Reflections. How media can change our world.

How much is too much?


Media creating a storm?

Media creating a storm?



       Growing up in this fast-paced and ‘information-overload’ age, it gets hazy trying to decipher what is important!



and they say, "more is more"

and they say, "more is more"

I’m sorry, I beg to differ.

The theory of agenda setting function (McCombs and Shaw) states that the news media has the ability to shape our awareness and the value we place on particular issues by filtering, moulding and harping on them. This theory suggests that the media is not a true mirror of reality and creates a ‘common’ or general mindset of what is the ‘standard’ of what is important.


 Thankfully, we are not all that passive as the Powerful Effects Theory (‘Magic Bullet’ or Hypodermic Needle Theory) suggests, back in the 1920s where the media dominated the political scene.



Magic Bullet no longer in play.

Magic Bullet no longer in play.




This is stated by the Limited Effects Theory ( Uses and Gratification Theory by Herzog, 1944; Blumer and Katz, 1974)

However, selectivity of information does not mean the media has no effects on us if we are exposed to it at all. Hence the relevance of the Moderate Effects Theory in our world today–we are both in control and controlled by the media.

The agenda of the media can be set by those who control what content may be available to us. They are,


(Okay not really, I’m refering editors, media owners, photographers, etc.)

Media Hegemony as introduced by Antonio Gramsci (1971) reasons that gatekeepers are those who hold economic and political power, that is, the owners of the press. This theory is built on Karl Marx’s perspective which focuses on ECONOMIC POWER being the most important factor in interaction.

Marshall McLuhan (1967) argues that the medium in which we send out a message is more important than the message.

Should this hit national television, will the world react?

 This left me thinking, amidst all that we view as important–the economic crisis, the next president of a country, the latest fashion style, the student with the highest score in the nation, and many others, there are still people around us suffering, and these go under reported.

Perhaps there is no glamour in this.
No one with credentials to lure you to notice (ETHOS?)

Perhaps there is no reason for this.
“We can’t possibly do anything to help.” (LOGOS?)

Perhaps empathy would have been the only thing that got you to click on the link to watch this.
PATHOS worked here to make you believe that

what we see on TV is not as important as what makes us human.


We can laugh, cry and listen to what is presented to us
but if we forget
and even ignore the truth
we are no better than a box of reflectors;
no better than the box of lights that shine on us.



“The Chinese eat everything with four legs except tables—and everything that flies except airplanes”


Dog eat dog world? Nope, we just eat dogs to live

"dog-eat-dog" world? Nope, we eat dogs to live!

I love to eat dog

I love to eat dog

I love dog

I love dog


When someone asks you to eat dog meat, what do you feel? Do you feel uneasy? Perhaps disgusted or eager to try it due to its unusual value? Well, that mixture of feelings you get can be explained in the concept of ETHNOCENTRISM, that is “judging other cultures by the standards of your own, which you believe to be superior.” (taken from: on 18th October 2009, GMT+8, 1510hours)

If you are about to throw up already at the thought or sight of  cooked dogs, please scroll down and skip the next few images, taken from this really interesting site:

Yak penis going at a whopping 179 Euros

Yak penis going at a whopping 179 Euros

Donkey Penis: not a test of courage, but a treatment for the libido (to the chinese customers of course)

Donkey Penis: not a test of courage, but a treatment for the libido (to the chinese customers of course)


Was this enough to make you raise your eyebrows? :]


Different cultures uphold different values. Every culture has its own purpose, way of life and dynamics. From our point of view (interpretation of reality), how we process what we see what others do, will affect the way we communicate. Everyone would instinctively make relations and comparisons to the standards they have in mind. Since everyone interprets messages (verbal, non-verbal, written texts) according to very uniquely different criterias, the attitudinal barriers formed makes intercultural communication difficult.

In a recent post, where Keith Lin interviews Singapore director Glen Goei (read article here:, one of the point Goei made really illustrates the way different cultures mourn the dead, hence, the contrasts in what we “prefer” or give importance to.

“An Asian wake is like a soap opera – you have people playing mahjong and gossiping, relatives arguing about the religious rituals and so on. Instead of celebrating this person’s life, the wake actually becomes a social event, people catching up with each other and all that.” —Glen Goei


Mahjong during wakes?

Mahjong during wakes? 

 How will you react to such occurences? Is such behaviour appropriate? How will you behave if you attended such a funeral where mourning during the wake may be replaced with games of Mahjong or cards?

What does body art mean to you?

Is it







Everyone has their own definition of a body art, what is deviant or just tradition. Room for miscommunication has been created by the difference in culture, however, room for understanding and learning can also take place since culture can be shared and learnt!

To prevent misunderstanding through our actions or speech, one should make an effort to learn more about another’s culture. The importance of this can be illustrated on a global setting:

“Civilian relief organizations and military peacekeeping forces share common goals, and so should be natural allies. Yet, conference attendees noted, “differences in their professional cultures, the lack of familiarity with each other’s methods, and imperfect communications in the field can lead to misunderstandings or poor coordination of effort and handicap these [peacekeeping] operations.“[p. 1] Better communication would lead to better cooperation, and so more efficient operations. Conference attendees discussed a variety of specific proposals, but agreed that the key to improved communication is flexibility and trust.” (taken from:, “Managing Communications,” Peace Watch, Vol. II, No. 5 (August 1996) p. 1-2.)


Do you think that what some people do in some cultures are outrageous? Do state your stand! :]

No ONE better than a group

An all time favourite for many who love stand-up comedy!


What better way to show that the individual can still shine with other individuals! In these television series, Drew Carey the ‘host’ of the show, the three ever witty and ever silly professional stand-up comedians Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie and Wayne Brady, and another guest (also a comedian), put up a series of acts, all of which are done impromptu, with discretion, complementing each other’s signature styles of humour.

The result is a show which never fails to put a smile on the viewer!

How is it possible to create such an effective well-staged dramatic comedy when most parts of it were not scripted?

Group synergy can be felt as each of them contributed equally in their own way to make it happen. Although the idea of group synergy suggests that “groups are often more effective than the  the best individuals within them,” this comedy clearly proves that each comedian is still recognised for his/her own forte even while working together!

The issue here is whether too much spotlight has beeen given to a particular individual on screen. In my opinion, “Whose Line is it Anyway,” has well distributed the focus on everyone, and each actor has carefully maintained their roles in meeting the objectives of the task and rapport with one another, instead of DOMINATING the scene.

What if a group seems to cater to only one individual? Heres a recent video out this year:

Please do not get me wrong, I really love the music by the Pussy Cat Dolls! However, I cannot help but feel that there has been an extremely imbalanced share of spotlight! Do you know the names or remember the faces of the others other than Nicole Scherzinger?

Well, in such a music group, where everyone puts in their share of effort with their various abilities, how do you think the credits should be given? Perhaps equal weightage of recognition? Was there an equal distribution of labour? Do you think that there is social loafing in such situations? (That is, “members get “lost in the crowd” and don’t fulfill their work potential”)

I do not deny that their group has made it to the top of the music charts across the world, but feel that the group may break apart if every member is not given a chance to display their full potential. This makes me recall the many pop groups that have made their names known through fame as a group, but not as individuals! Examples include Blue, The Spice Girls, Taking Back Sunday, etc. (the list goes on!)

This goes to show that a group’s dynamics can be shaped depending on how every group member chooses to communicate and help each other. Furthermore, if the individual member fails to socialise themselves into the group which needs to maintain its standards and identity, there will be disintegration, inevitably.

Do you think that Music Videos of today fail to complement the entire group? Do share your views!

[Thanks to: Thinking Through Communication, An Introduction to the Study of Human Communication, Fifth Edition, Sarah Trenholm]

To make, rather than break


If you cannot see the person, there is no attraction! (we're leaving out cyberspace of course!)

If you cannot see the person, there is no attraction! (we're leaving out cyberspace of course!)

We’ll lead our lives without people we do not meet, and do not know. There is nothing wrong with that, in fact, it brings out an important fact in life, that is, communication takes place to create meaning between two people or more who have established at least the most basc form of contact!

After meeting,

eye contact and perhaps some simple exchanges...

eye contact and perhaps some simple exchanges...

a bond/connection is formed. That is, two people are now considered to have engaged in an interpersonal relationship!

In The Time Traveler’s Wife, a recent movie based on the novel, the idea of physical space (Proximity) is in question when it comes to the stability of a relationship! When forced apart, will their relationship continue to stand the test of time? Well, though fictional, it can be parallelled to our lives where time and space matters or does not matter at all!

Based on the idea of proximity, I am sure many have heard about the sayings, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and “Comfort breeds affection.” Should the former be correct, long-distance relationships probably will stand the test of time and space. Should the latter be correct, then being around with someone most of the time would mean the blossoming of a relationship! It is very interesting how the story was written, it actually showed the interplay of the two concepts of maintaining a relationship. I thereby believe that the balance between distancing and coming together of two people (with an established relationship) at the right time will determine if a relationship stales or sweetens.

However, proximity is not the only factor that determines the relational development of two individuals.

Here are three that are interestingly true:

1) Dissimilarity/Complementarity:
This is true as most couples end up together in the long run because of their dissimilarities that complement each other. That is, “Opposites attract.”

2) Exchange:
Imagine trade and the need to maximise benefit (even marginal ones) in the economic sense. Now try to relate this to emotions, where people actually “weigh” the prospects of getting together if they perceive certain costs or rewards(taking the form of money or emotion etc.) that may result from the relationship. 

3) Reciprocity and Liking
Giving back in return the good predispositions,signs and actions of a person. (that is, if the person treats you nicely, you have a nicer predisposition in return)

Of these 3 factors, I gather that it really depends on an individual’s personality, decision-making and the kind of social conext that they are placed in. Afterall, LOVE IS NOT A ONE-WAY TRACK BUT A TWO-WAY ONE! Reciprocity should be in play for almost anything, while exchange helps regulate and support the dissimilarities between two people.

 What are your takes on making a relationship stay strong?


“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is to love and be loved in return.”
~ From “Unforgettable with Love” by Natalie Cole

[With reference to Readings in Communication, Fall 2008 Edition, COM101: Principles of Communication, Brian Reynolds]

Playing with your mind.

Imagine a world with no COLOUR, no movement, no sounds, just words and still images. Well, that world is unimaginable to most of us blessed with the sense of sight, touch and hearing.

We need verbal communication also known as language;a rule-governed symbol system that allows its users to generate meaning and, in the process, to define reality. We too need elements of non-verbal-communication,
which is the systems that do not involve words.


It is frustrating not to have a world of verbal and nonverbal communication!

It is frustrating to have a world without verbal and nonverbal communication!

One example in which non-verbal and verbal communication can be employed to result in an impactful and persuasive message is in advertisements.

In this advertisement which won a GOLD award in Ads of the world July 2009, the message to seek assistance and pity from the viewer to help alleviate the problem which exists today, is a powerful one.

Some types of non-verbal communication used:
Paralinguistics such as sounds: the music and the crying of the baby pulls our heartstrings, making us feel both eerie and pity.
Kinesics (body movements and gestures) such as affect displays: the change from a state of calm gestures to a state of panic actions of the mother invoke in the viewer a sense of worry and concern, anticipating what is going to happen.

All these put together sure made me feel, all thanks to the careful selection of information and employment of strong evocative non-verbal techniques. I believe the video is an impactful one, and that the use of the explanation (VERBAL COMMUNICATION), complements the video which was entirely non-verbal in nature.

Fresh fish for sale, even with live ones to prove it!

Fresh fish for sale, even with live ones to prove it!

How about the recent advertisment of the chocolate everyone knows about!

Yes, it entertains, it makes you laugh, but while you laugh and re-enact the eyebrow-waves, the clever use of the colour of the chocolate wrapper, characteristic of Cadbury (seen in the clothes worn by the children), has its subliminal effect on you, priming this in your mind! That would be to form mental associations with Cadbury chocolate, such as the colours purple and silver, happiness, fun, daring, silly, comical and perhaps mischievous moments, especially those of childhood!

Did you feel the same way too after watching the video? Do you still feel that way? If yes, then the video has successfully influenced you!

This brings to light the effect media has on the masses exposed to it. Whether it uses subtle or obvious means to get its message across, it usually shapes the overall dynamics of a particular lifestyle or belief system. As much as we enjoy the advertisments we view each day, we would not know if we had been swayed to subconsciously make decisions based on the values they try to sell. Perhaps we would be aware of our unknowing tendencies should we stop and reflect upon our choices and compare them to that of society.

Do you think that the media has successfully played with our minds? (Successful use of communication!)

[Reference: Thinking Through Communication, An Introduction to the Study of Human Communication, Fifth Edition, Sarah Trenholm]

Men must toil, Women must wash the toilet

“How can a young girl run around kicking footballs all day, when she can’t make round chapati’s!”

Hilarious way to put a gender stereotype! 😀

What is it that we have to make us expect a particular behaviour each time we think of something or someone? Is it tradition or culture? Or is it the standards we set for each individual?

Do we attribute their behaviours to their circumstance, or do we attribute it to themselves (their characters)?

Well, I dare say, it has been studied that we all have mental sets, a cognitive framework for an event or interaction expected to occur–supposed to occur in chronological or sequential way, with a certain standard in mind. Also known as SCRIPTS of our cognitive schemata.

Furthermore, the PERSONAL CONSTRUCTS we have of others (that is, the representations/categories we develop based on characteristics we habitually notice) causes us to predict behaviour and shape actions. Types of personal constructs include physical attributes, social roles, interaction and pyschological traits.


Now that we know about the existence of our subconscious “guidelines of formailities” which governs our behaviour, thinking and view of others, let us analyse the next few videos, and do see which appeals to you more!


Q: Which is more desirable? Sexy is defined as?

Man in dress? Yes, thats John Trovolta!

Man in dress? Yes, thats John Travolta in a dress in the movie Hairspray!


How about a woman in a dress?

How about a woman in a dress?

Changing our scripts may not be completely possible since we cannot force ourselves to “DELETE” our memories like a computer. Instead, we form a new script of possible or acceptable cases. Hence, instead of saying,

“Nerdy is sexy”

we say,

“Nerdy is the new sexy!”   

Indicating that we still  have other available scripted definitions of sexy, only that it isn’t what we regard as the current fashionable thing.

(Disclaimer: This is just as an example: this does not apply to everyone’s individual  thinking) :]

The issue with scripts is that everyone has their own unique set of expectations. Meeting mind-to-mind with the standards is not going to be completely possible. Therefore, our assessment and interpretation of a person/situation/event/object is matched against varying benchmarks, an indication of our loophole in communication. That is, because each person sees things in a completely different view, with different set of emotions and reservations attached, there will be inevitable cases of miscommunication!


Slurping noodles is considered rude dining etiquette everywhere in the world except Japan!

Slurping noodles is considered rude dining etiquette everywhere in the world except Japan!


And how about hairy legs? Do they belong to women or men?

So grab your shavers or open your mind!


Why not we try to understand each other’s mental scripts and try to prevent miscomunication!




Should women and men have EQUAL STANDARDS?

Your viewpoints are GOLD. Let us stand up for women/men/equality!

(Adapted from Thinking Through Communication, An Introduction to the Study of Human Communication, Fifth Edition, Sarah Trenholm)


All Singaporeans out there, I am pretty sure you have read about it on the news, heard a word or two about it from your friends or perhaps chanced upon it on the internet!

For those who prefer the papers, “Who are you to LAUGH at me?” would have caught your eye in Sunday’s Lifestyle Section of the Straits Times.

Beauty Queen Miss Singapore World 2009 Ris Low (Contestant number 10)

Beauty Queen Miss Singapore World 2009 Ris Low (Contestant number 10)

“If I am feeling naughty, then I will wear something rad and loud, something, you know, ‘Boomz’, something that shouts ‘me’.”
Before one gets accused of posting this as an attempt to put her in bad light, let us shift our focus on the way the media or the audience may have perceived her due to her spoken ability in English or looks.
The Media has portrayed her in both bad and good light–bringing up voices of people which defend or put her down. The individual then undergoes the process of understanding, making sense of what others have said, the information provided and the things Ris Low herself said in the few minutes of interview by RazorTV.
We then form impressions of our own, whether it is based on logos, pathos or ethos* employed by the media, what we have learnt, our character or how we think, and our social context. For instance, a very patriotic Singaporean who is middle aged may feel that there is a greater need to select a candidate more capable of portraying the nation in good light even in beauty pageants. However, based on his/her character, he/she may think that it is necessary to relook our own language capabilities in comparison to Ris Low’s and determine if there was a need to put her down if we ourselves were not any better!
*(Aristotle belived that we can sway our audience using:
PATHOS: the abilitiy to arouse emotion
ETHOS: appeal of one’s character
LOGOS: the wording and logic of the message)
The very idea of perception makes us question the credibility in what we voice or think. Our perception is often limited, and sometimes, it is strongly influenced by what we want to see (Perceptual Bias). Francis Bacon (1561-1626) brought to light the “four idols” or distotions in the way we think and hence see things, since the beginning of the modern period.
  1. Idols of the Tribe
    referring to fallacies in thinking due to human nature
  2. Idols of the Cave
    individuals predjudices we bring because of our own backgrounds and personaltities
  3. Idols of the Marketplace
    distortions which are social in nature, and centre on imprecise use of language
    e.g. “Epic Fail”
  4. Idols of the Theatre
    fallacies that occur when we accept fashionable ideas uncritically


In any case, we must form our own impressions and perceptions, but it would be wise to back it with scientific evidences if we want to remain credible.

What are your perceptions of Miss Ris Low? Feel free to give your stand! :]

(Adapted from Thinking Through Communication, An Introduction to the Study of Human Communication, Fifth Edition, Sarah Trenholm)