20th Apr2010

Mobile Marketing Association Forum 2010: Singapore – An alternative Blog Post…

by Dorothy
Spent a couple of days last week at the #MMAF2010 and decided to do a different version of a blog post on the event! So here are my exceedingly Twitter centric slides below… Enjoy! 🙂
Just also wanted to give a very huge shoutout to the great team at Ricecomms for the invite & a wonderfully organized event, you can view their press releases here and here.
Really appreciated the making sure that we had power, internet ( all the essentials for Tweeting/Blogging/list of Tweeps/Speakers & what not….), standardized and clearly communicated #hashtag, and even Tweets that shared relevant links throughout the session.  Great stuff!
21st Feb2010

Social Media Sticky Behaviors – Google & Facebook

by Dorothy

One of the great things about digital is that it really helps to crystallize certain behaviors. This means visible, predictive intelligence online. One of the most sticky platforms still remains the ubiquitous Facebook, while Google is practically synonymous with search. While they both started off as very distinct entities, it seems that FB has evolved enough to actually start moving into the Search space.


Ever contemplate disabling or deactivating your Facebook account? You know what is top of mind of users when they worry aloud in the FAQ section of FB about losing their data from Farmville (or any other FB game, really!). This, instead of losing all their friends and contacts. This was a few months ago, when Farmville concerns were right at the top of the discussion topics.

It will be interesting when the games and virtual goods segment in FB grows. The question then is how this will translate in markets like South Korea, where there is an entire virtual economy flourishing. It is also a market where other global players such as Myspace, Youtube and even Google have either had to bow out or simply be content with a smaller pie of the market share. Will FB finally have enough clout to go against the likes of Cyworld?

Another question is what happens when (and if?) app revenues surpass that of Facebook?

Zynga (creator of Farmville, Mafia Wars and etc) which has 230 million monthly active users was reported to have revenues of $200 million in 2009. The WSJ says Facebook revenues could hit $710 million in 2010, so there’s still some distance between the two figures. Still, if a fair percentage of return visits are due to the addictive FB games, it remains to be seen if the gap will narrow.

Facebook: Your One stop Internet Destination

You’ve seen the stats. Early 2009, Zuckerberg quipped the most overused quotable line about how “If Facebook were a country, it would be the eighth most populated in the world, just ahead of Japan, Russia and Nigeria.”

Then, he was talking about 150 million people. It is now 2010. Techcrunch reports that Facebook now has something along the lines of about 350 million registered users, with over 175 million of them logging in daily.

That’s a whole lot of visits, a whole lot of eyeballs, a whole lot of power.

Enough power to simply change the FB layout AGAIN without word or warning. I hated it, but have since gotten used to it, since there wasn’t anything much I could really do about it (deja vu?). Everyone seems to have gotten used to the fact that we are all experimental guinea pigs, sigh and get on with our lives. And we  still keep going back to the site.

And now, FB has its sights on Google, who apparently has 800 million visitors.

“According to Web measurement firm Compete Inc., Facebook has passed search-engine giant Google to become the top source for traffic to major portals like Yahoo and MSN, and is among the leaders for other types of sites.” – Source: SF Gateï»ż

You can also read more about how FB could kill Google here. The gist is that FB and Google are complementary for now (since FB is leading all those eyeballs to Google), at least, until unique visits for FB surpass that of Google. Microsoft last cut a (non exclusive)deal with FB in the last quarter of 2009 to include real time search results from status updates, but it remains unclear where FB may run with the search pie.

What are these sites to you?

Interestingly, at least for now, Google seems to resonate more with users in terms of the serious stuff – maps, translators, finance info, useful software like chrome/earth.. versus more of a slant towards entertainment and games on Facebook.

Many people still use the Google search bar as a place to type in URLs like Facebook.com (for reasons I can never fathom.. why they can’t type it directly into the actual URL bar is beyond me).

These results below do feature a bit on the importance of mobile as well – with the mobile related and FB lite mentions.

I’m still curious as to how all this will play out and how people will respond to all/any of these changes online… What will keep people coming back for repeat visits?  Also,  with all the talk on privacy and merging of identities on various platforms,  something to explore in future posts!

13th Jun2009

Ad:Tech Singapore Thoughts: #2 Engage the Youth Keynote session

by Dorothy

Just got back from a pretty cool experience speaking at this year’s Ad:tech… the keynote panel on Engage the Youth – a direct dialogue…Starting off with some snapshots of the session!


It was a pretty lively session, from the responses on Twitter and conversations. Here’s the gang panel in discussion with Graham.


Amidst the blinding lights, waiting for the delegates to come back from coffee….


So a couple of highlights from the discussion:

Q: What do you like about digital marketing? What do you not like?

I remember saying that the one thing that I really felt didn’t quite “work” was corporate accounts following me on Twitter. I’d probably follow back if I like the brand, but if not…it just feels like going back to the old days of intrusive advertising. If I like the brand, I’d hunt them out.  This point apparently resonated with Jeremy Snyder, in his great summary of what transpired on Day 1.


The concept of Friends

… To me, it’s really not about the numbers game. The people who are in the numbers game are SEO/digital marketers on Twitter who follow 10000 random people who vaguely mention a keyword once, and have about 100 followers back (maybe other spammers“digital marketers”  who can help you “get rich quick”).

Someone asked if Gen Y measures success by how many friends you have. I sure don’t. The only people who do are the said people above…and probably the likes of Ashton Kutcher when he was in the CNN Twitter challenge.


Digital Identity

The question was whether or not digital identities were an accurate portrayal of ourselves, since marketers were probably using social profiles to try and get a sense of who you are as a person.

My answer : I (and partial mountains of psychology research that I had to trawl through for a past paper) believe that digital identities are not accurate on their own, but they could either be an extension of who we are or an aspect that may not be seen in our offline selves. True, social profiles are completely malleable online, so that people can choose to “create” their own digital identities, but the same can be said of how we pick how we speak, what we wear, how we behave, and where we choose to hang out. Impression management works the same way in real life and the digital channel.

I wish I had a photo taken with Devin and his hot pink glasses. Cool stuff. 😉



I think that advertising will move towards being invisible in the future, it will become content. Ideally content that people are searching for. If I’m looking online for the best hotel to stay while in a particular country, it says a lot if your brand is mentioned in the top post that search engines return. And no, I’m not talking about the text based ads (which I never really pay attention to anyway because they are not what I’m looking for).


Media consumption from different perspectives

Great to have fellow panelist, Devin, from Uni of Texas on the panel, with his statement that no one really reads the newspapers in the States anymore (“You’re throwing your money down the drain advertising there”, to quote him) . He also mentioned how magazines were probably 85% of advertising ( I reiterate the importance of my point about advertising as content in future). TV – no one’s watching. Malik watches TV ..but online. Did that count? he pondered aloud, to the chuckles amongst the audience.



The very tired argument about traditional v.s new/social media

Daryl & I have recorded some live Ad:tech thoughts on our newest installment of the GennY Podcast. , where we address:

  • the traditional v.s new media issue as mentioned (must there really be a distinction? I’d vote for a wholistic campaign. Just because everyone is increasingly on digital doesn’t mean you stop talking in all other channels altogether.
  • Influencers – do they need to be friends/family? (not really)
  • Reaching out to youth…
  • and finally questioning if youth are really that different?

All in all, it was a fun session. Always too short – its hard to really gleam insights when you’re pressed for time, so I do wish there had been more responses to Graham’s call for questions, both on radio and on the official Ad:tech blog. We’ve got forever now online to really respond. 🙂 Would love to hear in the comments if you have any opinions!

True, we’re mostly alpha users of the tools online and exploring the social media space, but a panel session is not much different from a focus group. Qualitative research has never been about the numbers, but more on insights and trying to find out the reasons why, how people do what they do. We all fall somewhere along the technology adoption curve anyhow, so once you have a clearer picture of that path, you can pretty much predict some possible trends for the population at large.

More Link Love:

Graham’s Pre Ad:tech interview : 28th May : on 93.8 Live on ‘How to Market to Youths’

Some good insights here! Loving the research insight on how the folks at Apple visited a sweet factory before successfully deciding to name their products in yummilicious flavours.

Part 1: Play here: [audio:http://www.dorothypoon.com/audio/938Live%20The%20Living%20Room-1010am%20to11am-28May-How%20To%20Market%20To%20Youth-p1.MP3]
Download Part 1

Part 2:

Play here: [audio:http://www.dorothypoon.com/audio/938Live%20The%20Living%20Room-1010am%20to11am-28May-How%20To%20Market%20To%20Youth-p2.MP3]
Download Part 2

Ritsa’s post has a pretty detailed commentary about the main gist of what transpired, so do check it out. She seems to have a great sense of humour and I am digging the BYT (bright young things) description. But I’ll have to say that Graham is anything but a dinosaur!

Speaker page

My other Ad:tech posts:

Pre Ad:tech thoughts: Web 2.0 & Gen Y: The Other Side of the Story
Ad:Tech Singapore Thoughts: #1 Live event Tweeting

Next up…a post on Scott Goodstein. You can stay tuned through this blog’s RSS here!

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14th Feb2009

On the Principles for a New Media Literacy: My thoughts

by Dorothy

I was pretty interested in this thread on literacy in new media that has been started in our Digital Media Across Asia class, so here are some of my thoughts on the matter. It is a topic close to home, and also adds on nicely to my earlier posts on Journalism 2.0.

The original article by Gillmor can be found in it’s entirety here. Questions posed from our prof!

Question: What is a literacy? What is Gillmor talking about?

From my interpretation, I take the meaning of literacy as being able to understand a certain subject, to be well versed to communicate about it.

Wikipedia cites literacy as “the ability to read and write, or the ability to use language to read, write, listen, and speak. In modern contexts, the word refers to reading and writing at a level adequate for communication, or at a level that lets one understand and communicate ideas in a literate society, so as to take part in that society.”

Wikipedia also portrays the problem of illiteracy as “a social problem to be solved through education.”

How this links back to Gillmor:
All of these elements are highlighted in Gillmor’s article in

  • His principles of media consumption (“reading”), Principles of media creation (“writing”)
  • Taking part (“Participation”)
  • Right at the end, Gillmor states that “If we really believe that democracy requires an educated populace, we’re starting from a deficit. Are we ready to take the risk of being activist media users, for the right reasons?” (education)

I feel that he is advocating the ‘education’ of the crowd in not just media consumption (as would have been important in the past, since all we did was largely consume our media), but additionally, media creation, now that the tools are widely accessible to all. People have to learn how to digest and make sense of all the information that is presented to them from various sources, and also to use and disseminate that information responsibly. This education is not complete nor thorough, since a large number of web2.0 users are still illiterate about how best to handle the changing media landscape and channels. Some people have yet to even jump on the Web2.0 bandwagon.

2. Why would digital media be important in SG society?

Some important points for me, with regards to the situation in SG:
#1 New media tools are pulling down some walls and helping to create the possibility of deeper nonlegal accountability.
This gives every citizen a choice, and a voice. Whereas previously, complaints and grievances might have been screened by the editors of newspapers before they could make it to print, nowadays, blogs and forums give one instant broadcasting rights to air your opinions.

I like the idea of nonlegal accountability because it suggests self governance, and also implies a more mature process of communication in which we do not have to rely on laws to trust that people will say/do the right thing.

With great power, comes great responsibility (think Spiderman!)
At the same time, we have to learn to be responsible. Emotional rants online about sensitive topics are no more appropriate than discussing the same offline. Do not hide behind the computer screen and feel like this removes you from all accountability for your words. The way I see it, don’t say online what you would not feel comfortable saying in person, in public.

The conversational style that blogs adopt means that more emotions get filtered through. Read, re-read your posts to make sure that your tone of language is not overly harsh/critical/emotional. The easiest solution I can think of is when truly in doubt, get someone else to read what you’ve written and see if it elicits any warning bells.

#2 The tools of creation are increasingly in everyone’s hands + #3 We can make what we create widely accessible
Power comes from being able to control the tools of production. Singaporeans can now take their opinions online and have a worldwide audience, not just local.
This is important for us because other people around the world get access to our thoughts, and can contribute experiences of their own. We are a very young country and can learn a lot from citizens where a more mature system of democracy, or “liberal traditions” are in place. We have to be willing to admit that sometimes, what we feel and think might be myopic in the grander scale of things. Opinions from sources overseas who are distanced from any vested interests are great for getting a sense of balance.

#4 The Concept of being Collaborators
We effectively become collaborators, with anyone in the world. We can find like minded people (not just in a local context), but also off our shores. This sets up a great foundation for brainstorming, and the “education” that Gillmor advocates can finally take place.

#5 Being Skeptical + #6 Going outside the Comfort Zone
Citizens need to become aware of something other than what’s happening locally. Once there is this awareness, perspectives change. It may lead to perhaps more demands on accountability and transparancy, more freedom of press. It could manifest in many other different ways.

If we are to move from an economy driven by mere efficiency to innovation, we need this increased sense of awareness of what is truly happening in the world. To learn how to be discerning about what we read, to understand that it is not enough to just depend on a single source for our “news”, and that combining this knowledge with other credible global sources helps to give a more balanced viewpoints, upon which we can make better decisions on.

I see digital media as a great catalyst where conversations and learning can take place for Singaporean citizens. It has always been a tricky situation whenever a “closed” or “sheltered” society opens up, because it is difficult to control how people will react to this new found freedom, and hard to trust that they are mature enough to use the power responsibly. But these are necessary risks that the government will probably have to monitor, if we are to remain viable. We are (arguably) still very comfortable with a government that we naturally turn to in times of crisis. But is it fair to ask that the government solve our problems all the time, or should we take more initiative ourselves?

Singapore simply cannot exist as a closed society, unlike some other economies of the world, because our sole resources are our people. If we want to have business dealings with our global counterparts, we need to understand more about them, and all the underlying intricacies of cross cultural communication.

Here is where digital media is great ….because (pardon the clichĂ©) the world then is truly your oyster. No one dictates what you will “learn” from this channel, nor is there a fixed set of rules that you follow. You make up the rules. You learn as much as you want to, and along the way, information is constantly added and changing, and you learn about how best to deal with all this.

This flexibility of mind, discernment, coupled with the fact that there will be increased diversity in thinking (rather than producing a whole cohort of people who think and react the same way), I believe, is one step in the right direction in the education of Singaporeans to become more competitive in this fast changing day and age.

It may not be something that we consciously want, but it is something we need.

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06th Jan2009

Bloggers’ Calendar 2009: The lowdown

by Dorothy


Bloggers Calendar 2009

Just a little project amongst ourselves that happened during December 08! For bloggers, by bloggers.

Of course, there were Web 2.0 elements, including crowdsourcing for how best to display the printed version of the calendar, the best type of paper to print the calendars on, which version of the cover to useranting about production issues…all the way to the final launch party and wrap up!

Many thanks to:
(whose idea we could not have down without),
Willy for the gorgeous photoshoots and event coverage,
(for making the web version available to all),
and Daphne for being the amazing multitasker and coordinating all logistics from start to finish!

Interestingly, this would be the first time ever that I’ve done so much liaising over a project on Plurk, but it worked really well. I’ve always been a fan of working remotely and any tool that enables that automatically gains points with me!

“The Tribe has Spoken”

The point is that in many things, you can never please everybody, but most people seem to accept that “the majority voted for (X decision)”… and I’ve heard more than one instance of that happening during this period as it is.

No story is complete without some form of intrusion advertising efforts which came in the form of an offer to sponsor the calendar from the industry. Almost immediately when the photo teasers came out on Facebook, we had an offer to sponsor the calendar by a PR company, but the crowd pretty much voted no. I’m not against sponsorship, but I do believe that it would be nice if the intent could be there right from the start, rather than what most people felt – that the company was just jumping in on a project that had already gained some traction at that point.

On another note, Digital Media advocate or not, I happen to think the physical copy of the calendar turned out really nicely. Check out the web version here!

If you’re itching to get your hands on a physical copy, email your enquiries. 🙂

A glass of white wine
Image via Wikipedia

To end off, I really like SimplyJean’s idea of turning this into a charity project (perhaps for 2010?), and from the responses, it looks like I’m not alone in this.

To 2009!

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05th Dec2008

Education 2.0/3.0 – Permission to think, Sir?

by Dorothy

Another post on education, while I can still write from the perspective of being officially in the system!

Educational Myths?

So, here are several of the educational myths that have been floating around for years. Perhaps myths is not the word that is most apt. Beliefs?

1. Asians are smarter than Westerners.
Asians score better on tests than Westerns. Almost all social psychology texts will milk this example to death. Studies have shown that just telling Westerners that they are going to take a test and be compared to Asians apparently triggers stereotype threat, and causes them to do worse on a test. Interesting.

2. Asians are less creative than Westerners.
And they typically blame it on the rote learning most Asian children are subjected to. Honestly, this is a horrible generalization. Just look at Japan. It is a world of it’s own and anyone who has ever been there and even try to figure out why half the inventions actually made it to market will testify to that. They have amazing things going on there, and they are Asian.

3. Art is only for those who cannot make it into the Science stream.
My personal pet peeve, because I see no reason why people can’t be good at both. May I point skeptics towards this recent article from the Financial Times on what the MBA curriculum looks set to incorporate in the future. Assuming that those who are accepted into an MBA program are supposed to be of a certain caliber, and assuming that those who designed the program are also not merely of average intelligence, all I ask is that the creative/art aspect gets the respect it deserves. It is not to say that one is better than the other, but I honestly believe that all disciplines are complementary, so lets drop the segregation already!

4. And of course, the age old discourse – to memorize or not to memorize, which Daryl and Mark have written on as well. If you ask me, this as a topic is exceedingly close to our hearts to generate all these thoughts amongst other Singaporeans. When I first read the RWW article, it just resonated with me, as a student. Judging from the offline conversations that I’ve had recently and all the other posts floating around in the blogosphere, I don’t think I am alone in this. We sat through a system where basically one hadhas to turn into a sponge, and the more you can get in and regurgitate later, the better, never mind if you truly understood it or not. Why else would our Chinese corrections in high school be instructions to copy the same sentence 10 times over?
(P.s Quick tip: If you tie a couple of pens together, this makes the task faster. I am proud to say I can handle up to 3 pens at one go. Align them properly to fit the lines and you’re good. Blank paper works best because then you don’t have to worry about misalignment. But I digress. 🙂 )


My point is, with the growing knowledge base of information out there, it is becoming increasingly difficult to know everything. Actually, it is not difficult, it is impossible. Yes, there should be a basic “syllabus” that all children ought to go through, but beyond that, is rote learning and memorization all that essential? I would rather be trained in the methods to help me deal with the various kinds of information, and to analyze what is out there. I cannot fathom why academic journals are sometimes written in such complex ways when the entire research finding could (and is) summarized beautifully in the abstract paragraph. I would rather be trained to be able to think and discern between a valid argument and one that is unsound.

On the flip side, I have to say that sometimes it is not good to focus too much and gripe about the fact that memorization is needed. Sometimes, it is the discipline that goes on behind it, the rigor and persistence of having to deal with and master all that material – that is the real lesson. So it is not really exactly what you are memorizing, but rather, the process that you are going through that you are supposed to learn from.

Also, not everyone has the same level of that need for cognition. And that is fine, because everyone should know themselves best and what they are comfortable with. There is no need to pressurize students into taking all sorts of creative thinking classes and try to force creativity into (or out of) them. It really does not work that way. Provide the channels, provide the tools, and those who enjoy it will naturally make use of what they have learnt. I’m also rather hesitant to box in or label what creativity does and does not entail because that seems to go against what it intrinsically stands for. Everyone can be creative in their own ways. Problem solving is creative. Producing an art work is creative. Writing a story or poem is creative. There is no one definition.

I think that the phrase, “Use it, or lose it“, pretty much sums up everything. If you are going to memorize it, make sure you use it, or it is just going to be lost. An ideal educational system for me combines the best aspects of both rote learning, and creative thinking, allowing for a fluid flexibility and hopefully creating diverse opinions amongst the student population. It is not inspiring to talk to one student, and find out that all of them think the same way. That’s great if you only want a nation of doers, but we definitely need much more than that, going into the future. It is also a psychological weakness, because you(all) become too predictable.

From the abovementioned FT article –
We do think it is important for pedagogical reasons to do something different. We need to create a little space for people, to really get people to open up and think more reflectively and critically,” says David Bach, academic director of the international MBA programme at IE business school in Madrid, and professor of strategy and economic environment.

If you want a generation of thinkers to emerge and lead the country, please provide them with space to think. Train them to think.
I don’t have to ask that you allow them to think, because, once they know how to, I believe that they are going to engage in it regardless of what anyone says.

..Your thoughts?

My previous posts on education here.

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13th Sep2008

Creativity + Censorship

by Dorothy

With a controversial title like “Daydreaming is important business“, this post combines two seemingly paradoxical worlds.

Almost every other day, I am surrounded by a lot of bland personalities in school. It’s startling, to say the least. I am grateful for the friends who still have an active mind around me. I am shocked by how much can change in a few years, in just half a year. I sense a perceptible shift in the student composition, something that I can’t quite put my finger on, but is most definitely there.

I am a dreamer; and always have been. I am also blatantly using this as an explanation for the times that I seem to be, “staring haplessly into space”, as this other article so aptly describes. Daydreaming, combined with a certain kind of control, I say it’s a powerful force.

“If your mind didn’t wander, then you’d be largely shackled to whatever you are doing right now,” says Jonathan Schooler, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “But instead you can engage in mental time travel and other kinds of simulation. During a daydream, your thoughts are really unbounded.”

Just the other day, I was musing over what a friend had mentioned about creativity. She’d gotten horrendous grades for anything “art” related all her life, and this label stuck. She thought she was absolutely uncreative- that is, until she went overseas, and discovered she was not. That she was, in fact, rather good with craft and making things with her hands. Who gave our elementary school teachers so much liberty to shape a child that way?

Back to the article on daydreaming:

What these studies all demonstrate is that proper daydreaming – the kind of thinking that occurs when the mind is thinking to itself – is a crucial feature of the healthy human brain. It might seem as though our mind is empty, but the mind is never empty: it’s always bubbling over with ideas and connections.

One of the simplest ways to foster creativity, then, may be to take daydreams more seriously. Even the mundane daydreams that occur hundreds of times a day are helping us plan for the future, interact with others, and solidify our own sense of self. And when we are stuck on a particularly difficult problem, a good daydream isn’t just an escape – it may be the most productive thing we can do.

What benefits have exploring unorthodox interests conferred?
Observation, attention to detail, being able to create and visualize links between seemingly unrelated concepts, alternative ways of thinking, a fuller appreciation of the world, and what it means to be human.

The article was interesting if only because most people associate daydreaming with a very idealistic frame of mind, and at the other end of the spectrum where practicality is concerned.

Which brings me to another issue. On the other hand, I am tired of people complaining about censorship. Rants from these people could be anything ranging from complaints that “My movie experience is ruined”, ” My government doesn’t allow this and that”, to ” Why did they have to edit (this) out”. Every single guest speaker that we have who comes from the art or film industry can expect students to question if they are ‘hindered’ by censorship issues.

Come on. Let’s be realistic. How difficult is it to get your hands on the original, unedited version? No one wants to admit it, but the chances are, you know it is relatively effortless. The point also is that our society is just not ready for certain issues either.

We could take another viewpoint. Censorship exists partially to hone your creativity. How best can you achieve what you want, and how can you find a way around the tape that has been designed to “keep you in”? If everything were legal, where would the fun be?

That is why some people have quipped that life is over after 21, because most of the things that were “illegal” because of your age… suddenly becomes mundane. The rules only constrain those that mean to break them. Some day, you’ll wake up realizing there are no boundaries except those that you set for youself. It will be a strange, exhilarating, exuberant moment. You’ll feel scared, you may choose to retreat back into the (now open) cage, or you can choose to venture out. It is an interesting benchmark, to use physical age as a criteria of maturity. It used to work, but with the new complexities of our cultural landscape, I’m not so sure.

At any rate, it’s interesting that songs are censored on radio, certain words are edited out of television shows and movies, whereas absolutely foul language in books seemingly goes undetected. The icing on the cake? I’m also quite taken aback at all the morally dubious themes running on the serials on TV Mobile, just because that is about the only television I will allow myself to be subject to-mostly to due the fact that I can’t quite escape it. So, it is alright to show families broken up, family members screaming hysterically at each other, domestic violence, infidelity, divorce, teenagers on drugs?

Don’t give me all that jazz about how art reflects society. We know it is reflexive as well. You are only perpetuating certain themes in the minds of the very impressionable public that you purport to draw up rules to protect.

In which case, since all this (acceptable but morally dubious) material is so easily accessible already, does censorship really matter then?

As for the general public, I question what you really are asking for then, since you wish to be ‘liberated’ like some of our foreign counterparts. What does true liberation entail to you?

If you are going to fight for the rights to view pieces in their full entirety, what are you going to do with it when you get it? Are you going to take it a step further and engage in debate with others? If you are just going to watch it and take nothing away from the experience, does censorship really matter to you in the end?

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22nd Aug2008

Bitten by the Senior-itis Bug

by Dorothy

Yes, I am graduating next year.

For many of my batch, it will come sooner than that, aka end of this year.

Which leaves me thinking hard about where I want to go after this.

It has been an interesting situation, to have been working when my peers were studying, and now studying when my peers are out working.
I’ve been the youngest in my class, close to the oldest in my class, which has resulted being stuck in some kind of a time vacuum or limbo, in some sense. It has been interesting, if only because it has contributed to a certain fluidity in which I ease into any position. I place markers at personal goals, and not by age. Many seniors feel compelled to do certain things by a certain time. I want to be a millionaire and retire (before 30). I want to get a job (before I graduate). There is nothing wrong with that. Just make sure that is what you want, and not something you feel compelled to do, because everybody is doing it. That’s a lame excuse, and makes you seem like sheep.

Having graduated before, the second time round should not seem as scary as the first. But come to think of it, I knew no fear when I first graduated into the working world. It was a come what may, do your best kind of attitude. And look at where it’s taken me.

System hopping
I’ve been in almost every single educational system you can think of, from the strictest, most traditional and academic kind of environment… to the fluid, relaxed and creative sanctuary and of course, institutions that fall somewhere in between. I’ve enjoyed them all to varying degrees.

I suppose the main driver that caused a super introvert like me to throw myself into a system that espoused verbal participation, was the mentality that I wanted to try out something new and break out of my comfort zone. On an aside, I believe that just like learning a foreign language, there is nothing quite as effective as throwing yourself into another country that speaks mainly that language. Only then are you forced to learn, or basically, have to deal with your handicap in various ways. Or sink.

So yes, jumping from system to system was challenging in itself. It would be the same thing each time. Coming in, having to adjust all over again, and then after a while, getting comfortable. I don’t just get comfortable, I get really comfortable. It is always fun to meet people from all walks of life and listen to them, and share with them. And then, inevitably, it is always time to leave.

Let’s get comfortable. (Just not too much)
So N was talking about being very comfortable over lunch a week ago, and I immediately disagreed verbally. Another asked why? I said anyone who is feeling comfortable is never going to move forward. You tend to get so comfortable that you see no need to move from your current position and that is dangerous. I happen to think you should allow yourself to enjoy some comfort, before telling yourself its time to go again.

That is the only way that I can be truly “comfortable” because I’ve accepted change as part of what I crave in the long run.

I guess I would just like to share this sentiment, in which the author states that,

“If the importance of your credential and the prominence with which you advertise it does not decrease with age, you are not achieving or succeeding that much in the real world. Would a successful lawyer begin a letter to a prospective client, “Dear Joe, I graduated from Columbia Law School in 1990”? Of course not. He’d hang his hat on real experiences. Al Gore’s bio on this page doesn’t even mention Vanderbilt or Harvard, two brand names most people would be eager to display. He doesn’t need to. His work speaks for itself.”

How true.

Oh, what’s in a name?
I suppose no one really wants to face the fact that unless you are from an Ivy League school, effectively, the degree that you obtain in Singapore is not that significant when viewed from a global perspective. All that trivial quibbling between the three(or four) universities locally is actually redundant. This post, “Danger in Our Education System, houses several opinions about the state of education locally.

You know, instead of forcing requiring students to go and terrorize help out at the local charitable organizations, it might just be better to have them take modules where everyone gets a chance to travel to a neighbouring country, or some variation of taking them out of their daily lives and opening their eyes. Just to put things in perspective.

If you think about it, corporations could afford to spend less on advertising that just gets lost in the clutter out there or less on their swanky designer furniture, and just pool together their insane amount of resources to help those without the means to just be able to take this trip somewhere. It is just going to translate to better(and hopefully smarter) employees in the long run.

I suppose it is not really in our culture to take a gap year of sorts, to travel the world, to see things and to experience life. This is ironic, when you think about the fact that with Globalization and all that jazz, the world is our oyster like never before. But most people will not have the luxury, but mostly not the intent to “waste” any time on this. It used to be that graduates aspired to get a job after graduation, then it became getting a job before graduation. Now, we’re working even before we graduate.

I don’t know how else to say that rushing to graduate is a worrying trend. Fast trekking to anything is a worrying trend. You can’t get much out of speeding through the learning process, because it still takes ten years to acquire expertise in any field.

Uncertainty and Ambiguity, more Friends than foes
I would also share this mock commencement speech by Mary Schmich, published by the Chicago Tribune, 1 June 1997, possibly forwarded to death, but still encapsulates so much, and of course, sells hope, something of which seniors (or most people for that matter) seem to be in short supply.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.”

It seems to me, that the people who know exactly what they want to do with their life, don’t really have much of one, because, they’ve mentally limited themselves to the one thing that they (think that they) want to do. I am not advocating a lifestyle in which you just sit around the fire and roast marshmellows. I am advocating the fact that we need to have some openness in deciding what we want to do with ourselves. Given the current times, maybe you might find yourself in a job that did not exist a mere two years, one month ago. These things slip by easily, when you’re happily doing the one thing that you knew you’ve always wanted to do, and not concurrently looking out at what is happening around you. The sooner you realize that the social landscape is now changing faster than you will ever be comfortable with, the happier you will be. The sooner you understand that people (basically, ourselves) are in general really bad predictors of what and why they are feeling, the better off you will be.

But here I am, living in the future again. Guilty as charged. I end with another quote that I distinctly remember from an IDN conference I attended more than half a decade ago, surely. Joshua Davis. He had a really awesome website that I used to frequent. It was called once-upon-a-forest and was a highly experiemental flash based experience, in the age when Flash was still considered a novelty. The only thing I remembered from the entire IDN conference was that he used to put food colouring in his eye (yes, really!), and his phrase,

“If you have one foot in the past and one in the future, then you’re pissing on the present.”

I wish I had the guts to truly live.

Some of you may be shaking your head at this “display” of idealism. Seemingly. If you must have reasons, blame it on the time of the day, on the lack of sleep.

Still, pure idealism, I don’t believe in. But the kind mixed with rationality, the force that everyone purports to align themselves with, just so they can justify their actions.
Now that, is another creature altogether.

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