low frequency : high snr

New media and internet freedom in Singapore

In Media, News, Politics on June 22, 2013 at 6:02 pm
I was recently interviewed on the phone and by email by a reporter with the People’s Daily (人民日报), the CCP’s official mouthpiece in China, regarding a special feature on new media in Southeast Asia. My experience with many past interviews I have given for Singapore-based media is that at best 5% of what I write will ever make it to the heavily edited final article. So I thought it’s a shame if I don’t put my thoughts unedited out there. They may be interesting and useful to others. So I will make it a practice to post my full answers online. Here goes:
1.  Could you please give me a big picture of the new media in Singapore? 

New media is seen as a strategic sector in Singapore and the government has taken several steps to grow the industry locally as well as attract foreign companies and talent. This is done mainly by providing financial incentives, investing in large infrastructure projects, and building up education capacity in new media.  Singapore’s Media Development Authority (MDA) has funded many research and development projects in new media to build local expertise and grow local talent, while the government has also been able to attract big international players in the field who have set up offices in Singapore. Many investments were also made to upgrade Singapore’s network infrastructure and increase residential access to high speed Internet. 

2. How does the new media influence the social, cultural and economic life in Singapore? How big is the influence? Please specify both of the positive and negative effects.

New media is identified as a key industry for growing Singapore’s knowledge economy, and as such, it is expected to have a significant impact on Singapore’s economic life going forward, along with biotechnology and more traditional money-makers, like finance, shipping, trading, and logistics. The most visible change though is social and cultural: parents increasingly send their children to study in fields with a strong connection to new media, whereas before they would favor law, medicine and engineering; the government encourages more risk-taking to spur entrepreneurship in new media, which goes counter to a traditionally risk-averse culture; citizens become increasingly outspoken on social media and more proficient in getting their message across online, contesting the domination of a traditionally tightly controlled mass media sector. 

The last point has received much attention lately in the local press and on the Internet, as a nation that has developed a culture of self-censorship, with many limitations and controls on public speech, now struggles to come to terms with the increased freedom of speech afforded by the Internet. 

A calculated risk or hubris?

In Media, Politics on June 15, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Hubris /ˈhjuːbrɪs/, also hybris, from ancient Greek ὕβρις, means extreme pride or arrogance (from Wikipedia). You would think that a Greek prime minister of all people would know the word and tread more carefully. Yet Mr. Samaras decided to shut down the national broadcasting company of Greece, i.e. the public service with perhaps the greatest ability to sway public and international opinion, at a time when the patience of Greek citizens and that of his coalition partners are already wearing thin (Greek source).

After the liberalization of the TV landscape in Greece, ERT (EPT – Ελληνική Ραδιοφωνία Τηλεόραση) has become less important than it once was, but it is still pretty much synonymous with television in the country. Not that ERT commands a huge audience, but it would be somewhat difficult to imagine a TV landscape without the state broadcaster. ERT is financed (partly or wholly, I do not know) through taxation. Not everyone in Greece is happy about paying a TV tax that is subsidizing the national broadcaster, especially with ERT not being anymore the dominant source of news and entertainment. Some would prefer not to pay. Some would be happy with a media landscape that consists of purely private broadcasters. Some harbor a deeply rooted and partly justified suspicion of all things public sector. It is a common belief, both in the country, and internationally, that the institutions comprising the Greek public sector are, let’s say, not the most efficient and productive of institutions, owing to decades of mismanagement and politically motivated job placements.

But these are all known issues that countless others have written about, even more so after Greece became synonymous with mismanagement in the public imagination, after the public debt crisis of 2009. Here is where it gets interesting: it is possible that ERT is run inefficiently and that it is overstaffed. I do not know for sure. It is also possible that the politically conservative Mr. Samaras was fed up with the current state of affairs at the broadcaster and under EU pressure to cut civil service jobs he pushed ahead with the most drastic means possible after worker unions left him with little other choice, as some commentators have argued. But no matter what your stance on the topic, I believe you will agree with me that it is impossible to shut down the national broadcasting company of a country without impinging on the ability of the media to fulfill their social role.

Errata: the configuration of networked publics on the web

In Conference, Research on December 12, 2012 at 6:14 pm

It was recently brought to my attention that an incorrect version of the paper I presented this summer at the 2012 Web Science conference at Northwestern University has been uploaded to the ACM Digital Library. The title of the paper is “The configuration of networked publics on the Web: Evidence from the Greek Indignados movement“.

There is a reason for this: the incorrect version is in fact the version that we initially submitted for inclusion in the conference proceedings earlier this year, but we quickly realised that we had made some mistakes in the interpretation of the data. We revised the paper during the conference and quickly sent the corrected version to the conference organisers who reassured us that it will be uploaded to the ACM DL. Unfortunately this hasn’t happened, so I am in touch with the organisers to try and rectify this. 

I am sure this will all sort itself out, but for our readers it is important to note that if you got the paper during the Web Science conference, or from the ACM DL, or some other online source, you may in fact have an outdated copy with errors, especially in the interpretation of the power law graphs (discussion and conclusion sections). As such, this post is aimed at a temporary fix by providing the correct final version that should have been included in the proceedings. 

Link to correct article:


Link to ACM DL entry for paper (valid for citation purposes, and hopefully to be updated soon with the correct manuscript above):



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