Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lost in Cyberutopia

It has finally boiled down to my last blog post for the semester, Lost in Cyberutopia or more commonly know as Cyberspace. Cyberspace has become the new space and place to how people communicate, share and interact. We are able to connect with people from all over the world just as if the other was sitting next to us. We are able to see and share the culture, the dire situations, the political unjust, and the list goes on.

In Barkers, he mentions "Cyberspace and Democracy", that the Internet acts as a vehicle for extending democracy in social and cultural life. He also adds "that the Internet will transform and enlarge our very notion of what democracy is, as it generates novel spaces in which fresh voices can be heard." This is a very prominent notion especially in Singapore's last election. Political parties relied heavily on the Internet and more particularly the social media "Facebook" to rally people to vote for them. As we, in Singapore have only one press and news channel, the channel seems to allocated more broadcast time to the currently ruling party and only snippets of the others during the political campaigns. Thus oppositions and other potential parties have resorted to the Internet.

Here is an example of how the Internet can be use to as a vehicle for democracy.

Rights group urges Singapore to lift travel ban for opposition leader to attend Norway forum

Imagine to what extend it took for a human rights group to go to just for a release of Mr. Chee to travel outside Singapore. The original letter that was written to the Singapore PM for the release can be found here. This news was not published by the press in Singapore. Thus activists had to resort to the Internet as such to persuade.

The usage of the Internet is not restricted to "promoting" democracy but also a platform for capitalism. In the past merchants and customers had to be physically present with each other to close a deal or buy a product. Now, with the Internet, you can get your purchase shipped right to the doorstep. You do not even need to see the merchant nor the product before purchase. This has unleashed the possibilities of making money and reaching out to more potential customers. Merchants are no longer restricted. Once again lets take Facebook for example. You like a product, it appears on your wall. Then your friend likes it or comment on it, and it appears on their wall. Then their friends like it and boom! It goes on at a little or no cost. Isn't that what capitalism about? Spending the least amount on marketing and promotion, and yielding the greatest?

So as I end my blog and as we continue to move into the Digital Media Culture, I am sure that pop culture would rise and fall more quickly ever and we need to be on our toes to ride the changes.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

TV the Culture Setter

Radio started in the 1879 and it was one of the first few forms of electronic mass communications that could reach its audience over a large geographical area. Then television was soon introduced in the 1920s which became popular very quickly. It was one of the main source of information and knowledge. It provided both entertainment and news.

Television being the main source of information then, I argue that it authored popular culture. It influence people on what they needed to buy or wear; what was the latest gadgets and the coolest outfit for the summer; or even what to worry about (for example the Wars that the US is/was at). In Barker, it presents television as an ideology where television is not so much a reality but rather "the putting together of reality". It accuses the corporations that owns these broadcast networks to be manipulative in nature, which I agree to completely.

Being a Cinema and TV Major, we have learnt what influences the content that is being broadcasted. The first thing we need to remember is that we get our TV programs for free. So how do these stations make money? The answer is elementary. Big corporations own these stations and in order to make money, the content they produce has multiple effects. First they make us think what is important in life. For example we need to get a nice car or a house. What certain products to use, or certain actions to take like to support a certain campaign. This theory is know was agenda setting.

These corporations attempt to set the mood/tone of society such that people would choose a certain brand over others. These brands are sometimes directly owned or indirectly own by these stations/corporations.

TV shows add to this agenda setting effect too. Celebrities are used to advertise products, and product placement like the Apple Computers are use in some sitcoms and drama series.

Depending on who controls these corporations and stations, television can be used as a subtle but powerful weapon to mount political campaigns or persuade audience to vote for a certain party. One example that I can cite is from Singapore. Our media in the city state country is heavily regulated. There is only one media and press in the country. From what I understand it is almost impossible to setup your own media company. The press is not directly owned by any governmental officials or departments but rather they are own by relatives and children of government officials. Our media seems to allocate more time to our current ruling party when it comes to news and on rare occasion and oppositions and the ruling party is always placed in the best light.

Now as we enter the Internet and New Media age, in my opinion, television is no longer the main "setter" for pop culture. Popular culture has become a hybrid of other cultures that fusion together. We get to choose and dictate what kind of culture we want through forums, blogs, social media and the list goes on.

I foresee that soon television would be something of the past and the Internet and New Media would be the new popular culture setter.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Space, Place and Time

Space, place and time is something that we usually take for granted especially when we are in our own country. We understand and respect the cultural codes, social norms and customs of where we grew up and lived in.

Upon taking a closer look at space, place and time, something that I too have taken for granted, realized how interesting people react and interact - How we have specific uses and how we classify these spaces. We move from spaces to spaces, places to places and progresses through time.

Since young our parents have been nurturing our behaviors and actions. For example my mum would say, "you do not bring your friends into my(her) room." At the malls or public places, we have been taught that restrooms are gender specific. In other countries, place of worships and prayer rooms are too gender specific. As given in the book, most culture view the work place as "masculine" and home as "feminine".

As we analyze deeper, we realize that our cities too have been organized based on "the people in power", the masters as I would call it, and its people would have to just deal with it. Let's take Singapore for example. In 1824, the British colonized Singapore. They drew up boundaries and had divisions. A place allocated to the British, the common people and the poor. I guess this is something not nation specific but it also happens globally. In my opinion this happens for a couple of obvious reasons. First "birds of the same feathers flock together", people of the same social, racial, ethnics, believes and so on tend to stay together - for the simple fact that they feel 'safe' with people of the same 'type'. Second it elevates status. For example, When I say I live in Beverly Hills, the most likely response from people that have been influenced by the American culture would go "Wow!"

In the text book, places and spaces, as mentioned, was use quite interchangeably until it drew a distinction between the two. A space is social construct, it is not static but dynamic. To me I see place as more of a tangible and physical thing. For example, a coffee house like Starbucks. The table, the chairs, counter tops and so on. And I see the space as the events that happens in that place.

In the past coffee houses were places where people gathered and talked about news in the towns. Today we see people "talking" on their iPads, cell phones and other electronic devices. These "spaces" are no longer restricted geographically. Society has re-constructed the space of the same place. This then brings me to my next point, Space - the Internet.

With the Internet, communication is no longer restricted by geographical location. People from all over the world are able to participate in the same conversation at the same space. Example of spaces could be Facebook, and Twitter. This spaces allows interactivity, plurality, speed and convergence. As we can see, spaces have since been re-constructed as compared to the past.

In conclusion we are able to better understand how culture becomes "pop" but looking at how these spaces and places function.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

It's Modernism to PostModernism Time!

As I was reading the Chapter on "Enter Postmodernism", it instilled a mixed feeling about Modernism or Modernity. Living in the current century of technology, electronics, social media and so on, I look forward into the future - hoping for things to get better. Then I was halted in my tracks of this 'longing'.

The 'dark side' of modernity. My first reaction was "wtf"! How can modernity be consider 'dark'? It is amazing, cool, techie(that's what I am), etching away from old boring tradition in favor of new ones, promising social progress, continual excitement and the list just goes on forever. It took me quite a while to understand what Faust was trying to imply about Modernity of it being dark? What troubled Faust and why he was destructive and tragic?

It came to me that we have not really been living at the present moment, relishing what there is here in time. We are always looking into the future, worrying about our future, our lives, trying to change things. At this time, I can't wait for the new iPhone to be released. I can't wait to graduate. I am worried about my future job, if I can find one, if I would like it. There is so much ambiguity and uncertainty about my future. There are doubts everywhere and especially living with our current financial situation, everything now is risky. This is the "dark side' of modernity.

As the ever changing world surges forward into the future, though Habermas declares that modernity has not passed yet, I say we are already have just skimmed the surface of post modernity. We are entering in the transitional state between modernity and post modernity. As described in the Chapter, the postmodern "structure of feeling" is:

1. a sense of fragmentary, ambiguous and uncertain nature of living
2. an awareness of centrality of contingency
3. a recognition of cultural difference
4. an acceleration in pace of living

Doesn't it sound like how were are right now? In the transitional period?

A sense of fragmentary: Though we say that the Internet allows use to be connected with our friends and family, let's take Facebook for example. Look at how fragmented our conversations can be. Even culture seems to be fragmented. There is a bit of western and eastern culture in our comments and walls. Then there is your local slang, and terms that only your "group" of friends understand. There is also the need to be culturally sensitive as the content that is posted can be viewed my almost anyone, "the public". And of course lets not forget our mobile devices that updates information instantly. Wow we have just accelerated the pace of living. In the past they had pigeons to deliver messages, and it took weeks and months to send a message across a country or city. Now it is the twitter "bird" that does it!

In conclusion, though there is nothing much that can be done as we get pushed through this cultural "pipeline", I am grateful to be enlightened with the reading and hopefully be able to exclude myself, and try to enjoy the present and better manage expectations of uncertainty.

We need to live in the present and not the future. 


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Love in 10

The movie "10" (1979) is the typical Hollywood Love Film. A boy meets girl, girl does not know or like boy, another girl likes boy; boy goes through some obstacles and they live happily after. "They live happily after" or the boy always gets the girl has always been the heart of most Hollywood Love Films. The only thing that changes is how they boy would get the girl, what he would do to fight for her, but what thing is for sure is that they will live happily after.

In the movie "10" is no different. It starts off with George celebrating his surprised birthday with is other friends. He realizes that he is already mid way through his life but has not settled down. One day as he was driving he sees a really beautiful woman jogging on the streets. He follows her and trails her down. His obsession leads him to an attempt in disrupting her marriage ceremony at a church. George continues to track her down on her honeymoon and ends up stalking her. As the movie concludes he finally wins her over and they live happily after. This radical romance is one that I detest.

I my opinion it: First absurd to be overly obsessed with another person, it is completely unrealistic to go through extreme actions like tracking and stalking a person. For example to the extend of stalking a person overseas. Second, as a media student, the story is too predictable. After the first scene of George disrupting the marriage ceremony, I was able to more or less how the story would unfold. Lastly, there is really not such things as a happily ever after. If your partner can leave someone else for you, what makes you so sure that he/she would not leave you for someone else either?

Analyzing the character of George, it depicts the stereotypical middle age man who is not married and just wants to settle down. Being blinded by love for a younger and more beautiful woman, he does not see the fact that Sam loves him. It seems that George is just making use of Sam and treating her like a "fuck buddy", to satisfy his needs at command. Sam on the other hand is probably hoping that George would one day love her.

In general romantic comedy, radical romance or romance stories in general are too cliche. It paints a false picture of what love really is. It is a complete deception of a relationship as it attempts to hide the pain and hardship that one has to go through in the relationship. If there were such things as a happily ever after, I am certain we would not see so much break ups, divorce and scandals in our society today. The media has made love into a commodity.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hollywood Love, Sex and Romance

I am quite certain that films has altered our perception of Love. The classic "Hollywood" style, boy meets girl, then a third party comes in to the picture, things gets messy and in the end, boy gets girl and they live happily after. Is it really that easy and perfect?

I once heard that it is easy to fall in love but difficult to stay in one. I like to share a video that I saw and the analogy of Love and Relationships.

"We are like porcupines when it comes to love or relationship: Like a porcupine, when we are out in the cold winter's night we huddle together for warmth, but when they are together they prick each other and it is painful and they leave each other..."

With the romantic comedies that have been created throughout the years, Love has been redefined over and over again. Ideologies, sexual pleasures and relationships are projected with subtexts. For example as given on (pg. 62 of "The Radical Romantic Comedy"), it states that in The Graduate  it is not a full romantic comedy but the story is more about the inability of  Benjamin Bradock (Dustin Hoffman) to fit in to society than about her importance in his life.

Similar films provide a false impression about love, that having sex is love, which most of the time that is not the case. In addition, they portray that the hero always gets to take a girl home. Moving away from romantic comedy, films like the James Bond movie, always involves James Bond getting steamy with a female, getting manipulated by her and so on.

This way of culture in the films has found its way into our society, making sex a very trivial thing such that there are many cases of single parents, abortions and abandon children in the orphanages. What happen to the happily ever after endings?

Finally, the media law "Whatever happens in the past will happen again" holds true. In the readings on (pg. 81 of "The Radical Romantic Comedy"), "One final film which needs to be considered as an heir to the open or unhappy ending observable in the radical romantic comedy, again a film which flirts with the idea of gay sexuality although here attached to a supporting character, is My Best Friend's Wedding (1997). The film inherits the 1970 films' interest in the competing demands of romance and sex, and here finds perhaps the ultimate solution to this competition: splitting them..." This is the culture that will be with us for a very long time - the illusion of Love, the Hollywood Love.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Evil Technology, Master of Slave?

Technology and Science has always been an integral part of our lives. Whether it is the first stone apparatus our early stone age our forefathers used or the last laser cutting technology used in our high-tech labs today. 

Technology as defined by is the "the branch of knowledge that deals with the creation and use of technical means and their interrelation with life, society, and the environment, drawing upon such subjects as industrial arts, engineering, applied science, and pure science."

It is interesting how "technology" has been depicted from at least 1925 to the present. It was not obvious to me that Films portrayed "technology", in the general sense, as evil, destructive, heartless, anti-humans, controlled by corporations, military or political powers.

After reading the article on "Images of Technology in Popular Films: Discussion and Filmography, I guess I have to agree to a certain that Technology, especially in the recent times destroys human well-being. In the more realistic sense, from a day-to-day perspective, we realize how attached we are to our electronic devices. Devices such as the mp3 players, tablets, laptops, smart phones and the list just goes on. It is ironic how Technology detaches us from the world but yet it is fronted as keeping the world connected?

Let's take a step back for a moment and take a look of our human being existence. We human beings need to be physically around other human beings. We have our friends and family to lean on in times of support and trouble. We need them to listen to us and react to us. We need to communicate, and when I say communicate, I meant two way communication, understanding each other and conversing.

With the improvement of technology, we are now able to connect with people not physically but virtually. That level of physical interaction is lost. A study in UCLA indicated that 93% of a communication effectiveness is through non-verbal cues (that is when a two people are having a face to face communication). This "face-to-face" is lost through technology, emoticons as a substitute? Is technology really destroying our human well-being in this context?

Have filmmakers tried covey the message right from the beginning that technology would slowly devour our human race? Films across the ages have reflected visually the public anxiety that occurs between human and technology, placing technology in a bad light. From the readings "In many films, scientists and engineers are depicted as servants of corporate, political, or military institutions, committed to executing the at best misguided, and frequently insidious, agendas of those institutions.... Technology frequently appears in films as and antihuman force." The readings then moves on to explain that technology was initially created for the good of mankind but then there are powers that wants to use it for evil.

I guess it is more of a matter of perspective and how we want to make use of technology. Do we want to be a master of it or a slave to it?

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Countries such as Britain and the United States as how popular culture perceives it, "Free World". As in the readings, it states how Fleming uses the threat to this "Free World" and conspiracy by the Villain to create tension. Back then in, 1950s the "Free World" was seen as the dominating power. As for Bond, Fleming created an ideology of a hero of Sex, Wealth and Glam.

The James Bond series established the culture that a secret agent or spy had the latest gadgets, the latest cars, a luxurious lifestyle complemented with seductive women. As a result of this it create a sign (signifier and signified):

Bond, spy >> wealth, amazingly attractive women, luxury, upper class, higher status.

As stated in the readings, "The most significant changes in the cultural and ideological currency of Bond during this period are attributable to the effects of the films, particularly to the way they transformed the plot elements of the novels and subtly modified the characterization of Bond."

With the above "modification" to the culture and ideology currency, Bond soon made its way into advertising. These advertising campaigns started to make use of this Sign/Icon/Relation in their advertisements. One modern example of Bond in an advertisement is the VISA Card advertisement.

The advertisement is created with the same ideology of the actual Bond movies/novels - that would be, there is a villain (in this case time), there is a attractive woman, and finally how the entire situation is resolved. Visa made use of "the hero wins the girl" like in any Bond movies. Thus this advertisement would create the need to have a Visa card.

On another topic, the Bond series was created regularly throughout history such that it became a ritual. I believe the reading said something about a Bond movie/novel being published every two years? And with each new release, there was an "update" of some sort to how to live life.

There was always a new car, new boat, new land to buy houses. There were even new fashion, particularly to what women wear. In my opinion, after so much being read, the Bond series play a significant and discreet role in dictating popular culture. The culture of wealth, status and sex.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"Savages" and The New World.

The above picture, "Savages" is taken from the cartoon Pocahontas. Chapter 5 recalls this image particularly because it signifies the domination of the western world - specifically world domination of the USA. The clip displays metaphorically, the radical "Globalization"that takes globally.

Marching on! The USA has played a very significant role in the global economy, technology, social class, industrialization. From domination of currency to technology; economies to cultures.

The Savages in the show Pocahontas are similar to emerging countries like India, Singapore in the 1819 and many other countries that were colonize starting in the late 15th century.

Singapore was colonized by the British in the 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles, then with a turn of fate we were invaded by the Japanese in 1942. Then in 1945 with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and shortly after, Singapore gained its Independence on August 9, 1965.

Being a nation-state with no natural resources other that human, Fordism was the main driving force in the nation's economy. Light and medium factories were established. As Singapore is strategically located between the sea route of the East and West, we soon became a Port of Call. The Singapore Government soon realize that we would encounter the problem of overproduction and having only Human Resources to rely on, we had to move to a knowledge-based economy.

We progressed rapidly into a knowledge-based economy, serviced-based, establishing one of the World's Best Airport and Port of Call. Education was key for progress in our economy, for Knowledge is Information and Information is Power. The class system became distinct as a result of our education.

In the film "I Not Stupid" by Jack Neo, it presented how the Singapore Education System had segregated society. As a child moves up in the Education System, at Primary 4 (or Grade 4 - if I mapped it correctly to the American System) they were and I stress were distributed into three different categories of ability to study. "EM1", "EM2" and "EM3". Starting from the best of the best that gets categories into "EM1" to those who were deem as "hopeless" that gets deposited into the "EM3" category. This is obviously one of the worst ways to label someone and it has since change.
The show highlights how students from "EM3" category are treated by the students from the "higher class" of "EM1".

Right from the start a child is already exposed to class identities.  It was perceive, and probably still perceived that if one is smart, he/she would most likely end up in the professional class, and the not as smart in the technical or semi-professional class, and so on.

With the US being dominating in terms of culture, Singapore has quickly adapted to the American/Western Cultures. From movies to fashion, TV shows to technology. In the recent years, Japan and Korean Cultures too has found its way into the Singapore Society and Culture. With the evolving culture, and inching its way to a more affluence nation, identities have started to shift. I have personally realized and agree that products and services have become a sign of prestige and status. In the past, speaking of my parents generation, the bought appliance based on its reliability and quality over prestige. Today I see society, consuming commodities to obtain a higher status level. For example, Abercrombie and Fitch seems to be just another brand in the US, however people rushed to get in line as it first opened for business in Singapore.

Advertisement from banks, credit cards, airlines and other "lifestyle" services too have been preoccupied in selling more than just products. For example the following ad is not only promoting credit credit but it has been skillfully made also sell lifestyle.

It is truly remarkable to see how  government, multinational companies, business, shape and alter society and culture. They are have much in common from how the "New World" is created in the show Pocahontas.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof Project

It is interesting during our group discussion that we each had our own point of view of the story. We were confused by and deceived by the sub stories. It is interesting that it took a decently amount of time to brainstorm of a class room activity. It is away more challenging that just doing up a simple presentation and "lecturing" the class.

My suggestion was to re-enact the story in Today's context, showing the similarities and difference of the cultures back in the 1955 and in today's society. To be able to present the idea that though culture evolves though the years some still remained. I wanted the class to analyze the differences and draw relation to the "Woman as second class". How women are treated then and now.

However the others thought that solely re-enacting the scene was probably done one-to-many times over the years and thus we finally decided to do a snippet of re-enacting and incorporate it with a  game show instead - Family Feud.

We decided to present three areas of pop culture at that time: Class, Sexuality and Gender. My part was to extract the "Sexuality" aspect and present it in a script format. It was challenging as I wanted to include not only when Brick was talking about Skipper but also the part where Big Daddy was commenting how he lusts for woman and that he never loved Big Mama. I wanted to show how homosexual is being seen or viewed in the 1955s and also the power, in terms of status, a successful man commanded. The status and power of him to being able to woo any woman of the street.

In addition I wanted to also show the relationship between Brick and Big Daddy, and how they try to be honest with each other but another group member thought that it was not necessary. How Big Daddy liked Brick though, Brick did not care about his life and just wanted to drink.

I feel that the whole story is a mendacity in itself. It depicts how society has not change one bit when it comes to money, power, class, sexuality and gender 'wars'. It does not only happen in the past but also in the present. People today have a front to hide their true self and weakness. I also had to analyze my part and think of questions for the game show.

In conclusion, I like the complexity of this story as truly illustrates mendacity of society quite blatantly. It is authentic in its characters, the decision each character makes and the consequences.