Out with the old, in with the new

In numerous essays today about media, many begin with the predictable and trite “In today’s digital age…”.

Old VS New Media

Indeed, we are living in an age where the proliferation of new media is taking over traditional media like the good ol’ radio and television.  New media is easily distributed and allows greater control among its users, as compared to old media where distribution is limited to the usual printed and broadcast media.

What used to be eons of time spent in front of the television is now converted to time spent online. Even existing TV shows are being viewed via YouTube or other downloadable video sites. With the ubiquity of new media products, we are becomingly increasingly connected, getting the latest news updates without having to flip a TV or radio channel. As a technogically unsavvy individual, I am like a fish out of water, born in the wrong era where the advent of new technology is taking the world by storm. Although I own a Blackberry, I am still clueless about its functions. Smartphones aren’t smart if the user isn’t, sad to say.

Just a few days ago, I spotted an advertisement in the TODAY paper about iTODAY on Blackberry. Many other publications like The Straits Times also have its services as an iphone application. These forms of new media are able to overcome barriers of time and accessibility. In light of the recent earthquake in Japan, throngs of people update themselves on the latest situation via their handphones. Not to forget, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are also various sources of information, which are also accessible through handheld devices.

In just a few days, Apple’s iPad 2 will be launched in Singapore. That is barely a year after the launch of its first iPad. Co-founder and Chief Executive, Steve Jobs, tells you more.

The speed at which technology develops is so quick that before one can decide on whether to buy the iPad, a newer version pops up. Functions aside, the iPad 2 is yet another electronic gadget for individuals on the go.

According to Marshall McLuhan’s (1967)  Media Determinism theory, the medium is more important than the message. He argues that ‘What’ we say is not as important as ‘How’ we deliver it. New media, through new technology, is the medium through which messages are delivered. More than before, the internet has the ability to change our experiences and affect the way we live our lives.   The widespread distribution of new media and technologies today are important tools that determine the news we receive as consumers. As such, old media are becoming mediums of messages that are losing their significance as technology continue to advance at a rapid rate.

It will only be a matter of time before traditional media will lose its foothold in today’s digital era. What do you have to say to that?

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March 27, 2011. Uncategorized. 22 comments.

Insidious Imperialism

Take a look at the pictures below.Suppose you were shopping around for a pair of shoes. As you scan the interior of (lets say, World of Sports), you come across a few brands shown above. Would you make a beeline for Li Ning? Or would you go for the other more popular brands? If you chose Li Ning, you are probably an ardent supporter of the label. Most people would go for Nike or Adidas (I know I would) because of its popularity, brought about by the revolutionary Western culture that is taking the world by storm.

This hypothetical scenario is a classic example of how brands created by the West are able to influence the choices of millions worldwide. An article from The Straits Times published on 5 March 2011 inspired me to pen this entry.

The link to the article can be found here:

ST Article

To summarize the article, Chinese brands like Li Ning and Peak are attempting to globalize their brands into the overseas markets. In order to compete with global giants, particularly those in America, Li Ning has stepped up their game to increase their likability through famous sport starlets. Having signed on players from the American National Basketball Association (NBA), Li Ning edges ahead of other Chinese brands because of the boosted credibility from well known sports players.

At the end of the day, do you think it’s possible for Chinese brands to one day dominate the market? I doubt so. Western brands are seen as far more superior than Chinese ones. “After all, many Chinese still look up to the West”, says sports products analyst Ma Gang. Although it may be too extreme to conclude that China’s culture is facing a dilution in terms of brand positioning, it still remains a fact that the Western culture has diffused across China, seizing particularly the youth who deem Nike and Adidas as cooler brands than domestic ones.

The reason why foreign sports brands are able to dominate China’s market is largely due to marketing. With larger advertising budgets of close to $2 billion, global giants are able to market their brand through various media mediums such as television and the internet. Chinese brands, on the other hand, lack big budgets to advertise globally. Through various forms of advertising like television commercials, Nike is widely recognized not only in China, but everywhere in the world. Even though Li Ning and Peak are attempting to draw crowds through celebrity endorsements, the fact that they have to make use of stars from the American NBA is a sign that the US still reigns when it comes to cultural dominance. To add on to the global marketing of sports brands, the US mass media industry is simply dominating the global mass media industry. With television programmes, movies and commercials arriving in waves, the American culture has succeded in infiltrating the global media, possibly devaluing the receiving country’s cultural values and beliefs as a result of American ‘propaganda’.

Cultural Imperialism?

Two words can be used to sum up this entire post – Cultural Imperialism. The one-way flow of international messages or media products has injected the culture of one society into another. Countries like China have been indubitably influenced by the West; the article extracted from The Straits Times serves to support my view on America’s cultural dominance. Alongside other examples of cultural imperialism, it remains an indisputable fact that the West will continue to hold its reign in the global media industry.  

Food for thought:

– Do you agree that Western countries have exerted a large amount of influence in our society today?

March 13, 2011. Uncategorized. 16 comments.

The Naked Truth

What were you thinking of when you saw this photo?

If you judged these men based on mere visual perception, you were probably unaware of the reason behind their skimpy outfit.  These men were scantily clad for a significant purpose; it is for a festival known as Hadaka Matsuri (Naked Festival), a festival held once or twice annually in Japan.

The following is a short clip of the festival which took place on 15 February 2011 at Inazawa City, Japan.

Dressed in just a g-string lookalike piece of loincloth covering the bare minimum of their private areas (mind you, it is still winter over in Japan), the festival is traditionally participated only by men. Among the thousands of nearly naked men, there is one dressed only in his birthday suit, obscured among the rest. This man, known as the Shin-otokoa, is chosen to be the absorber of all bad luck and evil deeds. Everyone desired to touch this person because the local shinto tradition believes that all misfortune will be absorbed by this naked man. (For more information on Hadaka Matsuri, click here)

Outrageous, you might think?

In a relatively conservative society like Singapore, nudity is illegal. Go bare and you will be caught by law enforcers. An excessive display of skin is also frowned upon by many, therefore it is not surprising for us to raise an eyebrow when we witness unusual festivals like this happening in other parts of the world. Such events are beyond the norm of  Singaporean culture, and by measuring our culture against the norms of another makes us guilty of ethnocentrism.  Judging another’s culture acts as a  barrier to intercultural understanding, causing us to easily misunderstand those beyond our cultural beliefs.

Just imagine, if you, as a Singaporean, migrate to Japan without prior knowledge of their history and culture. You would experience culture shock when you witness these throngs of nearly naked men parading on the streets. Your experiences in your own country’s culture cannot be brought over to unfamiliar situations to help you make sense of what is going on.

Besides ethnocentrism, anxiety and tension, there are also other intercultural barriers that impede our understanding of members of another group. These are generalizations and stereotypes. I suppose it is very natural for us in general to form stereotypes about particular groups of people based on prior understandings regarding their culture. Don’t you think that the photo above has an uncanny resemblance to sumo wrestlers as we know them?

Sumo Wrestling

With sumo wrestling being a famous sport originating from Japan, there is a high tendency for us to link the participants of Hadaka Matsuri to sumo wrestlers simply based on their similar looking outfit. We generalize that Japan is particularly famous for this culture and may perhaps draw the conclusion that this country is a very liberal society with no strict rules regarding nudity like Singapore.  Subsequently, the danger of stereotyping the Japanese as people infamous for wearing loincloths may come into play. As a result of this stereotype, what is seen as significant to the Japanese may be watered down by our perceptions. Our understanding of Japanese culture is distorted if we draw conclusions haphazardly based on generalizations and stereotypes.

In intercultural communication, we often find ourselves possessing attitudes that diminish our understanding of another culture. These barriers prevent us from objectively processing the culture of another country before judging them based on what we perceive. To remove such barriers, we have to be open minded and embrace the beauty of cultures differing from our own.

Food for thought:

Have you been guilty of judging another culture based on what is seen as not the norm in Singapore?

March 6, 2011. Uncategorized. 15 comments.