists are appointed to senior gatekeeping positions (George, 2002). With that, the foundations of self-censorship would have been laid for the newspaper industry.

Local Publications

With the infrastructure in place, the practice of self-censorship is prevalent, particularly by the national newspaper – The Straits Times (TST). This is most obvious during elections, where large turnouts at opposition rallies are complemented by less-than-generous coverage of the opposition in the news media (Kuo et al., 1993). Also, some seemingly “unfair” practices are easily observable. This includes the practice of not using images or photographs to depict crowd sizes at political rallies. It is widely believed that if such photographs or images were used, they would show more people attending some opposition rallies as compared with ruling party rallies. While large turnouts may not necessarily translate into votes, the possibility that marginal voters may be swayed by images of their fellow citizens seemingly endorsing opposition candidates with their attendance at the rallies is certainly present. Having said that, this practice by TST was sidelined during the last general elections in 2006 – with a photograph of an opposition rally crowd for one of its articles. This deviation from the long-held unspoken rule was widely attributed to the work of independent bloggers (who had posted similar photographs online anyway) and served little to reduce the perceived biasness that audiences had of TST (Yawning Bread, 2006).

Even with the regime of self-censorship in place, there have been occasions of “slip-ups” among the local publications (though they were quickly “rectified”). On 30 June 2006, a columnist by the moniker “Mr Brown” wrote an article titled “TODAY: S’poreans Are Fed, Up With Progress!” for his weekly opinion column in the TODAY newspaper[3]. The article discussed concerns with regard to the rising income gap and cost of living in Singapore. Just three days later, MICA published a letter on the same newspaper in response to the article by “Mr Brown” calling the latter a ‘partisan player’ whose views ‘distort the truth’. It further reiterated that the role of journalists and newspapers in Singapore should not be to ‘champion issues, or campaign for or against the Government’ (Brown, 2006). Several days later, the column by “Mr Brown” was suspended, although he did maintain a personal blog until today. The saga claimed more victims, with fellow blogger “Mr Miyagi” resigning (from his column with the same newspaper) followed by the resignation of its chief executive and editor-in-chief Mano Sabnani, fueling ‘outrage in Internet chat rooms about the government’s heavy-handedness and apparent lack of transparency’ (Au, 2006).

Admittedly, the operating environment for the print media in Singapore can be described as “constricting” at times. Infrastructure, legislation and self-censorship issues have led some quarters to question TST’s credibility as a press entity. In fact, a member of parliament from the ruling party had written that TST’s major challenge was to improve its credibility with readers:

‘It is a fact that [TST] suffers from an image and credibility problem…[TST] also appears to be less well thought of than many regional newspapers. [TST’s] problem is that it is too often perceived simplistically as a mouthpiece of the Government’ (Shanmugam, 1995).

Foreign Publications

A section of the TNPPA explicitly prohibits foreign publications from interfering in the domestic politics of Singapore. (Seow, 1998) In line with that, any approved publication that refuses to give the Singapore government the unedited “right of reply” may be deemed to be “playing politics” and, as previously mentioned, can have its license revoked or a quota imposed on its circulation.

Although foreign publications such as The Asian Wall Street Journal (TAWSJ), Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) and The Economist (TET) are not exempted from the relevant law and policies governing the press in Singapore, some of these foreign publications seem to have a slightly more difficult time in their practice of self-censorship as compared to their local counterparts. In fact, foreign publications such as TAWSJ and FEER have, in the past, “crossed the line” by carrying articles that the Singapore government considers slanderous or interfering with Singapore’s internal affairs. They have either had to face defamation suits or contend with restrictions placed on their circulations.

In 1987, TAWSJ had its circulation restricted from 5,000 to just 400 after it ‘published an article about Singapore’s plans for its stock market but refused to publish the entire text of a 1,500-word letter the Government wrote in response’ (Erlanger, 1990, p. A9). At that time, TAWSJ commented that it had been implicitly forced to practice self-censorship:

The Singaporean Government wants the foreign press “to practice self-censorship…facade of factual reporting will be allowed” but nothing to disturb what the Journal called “the political monopoly of the People’s Action Party or the pretense of democracy” (Erlanger, 1990, p. A9).

TIME and Asiaweek magazines had also had run-ins with the Singapore government that same year for similar reasons. Both had their circulations trimmed, although they were later re-instated to varying degrees (Branegan, Whitaker, 1990, p. 91).

More recently, an incident by TAWSJ’s sister publication, FEER, illustrates that things have not changed much since then. In August 2006, FEER published an interview they had with a Singapore opposition party leader – Chee Soon Juan. Chee had claimed that leading members of the Singapore government had “skeletons in their closets”. Following the publication, FEER and four other foreign publications (namely Newsweek, Time, the Financial Times and the International Herald Tribune) were required by legislation to make a security deposit of S$200,000 and appoint a publisher’s representative in Singapore who could be sued. When FEER did not comply, its circulation permit was revoked – effectively banning the publication (Subrahmaniyan, 2008). FEER was later also sued over the article.

Other Publications

Other publications such as magazines published by schools and private companies’ internal newsletters (usually with a much lower circulation as compared with national newspapers) also actively adopt self-censorship practices.

On 11 September 2008, opposition party leader Chee Soon Juan (same person as mentioned in the libel case against FEER earlier) visited the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore to interact with students. Student media groups such as the Nanyang Spectrum (NSM), the Nanyang Chronicle (NCE) as well as The Campus Observer (TCO) had representatives covering the event. However, both NSM and NCE encountered obvious obstacles in getting their articles published or aired:

After much negotiation between [Nanyang Chronicle’s] teacher-advisors and the university, NTU president Su Guaning gave the article the go-ahead. However, he changed his mind at the last minute, and the article was removed just one day before the newspaper’s publication on Monday (15th September). Many of the student editors at the Chronicle were clearly indignant when they learnt about this (Lee, 2008).

In explaining the university’s decisions, Associate Professor Benjamin Detenber, Chair of NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information – which runs both NSM and NCE – said that ‘the story was killed because there was a feeling of concern over the use of student media to publicise and promote the unsolicited views of an uninvited person to the campus’ (Lee, 2008). Assistant chair of the school, Associate Professor Lee Chun Wah added:

[TCE] is a student newspaper but it does not have the right to demand what to publish. Ultimately the owner of the newspaper is the president of NTU. University is not an idealistic place. It’s an institution where we teach students in a practical manner.

While NCE (a print media) had its article axed, NSM (a television media) was able to get its coverage aired, albeit for only three days before being taken down. TCO (an online media), on the other hand, was the only media group that had an article on its website.  It is notable that while all three are student media groups, NCE and NSM are supported and funded by NTU while TCO (from the National University of Singapore) is not officially affiliated with its university administration. Issues concerning NSM and TCO with regard to this incident will be discussed in further detail in the relevant sections of this essay. 

 

Music

The local music industry in Singapore can be considered miniature when viewed in a global sense. Most music available in Singapore is imported from traditionally well-established sources such as the United Kingdom and United States, and increasingly from Australia and China, among others. Therefore, the practice of self-censorship in the local music industry does not occur at the point of media production, but rather during the importation, into Singapore, of such media content (i.e. the decision as to the genre of music to be made available to audiences).

In 1997, local authorities introduced a self-censorship scheme for the music industry. Previously, importers of music content had to submit albums to MICA for censor approval before making them available to audiences. Under the new scheme, categories of music such as classical, jazz, folk, opera and instrumental are now exempt from censor approval. Called the “Restricted Publications Scheme”, it also covers music content that contains potentially controversial or undesirable lyrics (such as swear words). A set of guidelines was also released by MICA to the importers to assist them in the self-censorship process. While importers welcomed the move, a spokesman from Universal Music (Singapore) expressed concern:

The main advantage is that we can release our stock faster…and we estimate that it would hasten our release schedule by about two days. But the self-censoring process is a potential drawback, because we haven’t done it before and we don’t know exactly what the parameters are (Cheah, 1997, p. 48).

Guidelines under the scheme also apply to music content generated locally in Singapore.

 

Cartoons

Political cartoonists working for national newspapers do not draw caricatures of local politicians as they know such works will not be accepted by editors. This applies also to drawings of current and ex-regional leaders such as ex-Indonesian President Suharto and ex-Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir (especially about their economic reforms) (Tiu, 2000, p. 78).

Political cartoonists in Singapore play a social engineering role, with people self-censoring themselves for the greater cause of social consensus. A “better to be safe than to be sorry” mentality persists among Singaporean editorial cartoonists. ‘While there is no official line on what can or cannot be drawn in an editorial cartoon, newspaper editors choose to play safe by indicating to their artists…that they would rather not have cartoons dealing with sensitive political issues of caricatures of local politicians’ (Tiu, 2000, p. 81). While this cannot be deemed as official censorship as cartoonists can still draw whatever they like – but the newspapers can refuse to print them – self-censorship is practiced by the cartoonists themselves as each cartoon rejected means wasted time and effort. This is even more valid for freelancers as it could possibly result in a smaller paycheck.

 

School / Education

Singapore’s efforts to establish itself as a regional education hub has paid dividends looking at the number of local and foreign schools set up in the country. This brings along different voices, opinions and ideas. In the same vein, the government has also encouraged its citizens to think creatively and out of the norm. However, fear still lingers among the academia, particularly among locals. Mr Kirpal Singh, a professor at the Singapore Management University, comments that ‘self-censorship has made people afraid’ (Overland, 2007).

Academics deemed to have ‘crossed their boundaries’ may likely face police investigations and even libel lawsuits. In a case in 2001, three lecturers who made a documentary on a political dissident had their offices raided by police and the film confiscated. They were threatened with legal action until they apologized. Another case involved an American professor, one Christopher Lingle, who had taught in Singapore in the 1990s. He had written an article for the International Herald Tribune criticizing “intolerant regimes” backed by “compliant judiciaries”. ‘Though the article never mentioned Singapore, authorities filed contempt charges against him and the newspaper’ (Overland, 2007). Mr Lingle fled the country (and was convicted in his absence) and the newspaper was fined.  

Research that seemingly puts the government in a poor light has also landed academics in trouble. Two economists at NTU retracted and apologized for a report in 2003, which revealed (using official statistics) that most new jobs in Singapore went to foreigners, after it caused an uproar among citizens. While citizens generally trusted the article (therefore the uproar), the government had called the report “sensational” and “totally flawed”.

Linda M. Perry, an American who had formerly taught communications at the NUS for 2 years, said that high-profile cases had persuaded people to censor themselves:

Everyone is so terrified of crossing the line that most don’t even get close to it. “I can feel the fear in the room…You can cut it with a knife” (Overland, 2007).

 

Television

The medium of television, arguably one of the most influential communication platforms (even with the proliferation of the internet), has been kept close to the Singapore government’s chest. Local free-to-air television programmes are mostly produced or transmitted through the Media Corporation of Singapore (of which the government has strong influence over). Even programmes transmitted through ‘cable networks’ are closely monitored by the Media Development Authority of Singapore.

Starhub, a cable television network provider in Singapore, was fined S$10,000 this year for airing a commercial that depicted lesbian kissing scenes. The commercial, not produced by Starhub, was transmitted on Music Television’s (MTV) Mandarin-language channel which Starhub offered. It was decided by authorities that the clip had breached TV advertising guidelines (Associated Press, 2008). Evidently, programmes on local television are regulated through a combination of self-censorship and punitive action.

Television programmes broadcast to a limited audience are also subject to self-censorship. Earlier in this essay, it was mentioned that opposition leader Chee Soon Juan’s visit to the NTU had been covered by several student media groups but the eventual articles had difficult finding their way to audiences. The “Nanyang Spectrum”, a student-run news magazine programme in NTU had a representative present to interview the controversial politician when he visited. From the three “sound bites” that the representative had planned to use initially, two were removed on the advice of professors. Even so, further edits were made to the remaining one, until it was ‘neutral enough’ for broadcast. Despite this, ‘the episode was shown for less than three days before the university’s corporate communications department ordered the episode to be taken off-the-air for good’ (Lee, 2008).

 

NEW MEDIA

New Media in General

The proliferation of the internet has sparked a renewed interest in examining how the rapid expansion of information and communications technologies would influence the development of the “public sphere”. Poster (1998) contends that the Habermasian notion of public sphere – a homogeneous space of embodied subjects in symmetrical relations – may not apply to the internet. There were also those who predicted a decade ago that ‘it looks increasingly certain that politically guided media systems will lose their relevance in view of the diverse and quality information available as a result of continuous advances in the technology of information’ (Rampal, 1995, p. 161).

There is no doubt that the Singapore government had spearheaded the establishment of the infrastructure required for a digital age. In fact, since 2006, a plan to make Singapore into a “giant hotspot” (with free islandwide wireless internet access) has been progressively put in place. All a person would need is a laptop or mobile phone that can detect “wireless fidelity” (Loh, 2006). However, the same approach to dissent and self-censorship still applies in the virtual world (internet), albeit to a different degree and effectiveness.

While the internet is the only medium for which mass communicators do not need to obtain a government licence, Singapore-based websites which are deemed “political” or “religious” in orientation are required to register with the authorities. This is to ensure accountability for their online publications. Also, while the government has the legal and technical means to block any site it wishes (all incoming and outgoing internet data is routed through proxy servers), only several pornographic and religious-extremist sites have been blocked. Nevertheless, all relevant laws that apply to traditional media in the real world (such as libel and contempt of court) apply to the virtual world as well. Having said that, the absence of the need for licencing (and with it the utility to ensure self-censorship via its discretionary issuance) and location of some sites beyond the jurisdiction of Singapore laws has allowed significantly greater freedom of expression on the internet (George, 2006).

In 2006, the government passed a series of amendments to the Penal Code extending legislation to cover offenses committed via electronic media. The amendments not only provided for jail terms or fines for defamation, statements that would cause public mischief and the “wounding” of racial or religious feeling, it also became a crime for anyone outside the country to abet an offense committed inside the country. Notwithstanding that, the nature of the internet seemed to reflect that the revised legislation serves more to inculcate self-censorship (through the fear of prosecution) rather than enforcement itself. By and large, in the words of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, the internet ‘is something we can’t control now’ (Liu, 2001, p. 29).

 

Websites / Citizenry on the Internet

Singapore’s ongoing “cyberquest” of wiring up the nation has altered the landscape for social citizenry:

Singapore’s project of creating an “intelligent island” has…unintentionally laid the foundation for an infrastructure that allows for the development of a public sphere that has previously been, at best rudimentary, if not almost non-existent. The development of cyberspace in Singapore allows for a certain kind of engagement with state policies that was virtually impossible in a pre-Internet era (Ho et al., 2002, p. 133).

Strict censorship rules and the tight rein by the government on traditional media content have encouraged people with alternative viewpoints to seek non-traditional mediums such as the internet. The combination of convenience and privacy (to a certain extent) has resulted in the proliferation of a multitude of websites advocating a myriad of “interests” from political to sexual. These people have formed groups and set up independent websites such as ‘The Online Citizen’[4] to make their views known and preach their agendas which would otherwise have been censured in the traditional media.

The binds of self-censorship does not hold as tightly on the internet as it does in the real world. The Singapore government, “in its drive to develop a knowledge based economy, and more importantly an information society…has deliberately left cyberspace unregulated with the exception of the symbolic blocking of some more well known sexually oriented sites” (Ho et al., 2002, p. 142). This is evident from the fact that, among the student media groups that had coverage of opposition party leader Chee Soon Juan’s visit to NTU (mentioned earlier), only The Campus Observer (an independent online publication wholly run by students) had an article published on its website which had not been taken down.

 

Blogs / Social Networks

In Singapore, blogs and social networks (such as Friendster, Myspace and Facebook) are also considered “safe havens” for people with alternative views. Besides the fact that most of these blogs and social networking sites have their servers placed overseas, the government seemed to have let them thrive (whether by choice of otherwise). The apparent lack of self-censorship by bloggers and “netizens” solicit the notion that information or news generated by such sites is more independent and accurate as compared to the national newspapers. ‘The popularity of some blogs can also be seen in this light: without trying to be authoritative, they succeed in seeming somehow more authentic than industrial-strength media’ (George, 2007, p.900). Besides, there have not been cases of individuals being targeted by authorities for consuming alternative political content. An example of a breakthrough in the practice of self-censorship (or rather the lack of it) was the use of blogs and social networking sites in the follow up to the censure of articles on Chee Soon Juan’s visit to NTU.

Despite NTU’s efforts to curb the attention and furor over the axing of several articles on the opposition leader’s visit, student media groups have taken to alternative means of expressing their dissatisfaction – one of which is the use of blogs and social networking sites. Following the incident, two students had draped a black banner, with the words “no media blackout”, across a wall in the School of Communication and Information (SCI) at NTU. A second banner, with a web address on it that pointed to a Facebook group protesting over the incident, was hung near the first banner. Although both banners were taken down very quickly by campus security, many students had logged onto the Facebook group website and were informed of an upcoming protest gathering that student media groups had planned. A protest gathering was eventually held at the Speakers’ Corner in Singapore with an attendance of about 70 people (Chong, 2008). Also, following the fracas, an independent online newspaper website, The Enquirer, was set up by students from NTU. Separately, ‘Mr Brown’, a columnist with the TODAY newspaper who had his section suspended for an article deemed offensive by the authorities, currently maintains a personal blog containing his views of issues concerning Singapore.

All these would not have been possible if the same level of self-censorship prevailed online as it is offline. Having said that, while the internet may not be a “minefield”, “booby-traps” still await to snarl the unsuspecting ones. In 2005, a Singapore student studying in the United States was told to retract a statement he made on his blog, that there was malfeasance in Singapore’s scholarship program, or face criminal defamation charges. Clearly, the buck stops with defamatory or libelous remarks. Further, in a recent dialogue session with a local Minister, a question regarding the official stand of the government towards bloggers was asked. The answer was, apparently, ‘find your own answers’ (Chung, 2008).

 

 CONCLUSION

The Singapore government’s tight rein on the local media is well established. Strict censorship laws and the practice of self-censorship by the traditional media have served to maintain the delicate balance of racial harmony and, ultimately, protect national security. Most traditional media content producers choose to adopt the practice of ‘self-censorship’ rather than risk running afoul of the law. Nevertheless, the proliferation of the internet has indeed changed the landscape, allowing alternative views and ideas to be heard.


[1]Such as the Broadcasting Act, Newspaper and Printing Presses Act, Films Act and Undesirable Publications Act among others.

[2] Reporters without Borders, a non-profit organization championing press freedom, ranked Singapore 141st out of 169 surveyed countries in terms of freedom of the press in 2007. Afghanistan was ranked 142nd the same year.

[3] All local newspapers, with the exception of TODAY, are publications by the Singapore Press Holdings. TODAY is a publication by the Media Corporation of Singapore.

[4]The website can be accessed via http://www.theonlinezitizen.com 

 

REFERENCES

 

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Cheah, Philip (1997) ‘Singapore Debuts Self-Censorship Plan.’ Billboard, 13 December 1997, 48.

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Kuo, Eddie C. Y., Holaday Duncan and Peck Eugenia (1993) Mirror on the Wall: Media in a Singapore Election. Singapore: Asian Mass Communication Research and Information Centre.

Lee, Terence (2008) ‘NTU Censors Campus News Coverage of Chee Soon Juan Visit.’ http://theonlinecitizen.com/2008/09/ntu-censors-campus-news-coverage-of-chee-soon-juan-visit/ (accessed 4 October 2008).

Liu, Melinda (2001) ‘The Confucian Solution; Singapore Shows China How to Have The Web and Control It, Too.’ Newsweek, 2 April 2001, 29.

Loh, Christie (2006) ‘Free Islandwide Wifi.’ http://singaporewatch.org/2006/10/11/free-islandwide-wifi/ (accessed 5 October 2008).

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Shanmugam, K (1995) ‘A Paper Singapore Deserves? Not Always.’ The Straits Times, 15 July 1995, 5SS4, 6.

Subrahmaniyan, Nesa (2006) ‘Singapore Revokes Far Eastern Economic Review’s Sales Permit.’ http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601080&sid=aj7wQfOFNZuY&refer=asia (accessed 2 October 2008).

The Associated Press (2008) ‘Singapore Fines Cable TV Operator For Showing Commercial With Lesbians Kissing.’ http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/04/09/asia/AS-GEN-Singapore-Kissing-Fine.php (accessed 5 October 2008).

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Reactions to a local election October 28, 2008

Posted by tang12 in : Uncategorized , add a comment

Critically compare the different reactions of traditional media and citizen media creators to a local election.

Introduction

          This essay seeks to critically compare the differences of traditional media and citizen media creators in their reactions to a local election. A brief definition is given for local election to distinguish it from other forms of elections. Examples of traditional and citizen media forms will also be stated to facilitate a smoother discussion. The essay is structured in terms of the implications the media has for a local election. These include issues like public awareness, agenda setting, candidate advertising and levels of participation from the communities. The reactions of traditional media and citizen media creators are then assessed within those issues and the implications they have on a local election.    

Definitions and examples

          The legislation for a local election differs across different countries. But for illustration in this discussion, an Australian local election is used. Councils are part of the democratic framework of Australia local government. The community elects their Council Members every four years (LGA). The rules for elections are set out in the Local Government (Elections) Act 1999. Almost everyone 18 years of age and above who is living, owning or leasing property in a Council area are eligible to vote.

          Examples of traditional media form or creators are TV, newspapers, magazines and radio. These traditional media creators have existed for a long time. They are more concerned with content making and are producer centric (Simons, 2007).

          Citizen media creators on the other hand are bloggers, video bloggers (eg. YouTube) and podcasts makers. These media forms or creators are more concerned with contribution and participation rather than the amount of content which is generated (Giam, 2008). They usually make use of the internet as a platform to share and transmit messages. As there are very low barriers to entry via the internet, almost anyone with an opinion can become a citizen media creator. The basic tools are just a mobile phone or microphone, computer and internet access. 

Creating public awareness

The primary aim of the media, be it traditional or citizen, is to create awareness and knowledge for the general public. As it is so stated by O’Sullivan et al (1991), its basic concern is “the act of channeling social knowledge and cultural values through an institutional agency to an audience”.

Although more research needs to be done on the role television has to play in terms of its influence on young voters, there is little doubt that television does affect the young voters’ choice (Gottlieb, 1992). One study has shown that while parental personal views seemed to be most crucial in determining political socialization in younger children, television plays a more important role in the political socialization of older children (Sears and Weber, 1988).    

Another aspect by which traditional media creators react to a local election in terms of promoting public awareness is to report on the stands of the candidates on various issues the public is concerned with (Weaver, 1996, p. 39). In most cases, it is taken for granted that voters are informed of the political stands of their candidates. As a number of studies have been done with such concerns in mind, the findings are consistent with the view that exposure to television coverage of an election does increase public awareness of the candidates’ stand on various issues. However, the results are not true for newspapers. It is probably due to a decline in newspaper readership and circulation as more time is spent on viewing television.

          But newspaper articles can be responsible for raising public awareness of a local election at a different level (Luttbeg, 1988). The effect is such that voters’ attendance is greater than expected if there has been a lack of newspaper coverage on a local election. Although such is the case, it was also found that identification of a specific medium as a main source of campaign information has nothing to do with the level of public awareness for the election campaign or activities.

          Traditional media creators also react to a local election by providing coverage on debates of various issues (Weaver, 1996, p. 41). Such coverage is useful in contributing to swing voters’ knowledge accumulation of certain issues. For example, studies provided evidence of learning of candidate issue positions from the 1976 Carter-Ford debates among voters who had been unfamiliar with this information earlier (Sears and Chaffee, 1979). “Not all studies have found debate effects, but Kathleen Jamieson and David Birdsell’s review of the research concludes that ‘the educational impact of debates is surprisingly wide’ and ‘the ability of viewers to comment sensibly on the candidates and their stands on issues increases with debates.’” (Weaver, 1996, p. 41)

          Now the non-traditional media or less mainstream forms of media, termed as citizen media generate public awareness of a local election at a different level. Citizen media creators are more concerned with creating an atmosphere of interest and an outlet for discussion on a local election (Giam, 2008). “Several studies have looked at the effects of nontraditional campaign media, such as television and radio talk shows, in the 1992 and 1994 elections. Although there was considerable speculation during the 1992 election that these newer media stimulated interest in the election and helped to increase voter knowledge, the evidence from the studies is mixed” (Weaver, 1996, p. 41). 

Then take the case of Singapore where certain restrictions were placed to control the usage of blogs as means to criticize or give comments on the elections. But instead of restricting the number of blogs from surfacing on the political scene and having a voice to air citizens’ views, the population of local blogs had grown (Giam, 2008). Many had not paid attention to the authority’s warning. Those bloggers had gathered and generated topics covering issues on the election and which the traditional media had left out. Video clips on the opposition rally were captured by cell phones and posted on YouTube in spite of a contentious ban on videos with sensitive political themes. One particular example which stands out is “mrbrown”:

Local humour writer mrbrown created a series of digital audio recordings, dubbed “persistently  non-political podcasts”, in a spoof of the minister’s warning. His podcasts used everyday Singaporean experiences to poke fun at various players in the election, particularly the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). One clip after the election results featured a student boasting to his friends that he scored 66.6% in his examinations. That figure was the percentage of the popular vote that the PAP had garnered, and which the mainstream media had proclaimed was a decisive victory. (Giam, 2008)

With such reactions from citizen media creators to elections held at a local level, one cannot hope to achieve an increase in the level of public awareness to the main issues of the election and of the election from these sources.

Agenda Setting

            By definition agenda setting is a process whereby composition of the political agenda is affected by news coverage (McCombs and Shaw, 1972). It refers to the ability of the media to influence those issues, events, themes or candidates (in elections) that the public considers important enough to think about. The mass media increases the salience or mental image of some issues in the public’s agenda by devoting extensive news coverage to those issues while paying little or no attention to other issues. One of the examples is,

During the first 2 weeks of the 2005 British election campaign, for example, when thenews media devoted extensive coverage to Michael Howard’s speeches on immigration and refugees, this may have generated greater concern about this issue among the public (Norris, 2006, p. 8).

          One of the methods in which traditional media creators react to a local election in terms of agenda setting is gate keeping (Bruns, 4 January, 2008). Back in the industrial age when there was limited number of printed and broadcast news channels, a top-down organizational structure in news production existed. The nature and type of news were determined by the mass media’s news editors and publishers. In other words, the journalistic publication was in the hands of these editors and publishers under an active process of gate keeping. Any news items which is deemed as insignificant, immaterial or does not appeal to the general public is left out or ignored (McCombs, June, 2002). In similar ways, traditional media forms choose some issues, candidates or political parties on which news coverage is given. 

There has been a time when the hierarchical model of news production is necessary and the press’s role is that of a “watchdog”,

Journalism’s role as watchdog and informant for the wider citizenry was appropriate at a time when most citizens were unable to seek out a broad range of information sources for themselves; as direct access to such sources (ranging from first-hand reports from governments, companies, and NGOs to a diverse collection of news agencies and other information analysts and commentators) has improved, however, the famous New York Times slogan ‘all the news that’s fit to print’, which so very well encapsulates the gate keeping model, acquires an increasingly patronizing tone; the time for watchdogs is coming to a close. (Bruns, 4 January, 2008, p. 4)

An alternative media form has emerged to replace the ‘old’ and that is blogs (Giam, 2008). These blogs are set up by citizen media creators and they can take the role of watchdogs. So instead of gate keeping, the role of new media forms is one of gate watching,

Blogs can and are increasingly fulfilling the role of watchdogs, alternative news sources and even non-partisan political players because they are crossing beyond the boundary of their original uses as vehicles of personal expression. They have extended their reach to promote and debate topics as diverse as governance, integrity and fair dealing, and in doing so may affect positive changes. In countries with restrictive environments, it is important that bloggers be properly protected by law from arbitrary or unfair prosecution. Only by doing so can blogs become frontiers for the freedom of expression. (Gomez, 2005)      

 

          This current strengthening phenomenon which is happening in the media scene and similarly so in the political realm is termed generally as ‘citizen journalism’ (Bruns, 4 January, 2008 p. 8). These independent journalists set up personal blogs to conduct dialogues, forums and feedback sessions on topics generated or ignored by the mainstream media. In such situations, citizen media creators act as gate watchers, enhancing products created by traditional media. They do so by employing the means to spot and rectify inaccuracy, erroneous coverage and reports with loopholes. Therefore balancing the shortcomings presented by traditional media.

          Although citizen media probably have taken up the role of policing media activities during a local election, their role have not taken over traditional media as the leading form of news source (Scott, June, 2005). Contrary to the popular belief that the emergence of citizen media creators has daunting effects on traditional media as gate keepers, one of the studies has found that belief to be unsupported. Traditional media still play a leading role in outlining and providing interesting coverage on a local election.    

Candidate Advertising And Accountability

          For every local election, the first form of reaction from the media is press advertisements (Ray, 24 November, 2005). They are the ground work from which other forms of campaign are generated. The advertisements are printed on newspapers with the most extensive flows within the local community. They carry information about key election issues and the candidates. 

During the 2004 local government elections, the VEC placed 340 press advertisements in 55 newspapers across Victoria. Councils in western and southern Victoria also participated in shared radio advertising. Shared radio advertising again proved a particularly cost effective method for councils to increase voter awareness. Voter participation either increased or remained higher than the state average for the councils participating in this advertising. (Ray, 24 November, 2005).RVICES

          According to one of the United States statistical studies, the probability in which the general public has of viewing political advertisements on local TV broadcasts is four times higher than that of watching regular news coverage on the elections (Estrich, Nov., 2002, p.1). At a state level, of the 4,850 local news TV coverage used in the survey, only 37%, approximately one third of the sample gave reports on the actual situation of the elections (Estrich, Nov., 2002, p. 1). On the other hand, close to three quarter of the local coverage contained one advertisement at minimum and more than 50 per cent contained not less than two ads. Within the scope of the study, the following data was collected from the sample,   

On average, four campaign ads were aired for every one election-related story during local news broadcasts. During the average broadcast, voters saw just 39 seconds of total news coverage about political campaigns, but over a minute of political ads. (Estrich, Nov., 2002, p. 1)

Also Kenneth Goldstein, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and director of the Wisconsin Advertising Project was quoted that, “Voters watching local news broadcasts are virtually guaranteed to see paid political advertising every night” (Estrich, Nov., 2002, p. 1). The data were collected for a period of one month from the highest rated early and late evening half-hours of regular news program over 122 non-systematically chosen stations in the best media field.

 

          The other manner in which the tradition media is able to react during a local election is in terms of accountability (Decentralization Thematic Team, October, 2008). Accountability is an aspect of the process whereby local input is channeled into local governance. It is the extent to which local governments are able to account for or validate their actions or inactions to the public they serve. There are two aspects to this accountability. One of the aspects which this essay is to focus is that of elected officials to the citizenry. There are a couple of tools which are available to the voters to ensure accountability. The crucial point is being able to discover the activities of the candidates. At the basic grass root level, it is enough to discover such details by word of mouth. However, in order to delve further at a deeper level, certain forms of media become very important. In smaller countries, newspapers and magazines are sufficient to achieve the desired effects. But for countries with larger populations and land areas, another form of media is required. A media with transmission, i.e. the radio with its low wattage and highly local accessibility and low operational cost is necessary for such tasks. The radio is most useful in its ability to present talk shows and coverage on local issues.   

          The other source of accountability comes from citizen media creators (Bruns, 10 January, 2008). It can be seen surfacing from the development of the new move to generate news reports. It can be observed that a couple of attempts were made by the commercial news operators, eg. Australia’s public service broadcasters to collaborate with the citizen media creators. These attempts materialized in the form of the broadcasters’ own resemblance of citizen media ventures. These media ventures were carried out as reactions to the local election,    

As part of its election coverage, ABC Online has operated a number of blog-style projects, including its “Opinion” and “Unleashed” sections of invited contributions from a diverse range of commentators, its “Unleashed” YouTube video channel, and The Poll Vault, a blog written by a number of its online staffers, as well as a Rural Election Blog and chief election analyst Antony Green’s Election Blog (Bruns, 10 January, 2008, p. 6).

Many of these blogs welcomed remarks and criticism from the general public. This active form of conversation and debate operates in opposition to the more traditional media products where no further improvement or adjustment is needed after publication. 

          Those blogs also act as opportunities for their users to be part of the reporting procedure whereby the candidates are held accountable for their actions and their election campaigns. Additional or alternative links are also provided under these blogs to provide a backdrop and perspective on the mainstream news about the election. Under this framework, platforms are opened for readers or viewers to voice up about the election which is otherwise quite unacheivable within the traditional media framework.

 

 

Participation and Community

          One of the crucial differences between reactions of traditional and citizen media creators is based on the level of participation from the voters. With traditional media sources, news coverage is created substantially by the few editors, publishers and broadcasting corporations. The public generally has minimal or no say in the range or content of the news coverage. However, there is a total contrast with citizen media coverage of a local election. With citizen media sources, the bulk of news reporting and articles are generated by the end users themselves (Snurb, 25 June, 2008). Therefore a high level of participation for the circulation of the news is created. One of the projects which is started to study this aspect of contribution from the voters is Youdecide 2007. A few observations are made within the period when the site is in place,    

The site was not necessarily able to deliver on an aim to generate more deliberative engagement in political issues; it remained largely news-driven and site managers were needed to generate seed content (so crowd sourcing by itself did not work). This may be a result of the relatively short lead-up time, however. It may not have been able to broaden participation beyond established ‘political junkies’, either; the most viewed materials were those that conformed to relatively conventional news production values. Also, the election context itself encouraged partisanship rather than reflection. (Snurb, 25 June, 2008)

          Citizen journalism as one of the media creators not only carries out its role as a gate watcher as it is previously stated in this essay. It has a major role to play in terms of collecting and constructing a multi range of participation within the community of voters:

it adds broad, multi perspective analysis and commentary on news events to the inevitably narrow range of perspectives expressed in mainstream news reporting; building on committed interest communities, its sites are able to engage in a more ongoing, longitudinal fashion with key themes in the news, from hyper local news to high-end consumer technology to addressing climate change; and by employing the gate watching model which highlights and contrasts the information passing through the output gates of a wide variety of news sources and publications, its participants act both as guide dogs for one another, helping their peers make sense of the abundance of information now available to them on virtually any topic. (Bruns, 4 January, 2008, pp. 9-10).

          It cannot be denied that efforts are made by corporate stations, be it nationally or privately own, to set up or create online news reporting from the voters. But these efforts are not sufficient to produce and expand into a community which is purely ‘local’ with the objectives to achieve news reporting with a citizen perspective (Bruns, 4 January, 2008). The reason why the attempts may be unsuccessful is due to poor staffing within those corporations. But more teamwork or projects between the stations and the citizen journalists can possibly solve the problems. Under such a collaboration framework, coverage of local issues or debates is done by citizen media groups with additional help from traditional media creators. The whole process of checking and production of news coverage with quality is achieved by traditional media staff working beside the citizen media creators. Valuable information is highlighted and sieved through before entering as news reports into the mainstream. In the same way news articles from the mainstream coverage get to go through the online channels with additional appraisal and expansion. A system of reactions and responses thus surfaces with more news topics emerging as follow-up reports. 

          In order for the idea that the level of participation is a main difference between the reactions of traditional and citizen media creators to a local election to be fully appreciated, the concept of ‘produsage’ is to be pointed out. Within the concept of produsage is a relatively new form of news production which occurs in a dual directional and shared state or system (Bruns, 4 March, 2007, p. 3). Under such a system, the traditional roles of a producer and end users are not distinct or differentiated. Instead, the users are themselves the producers. Everyone within the system is a participant in information production and knowledge accumulation. Thus the term ‘produsers’ where there is a fusion of the roles users and producers. 

            For this pool of ‘produsers’ or voters to be tapped for their knowledge base, they have to be engaged as a community. An example is found in Hearst-Argyle’s WMUR-TV in Manchester, N.H. where voters are given a voice using online coverage (Digital Campaign Coverage, 6 July, 2008). In this particular case, a social networking site, Gather.com, is used to engage bloggers in debating issues covering the local election. Voters are further given the options to watch in real time responses to these debates via “instant response polling” and those with internet can find out about the debates which are conducted online. There is little doubt that such tools or collaborations enable the level of participation within the community to be brought further up.   

          It is probably easy to note that citizen media creators thrive on the basis of community. Therefore every effort is made to engage and attract users to the online sites by providing updated materials and responses from other users (Flew and Wilson, 28 July, 2008, p.27). It is also to ensure that the community of online users gets larger over time. But the user-generated nature of the system does not remove the limitations of the uneven distribution of skills, prior knowledge and concerns carried over by the community. So it is necessary to develop a pool of core-providers within the community to generate the major portion of the stories for the sites (Flew and Wilson, 28 July, 2008, p.28). A sense of ownership and initiative for action has to be present within these individuals.            
          It is also good to examine one other form of participation from the voters. So far most of the campaigns discussed in this essay are generated by traditional media. But unlike those campaigns, interactive campaigns are user-centric rather than producer-centric (Lusoli, 2005, p. 155). The use of internet has changed the direction of political communications from top down to point-to-point. Currently the situation is where the dynamics of communication are between the voters within the community. For those whose age is 18-25, the internet means an interaction which is network based rather than region based. The nature of interaction releases participation purely based on the traditional media creators and their gate keeping roles.     

          It also matters that the element of interactivity is present in political communication during the election. It affects the way voters view the candidates and their positions on the policies.

Focus groups research on the 2000 US election found a broader range of advantages of internet use, including control over the experience,  interaction with the campaign and a positive appreciation of ‘creative elements that foster a sense of fun’. On the one hand, the number of candidates offering interactivity and the range of services – e-mail feedback, online discussion boards, blogs – have expanded over time in many western democracies. On the other hand, most analysts agree that online campaigns are not truly interactive, as website interactivity is fabricated to have the citizen-consumer on the site for as long and as frequently as possible. During the 2002 US election, ‘citizens’ responded to the lack of interactivity and top-down nature of candidates’ websites by ‘forwarding campaign e-mail less often than jokes about the campaigns’. But do voters really care about interactivity? According to early evidence, voters went on-line to express opinions, to state facts about one’s life and voting intentions and to post information about the candidates. (Lusoli, 2005, p. 155)

It helps the voters work through who or what to vote for in a local election. It also works in such a way that the voters affect one another in the decision making process before they finally cast their votes.

 

Conclusion

            With this critical comparison of the reactions between traditional and citizen media creators to a local election, it was not hard to observe that the crucial differences came from the content and sources of information. For traditional media creators, they had been deployed to cover publicity and advertising issues which concerned the candidates and their stands on the various policies. It was important to note that these people were paid to perform their jobs. On the other hand, citizen media creators were self motivated. They sprang from communities within the population of voters to give voice to the local citizens. They offered an alternative media form or system where feedback and reflection could be surfaced. Although this alternate media system had its limitations in terms of the uneven distribution of skills and knowledge brought in, it could be improved upon with help from mainstream media. Therefore hope for a better system of news coverage could come from collaboration and projects carried out between the press, TV and radio stations and the bloggers and vloggers.    

 

 

 

 

 

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Citizen and Traditional Journalism – State Government Election October 24, 2008

Posted by annaw77 in : Uncategorized , add a comment

Critically compare citizen journalism and traditional journalism in relation to their reporting on the recent WA State Government Election

The media both reflects and shapes public opinion, and media commentary on issues can instigate robust debate within society. The ways in which media engage with, and portray, public opinion varies according to the medium that is utilised. In this essay I consider how both traditional journalists and citizen journalists reported and reflected on the 2008 Western Australian State Government election. I examine the different forms of journalism from two perspectives. I critique Glaser’s (2004) argument that citizen journalism cannot be considered as a legitimate form of journalism as it lacks an editorial mechanism. I argue that traditional and citizen journalism forms a networked ecosystem where they reference and critique each other. I do not argue that citizen journalism is a superior to traditional journalism, nor do I argue that the two forms of journalism are mutually exclusive. Rather, I argue that the traditional and citizen journalism have a symbiotic relationship, and both forms of journalism benefit from the presence of the other.

There was substantial media attention on the election. The election was called on the 7 August 2008, approximately six months earlier than anticipated by some political observers (WAEC, 2008). The election was held on Saturday 6 September 2008 and the result was a hung parliament. Discussions were held between the WA Labor Party, the WA Liberal Party and the National Party for over two weeks to determine he makeup of the incoming government. On the 24 September 2008, eighteen days after the election was held, the Liberal Party was sworn into government after arriving at a ‘power sharing’ arrangement with the National Party. Given the volume of commentary on the election, I confine my discussion to the period between the election night on the 6 September and 24 September 2008 when the Liberal Party was sworn in as the Western Australian State Government.

>I use the articles printed in the West Australian between the 7th and 9th September 2008 which discuss the election outcome as examples of traditional journalism. In order to examine examples of citizen journalism, I explore the Crikey website commentary ‘Wild West Wash Up’ (Bowe, 2008) on the post-election period. A total of 228 comments were posted over a two-week period responding to this thread.< I also explore the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) election website maintained by Antony Green (Green, 2008).The thread ‘WA – State of Uncertainty’ (Green, 2008a) generated 21 comments and the ‘Who will form government in WA’ (2008b) thread generated 26 comments.

These two examples of citizen journalism are useful because the ABC website is highly regarded as Antony Green is considered to be an informed and respected moderator. Many bloggers post comments requesting Green’s opinion on political processes. Therefore the format is often a question posted by a blogger with Green posting a reply. There is relatively little discussion between bloggers as the majority of the discussion is between the blogger and Green. Green has established the website using reader’s feedback, and it appears to be consultative process that is fluid and responsive to readers’ requests and suggestions. I argue the comment function transforms Green’s website from an example of online traditional journalism commentary embedded within the ABC website, to a dynamic example of citizen journalism.

In contrast, the Crikey website has a different format as the moderator William Bowe has a less powerful presence as the majority of feedback and commentary is provided by other bloggers. In this website, there is ongoing dialogue and repeated posting by bloggers, which captures the perspectives of a diverse readership.

In order to critically compare traditional and citizen journalism, it is first necessary to ask the fundamental question of ‘what is journalism?’ Glaser (2004, p. 1) argues that if journalism is a profession with an institutionalised set of understandings, codes of conduct, and processes of editing, filtering and presentation, then few blogs can be considered as journalism. However, as Lasica (2003a, p. 70) notes, not all bloggers consider themselves to be journalists, nor aspire to be a part of that profession. As a result, Glaser (2004, p. 4) argues that while bloggers may perform random acts of journalism, their day-to-day posts cannot be considered as journalism. For Glaser (2004), as there are no requirements for fact checking or adherence to ethical standards, blogs are inherently biased accounts of what one person believes to be true. Mahar (2006, p. 3) considers this debate futile, and distances himself from the ‘legitimate’ and ‘illegitimate’ dichotomy of media practices as he believes it is unproductive to reduce the argument to a misleading dualism. Instead, he argues it is more useful to evaluate the content of the blogs and consider their merit on this basis.

There is little consensus on what constitutes citizen journalism. The concept started in the early 1990s, and involved readers in the development of the news (Willis & Bowman, 2003, p. 9). Meyer (1995, p. 1) discussed the problematic nature of defining citizen journalism, which has also been referred to as ‘civic journalism’ and ‘community journalism’. In the early stages of citizen journalism, theorists resisted defining the concept. Meyer (1995, p. 1) argued that as the concept was in continual development, a definition would needlessly limit it. This is complicated further with the inclusion of the digital component in citizen journalism as every citizen has the potential to participate in citizen journalism through blogging. Both a journalist and a citizen can produce a blog. Furthermore, citizens are not necessarily limited to blogging as a means of participating in citizen journalism; they can also participate in news, forums and chat rooms (Willis & Bowman, 2003, p. 9).

The September 11 attacks in 2001 on the Twin Towers in the United States of America were a seminal moment for citizen journalism as it lead to an expansion in both personal and political blogs. Citizen journalism received worldwide attention in 2003 with the US invasion of Iraq because it was the first time journalists, soldiers and citizens were able to report in real time during the war (Willis & Bowman, 2003, p. 9). This was one of the first challenges to mainstream media, which up until this point had been the gatekeeper and news filter. For the first time citizens were able to access primary sources of information online.

Blood (2004, p. 1) draws a distinction between ‘weblog [citizen] journalism’ and ‘participatory media’. She argues that citizen journalism is high quality journalism produced by contentious amateurs, while participatory media is the ‘shaping, filtering, commenting, contextualising and disseminating…of the news reports that others have produced’ (Blood, 2004, p. 2). Willis and Bowman (2003, p. 9) refine Blood’s definitions further into one of participatory and citizen journalism. They argue it is:

The act of a citizen, or a group of citizens, playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analysing and disseminating news and information. The intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires.

Similarly, Bruns (2006, p. 2) argues citizen journalism is ‘discursive and deliberative’, and Bruns uses Gilmore’s phrase to argue that citizen journalism ‘better resembles a conversation than a lecture’.

The roles of collecting, reporting and analysing news which citizens now perform were once the exclusive domain of the news media (Lasica, 2003a, p. 70). Lih (2004) argues citizen journalism signalled a ‘fundamental shift in the relationship between reader and publisher, as communities have formed which have no strict boundaries between these roles’. The shift in the balance of power from the publisher towards the reader is one of the essential features of citizen journalism.

Glaser (2004) argues a key component of traditional journalism is the mediating effect of the editorial process between the reader and the author. However, Lasica (2003a, p. 70) argues that the Internet itself acts as an editing mechanism. Bloggers inadvertently take part in the editorial processes by selecting newsworthy and interesting topics, and add their own analysis, insight and commentary. Redden, Caldwell and Nguyen (2003, p. 74) also argue that blogging can allow readers a greater degree of transparency because sources are linked and can be verified quickly and easily.

It is interesting to compare two articles that were both written on Tuesday 9th September 2008, three days after the Western Australian State Government election. The article published in the West Australian titled ‘Carpenter says he’s trying to build a solid government’ (AAP, 2008a) primarily focused on Carpenter’s tenuous hold on his position as leader of the West Australian Labor Party. While the article notes that outgoing state President of the West Australian Labor Party declined to criticise Premier Carpenter, and the Labor Party refused to comment on his leadership, the news item sourced two people who were prepared to speculate that Carpenter’s leadership position was in doubt. This relatively short news piece contrasts with Antony Green’s blog ‘Who will form government in W.A?’ (Green, 200b) posted on the same day. In a substantially longer, more reflective piece of writing, Green does not engage in the speculation that the Premier would resign and focuses instead on the outcome of each seat in doubt. These examples of traditional and citizen journalism contradicts Glaser’s (2004) argument that blogs are inherently biased accounts of what one person believes to be true. In contrast, the basis of the article in the West Australian draws information from speculation (albeit that this speculation later showed to be correct), while the blog provided a more balanced, insightful and critical commentary of likely scenarios.

In an earlier discussion on Antony Green’s website titled ‘W.A – State of Uncertainty’ (Green, 2008a) on the Sunday 7th September 2008, a number of bloggers noted that Green was very circumspect in predicting the outcome of the election, while the West Australian newspaper was making more confident claims that the Labor party would lose the election. For example, after numerous questions for Green’s perspective on the election outcome, Green posted: ‘I frankly don’t know what will happen, and I don’t see much point speculating on who will win seats when the counting margin is so narrow’. This cautious response was well received by bloggers, and one commented: ‘Thanks very much for your response to my earlier question. I think you are taking a sensible position – the West Australian has had differing reports every ten minutes it seems and it’s quite refreshing to see someone admit that it actually really is “too close to call” and adopting a “wait and see” attitude.’

The blogger may be referring to the articles from the West Australian published on 7th September 2008 with the following headlines ‘WA polls show people fed up with Labor: Hockey’ (AAP, 2008d) and ‘Nelson hails Liberal comeback’ (AAP, 2008c). In response to these articles, a blogger on Green’s commented ‘it’s the West Australian newspaper factor in molding [sic] the local perspective; they are great ones for bleating about things. Fortunately not everyone here is infected which is probably why we have such an interesting election result instead of the Liberal landslide the West Australian was campaigning for’

I have critiqued Glaser’s (2004) argument that the editorial process is a critical component in distinguishing traditional journalism from citizen journalism. In traditional journalism editorial judgement is exercised before an article goes to print, which Glaser (2004) argues acts as the mediating affect between the reader and the author. However, Glaser (2004) does not recognise that editorial judgement does occur in citizen journalism through in ongoing dialogue between bloggers post publication. Kingston (2003, p. 162) argues that the dialogue between bloggers online postings is self-mediating because if one perspective of an issue began to dominate, invariably other bloggers would balance and moderate these perspectives.

For example, there were a number of bloggers on Antony Green’s website who were critical of the ABC’s, or more specifically Green’s, reporting of the election outcome. One blogger commented: ‘What an absolute dropkick this Antony Green clown is; his blithering, ever mind-changing commentary made me switch to a commercial channel (ugh) to get informed hourly updates. I have yet to see a Federal or State election where any of his predictions or summaries are delivered with knowledge and surety’. However, other bloggers were quick to recognise that the slow election count was not Green’s responsibility, and instead they focused their comments towards the Western Australian Electoral Commission (WAEC). For example, one blogger commented: ‘We found the election coverage on the ABC frustrating too, the electoral commission seemed pretty inept with their information feed. I thought you did a remarkable job despite the difficulties. Thank you.’ These examples demonstrate that citizen journalism has a self-mediating mechanism as non-representative perspectives, such as those critical of Green’s performance, are challenged and a balanced, reasonable opinion is reasserted.

Cohen (1994, p. 98) argues that participatory democracy is a form of social power and is particularly effective as a means of resistance of the dominant discourse and political power. Bloggers create public knowledge, which has to power to create public values, attitudes and beliefs that serve their own interests of the interests of the wider community. Glaser (2004) concedes the bloggers allows citizens the opportunity to challenge the media monopoly in determining what counts as newsworthy. Lasica (2003b, p. 5) refers to this process as ‘thin media’ where small scale operations focus on niche news and information which is not normally found in mainstream media. Citizen journalists can ‘explore, assess the merits and contribute to the case before them’ (Lih, 2004, p. 5). Grossman and Hamilton (2004, p. 2) believe that unlike dominant media outlets, citizen journalists can focus their efforts on specific topics, and ‘act like a lens, focusing attention on an issue until it catches fire’.

For example, bloggers on the Crikey website are continuously scanning the media for relevant articles and issues. It is interesting to note that Antony Green posted two comments in the Crikey thread, and another blogger linked provided a link to his ABC election website which was provided and analysed. Other links were provided for readers’ information and reference. The articles are scrutinised and nuances and potential implications are debated. For example, a blogger provided a link to an article in The Australian titled ‘b sniffer becomes state treasurer’ (AAP, 2008). The discussion that ensured was not centred on Troy Buswell as one might anticipate, rather the speculation focused on the issue that Peter Collier was reported to be ‘slightly disappointed’ that he was not appointed Minister for Education.

Traditional journalists operate under an economic imperative that citizen journalists are not subject to. Traditional journalisms are businesses supported by advertising; they are hierarchical organisations that value smooth production workflows, profitability and rigorous ethical standards (Lasica, 2003a, p. 70). In contrast, citizen journalists value informal conversation, egalitarianism and subjective points of view. Gill (2004, p. 2) argues that citizen journalism is not capital intensive as there is no centralised registry or editorial oversight, and is relatively straightforward to set up and cheap to maintain. As a result, traditional media are more likely to be interested in stories that generate advertising revenue, while citizen journalists are able to describe events that are meaningful to them (Grossman & Hamilton, 2004, p. 2). Similarly, Bruns (2006, p. 2) argues citizen journalism encapsulates individually published news, political blogs, as well as collaboratively written and edited websites. Each of these examples of citizen journalism ‘disrupts the industrial journalism model by employing its users as journalists and commentators’. Antony Green’s website provides an interesting example of citizen journalism as it is a fusion of political commentary and collaborative participation. However, as the ABC employs Green, the issue of Green’s ‘citizenship’ status can legitimately be queried.

In the past, the dominant media discourse has dismissed citizen journalism as a legitimate form of news as they perceive them to be subjective and lacking institutional norms (Redden, Caldwell & Nguyen, 2003, p. 73). In contrast, those who are cynical of the dominant ‘objective’ media discourse celebrate the localisation of blog content. Citizen journalism plays an important role as news media becomes increasingly homogenised and centralised. Citizen journalists place news in a local context, and provide news relevant to their particular niche audience. As Mahar (2006, p. 3) argues, the public sphere requires a base of shared cultural and citizen experiences to draw upon. In the past 10 years, coinciding with the development of the Internet, the Western media has tended towards interpretive journalism, which blurs the distinction between subjective and objective reporting. Traditional media’s recent tendency towards interpretive journalism suggests that they shared much of the same freedom that citizen journalists have.

For example, Robert Taylor opinion piece for the West Australian newspaper ‘Libs can’t take Grylls support for granted’ (Taylor, 2008) was published on the 8th September 2008. Taylor’s article reflected on the relationship between the Liberal and National Parties. Taylor reflected on the changes within the National party over the past three years and speculated that the ‘WA Liberal Party was getting ahead of itself at the weekend, believing that Brendon Grylls and the resurgent Nationals might huff and puff for a while but in the end would inevitably pick it as their date for the Premier’s Ball’. This article is an example of interpretive journalism as it tends towards analysis and commentary rather than straightforward factual reporting (Mahar, 2006, p. 3).

Glaser (2004, p. 2) argues that citizen journalists have had minimal impact on the media environment because traditional journalists break news and therefore have greater initial impact. However, it is not the role of citizen journalism to break news. Instead, citizen journalists analyse, debate and synthesise news and information. They may take on a reporting function when they feel a need to act as a corrective to traditional journalism. For example, after the Shadow Labor Party Ministry was posted online on 24th September 2008 at 1pm on the PerthNow website, bloggers on the Crikey website noted Mark McGowan was not included in the Shadow Ministry at 4.39pm on the same day (Bowe, 2008). Within half an hour the incorrect news article on PerthNow was modified to include Mark McGowan on the Shadow Ministry. Bloggers on Crikey also provided weblinks to the original and revised news articles for readers’ reference.

Viewing citizen journalism as a corrective to traditional journalism invokes a sense of communality and a shared sense of purpose. Lasica (2003a, p.70) argues that citizen journalists are not competing with the work of the traditional journalist establishment; rather they are complementing it. Furthermore, Lasica (2003a, p. 72) argues that much of the ammunition used against citizen journalism is formed when critics view them in isolation. Lasica (2003a, p.72) argues ‘no one should expect a complete, unvarnished, encapsulation of a story or idea at any one weblog’. Rather, Lasica argues that citizen journalism should be seen as a part of an emerging new media ecosystem and as a linked network of ideas.

Gill (2006, p. 3) supports Lasica (2003a, p. 72) argument that citizen journalism should not be viewed in isolation, and argues that participatory journalism embraces two-way communication between established media and readers. This relationship allows readers to interact with journalists and news organizations. Blogging embodies these concepts of journalism by providing many view points on shared experiences, but also serving as a collective databank. Gill (2006, p. 3) argues that citizen journalism and print media are in a circular system, forming both a system and an ecosystem. Lasica (2003a, p. 74) does not believe that citizen journalism will supplant traditional methods of journalism. When a major news story breaks, citizen journalism provides analysis, insight, alternative perspectives and foreign views to complement the mainstream press.

In this essay I have critically compared a number of examples of traditional journalism sourced from the West Australian newspaper with Antony Green’s website on the Western Australian State Government election and commentary on the election on Crikey website. My analysis revealed a substantial cross-fertilisation and cross-referencing of issues. I have demonstrated a networked ecosystem where citizen journalism draws on traditional journalism as a point of reference and critique. I have not argued that citizen journalism is superior to traditional journalism, nor have I argued that the two forms of journalism are mutually exclusive. Rather, I have argued that the two forms of journalism have a symbiotic relationship, and both forms of journalism benefit from the presence of the other.

References

Australian Associated Press (AAP) (2008a). ‘Carpenter says he’s trying to build a solid government.’ West Australian, 9 September 2008, http://www.thewest.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=77&ContentID=96994

Australian Associated Press (AAP) (2008b). ‘Chair sniffer becomes state treasurer.’ The Australian. 18 September 2008. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24366022-12377,00.html

Australian Associated Press (AAP) (2008c). ‘Nelson hails Liberal comeback’. West Australian, 7 September 2008. http://www.thewest.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=77&ContentID=96554

Australian Associated Press (AAP) (2008d). ‘WA polls show people fed up with Labor: Hockey.’ West Australian, 7 September 2008. http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/people-sick-of-wa-labor-hockey-20080907-4b8q.html

Bowe, W. (2008). ‘Wild West Wash-Up’ (18 September 2008). http://blogs.crikey.com.au/pollbludger/2008/09/18/wild-west-wash-up/ (accessed 2 October 2008).

Bowman, S. & Willis, C. (2003). We Media: How audiences are shaping the future of news and information. The Media Centre: At The American Press Institute. http://www.hypergene.net/wemedia/download/we_media.pdf (accessed 10 October 2008).

Bruns, A. (2007). ‘Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation’. Paper presented at Creativity & Cognition conference, Washington D.C., USA, 13-15 June 2007.

http://produsage.org/files/Produsage%20(Creativity%20and%20Cognition%202007).pdf (accessed 15 October 2008).

Blood, R. (2004). ‘A Few Thoughts on Journalism and What Weblogs can do about it’

http://www.rebeccablood.net/essays/what_is_journalism.html (accessed 2 October 2008).

Gill, K. (2004). ‘How can we measure the influence of the blogosphere?’ Conference presentation as WWW2004, May 17-22 2004, New York, USA. http://faculty.washington.edu/kegill/pub/www2004_blogosphere_gill.pdf

Glaser, M. (2004). ‘Scholars Discover Weblogs Past Tests as Mode of Communication’, Online Journalism Review, 11 May 2004.

Green, Antony (2008a). ‘W.A – State of Uncertainty’ (7 September 2008) http://blogs.abc.net.au/antonygreen/2008/09/wa—state-of-u.html#more (accessed 2 October 2008).

Green, Antony (2008b). ‘Who Will Form Government in W.A?’ (9 September 2008). http://blogs.abc.net.au/antonygreen/2008/09/who-will-form-g.html#more (accessed 2 October 2008).

Grossman, L. & Hamilton, A. (2004). ‘Meet Joe Blog’, Time Magazine, 163, 25, June,

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101040621-650732-1,00.html (accessed 2 October 2008).

Kingston, M. (2003). ‘Diary of a webdiarist: Ethics goes Online’, Remote Control: New Media, New Ethics. Eds. Lumby Catherine, and Probyn, Elspeth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 159 – 172.

Lasica, J.D (2003a). ‘Blogs and Journalism need each other’, Nieman Reports, 57, 3,

http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/reports/03-3NRfall/70-74V57N3.pdf (accessed 2 October 2008).

Lasica, J.D. (2003b). ‘Participatory Journalism Puts the Reader in the Driver’s Seat’, Online Journalism Review, 7 August 2003.

http://www.ojr.org/ojr/workplace/1060218311.php (accessed 2 October 2008).

Lih, A. (2004). ‘Wikipedia as Participatory Journalism: Reliable Sources? Metrics for Evaluating Collaborative Media as a News Resource’, Paper presented at the 5th International Symposium on Online Journalism. April 16-17 2004, Texas, Austin.

Mahar, V. (2006). ‘Towards a Critical Media Studies Approach to the Blogosphere’, New Media Lab,

http://vincentmaher.com/papers/VMO-01.pdf (accessed 2 October 2008).

Meyer, P. (1995). ‘Public Journalism and the Problem of Objectivity’, paper presented at IRE Conference, Cleveland, USA, September 1995.

Redden, G. Caldwell, N. & Nguyen, A (2003). ‘Warblogging as Critical Social Practice’, Southern Review, 36, 2: 68 – 79.

Taylor, R. (2008) ‘Libs can’t take Grylls support for granted’ West Australian, 8 September 2008, http://www.thewest.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=77&ContentID=96630

Western Australian Electoral Commission (2008). ‘Election Update’. http://www.waec.wa.gov.au/ (accessed 22 October 2008).

Critically analyse contemporary visual culture of the Philippines as recorded and shared in citizen media October 22, 2008

Posted by ramfelsean in : Uncategorized , add a comment

 

  

“Critically analyse contemporary visual culture of the Philippines as recorded and shared in citizen media”

 

Web 2.0 websites allow users to do more than just retrieve information. They can build on the interactive facilities of “Web 1.0″ to provide “Network as Platforms” computing, allowing users to run software-applications entirely through a browser. Further characteristics, such as openness, freedom and collective intelligence by way of user participation, can also be viewed as essential attributes of Web 2.0 (O’Reilley, 2005). Participatory culture is relatively defined as low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement with a strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations with others (Jenkins 2006). This project is a reflection on today’s ocular-centric practices of Filipinos through the Sinulog festival as archived and shared by people through the internet, to internalize and understand the products of nation’s colonial past. There are theoretical challenges on how to relate this work with previous discussions in class. The theories covered on this project concern about the ideas of participatory culture as presented by Henry Jenkins (2006) and the ‘we media’ from Browman and Willis (ed. Lasica, 2003). Tuesday’s (2004) ideas about mashup is also incorporated on this video presentation and Dr. Bruns’s (2007) theory of produsage as it undermines the romantic notions of an artist as an individual genius. Technical difficulties are also obstacles that I must hurdle in conceptualizing the video presentation with the use of modern technologies through computer softwares that enable me to use new tools and technologies from a range of subcultures promoting ‘do-it-yourself‘ media production (Jenkins 2006).

 

The video project is presenting visual images of the Sinulog festival, a celebration of culture centred on the feast and arrival of the Holy Child Jesus in the country almost five hundred years ago. Visual culture as defined by Nicholas Mirzoeff is perhaps best understood as a tactic for studying the functions of a world addressed through pictures, images, and visualizations, rather than through texts and words (Irvine 2008).  I was able to create a slide of moving images that narrates the story of the celebration as captured by people who shared their snapshots about the festivities online. The pictures were gathered from weblogs and creative common sights such as flickr, my personal clip on YouTube and soundsnap.com for the music, these online sites provided the resources to make the whole presentation.

The beauty of doing the theme about visual culture of the Philippines specified on the Sinulog festival, is the varied online resources that I can access, from weblogs of local people and tourists who experienced being on the celebration, official and unofficial web pages, texts about its history and timeline on Wikipedia, numerous YouTube clips and on image and music search engines.  There are a total of 213000 hits when the word “Sinulog” is searched on Google. 1910 videos on YouTube and 1364 for Flickr licensed under creative commons.

The idea behind citizen journalism is that people without professional journalism training can use the tools of modern technology and the global distribution of the Internet to create, augment or fact-check media on their own or in collaboration with others (Glaser 2006). It is a manifestation that the Internet, as a medium for news, is maturing. With every major news event, online media evolve. And while news sites have become more responsive and better able to handle the growing demands of readers and viewers, online communities and personal news and information sites are participating in an increasingly diverse and important role that, until recently, has operated without significant notice from mainstream media. These acts of citizen engaging in journalism are not just limited to weblogs. They can be found in newsgroups, forums, chat rooms, collaborative publishing systems and peer-to-peer applications like instant messaging. As new forms of participation have emerged through new technologies, many have struggled to name them (ed. Lasica 2003).

The new form of participation that people are engaging through citizen journalism can be seen most of the time online. But regular media outlets such as local Philippine channels are putting the concept of citizen reporting in their news programmes. Citizens provide raw materials like mobile phone clips about certain events that concern the whole community like crimes, accidents, disasters and natural calamities. Professional journalists cannot always cover firsthand the moment an incident happened.  Utilizing the power of modern technology through cellular phone features such as the Multi-Media System (MMS) and the 3G, enables concern citizens to report and share events and experiences firsthand either online or to these media outlets. Because of the wide dispersion of so many excellent tools for capturing live events — from tiny digital cameras to videophones — the average citizen can now make news and distribute it globally, an act that was once the province of established journalists and media companies (Glaser 2006).

Getting visual image-materials on the internet for the video is a reflection on the act of a citizen, or group of citizens, playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analysing and disseminating news and information. The intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires. (ed. Lasica, 2003).

The challenges of making this project were both technical and theoretical. It is theoretically challenging in the sense that I have to relate my work through writing an exegesis about the different theories that were encountered from the previous topics in class. The theories were actually very useful in understanding the complexities of today’s media culture as it explains in simple terms the nature or how it evolves into a more complex platform for participation and cultivation of awareness for ordinary citizens.

 Technically, I first faced difficulties on how to gather online materials to be used that are not copyrighted and under creative commons. Thankfully, Flickr provided pictures for the theme and soundsnap.com for the music, are under creative commons. Copyright issues kept me at bay and limited the use of YouTube clips that could have add colour and variety of media on the presentation.  But to execute my vision on how this project would go, I manage to use personal clips that I posted on YouTube to give its future audience a glimpse on some of the actions about the celebration.  These clips used were not professionally taken, just ordinary shots with bad audio and vision from a 2005 Olympus 5 megapixel digital camera. This unfortunate scenario is playing on the essence of participatory journalism as a bottom-up, emergent phenomenon in which there is little or no editorial oversight or formal journalistic workflow dictating the decisions of a staff. Instead, it is the result of many simultaneous, distributed conversations that either blossom or quickly atrophy in the Web’s social network (ed. Lasica, 2003).

Having a very little technical background about window’s movie maker, creating a movie was another challenge that I have to overcome. A trial-by-error application of the different features of the movie maker enabled me to discover and create a video presentation using the different effects sufficiently, understands the purpose of the timeline plus adding music and texts on it. The whole idea of combining the gathered online materials such as the pictures used, downloaded music and YouTube clips were applications of a mashup. 

Mashup as defined is a web application that combines data from more than one source into a single integrated tool. These existing sources can be web services (through the use of API’s), RSS feeds or even just other Websites (by screen-scraping)… Many people are experimenting with mashups using Amazon, eBay, Flickr, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and YouTube APIs, which has led to the creation of mashup editors. Flickrvision and youMashTube are examples of these. (Wikipedia 2008) The remix today is part of how our culture operates and relates to itself. The blending of styles, the appropriation of signs and symbols, sounds and images — this is postmodernism at work. And yet it is more, because in its own way it is a form of progress in that it reveals the democratic and emancipatory potential of new technologies, and the capacity for cultural participation to actualize that potential (Tuesday 2004).

This project is also an example of the Produsage theory as presented by Dr. Alex Bruns(2007) of Queensland University of Technology. Dr. Bruns sighted the idea about creative practice as:

Sites such as Flickr for images, YouTube, Jumpcut, and

Revver for video, and ccMixter for audio, as well as a

plethora of blogs and collaborative publishing

environments for text, now provide a rich and diverse

range of user-submitted creative content. Further, legal

frameworks such as the Creative Commons suite of

licenses allow for the re-use and remixing of existing

content into new artworks which are then able to be further

reworked by subsequent generations of users. This opens

up new avenues for creative work and publication beyond

the traditional media industries, as well as undermining

romantic notions of the artist as individual genius.

 

The idea of Dr. Bruns demonstrates creative practice on re-using and remixing existing content into a new artwork, my video presentation is a manifestation on how modern media and technologies evolve as it empowers users of the new media to be more creative and become independent artist of their own beyond the corners of traditional media industries.

Web 2.0 websites gave us the opportunity to explore our creativity and pursue our interests through the platform that enable us to create and participate (O’Reilley, 2005). The weblogs, Google, Wikipedia, eBay, YouTube, Flickr are just examples on where we can use our creativity in sharing our ideas, knowledge, interests, videos and pictures to the rest of the world.  The internet is the fastest way to reach a vast number of people, a new trend that can empower the user to have an active role in community building through the formation of groups, people want to feed their obsessions and share them with like-minded individuals. This is what fuels, in large part, many social connections on the Internet (ed. Lasica, 2003 ).

The theories tackled during the span of the course enabled me a greater understanding on how these theoretical systems work and relate to the practices of modern media and participatory culture as it empower people regardless of being a non-professional in the field of journalism or the like. Dr. Bruns’s (2007) produsage idea justified the notion of being an individual artist. It gave ordinary people like me to pursue personal interest on being a journalist without the conventional expertise.

 After making the video it gave me more confidence to explore and use the technologies provided by softwares available in the computer such as Window’s Movie Maker, Audacity for the podcast, Adobe Photoshop for the image manipulation in Comm 2202 and Apple’s Final Cut Express for film editing, these can be added on my skills for future references on work-related tasks.  The whole final project also gave me an opportunity to show my local culture through the visual images as inspired by the nature of a participatory culture and citizen journalism as shared by those who participate online who usually create content to inform and entertain others (ed. Lasica, 2003).  The total result of this course is an enriching experience for me to learn the different theories, technicalities and practicalities about modern media, it gives a broader sense of participation from ordinary people, a platform to be creative and imaginative in showing community awareness through the influential power or today’s media.  Thus, this unit is a powerful source of knowledge on how I will be applying things learned in my daily online existence.

 

   

 

 

 

    [youtube]oWnq_ZiMa_U[/youtube]
Sinulog Festival a glimpse through citizen journalism (1:57)

 

 

References:

Bowman, Shane and Willis, Chris (2003 ) ‘We Media’ in Lasica, J.D. (ed.) http://www.hypergene.net/wemedia/weblog.php?id=P36 (accessed 21 September 2003 )

Bruns, Alex (2007) Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation.

http://produsage.org/files/Produsage%20(Creativity%20and%20Cognition%202007).pdf (accessed 13 June 2007).

Glaser, Mark (2006) Your Guide to Citizen Journalism. http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2006/09/digging_deeperyour_guide_to_ci.html (accessed 27 September 2006).

Howard- Spink, Sam (2004) Grey Tuesday: Online cultural activism and the mash-up of music and politics. http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue9_10/howard/  (30 September 2004).

Irvine, Martin (2008) Introducing Visual Culture: Ways of Looking at all things visual. http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/visualarts/Intro-VisualCulture.html (accessed 2008).

 Jenkins, Henry (2007) From Participatory Culture to Participatory Democracy (Part Two) http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/from_participatatory_culture_t_1.html (accessed 06 March 2007).

Mashup (2008) Mashup. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mashup_(web_application_hybrid)  (accessed September 2008).

 

Photos, Music and Video Clips References:

Akosikenet (2008) Sinulog Dancers. http://search.creativecommons.org/# (accessed 20 January 2008).

Akosikeniet (2008) Sinulog Textures. http://search.creativecommons.org/# (accessed 21 January 2008).

Blueacid (2008) Sinulog Festival 08 (Viva Pit Senyor). http://search.creativecommons.org/# (accessed 20 January 2008).

Cheonsa (2008) Sinulog 2008. http://search.creativecommons.org/# (accessed 20 January 2008).

Fernandez, Roro (2008) Sinulog 2008. http://search.creativecommons.org/# (accessed 20 January 2008).

Fernandez, Roro (2008) Sinulog 2008. http://search.creativecommons.org/# (accessed 16 February 2008).

Kalandrakas (2008) Sinulog 2008. http://search.creativecommons.org/# (accessed 19 January 2008).

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Final Seminar: Participatory Culture Then, Now and Tomorrow October 7, 2008

Posted by Tama in : Seminar , 11 comments

wakeup

Your core reading/viewing:

[X] Axel Bruns. "Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation." Paper presented at Creativity & Cognition conference, Washington D.C., USA, 13-15 June 2007.  Also see the interview of Axel Bruns recently conduct by Henry Jenkins: Part I; Part II.

[X] Jane McGonigal, ‘Saving the World Through Game Design’ [20 minute video presentation], 2008 New Yorker Conference, 28 May 2008. And once you’ve thought about the video, please visit the latest socially ‘game’ McGonigal and her colleagues are running, Superstruct.  Explore the artifacts on the Superstruct pages, delve into the material created and edited by players (allow yourselves at least thirty minutes to really look at Superstruct).

[X] Cory Doctorow, ‘Giving it Away’ and ‘World of Democracycraft’ in Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future, Tachyon Publications, 2008, pp. 71-75 and 201-206 respectively. (There are plenty of different formats of the whole book available online – feel free to read as much as you like, but please at the very least read the two very short essays I’ve suggested.)

Axel Bruns’ notion of ‘produsage’, where the concepts of producer and consumer collide in a world on increasing user-generated content creation, in some important ways updates or extends the idea of participatory culture discussed in the early weeks of this course.  Bruns’ essay gives us a sense of the heightened role users play in the creating content, but it is also aware of the limitations of such an idea (something often forgotten as the selected examples of participatory culture and collective intelligence are continually rehashed).

In contrast, the video from Jane McGonigal gives a far more optimistic take on the world, where the participatory culture surrounding socially meaningful games can act as the perfect focus on collective intelligence.  More to the point, the latest socially-aware gaming experience from McGonigal and her colleagues is being played right now, so looking at Superstruct will, hopefully, let us see how well these ideals are working in this world of meaningful play.

Finally, Cory Doctorow’s two short essays (and other writing in Content) return to two key questions in relation to digital communication: ‘How can copyright be meaningfully situated within an informatic economy, especially in relation to older media forms [such as books]?’ ; and ‘How will the social fabric of virtual worlds be governed?’. Also worth considering is the fact that the book Content is itself licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Questions to Consider:

[1] Is Bruns’ model of ‘produsage’ a more accurate and realistic version of participatory culture as it operates today (and tomorrow)?  How well does the idea of produsage reflect aspects of your own life, and what role do you think produsage has in our increasingly digital communities?  How well does produsage describe the examples of participatory culture examined throughout this unit?

[2] How well does Superstruct work as an example of collective intelligence in the real world?  Are socially-responsible games good learning tools?  Is so, are they still fun (or do you think they’d be fun)?  Where is the boundary between play, learning and activism in Superstruct?  (Do you think this style of meaningful gaming would be useful to investigate other political or social issues?)

[3] Returning to the question of copyright, looking at Doctorow’s example and the unit overall, is there a future for copyright in the era of digital communication, and if so, how do you think it should operate?

[4] Finally, how have your own ideas about participatory culture and digital communication changed since the beginning of this unit?  What surprised you the most?  What worries you?  What makes you hopeful and optimistic about our digital future?

The Last Blog Comments

As well as making your last comment or two about the topics raised in this seminar, can I ask everyone to please make one additional reflective comment detailing your thoughts about this unit overall: did it work as a coherent unit for you? What was most interesting or enjoyable? What didn’t work as well? Any suggestions about things that should be changed?

And that’s the final seminar done.  Now you’ve just got your major projects to complete – and to post to the blog – and that’s your iGeneration experience done (at least in the formal sense)! :)

[Image ‘Wake up!’ by Eddi 07, CC BY]

Closed Social Networks: Who can see my Facebook or Friendster? October 1, 2008

Posted by ramfelsean in : Seminar , 14 comments

Closed Social Networks Seminar presented by : Alvin and RamfelSean

Suggested Readings

Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship
by Danah M. Boyd and Nicolle B. Ellison
Slap in the Facebook: It’s Time for the Social Networks to Open UP
by: Scott Gilbertson

Why you should beware of Facebook
from http://www.theage.com.au
posted January 20, 2008

The phrase “no Man (and woman) is an island” never looked more applicable than now. Looking at the popularity of Social Networking Sites (SNS) these days, it seems that some things never change despite centuries of evolution. If the deductions are right, people living in ‘virtual worlds’ today share a similar instinct with their earlier counterpart – the quest for company. The main difference is that people today have a myriad of “tools” assisting and encouraging them to get connected. From the numbers, many people have already given in to their instincts! Of course, there are exceptions. Anti-SNS advocates have existed for as long as the sites have been created. So, just what are SNS? Taking a step further, what are “closed social networks”?

As the Internet proliferated, people found ways of sharing common interests and interact with other like-minded people through SNS (such as MySpace, Friendster, etc). Looking at it on a global scale, that meant potentially millions of people (which is already happening) communicating with one another on a variety of topics as wide as the Internet could hold. Now, take a step back and look at that from an information-sharing point of view. Imagine the reach your message(s) can have with the number of people converging on a particular point in cyberspace.

But wait a minute, there is no guarantee that you can actually reach out to this “online audience” at all. Some networks are ‘closed networks’, which mean access is only for members (not that it’s very difficult to get anyway). Having said that, even if you do gain access to the network, you still may not get to “connect” with everyone else on it. That is because some, if fact many, profiles are usually set to ‘private’ (only a select few can view). Nevertheless, you may still drop a note if you wish.

While browsing through this week’s readings, keep in mind the following issues:

What role(s) does social network sites play in “connecting people”? What potential do you think social network sites hold for the future of inter-personal communication?

Do you think Social Networks should be ‘closed’ (only accessible to members) or ‘open’ (accessible to all)? Do ‘closed’ social networks serve their intended purpose?

Does the collection of information by Social Network Sites (such as Facebook) bother you? Do you think the laws in Australia (or in your home country) are sufficiently designed to apply to Social Network Sites (i.e. in terms of privacy issues, protection of information, defamation, etc)?