Monday, April 16, 2007

Friday, April 13, 2007

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Friday, April 6, 2007

Bonus Mission #2: Just Another Game?

With the recent rise in technology, the thin line separating the real and virtual world is consistently blurring. Nowadays, what’s virtual could very well be as real as taking a walk down orchard road or grocery shopping at Cold Storage. This is especially true for the online gaming age, which we seem to be very caught in as we indulge in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games, or MMO. In addition, the more time we spend in cyberspace and living our virtual lives, the more real the virtual world becomes to us.

Computer games today are no longer as simple as the concept of Super Mario on Nintendo but have progressed to a level of sophistication even higher than we could ever fathom. Online games today allow players to infuse their personalities and traits into the virtual world, which makes the online experience more real than just virtual. Some examples of such Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games are World of Warcraft and Second Life.

As the name of the game suggests, Second Life allows the player to bring his life into the virtual realm and literally live out his “second life” which is only separated from him by a computer screen. To many, Second Life may just be yet another online game for the gamer with too much time to waste. However, what many do not know s that Second Life is really more than just another game. What if people knew that avatars could be custom-made to look just like them and that they can take on roles or jobs which they really own in reality? What if Second Life is really the world but only trapped within the computer screen? What if real relationships can be forged and business dealings can be discussed and clinched in Second Life? Would Second Life still count as being a mere online game to help pass the time?

The truth is, Second Life is larger than life and players can see so much of themselves in the game. Second Life is an extension of one’s life. According to Steven Levy (2006), for millions around the world, a game like Second Life is “more than a game – it’s an escape, an obsession and a home.” Players can express the way they want to express their true self in the Second Life realm. The sense of repression can be released in this unique form of life. Through Second Life, players even forge social bonds and there have even been instances where players do get married in real life after getting to know each other better on Second Life. Business dealings have also been made and not only Linden dollars but also real currency have been exchanged. This is a virtual world, which transcends age, distance, and nationality. In this 3D virtual world, “[r]esidents can explore, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, create and trade items and services from one another” (Second Life, 2007).

Finally, mere computer games are made in ways in which the player’s personality does not have much opportunity to shine through. Ethics and morals are usually unheard of and the only way to behave is in accordance to the rules of the game. Second Life however, allows people’s real values and personal choices to shine through. This feature alone makes Second Life more real and adds to the human touch. With relation to the other popular Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, World of Warcraft, which “is a fantasy world, [where] the interaction between guilds and individuals relies on human choices and morals” (Steven Levy, 2007), Second Life too allows the social norms and rules in reality to be applied to the virtual world.

Thus, with so much of reality weaved into Second Life, I find it almost ridiculous to classify Second Life under the category of “just another game” because it really is so much more. In addition to it being a game, Second Life encourages freedom of expression and self-experimentation through the different ways of self-portrayal. It also doubles as a social network backed up by strong social bonds and real human relationships. It is no wonder then to see people taking their lives on Second Life so seriously. If relationships, ethics, morals, economy and so much more elements of our real world are explored through Second Life, how can we still call it “just another game”?


Second Life. (2007, April 4). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved, April 6 2007, from

Levy, S. (2007). In World of Warcraft: Is It a Game. Retrieved April 6 2007, from

Friday, March 30, 2007

QotW9: Stomp

As the world gets more heavily involved in the Internet, it is apparent that whatever people do in reality is now practiced online too. That includes news write-ups or discussions about current affairs and societal issues. The freedom people get in cyberspace however, is the power to do or say things that, given their status or qualifications, they would not have been able to carry out in reality. An example of the restrictions we have in reality is the inability to exercise free speech or make known our experiences and thoughts to the public without getting ourselves into too much trouble with the press or government. Today, to counter that, we have this amazing thing called “citizen journalism”.

Citizen journalism, also known as “participatory journalism” is termed as the act of citizens "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information" (Citizen journalism, 2007). In essence, it is about normal people like you and me playing journalists and reporting the latest happenings that could be of interest to the public. According to Gillmor (2004), this is only possible “because of new publishing tools available on the Internet”. Today, we have access to the Internet from our desktops at home, laptops when we are outdoors, and even mobile phones when we are out without a laptop. The only other thing we need for citizen journalism to take place is a platform for sharing news. With the emergence of the Internet and more social networking sites such as web logs, message boards, chat rooms, mobile computing, and Wikis, participating in citizen journalism is now made so easy that almost anyone can practice it. So much so, it has become "Every Citizen is a Reporter" (Oh, 2000).

STOMP is an example of such an online community in Singapore, which clearly shows that “[t]he Internet has enabled citizens to contribute to journalism, without professional training” (Citizen journalism, 2007). Stomp is like a chatroom and a forum as well as announcement centre merged into one. It caters to the local population and even have different sections for people with different interest areas. Some examples are “the gym” for people interested in fitness, “vain pots” for people interested in beauty and fashion, and “foodie groupie” for food lovers. With this in place, people can then report on anything at all and and have others responding or adding on to their reports or comments. Because STOMP is highly interactive, people find themselves getting involved at a higher level and start having the desire to contribute too.

In addition to getting involved, since these citizens are normal people like you and I, the reported news tend to be crafted in a more personal style taking the perspective of the witness. This makes the news very different from the “crafted” news from official organizations in the media. According to Edward M. Fouhy (1996) of the Pew Center for Civic Journalism, "It is an effort to reconnect with the real concerns that viewers and readers have about the things in their lives they care most about -- not in a way that panders to them, but in a way that treats them as citizens with the responsibilities of self-government, rather than as consumers to whom goods and services are sold. It takes the traditional five w's of journalism -- who, what, when, where, why -- and expands them -- to ask why is this story important to me and to the community in which I live?"; the news becomes less intimidating and more friendly, it becomes something we as citizens can relate to better.

Although STOMP appears to be quite an ideal form of citizen journalism for Singapore, it has potential for growth and further development. I have discovered that people talk about anything at all and sometimes, there can be not much of a focus and that read becomes a mere waste of time. Thus, I feel that perhaps moderators could monitor the reports more closely and more often to ensure smoother and more satisfying discussions as well as information update. In addition to that, more exposure could also be given to other bloggers with interesting reads instead of just focusing on the same old handful of bloggers like XiaXue and Dawn Yang. Perhaps normal citizens could have their blogs published for others to read and find out more too. The lack of freedom within STOMP prevents it from being more than what it could be.


“Citizen Journalism” (March 29, 2006) From Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Retrieved March 29, 2007, from

Gillmor, D. “We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People” (July, 2004). Retrieved March 29, 2007 from

STOMP (2006) From Singapore Press Holdings
Retrieved March 29, 2007 from

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Qotw8: Blogs – Highway to Democracy?

As we dabble in cyberspace and bring our lives to the “second life”, we engage in online chats instead of phone calls, blogs instead of written diaries, emails instead of the tradition of sending handwritten letters. With all these going on, it isn’t surprising to see serious topic of politics jumping onto the bandwagon and going online too.

The Internet today is place for everyone and reaches out to all kinds of people of all demographics and from all walks of life. Thus, it is essentially the most important tool today for anyone to get his or her message across to an audience. In the advent of the growth of cyberspace and the explosion of the Internet age, politicians and government bodies have taken the initiative to bring their campaigns as well as thoughts online to reach a wider spectrum of audience.

Although Singapore has only recently caught the “political blogging” wave, one local blogger, mrbrown, has already carved out a name for himself in the blogosphere. He is already one of the top bloggers in Singapore and is loved by many for his wit and satires poking fun at social issues as well as the government on his blog ( entitled, mrbrown: L'infantile terrible of Singapore.

The person hiding behind the pseudonym of mrbrown, is actually Lee Kin Mun. He used to write a weekly opinion colunm for the TODAY paper in Singapore but got fired after writing the article, titled "S'poreans are fed, up with progress!" with regards to the rising costs of living in Singapore. Prime Minister Mr, Lee Hsien Loong responded to this by saying that "mrbrown had hit out wildly at the Government and in a very mocking tone", and that the government had to respond to such criticsms for fear of them eventually being treated as true (mrbrown, 2007). He felt that it was not the job of journalists or newspapers to campaign for or against the Government. Also, the Government was very unhappy that mrbrown’s opinions were circulated in a mainstream newspaper rather than on his blog, which has a much narrower and more limited audience” (Giam, 2006).

Mr Brown is widely loved by Singaporeans and his podcasts “attracts some 20,000 downloads per day” (mrbrown, 2007). It was no wonder why so many Netizens held a protest in favour of Mr Brown when he was dismissed from TODAY. Fortunately, no further action was taken against mrbrown and he continues to blog and has been at it for years since his first entry on February 27, 1997.

With a citizen blogger like mrbrown contributing to insights on politics and the societal issues of Singapore, more people who seldom read the papers are now more informed of current affairs and also of the political scene in Singapore. There is no doubt that such blogs like mrbrown’s allow for more freedom of speech and discussions of poliyical issues and also increase awareness of the political scene in Singapore. But the question is, do blogs allow for greater democracy in Singapore?

It is great that citizens can air their thoughts freely in cyberspace but sadly, there is a limit to this. Citizens may be able to use their blogs for discussions of political issues or rant about how unhappy they are with the government; it seems that we can write almost anything in our blogs! However, we need to remember that our very own private blogs are also accessible to millions of people out there and who may both agree or disagree with our opinions. To have greater democracy is to have greater “political or social equality; democratic spirit” (Democracy, 2007). Blogs may give us more space to rant but it does not necessarily lead to greater democracy. People whom the government may see as a threat may still receive warnings by the government on their blogs. Recently, the government has even taken the initiative to surf citizens’ blogs and leave comments anonymously to defend the government or dissuade a blogger from thinking in a certain way.

Despite disputes over this matter of freedom of speech, citizen rights, or the government being accused of being sneaky, there really is no wrong or right to this issue. Power to the people may sound like the ideal, however, we have to acknowledge the fact that the government is after all, ultimately the one in control. Thus, another blogger, Dharmendra Yadav, has suggested self-regulation and a blogger’s code of ethics as a solution to this problem. However, “Netizens were against the idea of any sort of regulation or code of ethics on a platform which some saw as the “last bastion of truly free expression” in Singapore” (Giam, 2006).

My take on this? I just think it’s going to be very hard to strike a balance with regards to this issue of “freedom of speech”. Blogs may encourage freedom of speech, but will this freedom of speech lead to more havoc and disruption here in Singapore? Blogs may be a tiny steppingstone to bring us one step closer to greater democracy, but there is more to it than this. Will another blogger get arrested for saying something on his blog thinking that he is protected by the unspoken rule of “freedom of speech” and democracy? We’ll just have to wait and see.

As for the matter of internet election voting, I may be a little concerned about the aspects of privacy and safety. Honestly, I feel that some things, are better done the old fashioned way.


Democracy. (n.d.). Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved March 24, 2007, from website:

Giam, G. (2006). “The politics of Singapore’s new media in 2006.” Retrieved on March 24, 2007 from

Mrbrown. (2007, February 25). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 08:03, March 24, 2007, from