Protest Cultures and Digital Dissent: Blogging

The invention of technology has transformed our lives drastically in almost every aspect. It also becomes a very versatile and powerful tool for protest movements in society. As the impact left is so enormous, it has the capability to tailor a new configuration within a society.

Speaking in Malaysia’s context, our country is a democracy, however citizens are lack of freedom of speech and restricted from questioning the Government. In addition, the local mainstream media is strictly regulated by the Government and its interest parties. Hence, the alternative media, specifically blogging, provides a chance for the public to voice out aloud, technically, and share their views on current issues or matters happening in the country. Tan and Ibrahim (2008) adduced that blogging is widely acquired due to its property that lessen the boundaries “between what is public and what is private”. It may seem alarming, but on the bright side, this platform has enabled everyone to be citizen journalist. Citizens are free to express their thoughts without obligations or limitations. It may not be entirely, but the stories and opinions written by these bloggers certainly hold a certain degree of veracity based on the surrounding occurrences.

  Image: MRT

Since the emergence of citizen journalists, critics debated against the “radical” difference between blogging and journalists. (Tan and Ibrahim, 2008) I think this discourse may be the very reason that has led more people to choose blogging as their information source. Mainstream media are under the pressure forced by the Government, whereas bloggers act independently but with risk of law enforcement for offending the Government. (Tan and Ibrahim, 2008) One of the incidents happened was during the beginning of 21st century, when the Internet was still surreal. Malaysiankini, one of the prominent online news portals today, its office was raided by the police with computer equipment seized. (Nain and Wang, 2004)

Currently, the Internet is the only medium free from regulation in Malaysia. Hence, citizens, who blogs for the purpose of speaking the truth, should be responsible towards what is written for not degrading its core value. Knowing our mainstream media is already been held in such situation, we should be more critical in utilizing this platform in a constructive manner, to ensure a better future.

References:

Nain, Z and Wang L. K (2004) ‘Ownership, Control and the Malaysian Media’ in Thomas, P. N & Nain, Z (eds) Who Owns the Media: Global Trends and Local Resistances Southbound, Penang, pp. 249-270.

Tan, J. E and Ibrahim, Z (2008) Blogging and Democratization in Malaysia: A New Civil Society in the Making SIRD, Petaling Jaya

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The Modern Global Flow

As we are so accustomed to view the world in a binary system, our mindset is socially constructed to believe that this is the natural order of things and that this is the reality. There are always only two sides in the flow of information: the dominant (centre) and the dominated (periphery). On the basis of Straubhaar’s journal article that proposes criticism against dependency theories, humans are no longer that homogenous. In fact, the current paradigm in the development global media flow is of an interdependent relationship and operates within subordinate positions. (Straubhaar, 1991)

  Image: Incubator U

Straubhaar (1991) described that there is a significant change in the role of an audience, in which from a view of a passive, dominated audience to an active audience. As transformation of culture and social institutions happen over a period of time, this certainly leads to a various dimensions of change within society. Furthermore, he asserted that audiences tend to prefer and select cultural content that is more proximate to them. However, I find this not necessarily applicable to everyone as humans are designated differently, what more living in this world full of diversity.

  Image: Ana Sofia

The advancement of technology also contributes largely to this transition as it allows new ideas and information to flow freely around the globe. (Straubhaar, 1991) In the journal article, Straubhaar indicated the “changes of technology facilitated both an increase flow of First World television programs and an increase in national production.” The emergence of this two way communication flow elevates the interconnection of networks between countries of the East and the West. As such, this occurrence can be an opportunity to stimulate a regional and sustainable growth in the economic and political trade aspect too among all countries. He also induced that the expanding world economy along with the ascendancy of industrial capitalism is one of the constituent in shaping modern societies that are able to think critically and rationally about what to do and what to believe. Today, people are not afraid to speak out and even dare to question towards the institution if the system does not work fairly.

  Image: C2C

Although the inequality in world economy is still apparent, the interdependence relationship between the Eastern and Western countries generates a positive outcome in aspects such as building diplomacy relation, pursuing economic integration and fostering cultural diversity.

Reference:

Straubhaar, J. D (1991) ‘Beyond Media Imperialism: Assymetrical Interdependence and Cultural Proximity’ Critical Studies in Media Communication, Vol. 8:1, pp. 39-59.

Government VS Media

Regulation is defined as an act of principle, rule, or law designed to control or govern conduct in a certain organization. Regulations are vital to exist in the mass media association, to ensure a balance and organized manner for the system running. Without it, the whole association would be in catastrophe with disastrous outcomes. In actual fact, regulations made can protect those who work for the media, compromising journalists, television reporters, columnists, broadcasters, producers, etc. However, I think the media scene in Malaysia is more of a form of exploitation by our very own government.

McChesney (2004) professed that “without government intervention, a healthy media system will invariably rise from the rich soil of political freedom. The government and the private media are by nature in conflict.” The incidents of the both Bersih 2.0 and 3.0 rallies would be the obvious example. The news coverage about the rally, published by most of the media, was misleading and dishonest. Most of the media outlets namely The Star, The Sun, Bernama and News Straits Times had headlines, focused more on describing the anti-government rally as “illegal” and how the police acted professionally with minimum force. They, however, did not report how the police shot tear gas into a hospital while chasing protestors with their water cannon (Shukry, 2012).

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Image: Malaysiakini

Regulations are set initially to form boundaries in the media, so as to avoid touching on sensitive issues related to racial lines, sexism, and religion or of subjects that could jeopardize the nation’s security. This matter in question can be directly linked to McChesney’s (2006) expression, which is “whose interests and what values do government communication policies encourage?” Living in a multiracial country, we ought to respect and understand others’ cultural beliefs and difference of religions. Only by having such tolerance, the citizens could lead a contented and peaceful life in a harmony country. Yet, Utusan showed the opposite as when it published a much controversial article with the headline “Apa Lagi Cina Mahu?” (What more do the Chinese want?). The daily was practically blaming the Chinese for the BN’s poor performance in the GE13. (The Malaysian Insider, 2013) It was disrepute for Utusan to come up with such distasteful backlash targeted towards a specific racial group, instead of trying to solve or at least make the matter tranquil. The action done by Utusan was a disgrace and immature, which only will cause more harm than good.

Utusan’s wrap-around front page today.  Image: The Malaysian Insider

McChesney’s further elaborated that due to the “powerful special interests, who repeatedly have done everything in their considerable power to prevent or deflect informed public participation”, the media in a way has to operate under prior restraint. As the media try to be accountable, but still they are compelled to ensure not to publish any news that are deplorable to the government. The local media now are seen much more as a propaganda tool by the government, to influence the community to only see the government in a positive light.

Shukry, A. (2012), “Bersih protesters ‘exemplary’, say international observers”, The Malaysian Insider, Malaysia, accessed 4/11/2015, http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/bersih-protesters-exemplary-say-international-observers

The Malaysian Insider (2013), “‘What more do the Chinese want?’, Utusan Malaysia asks after GE13 vote”, Malaysia, accessed 4/11/2015, http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/what-more-do-the-chinese-want-utusan-malaysia-asks-after-ge13-vote

McChesney, R (2004) ‘The Political Economy of International Communications’ in Thomas, P. N and Nain, Z (eds) Who Owns the Media: Global Trends and Local Resistances Southbound, Penang, pp.3-22.

The Rising Influence of Asian Popular Culture: The K-pop Wave

It is interesting how the perceived cultural flow is usually from the West to the East. In recent years, the resurgence of the K-pop wave, or also known as Hallyu, however defeats this structuralism, in which has further built a new transnational cultural flow in the global market. As depicted by Thussu (2000), the increasing contraflow in the international media annihilates the one-way flow of information. (Shim, 2006) One evident example can be seen is PSY, who has made a remarkable breakthrough into Hollywood with “Oppa Gangnam Style”, in which further creates uproar of the K-pop culture.

psy  Image: Carbonated TV

Shim (2006) mentioned that “globalization encourages local people to rediscover the ‘local’ that they have neglected or forgotten in their drive towards Western-imposed modernization during the past decades”. For the case of South Korea, it was more apparent in the 1990’s when the Korea music industry tried to reform the local music market with global trends. (Shim, 2006) Therefore, hybridization took place and resulted most of the current K-pop tunes that are more musically dynamic. As stated by Shim (2006), “hybridity reveals itself as new practices of cultural and performative expression” in today’s context. K-pop music does not sound traditional at all, albeit it still contains Korean features that can be identified distinctively. The usage of native language yet with an embedment of modern twist assembles the speciality in the Korean songs, thus receiving well response from many K-pop fans. Although there may be language barrier, the versatility and the culture crafted behind the song is what that appeals to the masses.

Image: Kpopped

On the other hand, one of the factors the K-pop scene has become increasingly prominent is thanks to the rise of the second generation K-pop idols namely Girl’s Generation, TVXQ, Big Bang, 2ne1, Wonder Girls, etc, who have substantially contributed Hallyu into a worldwide phenomenon. Aside from their songs that are usually upbeat and catchy, this could be because they offer a refreshing image, which their styling is quite contradictory to the mainstream American pop culture. The boy bands in Korea especially tend to carry out the “pretty boy” image and wear makeup, whereas the Americans emphasize more on masculinity.

  Image: Blog Skin

“The industrialization of the star-making process in K-pop” is also taken account for increasing the popular culture. (Shim, 2006) It is known that the K-pop industry owns a strategic and organized framework where the record labels are not just labels, but a brand on its own, which includes SM, JYP and YG. As compared to America pop, these labels place much emphasis in initiating specific properties into their idols to capture the market. Depending on the respective labels’ management, the usual practice in the K-pop industry is that these idols are required to go through a certain period of training before debuting.

  Image: Koreaboo

Just like any other music industry, South Korea has always owned its entertainment music scene even decades ago. It is only today in this digitalized world, thanks to the advanced technology; Hallyu has generated a universal audience. Typically, most assumed the West to be more trendy and hip, but K-pop manages to transform this shift in the global binarism.

Reference:

Shim, D (2006) ‘Hybridity and the Rise of Korean Popular Culture in Asia’ Media, Culture & Society Vol 28:1, pp. 25-44.

Orientalism

Based on the reading “Orientalism” by Edward Said (1979), there are three main points that he had expressed which I find thought-provoking. Thus, I would like to discuss and elaborate those points further in this blog.

First, Said (1979) stated Disraeli’s notion of East was a career for young Westerners. This statement made me question what exactly was defined as career in the latter’s perspective. Did Disraeli mean it as the Westerners’ duty to upgrade the East to be as similar as them or is it a vocation for the Westerners or blatantly objectifying the East in a certain role? It was quite startling to read this quote, in which the East was expressed as merely objects. Maybe I could be biased thinking as well, however to define a certain group of people as a career is simply revolting. Therefore, I certainly agree with Said, similar to what he mentioned in the journal article; the East is also a group of humans, who live a life rich of their own distinctive customs and cultures. This could be due to difference of context and time, but contemporary I believe we have become more educated and as we are exposed to other parts of the world, we learn that everyone is the same and deserve equal rights and treatments.

  Image: Purple Press

The second point revealed by Said (1979) is that the East was always being represented by the Orientalists. He asserted Flaubert’s labelling the East like a woman, who is weak, cannot speak for herself or express her emotions freely. This can be associated back during the ancient times when the Eastern countries were colonized mainly by the West. Holding tightly with the historical ideal “White Man’s Burden”, the Westerners presumed they have the responsibility to represent the non-white people. This is one of the reasons that leads to today’s circumstances of the binary opposition happening around the world.

  Image: Forbes

Lastly, he mentioned that the media representation has reinforced the stereotypes of how the Orients are viewed, precisely the East is often “signified as threat or danger”. As the media continuously shapes and influences the minds of society, the information given gradually may turn into an intrinsic fact. Such inadequate fabrication done will lead to more conflicts such as prejudicism and racism.

  Image: Global Education and Conflict

On a nutshell, Said (1979) concluded orientalism was actually an idea or an imagination depicted by the Westerners to set apart themselves from the rest to be in a higher status quo. In this era of modernized world, the structuralism of the West being the more superior to the East is no longer that evident. It is important to recognize that there are people who come from different cultures are different in variety ways.

Reference:

Said, E (1979) Orientalism New York, Vintage.

Global Film Beyond Hollywood

In one of the BCM 111 International Media and Communications lectures, we learned about the revolution and changes across film making and production in various movie industries. Contemporary, four of the most influential movie industries are from Hollywood, Hong Kong, Bollywood and Nollywood. No doubt, Hollywood is the prime in the film industry for its rich cultural influence over the globe. Besides, it holds record of one of the highest gross earning with multiple mega blockbusters movies known worldwide.

  Image: NYSD

Schaefer and Karan (2010) stated that more Asian film industries, particularly those of India and China, are increasingly dominating the new millennium of the global film flows instead of the Westerns. They further explain that this contra-flow phenomenon has led to the increasing glocalized content within the globalized distribution of network. As witnessed, the industry biz in Hollywood has created many adaptations of cultural influences from Hong Kong or Bollywood in movies. Some examples of these movies are such as The Rush Hour series (1998, 2001 & 2007), Slumdog Millionaire (2009), The Karate Kid (2010), etc. Interestingly, all of these film works were mostly directed and produced by the Westerners.

  Image: Astro

There are also movies that do not manifestly accentuate the typical norm of a culture, but rather just an emanation of its beliefs or values. Like what Khorana stated, crossover movies have become an emerging genre in its own right, which deliberates the unconventional value of a film deriving from various generic sources. For example, James Cameron, the director of “Avatar”, mentioned the inspiration behind this film was based on the incarnation of Hinduism; although at surface, the movie appears to be about a combat happening from two different worlds of humans and aliens (avatars) for survival. (Wadhwani, 2009)

  Image: The Hollywood Reporter

As more and more films containing foreign cultural elements are co-opted by the Hollywood industry, the term “hybridization” no longer becomes uncanny. These types of movies can cater to a wider audience in both Eastern and Western countries. Some may go against “hybridity” in films as they argue the lack of originality or the culture absorbed is only for profit making. However, I personally think this new genre in films paves a new form of creativity from the producers and provide new experience for the audiences.

References:

Karan, K and Schaefer, D. J (2010) ‘Problematizing Chindia: Hybridity and Bollywoodization of Popular Indian Cinema in Global Film Flows’ Global Media and Communication Vol 6:3, pp. 309-316

Khorana, S (2013) ‘Crossover Cinema: A Conceptual and Genealogical Overview’ in Khorana, S (ed) Crossover Cinema: Cross-Cultural Film from Production to Reception Routledge, New York, pp. 3-13.

Wadhwani, S 2009, The Religious Backdrop to James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’, CNN Travel, India, accessed 3/11/2015, http://travel.cnn.com/mumbai/play/avatar-hindu-perspective-961455