Friday, February 27, 2009

Engaging e-Engagement

(Unpublished - Straits Times, Feb 25)

I read with interest the article 'Govt warms up to new media' (ST, Feb 25, 2009).

No government should ignore the possibilities and challenges presented by emerging media platforms for engaging the citizenry.

With alternative media platforms such as the internet, more citizens are able to either participate or have their interests represented in public.

This only adds to the diversity of agendas and opinions, both of which should not suffer monopolisation.

Moreover, the government has to discover meaningful ways to engage a growingly media literate society.

Not only do government messages get re-mediated in cyberspace, but their content and rhetoric are scrutinised and criticised. This has implications on citizen confidence in the government.

The internet and cyberspace content also reflect the limitations of traditional media.

Interests and issues that fall outside the frames of traditional media agenda-setting get to be articulated in this domain.

A government that is afraid of keeping its finger on the pulse of society, afraid of listening and afraid to engage the citizenry, is one that will continue to enforce restrictions on how its citizens can express themselves, provide feedback or contribute to political processes.

Reach, the feedback arm of this government, is no doubt a positive and progressive step.

Nevertheless, I stress that not every Singaporean gets to participate and be represented in either media platforms.

The underprivileged, being on the wrong end of a digital divide that requires serious attention, have either no computers or internet access.

Having not the means does not imply having not the desire to communicate their needs and interests in the public domain.

Engaging media and new media content may only mean an engagement with specific strata in Singaporean society.

As we make a step forward with the advancements in information communication technologies, we should take two steps back by allowing voices to be silenced or remain silent.

Ho Chi Sam

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