Cultural Imperialism

It is undeniable that US media is prevalent in Singapore. As more television shows, movies and other media products are being produced in the US, the same amount of those are being introduced in our country.

With the great flow of media products from the US, I would say that Singapore can very much be associated with the “cultural imperialism” theory, which states in modern imperialism theorist point of view that it is achieved by core nations giving away media products free of charge or selling them at very low price (“give to dominate”).

If you were to watch local channels, like channel 5, you will realize the that there are a huge number of American TV shows being broadcasted.

Sure, channel 5 plays a fair share of local TV shows like The Pupil, Incredible Tales, and Crimewatch too, however, it is outshine by media products from the US. Being the true blue Singaporean I am, I feel apologetic for switching channel when a local show is being played on channel 5, but I just can’t seem to help it. That being said, the local media relies on these US TV productions to keep the channel running. They accentuate it, hence, we find ourselves adopting their culture with consistent exposures.

When I am not watching channel 5, I often find myself switching to channels on cable TV which is also highly dependent on US media with channels like Starworld, FOX, AXN, Discovery, for entertainment.

This has been a trend since my younger days, where I was already exposed to channels like Disney and Nickelodeon. Most of the cartoons that I watched were produced in the west, therefore, I dare say that I am very much influenced by the Western culture. And I believe we all are, to a certain extent, based on the language we speak, the clothes we wear, the way we behave, the way we think. It is impossible to not be influenced by the western culture.

With all the American cultural imperialism going on, does it mean that we necessarily lose our national identity or do the imports of US media products damage our cultural identities? I think not.

The impact of cultural imperialism is not always negative. It is good to keep an open mind since we have already embraced the culture. There is no harm as long as we retain our values and traditions. Moreover, with cultural imperialism, we can learn more about the other and incorporate the good of their culture into ours.

I believe that as Singaporeans, we value our roots twice as much regardless of how great the influence US media have on us.

Image source: Mediacorp, Starhub Cable TV

Reference: Unit 4 Lecture Notes


America’s Next Top Model

Mass media plays a huge role in our lives, especially at this age and time where technology is so advanced. It has a great influence in shaping people’s thoughts and ideas in both positive and negative ways.

I am an avid watcher of America’s Next Top Model (ANTM), a reality television show in which girls compete for an opportunity to start a career in the modeling industry. The show, currently in its 17th cycle was created and is hosted by Tyra Banks. As much as I love the show, it is hard to deny the fact that it glorifies skinny women. Even though plus sized models were present in the show, it is evident that models who are thin outnumber those who are plus sized, possibly bringing across to viewers the “thin is beautiful” fallacy.

Let’s take for example the winner of cycle 15, Ann Ward.

At six foot two, she probably has the smallest waist anyone has ever seen. Her waist is so tiny a man can fit his hands around it.

Earlier in the competition, a contestant, Anamaria was axed from the show for being too skinny.

According to the judges, her bony appearance was uncomfortably unhealthy and could send the wrong message to viewers. I find it ironic because Ann, in my opinion looks dangerously thin too. But for Ann’s case, Tyra insists that she is naturally thin while Anamaria “looks like she’s hurting her body”.

There are approximately 10 million Americans suffering from eating disorders and influence from mass media could be the cause for its rise. I feel that the mass media is very influential in the sense that it can sometimes drive people to do things blindly to the extent of a dangerous level like, falling prey to eating disorders just so they can be as beautiful as girls on ANTM and when the outcome reach an unacceptable level, the mass media will once again be utilized to bring awareness to the issue. This is evident in the “powerful effects theory” which states that the mass media is a very influential tool.

Another theory, the “cultivation theory” states the mass media does not influence the audience attitude directly, but cultivate it indirectly. ANTM in this case, I feel, portray to its audience the ideal body as stick thin. Having watched several cycles, I realize that the girls in the competition barely eat. As previously mentioned, most of the girls are skinny and so are most of those who emerged as winners. The cultivation theory also states that heavy viewers of  television are exposed to more violence and therefore are affected by the Mean World Syndrome. Therefore, people who watch reality shows like ANTM often are likely to be more influenced than those who do not watch as often.

As in my case, I think I adopt the “limited effects theory” which states that the audience is active with the ability to resist media messages. My watching of ANTM lies with the purpose of entertainment and surveillance, two of the four media functions identified by Charles Wright. I enjoy watching the girls “work it out” in their photo shoots, get drastic makeovers and now and then, bitch about one another. Moreover, I have learnt heaps about the fashion/modeling industry ever since I started watching the first cycle.

I admit that I have once perceived skinny to be beautiful and have harbored the thought of becoming as skinny as the models on the show. However, I am smart enough to know the effects of eating disorders and will never resort to that to achieve a skinny body. Now, instead of focusing on their thin frames, I choose to divert my focal point on other things in the show like their hairstyles and their clothes so that even if I do get influenced, I get only the positive influences.

So much being said about ANTM, am I going to stop watching the show? Well, not anytime soon.

The influence of the mass media is so powerful, it is unavoidable. But what we can try to do is to sought out media messages according to our own needs and dodge the magic bullet.

Videos: Youtube

Images: Google

Reference: Unit 4 Lecture Notes

Fans gather outside H&M store ahead of opening

all too familiar a sight?

If you were in town on the 3rd of September this year, I’m positive you would have witnessed this. In fact, if you were in town the night before, you would have spotted a queue. Armed with sweaters and bags, people in the queue were prepared to camp overnight for the opening of H&M, a swedish fashion retail-clothing company. The first five in the queue will receive a $250 gift card each and the next 300, $20 gift cards. Click here to read the full article.

From school registrations, HDB flats, NDP tickets to Hello Kitty, 4D and now H&M, Singaporeans have a reputation for queuing up for almost everything. There might be some who find it ridiculous that we enjoy “standing in line”, but what they do not know is that it is a Singapore culture. Long queues to us, indicate that whatever is at the end of the line has to be good or worth waiting for. And many a time, we find ourselves joining  queues not knowing what we are in for except the thought that since there is a queue, it must be something good. This culture of ours is shared among Singaporeans and it is what distinguishes us from others.

Culture is defined as “a template for living which tells us who we are, what groups we belong to and how we live our lives”. If you look at the picture above, you can see several caucasians onlookers, with hands on their hips probably wondering if such long queues were necessary for the opening of a new clothing store? But as a Singaporean, I totally get the reason behind people queuing up to get into the store. What is more, barriers were set up for the opening. Seems like H&M knows our culture and had expected the queues too.

Culture is passed down the generations, and we probably followed in the footsteps of our parents who probably followed in the footsteps of their parents and so on and so forth and through influences from them, friends, society and the media, the culture gradually became our template for living.

Based on the article, I feel that Singapore adopts collectivism because of certain characteristics like, our readiness to be influenced by others (people join the queue to H&M because they see others doing the same), our thriftiness (the gift cards were the main reason why people queued overnight) and conformity to the group’s requirement (everyone stood in line and followed the queue instead of just barging into the store).

The different cultures of Singapore defines who we are as Singaporeans. And that being said, I know for sure that I am a true blue Singaporean.

Because like many others, I am guilty of joining the queue at H&M too 😉

Source: Channel News Asia

Reference: Unit 4 Lecture Notes

Strangers, again

Gamble and Gamble (2005) states that the contemporary definition of interpersonal communication is “when we make personal contacts, build a connection with, and establish a relationship with another individual to satisfy our social needs and realize our personal goals.” Falling in love is part and parcel of life and we all know how important the role of communication is in a relationship.

I find this video associable with Knapp’s Model of Relational Development which describes the progression and development of relationships and has ten stages and two phases— Stages 1-5: Coming together, Stages 6-10: Coming apart.

Stage 1 of Knapp’s model is the initiating stage. In the video, we can see that both parties portray themselves as friendly people. They both engaged in light conversation instead of a deep one. They did not disclose much information about themselves (the guy did not even reveal that it was his first time running in nine months), and it was more of inquiring the possibility of developing an interpersonal relationship with the other party.

Stage 2, experimenting. The stage of “feeling each other out”. They attempt to establish a common ground through Facebook, to know more about each other, and engage in small talks, disclosing more than the initiating stage.

Stage 3, intensifying is where feelings to the other party are disclosed and they can fully express their affection for each other. There are more physical contact and increase in commitment, participation and awareness. This is evident in the video where both of them went on dates, shared ice-cream and as they confirmed their status as a couple, they have entered stage 4 which is the integrating stage.

As the relationship of both parties in the video boils down to normalcy, they have entered stage 6, the differentiating stage where the momentum, instead of “we”, becomes more individualistic. This is where the two parties get comfortable with each other (sometimes, too comfortable) and everything starts to fall apart. They were merely tolerating each other and communication is restricted to safe areas (stage 7, circumscribing).

When they reach stage 8, stagnation, this is where they go through the motions of a relationship. The joy and excitement of being in a relationship are no longer present and communication gets less. The only time they speak to each other is when they are engaged in an argument, and they have barely anything to say to each other on the phone before going to bed other than a simple “good night” whereas, they have previously so much to say to each other on the phone that they chatted until 4am. However, they are persisting to avoid the pain of breaking up.

In the video, the couple ended up going to stage 10, the terminating stage where the relationship stops completely. They move on from this relationship to the other, and in this case, the girl moved on and dated another guy. It is not entirely impossible to save the relationship when at this stage, however, things will never be the same. Things will never go back to the way they used to be.

The stages of Knapp’s Model are not linear in the sense that relationships may regress to a previous stage or skip a stage.

I feel that Knapp’s Model do not always accurately describe relationships, because every relationship differs, and many a time, it is highly dependent on the personalities and communication skills of the people involved.

Source: YouTube

Reference: Unit 3 Lecture Notes

Fear for Jobs Ignites “English Crisis” in Japan

“It’s eight in the morning in a Tokyo office building, and a dozen middle-aged Japanese businessmen sit inside small booths, sweating as they try to talk English to the instructors in front of them.”

English language is one of the main issue faced by Japan today. Even though six years of studying the language is required in middle and high school, the country is still relatively weak at it. Things, however are starting to change as more and more employers require applicants to be able to speak the language. Read the full story here.

We all know how important verbal communication is when it comes to business— when liaising with clients or within the organization. It sets the emotional tone and build relationships that ultimately reflects the effective performance of our day to day work. Verbal communication, however can sometimes lead to miscommunication if not effective and in turn hurt productivity.

To effectively communicate verbally in a business organization, the flexibility in language use and direct and specific use of language are important. In the case of Japan, although not all firms have businesses overseas, they foresee possibilities and thus, are beginning to panic. Not knowing how to speak English may cause them to potentially lose out to others, especially since the yen is strong and the lagging domestic market are prompting more firms to look overseas for business opportunities.

Language is a vessel for meaning. It shapes thoughts and perceptions. Therefore, by showing the ability to communicate well in the language (in this case, English), it reflects a positive image of him or her and their organization.

In the article, Masahide Tachibana, a 39-year-old software developer said, “I had a business trip to Amsterdam last year and that really was tough. My boss spoke no English, and I had to speak English for the first time in 10 years.” Mr. Tachibana now wakes up at 5 a.m. every morning to attend lessons at an English Language School.

The impact of language in verbal communication is extremely powerful  as it is not just about communicating thoughts, responses and ideas effectively. Rather,  it is crucial for the development of a business and forging relationships with customers and colleagues alike.

The article mentioned, “The first push came from online retailer Rakuten’s 2010 decision to make English their official language. Fast Retailing, the operator of the Uniqlo apparel chain, also wants to make English its official language by 2012 and test its employees for proficiency.” Despite the fact that some people may face issues when communicating the language, like semantics which is the interpretation of language (for example, two people of different culture background may interpret the meaning of a word differently), bypassing (misunderstanding due to misinterpretation) or slang and jargon, one cannot deny the significance of language in business communication.

It is admirable that many Japanese are taking this step towards improving their proficiency in English. It will definitely aid them in fostering good business relationships with foreign companies in the long run.

Other than verbal communication, nonverbal communication also plays a crucial role in the business world in terms of gestures, eye contacts, physical appearance and others.

I, however, feel that nonverbal communication is a piece of cake for the Japanese, as they are renowned for being wonderfully polite.

Ganbatte to all avid English learners in Japan!

Source: Yahoo! News—

Reference: Unit 2 Lecture Notes

Topman T-Shirts Accused Of Being Sexist And Glamourising Domestic Violence

See the above? Those are two T-shirts from Topman, a British clothing chain that have sparked rage from customers for its offensive slogans. The T-shirt on the left was said to be an insult to women by associating them with dogs, while the one on the right was said to have glorified domestic violence.  Read the full article here.

The reaction people have to these T-shirts are subjective and varies from person to person. On a positive side, these T-shirts are pretty amusing, but on a negative side, I find them rather offensive. Upon seeing the shirts, I questioned, why on earth would any guy or anyone even wear a shirt that says “Nice new girlfriend, what breed is she?”.  When did women turn into canines? Why associate women with dogs? But these are just my perceptions, since I select, organize and interpret the article to give it my personal meaning. While I may be influenced by social or psychological factors, I am a woman. Even though I know that I should always look at the big picture first, I do not because it’s in our nature to tend to select information that are favorable to us, sometimes consciously, sometimes subconsciously. I am not a feminist but these T-shirts are crude. They are misleading and perpetuate ignorance.

On the other hand, men (not all) would probably perceive this as making a mountain out of a molehill. Take it easy, they’d say, What’s the big deal? They might argue that these T-shirts are not necessarily targeted at women, that we are way too sensitive and that it is extremely possible for a man to say, “i’m so sorry, but i was drunk..” to another man after a fight. Yes, it is quite likely that the T-shirt on the right may not be aimed at women but the one on the left, unlikely. The words, “girlfriend” and “she” are too obvious. Moreover, linking women to dogs (or bitches), oh really?

Individual characteristics like gender can influence selection. Therefore justifying the difference in perception between men and women in this context. Other individual characteristics like past experiences, knowledge, social roles and cultural background can also influence selection. For example, women who were victims of domestic violence would be affected more by this controversy as compared to other women who had no past experiences of domestic violence. Having said that, people who are knowledgeable about domestic violence would feel that these T-shirts are insensitive as compared to others who are unaware of the issue.

Although selection is a critical aspect of perception, it can influence communication and behavior and result in perceptual errors. Topman claimed that they meant for these T-shirts to be light-hearted and humorous, but I seriously do not find making fun of the female species or domestic violence funny at all. Perhaps you may say that I am over sensitive, or that I do not get the irony, but shouldn’t Topman be more conscious over the slogans on their T-shirts since they are going to sell them internationally to people of different cultural backgrounds?

Anyhow, these T-shirts are officially “sold out” after Topman received too many negative feedbacks on them. Otherwise, I can’t imagine how messy things might get if somebody decides to produce a couple of T-shirts with displeasing slogans to direct at men. You know how they always say, “what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander”.

Source: The Huffington Post—

Reference: Unit 2 Lecture Notes

Image: Google

“was that you kissing a guy on facebook?”

The popularity of social networking tools—Facebook, Twitter, blogs have surged massively in the recent years, so much so that they have become staple communication devices to many.

The author of the article pointed out  the issue with these social networking tools that is people broadcasting their entire lives to the world and in doing so, it might affect one’s social life. the real one, that is. I feel that the author’s perception of the purpose of using these social networking tools, in particular Facebook is to wash dirty linens in public. He stated, “With the number of people using things like Facebook to stay in touch, picture of you in a drunken heap, kissing your best friend (who happens to be a guy) and exposing yourself in a packed disco will circle the globe in an instant, ruining any chance of you maintaing a dignified or attractive image.” and “First of all, sort out any incriminating photos or videos. Now these may or may not involve mid-tier branded handbags or childish tantrum-like behavior, but it any of it is borderline embarrassing or scandalous, it is probably a good idea to either delete it or lock it up so tight under various secure privacy functions that it will never see the light of day.”

Based on these two quotes, I think that his perception is influenced by his assumption of how exposed people are on Facebook because of what he has seen or experienced on the social networking site. He has adopted the perspective of a social constructionist. Indeed, many exploit Facebook as a medium to put up pictures that are not exactly always desirable, but people do utilize this social network tool for other purposes, like keeping up with friends, meeting people, joining groups of interests, playing games. The author expressed that there is no point in “showing off moments of madness from our past that have little or no bearing from who we are today” but people still do, some perhaps like the author, are “too lazy to round up every single bit of potentially embarrassing evidence”.

Yes, the showing off of one’s madness may be a hindrance. However, Facebook do not always bring negativity to one’s dating life. It just so happens that the author has difficulty keeping up with one. As such, our constructions of reality often distorts communication, making us accept culture myths and stereotypes without thinking.

In the article, the author mentioned that he is glad that “none of his friends are camwhores and he is pretty sure that there is little or no evidence of his worst encounters with the dark gods of alcohol”. This perspective points out that most of what we know and believe about the world comes to us through communication rather than through direct experience.

Communication on Facebook surrounds people and holds their world together. The author gave an account of his promising date with a quiet girl where she asked if he still clubs to which he answered not anymore, only to realize that the girl has seen recent pictures of him clubbing on Facebook. In the perspective of a social constructionist, the girl used tools (in this case,  Facebook) provided by her culture to create a collective representation of reality. His date became an unpromising one, but they still remained friends on Facebook.

Facebook, I feel, is more of a channel for individuals to establish an identity for themselves without being judged, without facing rejections that are more possible in real life interactions. They  are responsible and have absolute control over what they communicate or share.

The article portrays the excessive emphasis on the social self and places little focus on the individual self and per se, the elements that make us unique and distinctive as humans are disregarded.

It is unlikely that social networking tools, especially Facebook will recede anytime soon. So, I would suggest to embrace it because this global phenomenon is evolving and could very well be the key to discovering your Mister/Miss Right.

Source: Her World

Reference: Unit 1 Lecture Notes, “Thinking through Communication: An Introduction to the Study of Human Communication” by Sarah Trenholm