The Blog Where We Keep You Posted
a person's attempt to make sense of his surroundings

Jul
11

With the advent of computers and subsequently the Internet, our lives between the virtual world and the real world have blurred.

The anonymity of the internet can lead people to create entirely new selves. This new identity you give yourself online can be someone totally unlike who you are in real life. For example, the website 4chan allows an internet user to post text and images annonymously on a forum board. Due to the percieved safety that one gets from a veil of annoymomity, various rude and offensive comments and images are frequently posted online, to the disgust (and sometimes humor) of others.

The infamous Goatse (WARNING: This link contains graphic descriptions, but is safe for work. The Goatse photo itself is extremely adult, disgusting and shocking. You should be at least an age of 21 if you want to view the photo. This blog will not link to any adult websites. FIND THE PICTURE AT YOUR OWN RISK!) is an extremely good example, whereby people would post links on forums that would lead to a ‘helpful’ website, but was linked to the Goatse website instead.

MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) like World of Warcraft and EVE Online allow users to create an online avatar to interact with other users in a richly detailed virtual world. The vast majority of these games either feature a fantasy or science-fiction themed world. Thus users create new identities of themselves, playing out scenarios and adventures pertaining to that world. Users of these MMORPGs lead parallel lives, one in real life, and one (or more) created personality online.

Users in these MMORPGs think that they are anonymous, and therefore unaccountable for their actions online have led to many instances of what can count for verbal harassment and assault in real life. In internet slang, this is called “trolling”. These problems have plagued World of Warcraft so much that on 9th July 2010, an official representative of their online web service Battle.net unveiled plans to release users’ real names on the forums instead.

Now this is where it gets interesting. Users of World of Warcraft went into an uproar, and even posted the real names and phone numbers of Blizzard (which is World of Warcraft’s developers) employees and their friends and families. This eventually led to Blizzard withdrawing its decision of posting the real name of users in their forums.

So you see, the users of World of Warcraft, angry about the privacies of their online personas, went up in arms and ensured that privacy was restored.

What does this say about online communities? They are afraid that the mixing of the real and online personas may be detrimental to one another. For example, a banker might not want his company to know that he plays an MMORPG, as it might be seen as unprofessional. On the other hand, a celebrity might enjoy his online persona being relatively ‘unknown’, and if his real life identity is connected to his online identity, his online identity may get harassed.

What about you, dear reader? Is your internet identity one that you would prefer to keep a secret, or do you not mind mixing the real world and the virtual world?

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Jun
27

As soccer basks in the limelight because of the World Cup, another sport suffers from scandals.

Sumo, a sport with hundreds of years of rich tradition dating back to the Japanese Edo Period, has been hit with crimes and accusations of illegal gambling.

Gambling in Japan is banned, with several exceptions. Lottery, Pachinko, and several types of sports (Horse racing, motorcycle racing and motorboat racing).

However, the news that large numbers of professional sumo wrestlers had been caught illegally gambling over baseball has rock the nation, bringing shameful tarnish to a sport associated with the country’s main religion, the Shinto Religion.

The Straits Times has also reported that at least 29 sumo wrestlers have been implicated, with most of their names remaining undisclosed. (June 27th Page 18 The Sunday Times World Section).

There has been widespread media coverage of this event, especially in Japan.

This can be seen as a real-life example of agenda-setting by the media, where the media, through repeated coverages of the event, attempts to raise the importance of the issue in the public’s mind.

An excerpt on the scandal by NHK World:

Repeated news coverage by the above news program, the Daily Yomiuri, the Japan Times, and the Mainichi Daily News all reinforce 1 point: That the Japanese media has been trying to covering this scandal extensively to create sensationalism.

Why the reason for that? Because of the long-held image that sumo is an honorable sport without corruption. The Japanese media is thus covering this scandal so extensively.Being a sumo wrestler does not only include the match itself. The entire sumo wrestler’s life is highly regimented, with various codes of conduct, and suspension or fines meted out to the and wrestler who breaks these codes.

NHK, which had been broadcasting Sumo tournaments on radio since January 1928 and live telecasts since May 1953, had been hit with over 1100 formal complaints from the public, with some demanding not to broadcast the annual 2-week tournament, which starts on July 11.

NHK’s publishing arm NHK Service Center Inc has also stopped release of the latest edition of its magazine dedicated to sumo.

Another theory can be seen from the above 2 paragraphs: the Uses and gratifications theory by Katz. The media has affected the public, and the public has responded with the complaints to stop broadcasting the sumo tournament next month.

The real-life implications of these media theories can help us in a very big way: To find out what is the best way to enhance communication., and to steer clear of events that may affect publicity negatively.

For example, having seen the outrage over this, sponsors would not want to support the sport anymore for fear of being associated to the sport’s scandals. That is exactly what sumo’s biggest sponsor Nagatanien has done; which is to pull its 12 million yen sponsorship of the Nagoya tournament.

This may lead ultimately to the last theory present in this scandal: Media hegemomy by Antonio Gramsci, that the media monopolizes the opinions of the public to suit their motives. In this case, the motive is positive: To bring illegal betting to public attention. The media has driven popular opinion to expose the illegal betting of these sumo wrestlers, and led to real life consequences such as the withdrawal of sponsorships, public outrage, and lowered approval for the sport.

Dear reader, are there any local instances of such things happening?

Jun
26

Oliver Fricker is to be sentenced to 5 months jail and 3 strokes of the cane in Singapore for trespass and vandalism, as reported by AFP.

He is one of 2 people to have allegedly broken into an MRT train depot in the Tanah Merah area.

The other, a British national, had left the country shortly after the incident happened, and an arrest warrant is out for him.

Keepingyoupostedat had previously covered the story on the MRT vandalism incident.

Vandalism is punishable by up to three years in jail or a maximum fine of 2,000 Singapore dollars (1,440 US dollars), plus three to eight strokes of a cane. Trespass is tantamount to a jail term of up to two years.

Dear reader, what do you think of this punishment? Is corporal punishment befitting of a country who wants to project an international image as a modern society, yet inflicts intense physical pain on criminal offenders?

Jun
20

Groups are a collection of individuals who interact with each other, and after time, develop shared patterns of behavior and a collective identity, as defined by Trenholm. Groups formed in many different aspects of society, as the group can have synergy, where the output of the individuals combined can have a greater effect than all the output of the individuals’ output had they been done seperately.

A very good example of group communication performing synergy is one of the various international soccer teams that are participating in the World Cup. A soccer team is made up of 11 people, which is within Edward Hall’s definition of the perfect group size of 8-12. The team is comprised of professional players to native to one country. This lends toward building a collective identity, as they are all from the same country.

Compared to an individual simply kicking a ball around, a team of 11 people have many complex group decisions to be made. The full support of the group is needed, which means that lodging, training facilities and coaching staff are all needed for the team to maintain their full potential.

As the number of members in a group increase, so do the potential problems. An example would be task vs. maintenance goals. For a soccer team, the task would be simple: to win the World Cup. However, the maintenance goals are very hard to fulfill. Firstly, the World Cup is held in South Africa, which is has a hot equatorial climate. For teams which have a cold native habitat such as the Netherlands or Germany, this takes some adjusting to. The challenge of training in a different environment with different facilities also make maintaining their standards challenging. Another example of a group problem would be groupthink. Groupthink “occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment”  Groups affected by groupthink ignore alternatives and tend to take irrational actions that dehumanize other groups.  A group is especially vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making.” as defined by Irving Janis (1972). Simply put, the group suffers from false feelings of invulnerability, and think that they can ovecome anything. They then slack and lower standards, leading to defeat. The recent 0-0 draw with England and Algeria is a prime example, whereby a clearly superior team (England, with famous stars such as Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrad) were complacent and failed to take advantage of their chances to score against Algerians, who defended with fierce tenacity.

The soccer team is a micro example of a collectivist culture. It has high interdependence with its members, relying on each other for teamwork, and a conformity to a certain standard where the objectives of each individual is the same: which is to win the match.It also means that the members work together to fulfill each other’s needs.

The soccer team also relies on high context culture to communicate, which take place in the form of restricted codes and contextual cues. Words such as “the offside trap” and a “dummy run” are used to mean to take advantage of a rule, and to create a diversion respectively. Words like those are restricted to soccer use only, and have not much of a meaning elsewhere.

So you see, group and cultural communications are prevalent everywhere, and is essential for successful communication to get things done.

Jun
13

Relationships are the basis of human communication. In fact, without first starting a relationship no matter how trivial, communication is impossible.

A relationship is started when two different persons or parties start exchanging data. The basis of a relationship is to satisfy one’s needs and goals, from something as simple as love, to more materialistic options such as money, or fame.

Relationships can be started from 2 ways: Traditional, and contemporary.

Traditional relationships are face to face and most usually consist of 2 people. Choosing a prospective relationship relies on cultural bias, sociological background and whether the other party can offer you what you want.

A real life example would be Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York. She was caught selling access to her ex-husband Prince Andrew the Duke of York, for 500,000 pounds. The video is shown below.

In the video, the reporter wants something from Sarah Ferguson (to her mistaken judgement that he wanted access to Prince Andrew when all he wanted was to expose her), and Sarah herself wants something from him: cold hard cash.

The reporter is disguised as someone who wants access to an influential member of society, and has the cash to prove it. Would she have chosen the reporter when he came to her with his true identity? Of course not. As you can see, the cultural and social information (The reporter is a fellow British, and is disguised as a well-heeled gentleman) and the psychological information of the individual (in this case, quick monetary gain) were the deciding factors in Sarah Ferguson’s decision to start the relationship.

Unfortunately for her, the whole thing was a ploy designed to expose her accepting bribes.

Contemporary relationships rely on a qualitative approach, whereby both parties focus on the quality and character of communication. This form of relationship does not strictly require 2 individuals having a face to face conversation; whole countries are currently being active participants in relationships that affect trade, economies, and many other issues.

Take for example, the international relationship between North Korea and China. Their relationships are based on similarities: Both are socialist countries, relying on authoritarian rule to control their populations. The two countries are close to the last surviving communist societies in the world, and they share a common border (thus are similar geographically.) The relationship between the two countries offer some benefits; Uncertainties and risks are reduced, as both countries have shared values and beliefs. This relationship also serves as a form of validation, to show the world that communism is not dead (much to the chagrin of the rest of the planet in general). Unfortunately, familiarity can also breed contempt.

China has been North Korea’s most important economical supporter, being its biggest source of food, arms and fuel. Ever since China sent its troops across the border to assist their North Korean allies in the Korean War, the two countries have remained steadfast allies ever since. Unfortunately, North Korea tested a nuclear ballistic program in 2006, resulting in the souring of relationships. This was due to their differences in perception. China had recently opened up economic trade, and was enjoying the new wealth and international power that the world was showering on the newly capitalist country. North Korea, however, relied on a xenophobic approach that demonized their arch-enemy, the United States of America. Thus, to North Korea, the testing of their nuclear weapon was a show of power against their enemy. The Chinese, however, saw this as a ‘spit in the eye’, causing international outrage, and possibly very real economic damage.

The final straw might be a few days ago, when 4 Chinese nationals were shot, resulting in 3 dead and 1 wounded. China has always tolerated their North Korean ally’s unpredictable actions. As a reaction to this incident, China has filed a formal complaint to its ally, and the world holds its breath to see what other actions China would take.

Would China cave in to international pressure and withdraw aid to North Korea, adding the final push to the house of cards that is the communist regime?

Dear reader, what do you think?

Would she have chosen the reporter when he came to her with his true identity? Of course not.
Jun
06

On June 5th 2010, there was a report that an MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) train was vandalized. A Singaporean train enthusiast has put up his video of the train shown below.

According to reports, a 33 year-old Swiss national had allegedly broken into the MRT train depot and spray-painted 2 cabins with graffiti.

As you can see, the graffiti was not offensive in any way. In fact, the graffiti seems to be actually quite well done and not actually provocative.

The culprit was taken into custody on May 25th, and will face charges of trespass and vandalism.

What grabbed headlines was this:

These 3 points are all interlinked with an underlying common theme; Communication affects perceptions directly in very different ways.

Perception is the process by which we make sense of the world around us. It is influenced by physiological factors such as past experiences and social factors such as the media.

The MRT management had taken almost 48 hours to report this incident to the police. What could have taken them so long? Perhaps their interpretation of the incident had something to do with it. Graffiti has become increasingly accepted in society, therefore the persons responsible simply took the graffiti as an advertisement, or a marketing gimmick. Singpost recently had a publicity stunt where 6 post boxes were openly vandalized, causing public alarm.

With this in recent memory, the theory that this graffiti was done with corporate approval is perfectly acceptable. The perception that “vandalism is a crime” had changed, thus the defaced MRT was allowed to carry on its service throughout that day.

As mentioned earlier, the non-threatening nature of the graffiti also played a factor. Had the graffiti been more vulgar and offensive, both the MRT staff and the general public would have been more alarmed.

There is a more serious reason of why a simple trespass and vandalism act has reached national headlines; A terrorist could have done it too, and it could have caused widespread damage. Why this public perception?

In 2001, several members of a terrorist organisation called Jemiah Islamiyah(JI) had been arrested in Singapore on terrorism charges. The Internal Security Department(ISD) was informed by US officers that a video was recovered in Afghanistan, with footage surveying the Yishun MRT station in Singapore. This shook the Singaporean public’s perception that terrorism was something that happened only in other less ‘stable’ countries. The previous experience of the failed plot of the terrorist bombing the MRT still remains vivid to this day, thus explaining the terrorism fears that are prevalent in this graffiti incident.

Perception is the selection, organisation and interpretation of information we receive in order to make sense of it. In Micheal Fay’s case, the American newspapers (and subsequently the American public) chose to focus and interpret on the caning, which to them seemed an outdated and needlessly violent punishment for a non-violent crime.

There is no form of public flogging (caning, whipping or otherwise) in the American justice system. With graffiti being commonplace in America, and no past experiences with caning, the American media thus chose to focus in on this seemingly barbaric punishment. His father announced that “They can’t torture young people like this and be allowed to get away with it”. Then-American President Bill Clinton even publicly asked for leniency, which reduced his sentence from 6 strokes to 4.

Caning, however, has been a regular sentence handed out in the Singaporean system for crimes ranging from theft to sexual assault. Corporal caning has been meted out ever since Singapore has had a justice system; it is simply a fact of life here.

Perception changes our views greatly; whether it is our public acceptance of graffiti as an art form, or our ability to link a vandalism act as a lesson in national security. Perception can make corporal punishment seem needlessly brutal, or as a way to punish criminal offenders.

What is your view on this incident, dear reader? Should the Singaporean authorities learn from past lessons, and release the Swiss suspect without corporal punishment? Or should Singapore’s judicial system continue to mete out punishment impartially, even in the face of international uproar?

May
25

Ronny James Dio real name (Ronald James Padavona) passed away on 16th May 2010. He was one of the founding fathers of the popular musical genre we now call ‘metal’. Contrary with many other popular metal singers/guitarists, Dio did not die from substance abuse nor alcoholism. He succumbed to stomach cancer.

Dio was small in stature, but he made up for it with his commanding vocals. He attributed his powerhouse vocal talents to the correct breathing techniques he learnt while playing the French horn in his childhood years. He also attended the University at Buffalo, majoring in pharmacy, but he did not graduate. He instead focused on his musical career.

Here is one of his most popular songs, “Holy Diver”, performed by his self-named band Dio. As you can listen, the mainly guitar-riff driven song serve as the backup, and the main melody is sung  on vocals by Dio in his signature vibrato.

Dio also popularised (but did not invent) the ‘devil horns’ gesture first used in the 1980s. Erroneously assumed by the general public that the gesture was a profane gesture, he stated in an interview :It’s an Italian thing I got from my Grandmother called the “Malocchio”. It’s to ward off the Evil Eye or to give the Evil Eye, depending on which way you do it. It’s just a symbol but it had magical incantations and attitudes to it and I felt it worked very well with Sabbath. So I became very noted for it and then everybody else started to pick up on it and away it went. But I would never say I take credit for being the first to do it. I say because I did it so much that it became the symbol of rock and roll of some kind.”

Simply put, the ‘devil horns’ gesture is performed when the rocker emphatically appreciates the music or actions that are happening at that moment, and is communicating with the recipient of the gesture to ‘rock on’.

Thus, the sign of a culture was born. This form of gestural communication was so popular in music it even became commonplace in other genres such as pop, where even fans of Britney Spears were “throwing the horns” at her concerts.

Ronny James Dio was a multi talented-singer, songwriter, and epitomized the genre of music we now call metal.

Personally, his music reached me deeply. His throaty vocals and vivid lyrics painted a very interesting aural landscape for me to lose my thoughts in, while commuting to my school. His songs were the first few I learnt to play on drums at a time when I in emotional stress, helping me concentrate on playing music as a hobby. His music allowed me to extend my appreciation of music to genres other than radio friendly pop, to step outside my comfort zone.

I miss him dearly.

There were many, many talented people in the world who left this world before their time. Do you, dear reader, have someone you admired (whether close to you or not) to have passed away? If you have, did his/her passing inspire you to live your life with greater purpose?