Monday, February 9, 2009

Tangled in the Internet

(Unpublished - Feb 5, 2009)

Tangled in the Internet

I refer to the recent observations by Lui Tuck Yew on the local online community.

Lui, in response to blogger opinions following the heinous attack on Seng Han Thong, has expressed shock and disappointment at such “unhelpful” and “vicious” attacks in the blogosphere.

Unsurprising it is that issues on internet content regulation and self-policing resurface.

I believe it to be a challenging task to discover and address the best form of governance in this “information age”.

Creating formal centralised systems of regulation and codes of conduct may seem misadjusted and archaic in the advent of new media communication technologies, given the possibility of challenges unforeseen and unanticipated.

I propose we turn our attention away from the search for a cure-all strategy and solution, and first understand and appreciate the structure, dynamics and aesthetics of new media communication technologies.

In this view, citizens with different opinions, or the influences of technology, should not be seen or studied in isolation.

We should depart from the mindset that isolates maverick, dissident or plain insensitive bloggers as individuals who are ungrateful or have too much time on their hands.

Our focus should rather be on the reality that these bloggers are Singaporean and are subjects of every social, political, cultural and economic process that exist in this island nation.

Local blogosphere frustration may stem from many aspects of life in Singapore, and the internet serves as a platform for the expression and sharing of views.

Such expressions are manifested in opinion pieces, personal accounts and even satire, all of which no less significant.

It is ironic given political discourse was previously restricted to the traditional political domain, but we now have alternative domains for such similar engagements in the internet. This may be indicative of the fear and lack of political representation and participation in our society. It also serves as a stark reminder that the bloggers’ ideas of regulation and policing are not coherent with the government’s.

The cyberspace burgeoning of opinions on a diversity of issues is symptomatic of modern day Singapore. This phenomenon, while thanks to improved public education, media literacy and general standards of living, serves to reflect the limitations of our political and legislative structures and institutions. In this line of thought, the blogosphere may hold the key to better governance and government.

We should also note that there still exist many other Singaporeans not privileged enough to have computers, internet access or the means to communicate their opinions.

Imagine, for instance, how vibrant (or chaotic) our blogosphere will be if every Singaporean had such a privilege. Should they be altogether downplayed or trivialised?

Ho Chi Sam

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