Where an Internet Joke Is Not Just a Joke: A Summary

28 Oct

The story talks about the zero-tolerance the Chinese government has towards Internet humour and satire. The strict censorship of the mainstream media has pushed politically aware citizens to the online sphere to share their feelings and thoughts on issues concerning the State.

The writer speaks to some prominent Chinese bloggers and animators. Of note is Wang Bo, whom the writer leads of the story with. The reporter managed to get the renowned animator’s reaction to the detention of a fellow blogger, Ai Weiwei. The latter is China’s most famous contemporary artist and a government critic. The chain of events that follow after Wang got a call which notified him to Ai’s arrest highlights the clampdown of the government on social media. Wang first tried to post a message on his Weibo account (China’s equivalent of Twitter) but his message was deleted by an invisible censor within minutes. Frustrated, he worked overnight and created a 54 seconds animation clip. This went viral, but unsurprisingly, it disappeared after awhile.

Fighting the Chinese government’s censorship is an uphill task for online bloggers like Wang and Ai. Though they “cloak their messages in protective layers of irony and satire”, in a bid to slip past government censors, their postings still gets pulled off by “invisible black hands” and the blogger gets marked.

The Chinese government pours in tremendous amount of resources into patrolling the web, “tracking down unwanted content and supposed miscreants among the online population of 500 million with an army of more than 50,000 censors and vast networks of advanced filtering software”. Despite that, the online sphere is flourishing. These witty anti-government messages still spread like bushfire thanks to the 200 million Weibo population which churns out 40 million messages a day.

Still, the vocal critics show no sign of bowing down to the government. The stricter the control, the more adamant they are at bending the rules, it seems. “No place is safe anymore,” Wen says. “But whenever censorship grows, so do the opportunities for sarcasm and satire.” In fact, they have become more daring in expressing their thoughts. Wen Yunchao, an outspoken blogger who often mounts sardonic Internet campaigns in defense of free speech, even pushed the boundaries and came up with a cartoon that makes a dig at Mao Ze Dong, the revered chairman of the People’s Republic of China. The growing audacity of these online citizens demonstrates what looks to be a long-standing battle between the Chinese government and its people.

The clamp down of the Chinese government will push these political bloggers to oppose in varied ways, mostly under the veil of wit. “Censorship warps us in many ways, but it is also the mother of creativity,” says Hu Yong, an Internet expert and associate professor at Peking University. “It forces people to invent indirect ways to get their meaning across, and humor works as a natural form of encryption.”


Boosting Newspaper Circulation

21 Oct

Newspapers are said to be a dying breed and efforts need to be made to revive the industry. Things are, however, not as bleak as it seems, according to Communication Studies undergraduates.

Some 30 students from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication in Nanyang Technological University said that the end is not inevitable as there are still various ways to woo readers to pick up a copy of the newspaper.

In a discussion which took place during their Online Journalism class this morning, the students discussed what media companies can do to attract more readers and hence improve circulation.

A few suggested focusing on growth, such as by using incentives like free gifts and competitions to draw readers. Ms Lim Yi Han, 22, said: “It might be useful if the newspaper company offered free gifts and subsciption promotions and discounts.”

The final-year journalism student added that such exclusive promotions could help increase subscription rates as people would feel “special” as subscibers.

Others pointed out that using events such as roadshows will go far in terms of publicizing and promoting the newspaper.

Some students also noted the importance of returning back to the basic – finding out what the reader wants and delivering it to them.

This can be achieved through research and focus groups, said final-year student Ms Lei Jiahui. 

The class concluded that the situation the newspapers are in is not as dire as it is painted to be, if the right methods are employed to boost its circulation. This, however, must be done fast to prevent the industry from spiriling to destruction.

Who owns The Online Citizen

21 Oct

The Online Citizen  (TOC) is a socio-political website which serves as a community blog of Singaporeans. It endeavours to reflect the views and opinions of ordinary Singaporeans and welcomes contribution of articles from any Singaporean that has a view to share. The blog often carry anti-government sentiments.

On its Facebook page, TOC describes itself as “just a bunch of blogivists (bloggers + activists). Don’t shoot us!” Started in December 2006 as a community blog, the website soon gained popularity and attracted much attention from Singaporeans who were thirsty to find out news stories that were not covered by the mainstream media. The blog is run by ‘advocacy citizen journalists’ who aim to shed light and comment on national issues and happenings.

On January 10, 2011, the site was forced to register as a political association. The government asserted that the blog was gazetted because the editors of the website “organized polls on political issues and a forum for politicians, and mounted online and offline campaigns to change legislation and government policies.”

TOC acting chief editor is Joshua Chiang, 35. The website’s co-founders are Choo Zheng Xi, 25, and Andrew Loh, 43. Mr Loh left TOC in December 2010 and has recently launched a new socio-political website, Public House. Little has been said about the men behind the largely popular website. This is, however, not very surprising as the blog is afterall a platform for discussion and political thought for Singaporeans. The blog’s articles are not solely written by these men themselves. As the administrators of the website, they edit and upload the stories that Singaporeans write in onto TOC’s website.

It is however unclear who owns TOC.

Slides for St Andrews’ Cathedral

7 Oct

St Andrews Cathedral

Done by: Lim Yi Han, Neo Wentong, Lei Jiahui

Old Brunei Hostel in one sentence

7 Oct

The group intends to feature this little-known, abandoned building which is located near Tanglin Hill and understand from the authorities what plans are in store for it.

Central Fire Station

7 Oct

This is the first and oldest fire station in Singapore. They group have looked at possible angles for this topic and these include historical and human interest. They are looking into using an audio slideshow and multimedia mashup. To do up a timeline for the fire station, they also intend to incorporate a video into their presentation. Photos will also be employed, and these will give a glimpse of some interesting things of the fire station such as the living quarters of the firemen. They will also be filming a fire activation exercise and interviewing the station spokesperson and station chief as well as old firemen who used to work at that particular station.

Alliance Francaise

7 Oct

This group is doing on the Alliance Francaise. It was founded in 1949 and started by French-speaking residents. Initially envisioned to be a school and a place for gathering but it has since evolved to be more than just that. It is also a platform for art festivals and events. The group talked about these different festivals and activities. They are focusing on the buildng’s cultural impact and significance, which I feel would be worth a look at since it is not very known in Singapore. Their multimedia packaging would include interviews, photographs and slideshow.

“In making our video, we want to get people’s perspectives and explore the building’s culture,” said Joyce.