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.
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 cliché) 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.
Another post on education, while I can still write from the perspective of being officially in the system!
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.
My previous posts on education here.
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.
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?
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.
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.”
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.