Media, Opinion

Revise: Mass Effect – New Media Lemmings?

This post was originally written on 10 Feb 2009 at the wordpress hosted singularity industries.

While watching Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, I came across this dialogue in Episode 24 between Motoko Kusanagi and Kuze, where Kuze explains the manipulation of the masses due to the prevalence of information via the Internet. In it, he explains in rather far fetched terms, how he intends to save them all from such a demise by fully merging with the Net.

This notion of manipulation due to a lack of media and technological literacy is also perpetuated by Cass Sunstein’s analysis of the so-called “free net” in this article: “The Internet is Making Us Stupid

While Kuze’s solution is closer to the realm of science fiction, I do think he raises valid points about how most of us are using the Internet and Technology today. In no uncertain terms, everything is a large goop of grey with no real opinions, apart from those whom we follow.

To be literate, is to understand what is happening around us, and having an opinion so that we can continue to make sense of this world that we live in. But information has changed from a prized resource into a cheapened commodity. Sure there is wisdom of the crowds, but in some aspects, we’re also facing mob mentality without really understanding why.

I suppose that’s what gotten Senior Minister of State (Information, Communications and the Arts) going apeshit over the reactions of netizens, professing disdain at our apparent lack of self-regulation.

But he does not understand that changes do not happen overnight. People conveying different thinking on the Net should not mean that we are lawless citizens, but the Singapore Government should re-look at how some of its policies really aren’t that popular or even beneficial to Singapore’s citizens. If anything, they should be glad that feedback is actually given and that they do not have a colony of lemmings. Oh wait, maybe that’s why they aren’t glad.

But as you will see from the dialogue below, if the masses begin to dig past the surface of information, and make meaning of the information they consume, interpret it in such a way that adds value to our cultures and societies, information will not be cheapened, and a much higher calling becomes clearer. For now, information is merely passed from contact to contact, but how does that affect us if we don’t start thinking for ourselves?

Motoko Kusanagi, Kuze

Motoko Kusanagi, Kuze

Kuze: “I went on a journey, just because I wanted time to reaffirm my motives, and to see whether I could execute the revolution or liberation that I had envisioned.”

Motoko: “What is this revolution you speak of?”

Kuze: “The transfer of people to a higher structure. What this means is that people should discard their rigid system, and unite with the Net.”

Motoko: “Unite with the Net?”

Kuze: “Due to the incident on the Peninsula, I began to look at life philosophically. I found a paradoxical order, exploitation by the strong, and corrupt structure. What disappointed me the most, however, was the irresponsibility. The masses didn’t try to create anything on their own, and don’t understand anything. And yet, if they find information convenient for themselves, they rush to ingest it, and are therefore manipulated. Without motives, they consume the infrastructure called the Net. Their actions may bring unintended results, but they feel no responsibility whatsoever. My revolution is also an act of revenge against such people.”

Motoko: “Revenge?”

Kuze: “I’ve always felt a disparity between my body and my mind because I’ve been a full cyborg since childhood. I’ve always wanted to discard this inconvenient body if I could and set sail for the sea of the Net. The Asian refugees gave me a reason to live. They said that my manmade face was a very good face and flattered me by saying my Ghost is expressed within it. I then realised, for the first time… that the body and the mind may be invisible, and I was able to think of myself as a human being with a physical body. However, even those people went in the direction of convenience once they encountered palatable information. It seems human beings were created to descend to lower heights from the very beginning.”

Motoko: “So how do you propose to enact your revenge?”

Kuze: “I will take the memories and ghosts of those who are connected to me away into the Net. If a nuclear bomb is dropped here, they will lose their physical bodies, but they will obtain a chance to force and evolution.”

Motoko: “What is the possibility that they can retain their individuality on the Net?”

Kuze: “That I don’t know. But as pioneers, they can become entities that enlighten those who remained in the lower structure and make them continually aware of the higher structure. In the same way man felt respect and terror toward spiritual entities in antiquity.”

Motoko: “So that’s your revenge and salvation for the ones who disappointed you.”

Kuze: “Yes, though I believe it to be a revolution.”

Culture, Opinion

Revise: Singapore, I live in a great city.

This post was originally written on 23 Jan 2009 at the wordpress hosted singularity industries.

i have a strange relationship with my country, Singapore. On one hand, i’m disheartened by the stories i read on STOMP, and on the other, there really is no place like this.

And then you read magazines like Monocle, who’ve created a one page city guide of how awesome Singapore is as a business city.

And yet, you read all the things that are wrong about Singapore, the control, the low pays, the way we just accept what our governments do and how apathetic we are that we cannot change anything.

Actually, there is as much discontent as there are about things that make Singapore a great city to live in. But I’m going to turn this one on it’s head by saying that we should change ourselves first as individuals rather than wait for circumstances.

Singapore should not be a great place because it’s got Sentosa, and upcoming integrated resort, a Singapore Flyer, and Esplanade, a small but thriving music scene, AWESOME food, nooks and crannies like Haji Lane, or the list that Monocle provided us.

It shouldn’t be a bad place because of the powers that be, the ERP we have to pay, the high cost of living, the strange employment regulations, or even the grueling and unforgiving education system we go through.

I think the intrinsic happiness and contentment comes from within ourselves. Regardless of social status, or academia, or material possessions, i think Singapore would be a great city if we were just genuinely nicer to each other. both locals and foreigners. if we had more community spirit and didn’t just look out for our own interests.


do you see what i’m driving at? money doesn’t buy happiness.. there are people who live in Nepal who lead simple lives, but yet.. they’re there for each other, they have REAL friendships and despite physical hardship.. they have something I envy.. a genuine smile from a stranger.. something that makes it seem that we aren’t alone in this world.

I hope as Singaporeans, we can be there for each other, we can be there for the rest of the world.. that Singapore as nation can smile to her children, and to the children in other parts of the world. And then not just this country, but this world won’t be such a lonely and unforgiving place.

We’re the same, can’t you see?

Affairs, Opinion

Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games: Singapore, What Do You Want?

Empty Celebrations
“An empty Celebration corner”
Image credit: Yawning Bread

Another one armed post, because my left arm is still in a cast, but also because I feel that this is an opinion I want to share, hopefully to offer a different point of view, and perhaps one that’s positive as well.

I’m going to be talking about the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games, so I’d better offer a full disclosure and disclaimer before we carry on:

“I am one of the trainers conducting the Digital Media Workshop for the athletes and coaches as part of the Culture and Education Programme (CEP), and I enter the Youth Olympic Village and interact with athletes, coaches, volunteers and people part of the organising committee on a daily basis. These opinions expressed, are my own, and are by no means affiliated to my employers or the organising committee, and based solely on my personal experience and account. My identity is fully public, and I am currently unaware of any communications directives, but I am taking a risk on my personal reputation, because I believe my opinion matters to the public discourse.”

I think there are many things to find inconvenient or uncomfortable about the Youth Olympic Games. It inconveniences us, our students are being forced to volunteer, crap food gets served, the budget blew itself by three times, we have to give way to the transport buses, there is little International coverage about the games, there is the unbalanced reporting done by our own mainstream press. Yes, these are all facts reported by alternative media in Singapore, and it really shows that the games are not as perfect as you might believe (but then again, nothing is), and definitely reasons for any concerned citizen to voice out. I myself as a contributing member of society, and the public, will of course hold the relevant parties to task by asking questions, but for the next 12 days, maybe I will just cool off.

Chinese Weightlifter
Image credit: SPH-SYOGOC/ Tan Kok Peng

I’m going to at least try to make this about the athletes who have come to Singapore to compete, who have been given the opportunity as one of the best in their sports back home, to come out here and compete with the best from other countries. To me, there’s something special about seeing so many different cultures in one venue. To learn, to compete, to know what it means to fight, do your best, and also make friends.

This is what I’ve seen when I was watching some highlights from the sports being played so far. Athletes doing their absolute best, giving their all and not giving up. Winning as individuals or teams, losing graciously but still with a fire in their eyes to improve, to make it for the next one, to know that even if they won, they are still not good enough, and want to get better. The camaraderie in teammates, the understanding that even if we’re all from different cultures, we’re all still together in one place, competing, making friends, understanding a little bit more about each other, hopefully working toward a future.

Image credit: Samuel Lin

And the excitement of the volunteers who wanted to be there! I mean, these kids WANTED to be part of the Youth Olympics! They wanted to meet athletes, they wanted to make friends, they wanted to learn, mingle, interact, share. I recognise that these volunteers are different from the ones who were forced into volunteering or making up numbers, but they are there nonetheless, and I simply think they deserve a bit more of our support.

Maybe I’m taking things a little personally. Maybe. I know once the games end, my contract would have ended, and I’ll just go back to being ‘lil old me and be my usual snarky, overly critical self again. But maybe some of this ‘Olympic’ spirit has rubbed off on me, this belief that the human race can be something greater, can work together for something good, and that every time I read a cynical comment online, it almost seems like it’s telling the athletes and youth volunteers:

“We wish you were never here. You caused so much inconvenience for us, and it would just have been simpler if the Youth Olympics never happened, or happened here.”

But like I said, maybe I’m taking things too personally, it just sounds that way when I read the comments, and I really hope I’m wrong. I hope that despite the snarky, cynical comments we make about the games, we actually still believe in the youth. Those competing, those who chose to volunteer, and that maybe even those who were forced, can actually start reaping the benefits of this experience. It really is a global forum of 3,600 youths from around the world. How many of us can claim to have experienced that? Maybe for the next 12 days, this is about them, not us.

Maybe we don’t agree with how the party was planned, maybe we don’t like the host of the party we were invited to (Or rather, it feels more like our housemates organised a house party and didn’t bother to check with us), but if the other fact to the gawdy party decorations or cheesy music, is that people are genuinely having a good time, and making friends, are we the ones shortchanging ourselves by hating so much, and not seeing it from the point of view of the party guests?

I know this is an unfair sentiment. I don’t think that if you were forced to volunteer when you didn’t want to, is by any means a justification of the powers and authorities over you to force you to do something you didn’t want to. But maybe, we can try to understand that not enough people stepped up to the plate. Maybe it would have been ideal that we would jump at the opportunity to volunteer or attend the games, but we didn’t. I know it’s not a reprieve, but it makes me ask myself that question. Why didn’t I? Why did I wait till I got a job to feel this way? I believe we share similar sentiments of not wanting to support the games at first, but to feel this support for the games is actually a recent phenomena for me as well. Now, I just want to do my part, and that’s why I’m putting this entry on the line, to get shot down by people who vehemently oppose the games.

But to those of you who are open to being a part of this, who want to see the glass as half full (instead of half empty) I just encourage you to see for yourself, the spirit and heart of the athletes, volunteers and performers. This is something the $300+ million could not buy. You ask yourself what it means to be Singaporean? Well, it doesn’t mean you do everything your government tells you to do. It means you think for yourself, and decide what it means to be a Singaporean, and what differentiates you from the rest of the world. If you’re proud of your differences, shortcomings and triumphs, I think you can be proud that you are able to help host the dreams and aspirations of youth athletes the world over, that we were chosen to be a host, whether the world is watching or not, to be someone special to someone else.

“The athletes, volunteers & colleagues i spend my time with.”
Image credit: Social Media Too!

I’m dedicating this post to you. You who wanted to be here, to be part of something bigger than yourself, who wanted to experience something special in your life, who wanted to know there’s a whole world out there, who dared to dream big, who wanted to meet someone new, who sees defeat as a natural part of life, who wants to make a difference, who believes in a future. This is for you.