Monday, October 31, 2011

Is New media still New to the government?

In 2006 when the government first attempted to ban internet electioneering. It did not work. Now The government is also using tools to monitor and restrict free speech online.

A man in Singapore is facing charges of incitement of violence due to comments made on Facebook about the Government’s preparations for last month’s Summer Youth Olympic Games.

Abdul Malik, a 27-year-old project officer in a construction company, was a a member of the Facebook page “I hate the Youth Olympics Games’ Organising Committee”, an on-line dedicated to criticising the Government’s preparations for the Games and the cost of them. On the Facebook site, Abdul called for “us to burn Vivian Balakrishnan”, Singapore’s Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports the head of the organising committee.

Malik claimed meant the statement as a metaphor – to vote out the ruling People’s Action Party, of which Balakrishnan is a member.

Temasek Review, a site critical about the government is also taken down.(quietly)

“The government has, over the last few years in particular, referred to the new media in largely pejorative terms – the Prime Minister has previously referred to it as the “wild west” and more recently, as a “cowboy town”. But the reality is this – the new media is here to stay, and it will continue to eat into the mindshare of the mainstream media, no matter what the government chooses to call it. Temasek Review may have gone offline, but it is not going to be too difficult or technically challenging to bring 10 new incarnations of Temasek Review online overnight.”
-MP for Aljinied GRC, Pritam Singh

Many of the world's media have evolved into a more open and engaging media. News have became more social than ever before with the internet, yet many news broadcasters have this believe.
To come up with innovative ways to engage viewers, public broadcasters will have to refine and improve our story-telling techniques.

Isn't this public diplomacy? This concept should not be new to any broadcasting network that is not in a monopolistic domain. This role differs in many ways from traditional public relations or public affairs, which despite a recent influx of new technologies still mainly involves “providing information for the public” at its core. Corporate public diplomacy, on the other hand, involves actively shaping the communications environment within which corporate activities are performed, and reducing the degree to which misperceptions complicate relations between the company and its customers. In my view, this complex mission is conducted using what I call innovative social engagement.

We are told stories and rhetoric all our lives, and we get engaged in a story that we can relate to. News and information are all experiences which can be told in a form of a perspective or story. However, the story needs to be believable and balanced as well as savvy readers can see a spin.

The problem with a controlled media system is that the view are very much one sided and for other views, readers will go on blogs and other "non-traditional" media for their daily reads. When the other outlets have a differing opinion, the government gets upset as they have lost control over controlling the medium.

In the Internet age, I feel strongly that controlling the media is not a cost effective and efficient way to public engagement. The more restrictive the views are, the more interesting differing opinions will be. (And more people will read)

How do you market an unpopular cause? There are no easy models or quick fixes for a people seeking to establish a legitimate identity or share their experiences and feelings. And an over focus on media and message dissemination (should we have a Facebook page? How many radio stations?) while important, is no replacement for the deeper work of developing a identity story that resonates with the people.

There is a lot of articles online sharing the state of media in Singapore. This one is very interesting. "Impending crunch on New Media?"

New media is not new to the government, they have ignored it much in the past, and tried to control the messages, and today, they are still trying to do so. I feel that the media landscape have changed with the times. To engage people today, the keyword is trust and transparency. Information gets around very quickly and the more "secret" the leaked information is, the more easy it gets viral.

I feel that if the government really wants to engage the public in discussions and move together forward into the future, the media should be more transparent and less controlled. The attempts of their very own "Astro-turfing" has to end and people should be allowed to air their views -- both positive and negative -- in a constructive manner which encourages discussion.

There is a lot of progress as shown by the MPs having Facebook pages, but there should be more willingness to open up, especially to allow feedback (A lot of feedback channels are still blocked on social media.) Addressing the feedback on the channels transparently will also create a positive effect as it show that the government is acting and listening to the public.

It is time for the nation to have a better representation of the people in parliament, after all it is a democracy, and not ALL Singaporeans are scholars (like the majority of the MPs) The ministers do not need so much qualification to run the government, but what they need is empathy, to listen and feel the challenges the public is facing. The multimillion salary also puts the minsters in gap above the average citizen that it is hard to understand their needs and one can only assume as a $15k or $4MM salary means you do not need to take even the efficient public transportation anymore.

New media is not new. The public sentiments are all there to search for, and I'm sure the government does have all the keywords the 80 - 85% who say negative things about them online. Now is the time to act and show you are here to change for a better future of Singapore -- all with the help of social media.

-- Robin Low

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