It is Finished!

April 30, 2007

That more or less sums it up. Thank you Mr Haines for the most intriguing set of assignments I’ve had the privilege of undertaking; I love assignments that push the envelope beyond the staid form of academic essays.



March 24, 2007

Before beginning the process of creating this weblog, it was important to understand the requirements of the blog itself. Therefore, these were some document design considerations that I had to first deliberate over:

  • Purpose of the blog (What is my intent in creating this blog?)
  • Intended audience (Who do I want to engage?)
  • Scope of content (What topics and issues are relevant to my purpose and audience?)

In addition, I also had to consider the visual representation of the information contained within my blog. As I had discussed at length in my earlier post Document Design: Blogs vs Print, I paid heed to Parker’s potential design problem areas, and ensured that this blog would be able to be read in the ‘harshest of reading circumstances’ (Parker 2003, p. 270); the white background against the black font colour ensures that there is contrast enough for the text to be read easily.

Parker (2003, p. 273) also advised several design suggestions which I implemented into this blog:

  • Avoid Multicolumn Layouts (The blog has only two columns which do not wrap text from the bottom; the main column contains the content, while the right column represents the navigation system of the blog)
  • Reduce Line Length (As it can be clearly seen, there is ‘white space’ on both sides of the blog, ensuring that readers ‘won’t have to make as many left-to-right eye movements as they scan each line of text’.)
  • Indicating New Paragraphs (Adopting a news writing style instead of a purely academic one — no more than three sentences contained within a single paragraph)
  • Using Typographic Contrast (Title text are clearly larger than the body text)
  • Add Text Hyperlinks (Included in the right column which serves as a navigation bar as mentioned above; assists readers to locate specific posts easily)

I had also considered Schriver’s document design theory when constructing the blog and developing the content – specifically ‘how readers interact with documents… on how people create meaning from the visual and verbal content’ (Schriver 1997, p. 362). This meant that my posts, while discussing Singapore-related electronic publishing isues, could not be inundated with familiar Singapore colloquialisms, which could possibly alienate non-Singaporean readers or those unfamiliar with our lingua franca (such as Singlish).

By following Nielsen’s (2005) list of top ten design mistakes, I made sure that my blog avoided most of them, other than the first two mistakes – ‘No Author Biographies’ and ‘No Author Photo’ – which were restrictions imposed by the assignment requirements.

I would like point out additional features I had implemented into the blog – the inclusion of the ‘Categories’, which are essentially tags to every post, effectively classifying them into specific types. For example, if a post contained blogging-related content, the category called ‘blogging’ would be attached to that post. If a reader clicks on the ‘blogging’ tag (as displayed in the right-hand column), the blog would display all posts with that specific ‘blogging’ tag.

I also made some design changes to the blog – specifically to the location of the introduction to blogging, and the document design discussion posts. Due to the nature and length of the posts, I placed them into separate pages, choosing not to include them into the reverse-chronological order of the blog. This was because these posts would also be good introductory posts to new readers along with the About Me (which was where I chose to include the purpose of the blog) page. This effectively avoids one of Nielsen’s (2005) design mistakes (‘Classic Hits Are Buried’).

Lastly, I also considered the tone and language used in the blog. I chose a more professional writing style while maintaining a conversational tone, in order to encourage dialogue with readers. I also chose to adopt a specific stance in regard to the issues that I had brought up, instead of simply making an objective, neutral one, which I felt would be akin to merely reading a newspaper — thus defeating the purpose of a blog that creates a dialogue between my reader and I.

While setting up a blog may a simple affair with the array of web publishing tools available, there are several document design considerations that must be addressed before it can become an effective communication tool between the author and the reader.

Singapore Sets Up RAHS System

March 23, 2007

On 19 March 2007, Channel NewsAsia ran the story of Singapore setting up a centre to pre-empt possible security threats to the nation – a system to ‘discern patterns in a complex and chaotic environment’ so that proper measures or countermeasures can be developed to circumvent them.

Dubbed RAHS, or Risk Assessment and Horizon Scanning, it is a system that will help planners, policymakers and decision makers to plan for the future by being able to sift through massive volumes of information and data far more efficiently than human analysts.

However, according to Wired News, the RAHS is ‘an even more ambitious incarnation of the Pentagon’s controversial Total Information Awareness (TIA) program — an effort to collect and mine data across all government agencies in the hopes of pinpointing threats to national security’.

The Information Awareness Office (IAO), which was in charge of developing the TIA program, was defunded in 2003 following public criticism that it could lead to a Big Brother-esque massive surveillance system. (Wikipedia 2007)

This leads us to consider of the implications that can arise due to the implementation of RAHS in Singapore. It is entirely possible that the RAHS can be used in the same manner to surveil the staggering amounts of data being transferred across the Internet. Local bloggers have been charged with sedition for racist comments posted in supposed anonymity on online forums and blogs, and now with a system that can easily mine data, perhaps we must reconsider the notion of the Internet being an alternative media for political discourse or dissent.

Source (Channel NewsAsia)
Source (Wired News)

To Blog or Not to Blog in Singapore

March 22, 2007

Alex Au, a prominent Singaporean blogger, wrote this article for the Asia Times Online, succintly describing how local bloggers and online writers have taken to the Internet as a alternative media for freedom of expression in a country where the mainstream media is government-controlled and any of hint dissent dealt with swiftly.

The results of a poll conducted by the Media Development Authority (MDA) of Singapore have shown that almost half of 15-19 year olds and 46% of 20-24 year olds maintain a blog. While most blogs are online diaries, many are also provide incisive social and political commentary. With the General Elections (GE) looming in 2006, bloggers were still wary of the Sintercom affair in 2001 when the government insisted that the politically-oriented website register itself with the MDA. Rather than open themselves to potential lawsuits, Sintercom chose to shut itself down.

However, in 2006, the increase of political coverage in blogs leading up to the 2006 GE saw no move on the MDA’s part; this inaction could possibly be due to the government’s realisation that it could little to stem the rising tide of blogging activity, short of employing the short leash it does on the mainstream media.

While so far the government has not yet employed its ‘arsenal of laws and regulations aimed at curtailing critical political commentary’ upon blogs, the freedom that local bloggers experience now might not last forever.

Therefore, if Singapore wishes to maintain its goal to be a ‘cutting-edge, knowledge-driven economy’, it must allow the leeway for digital media to flourish.


Citizen Journalism in Singapore

March 21, 2007

Singapore Angle on June 26 2006 discussed the phenomenon of citizen journalism following the upwards trend of blogging activity of political content during the 2006 General Elections.

Bernard Leong, writer of the article, states that two dimensions of blogging concerns freedom of speech and credibility of the bloggers, both of which are ‘intrinsically related’. And as I have expressed earlier in previous posts regarding the seditious bloggers, Leong (2006) states:

‘The establishment viewed the freedom of speech available in the internet as a threat. Rules and regulations are continuously reviewed and created even today… The central reason they cite for notion that bloggers are credible is that these writers hide behind the mask of anonymity.

The association of anonymity with the lack of credibility is a non-sequitur. If someone writes a trashy article, his credibility will be lowered as compared to someone who writes an articulate and well reasoned article — whether or not either writer is anonymous. Think about it this way: are you willing to trust someone who spouts vulgarities over every paragraph on his or her piece or someone who writes professionally or with social etiquette? The establishment forgets that there is a mechanism of self-correction involved in the very nature of the internet’.

Leong makes a very persuasive case about how a blog can be used in the context of citizen journalism in Singapore. This is how a blogger can attain credibility through his postings, utilising the freedom of speech through blogging as a media.

I find Leong’s notion that credibility is attached directly to the logic and reasoning of the author, his anonymity notwithstanding, very interesting. We have seen several anonymous bloggers such as Mr Wang and Mollymeek being popular and highly credible within the Singapore blogosphere, despite never having fully disclosed their identities. This speaks of maturity and discernment within the community.

Leong ends his article with an optimistic view of the future of blogging: ‘My hope is that the new media of blogging will help to raise awareness about issues and help to construct an acceptable social identity for those who want to engage in social and political debate’.


Blogging Activity Up During GE Campaigning

March 20, 2007

Channel NewsAsia reported on the heightened blog activity in the run-up to the General Elections (GE) 2006.

According to the report:

One indication was that before Parliament was dissolved, the number of blog articles on the election numbered about 20 a day.

This number doubled to more than 40 after Parliament was dissolved in the run-up to Nomination Day, and it averaged over 190 during the nine-day election campaign.

The interest has not waned even after the results, with 195 blog articles posted daily since Polling Day.
One blog received about 5,000 to 6,000 hits, double the usual number.

With Singapore providing such easy Internet accessibility, it is no wonder that we seeing this trend of blogging activity happening here.

Perhaps it is not that Singaporeans are apathetic in regard to local politics, but rather finding a suitable avenue for them to express their opinions without fear of reprisal. With almost no barrier of entry to set up a blog, a blog author can begin publishing their opinions online, inviting feedback from readers, hence creating healthy and lively political discourse.

As Goh Kheng Wee, managing director of NexLabs, said in the report:

“I think it’s the first time citizen journalism is really taking its form in the Singapore election. Of course in the last election in 2001, blogging did not exist. Citizen journalism — probably the best expression is in blogs and it was very prevalent in this election here. A lot of people took it upon themselves, felt empowered by technology to report what they see, feel, hear from each election, giving detailed accounts online with the hope of sharing that account as accurately as possible.”

We are witnessing a ‘subtle transformation’ of our political culture, as the Internet begins opening up as an alternative media for the public to discuss and to inform opinions as they would have probably not done so in the past.

I am certain that we will see this kind of blogging activity the next time the GE comes around.


Podcasting Not Allowed in Elections

March 19, 2007

Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts Dr Balaji Sadasivan announced on 3rd April 2006 that podcasting of political content would not be allowed in the 2006 General Elections (GE).

Dr Balaji said: ‘The streaming of explicit political content by individuals during the election period is prohibited under the Election Advertising Regulations. A similar prohibition would apply to the videocasting or video streaming of explicitly political content’.

There are no plans to change the law on campaigning online during an election. Dr Chee Soon Juan, Secretary-General for the opposition Singapore Democratic Party, issued a media release in response.

Despite the advent of new media technologies such as podcasting and video streaming in recent years, it has failed to take on with the Singapore government. It was reasoned that this was to ‘ensure responsible use of the internet during campaigning as the free-for-all environment of the internet is open to abuse’.

However, with the increasing accessibility of the Internet, and how it has become a primary mode of communication for many people and how they read news, surely the Singapore government must realise the untapped potential in this media for reaching voters in future.