After announcing her intentions to run as an MP last week, this week’s broadcast explored the next step of the campaign narrative: conducting promotional activities.
This involved a quick meet-the-people session and guerrilla marketing tactics such as sticking posters, stickers and a surprise in public spaces.
Accompanied by an entourage of assistants and photographers, MPs (Members of Parliament) usually go from table to table at hawker centres and briefly shake hands with citizens during election season. I wanted to parody this common MP behaviour in this week’s broadcast. I shook hands with some citizens and handed out flyers, encouraging them to vote for me in the supposed upcoming election.
I realise there are some limitations which we as social broadcasters have to be mindful of. For example, it was difficult to hold the camera, flyers and stickers at the same time, while speaking and shaking hands with citizens. We also need to manage camera angles and the light direction. It’s a bit unfortunate that subtle interactions such as my handshakes with the citizens were not caught within the frame.
Furthermore, in line with Roxy’s position as a millennial politician, this week’s concept also experimented with guerrilla marketing and unconventional campaign promotion. In parallel with the Facebook live broadcasts, I experimented with other forms of internet culture and social networking by posting additional bits of (satirical) content like GIFs during the week. Not only does this help sustain interest in the project, it also helps flesh out Roxy as a character and show snippets of her unique and unorthodox campaign activities.
(This is a still of the GIF as I couldn’t embed it. Here’s the full post) The banner shows MP Chan Chun Sing who came to speak at NTU this week.
(This is a still of the GIF. Here’s the full post)
Another common MP behaviour is dancing at grassroots events. The dancing style is rather reserved, and MPs appear to be dancing out of obligation.
Surrounding the theme of unconventional marketing, this week’s broadcast was done as 2 mini-broadcasts.
Here’s part 1:
Beautifying public spaces with my face and first impromptu meet-the-ppl session. You're welcome NTU 🙂
Recently, one of the largest news topics in Singapore has been the 30% hike in water prices. Water prices have not increased in the past 17 years, but will do so this July.
Apologies for the poor audio quality! The area was very windy, and I only realised it post-broadcast. As some of my questions can’t be heard clearly, here they are:
Q: Do you know about the recent 30% increase in water prices?
Q: What have you and your family been doing to save water?
Q: The government has just announced a bathe-less campaign to help people to conserve water. They will be providing residents with a government-issued deodorant which can be collected at community centres. Will you be collecting your government-issued deodorant?
Q: The tagline for this new campaign is ‘One People, One Nation, One Scent’. Do you think this is effective? (This is a pun on a national slogan ‘One People, One Nation, One Singapore’)
Some Post-broadcast Thoughts
Although the interviewees were uncertain and slightly taken aback by the fake news, they responded to the questions sincerely and thoughtfully. They were really nice about it and perhaps this was due to their awareness of being filmed.
This week’s broadcast has made me more aware of the limitations of a phone camera when broadcasting. I’ll also have to project my voice more in the future, especially when the camera is further away!
Please click here for part 1 of my final project 🙂
Some Post-broadcast Thoughts
For the first instalment of campaign activities, Roxy decided to conduct some on-the-ground research and hear first hand from the people about qualities they expect from aspiring Members of Parliament (MPs). She also asked them about their concerns and how she could address them once she was elected.
I incorporated frequent behaviour of influencers such as requesting brand sponsorship from Din Tai Fung (due to the resemblance of The Hive building to Dim Sum steamers), showing followers their outfit of the day (#OOTD) and describing it as ‘minimalist’ (a very popular tag), and asking followers to comment what they think.
I approached 3 different groups of students and received very different responses. I found it interesting how even though my project employs persona and parody, the varied responses are rather reflective of local attitude to politics, such as being indifferent, neutral or involved.
I asked questions such as “Do you have anything to say to the citizens watching live?” to connect the first space public with the third space online audience. This helped reinforced the liveness of the situation for both audiences, with some viewers commenting about the interviewees.
I was turned away by the second group of citizens I tried to speak to. This humanises Roxy, who can seem totally self-absorbed and in her own world (she thinks the Deputy Prime Minister is her friend, calling him Tharman casually). More importantly, this rejection emphasises the liveness of the experience through the unplanned. It also heightens the authenticity of Roxy the persona as Prof. Craig and Tissa from UMBC have summed up really well in their comments on last week’s post (see screenshots below). In addition, the online audience reacts to these unexpected happenings in real time by commenting.
While I enjoy how these mistakes and rejections reinforce the ‘liveness’, I do think I could be more prepared when people say “no” in the future. For the next 2 broadcasts, I will prepare some recovery strategies to have a smoother broadcast.
To be honest, these broadcasts can be very daunting. Approaching Singaporeans with a camera and a loaded subject nearing exam season may not be ideal. However, I feel encouraged by the spontaneous reactions of some interviewees, our interactions, and the online comments. As a ‘host’ of the broadcast, Roxy’s aim is not to direct the event, but rather to create a comfortable and engaging space which will evolve with the unique contributions of both online and ‘IRL’ audiences. Despite the mistakes, this is the reality of live broadcasting — its unfiltered, unexpected and inherently social.
I took quite a while deliberating which was the most accessible position (for audience and public) to take in these social broadcasts. Although playing the role of a newly elected MP would have a wealth of resources to parody, it would be too unbelievable and break the illusion. As I will be broadcasting from the university, playing the role of a young person would make interactions more comfortable and maintain a ‘peer-to-peer’ feeling.
It has been difficult weaving together the behaviours of both politicians and influencers as ultimately, their language and behaviour are very different. The former is expected to be formal and official, with their actions reflecting the larger government and party. On the other hand, the latter is expected to be highly individual and friendly. However, other than the use of social media, they do have commonalities such as having influence / power, and acts of persuasion. Both influencers and politicians try to convince people; be it to believe in them or buy a product.
This series of broadcasts aims to serve as a commentary and satire on the behaviour of local politicians. It will parody their ways of rallying, connecting, and empathising with the people they lead and govern.
It will do so from the perspective of a social media influencer, a product of contemporary internet culture. Like politicians, influencers’ actions and words also have influence over many people.
The broadcasts will be hosted by an up and coming social media influencer looking to spread her influence and move onto greater things. Where better place to start than to be an MP (Member of Parliament)? She has decided to venture into local politics to spread her influence and gain a larger following, and perhaps even give back to the community.
To promote herself and her campaign, she has decided to ‘vlog’ her campaign activities ‘live’. This allows her to connect with her followers and fellow citizens, while documenting her movements leading up to the election.
Persona & Costume
Name: Roxy Tan Mi Mi
I decided that her name needed to be something unusual yet common. It follows a typical Singaporean Chinese name structure: with an English first name + Chinese family name + Chinese name.
The name ‘Roxy’ is seldom seen in Singapore. Whether the name was given or assumed, Roxy Tan Mi Mi would concur that, like celebrities, politician names should also be eye-catching.
On the other hand, ‘Tan Mi Mi’ is a common albeit slightly cartoonish name that one may come across in a primary school Chinese language textbook. This makes her more like the (stereo)typical Singaporean, especially in the last name ‘Tan’ which is the ‘Smith’ of Singapore.
She is running as an independent. She will wear a white collared shirt and skirt (the PAP’s trademark style) or colours of the Singapore flag (red top and white bottom, crescent moon and stars optional).
On Broadcast Style
The live broadcast will usually take on a hand held ‘vlogging’ (video blog) style. It will look intentionally unofficial and casual.
I will occasionally use a ‘mockumentary style’ i.e. someone else filming, or me talking to the cameraman. The image above shows actress Michelle Chong as Lulu on the local mock news programme ‘The Noose’. The persona often makes mistakes such as speaking in Mandarin during filming and is instructed to use English by the producers. This awareness of the camera affirms the live context.
The Game Plan
**The broadcasts sequence and content has been updated. I have left the old segments as strikethroughs instead of deleting them. Although the plan has changed, they are still useful as a personal process log that I can refer to in the future**
Every broadcast will have a mini-premise as well as interaction with the public and online audience. The broadcasts are progressive and sequential, mirroring the campaign activities of aspiring MPs.
In between broadcasts, I intend to post some pictures and content on social media to sustain audience interest. These posts will be related to Roxy’s campaign activities e.g. collecting questions from citizens which she will address in the press conference.
Broadcast 1: Announcing her Candidacy & Listening to the People
For the first broadcast, Roxy will announce her intentions to become an MP to her followers through Facebook Live. She will also go around and ask citizens pertinent questions such as:
“What are you looking for in an MP?”, “What qualities should an MP have?”, “Do you have any concerns that you would like the government to address?”, “As a young adult, what challenges do you have that the government can help you with?”
This will lay the foundation for the next two broadcasts. The events and citizen comments will influence the second broadcast.
Broadcast 2: Canvassing & Rallying the People
For the second broadcast, after hearing the voices of the people, Roxy will be meeting citizens and try to convince them to vote for her. She will put up posters on the school notice boards and hand out stickers and flyers to potential voters. She may start addressing some citizen concerns that she received from citizens in the previous week.
Broadcast 2: Hat trick
This broadcast will concentrate more on showing Roxy’s behaviour as an influencer and how it applies to her perspective of politics.
“Recently my popularity has been increasing and it’s all thanks to you guys that I can spread my influence. I wouldn’t be where I am without you guys, my fans. Some of you may be worried that this move to politics may take me away from my high quality Youtube, Facebook and instagram content. Fear not, I’ll still be posting my regular fashion and DIY videos. In fact let’s do an OOTD right now. OOTD stands for outfit of the day. Today I’m wearing all white with just a dash of red. This is called an accent colour. #fashionadvice.”
“What? My hat says New York…? Nothing a quick DIY can’t fix! (Sticks a Singapore flag over the New york). Problem solved. Now let’s go meet the citizens!”
Questions to ask the first space public:
Starting question: “What are you looking for in an MP candidate?”
“Will you vote for me to be your MP?” If no, “why not?”
“How old are you?” (voting age test). “Hi, are you Singaporean?” (citizenship test) “We future MPs are very busy, as much as I love children and foreign talents, time is votes!”
Ending question: “That’s a great choice, citizen, you won’t regret it! Could you wear this to show your support?” 🙂
Broadcast 3: Press conference
For the final instalment, Roxy will address the press for the first time in her candidacy and hold an official press conference.
It will be held during the final class. Everyone in class will play the role of a reporter and become part of the mainstream media, asking questions regarding campaign promises etc. I will respond to both the live press questions as well as the online netizen questions from the comment section.
Reservations & Concerns
I was struggling with the purpose of my broadcasts and whether it crossed the line between being a performer and public nuisance.
As the final broadcast will be presented as a three-part series, I am exploring means to sustain continuity and interest over the 3 broadcasts. I am researching common behaviour of Singapore Members of Parliament (MPs) and Ministers and how they communicate with the public they lead and represent.
I am also looking into how these can be combined with the content influencers typically produce. The broadcasts will be progressive, showing caricatures of the different periods of the campaign as organised by an earnest fashion and lifestyle influencer.
On Looking the Part Online
One way to lend authenticity to this persona is to build up my Facebook profile to one befitting of an (aspiring) public figure.
Profile pictures are often casually formal. Cover photos are often related to Singapore (landscape) or community (children, events, national day).
How Local Politicians use Social Media in Singapore
Many MPs’ (Member of Parliament) social media channels are highly curated. Their posts are typically:
Announcements or advertisements for upcoming grassroots events that they are attending
Picture-perfect documentation of said events after attendance
Duties as an MP such as conferences
Promoting government schemes and policies
The majority of MPs do not fully utilise the breezy and supposedly spontaneous nature of social media. Instead, MP Facebook accounts often function more as a casually-worded extended press release. The contents are well within PG ratings, nothing too extreme or intimate.
MPs have also received criticism for their use of social media. A recent example would be MP Koh Poh Koon’s Facebook post about helping an elderly resident.
This met with mixed reactions where netizens felt that he was insincere. Netizens also remarked on the unnatural photo-ready moment when the prime concern should have been helping the elderly lady. Regardless of Dr Koh’s true intentions, perhaps I could parody this situation by explicitly documenting a scenario of me ‘candidly’ helping someone.
Similarly, MPs (who often mix within elite circles due to elite education and track careers) are often criticised as lacking empathy and true understanding of the common people. I think there is more potential for examining this area in a humorous light.
The first broadcast will take the form of a Facebook Live press conference. I will address the questions and concerns of the people through LIVE comments and prepared topics. Some possible topics include explaining my impetus for running, my campaign promises and how I am a suitable candidate according to ‘4 qualities the PAP looks for in a potential MP’.
I do however feel that my research is not sufficiently comprehensive to decide on the tone of my broadcasts. By next week, I hope to nail down my persona’s motivations, tone, ability and agenda, so as to create a comprehensive foundation to construct parody.
Also, I can’t help but wonder if it is possible for satire and parody to be largely inoffensive? The aim is to question and create a conversation, not to hurt or be insensitive 🙂
Trump shows blatant affirmation of media outlets that agree with him. In contrast, he labels critics as “fake news”, thereby casting doubt on their credibility. Furthermore, Trump brushes off reported facts as “conspiracy theories” fuelled by prejudice and “blind hatred”. He repositions these media outlets (i.e. the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN) as unjustly plotting against him, reframing factual criticism as victimisation.
Two days after, Trump goes further by proclaiming that the “FAKE NEWS media” (sic) is the “enemy of the American people”. This not only discredits the opposition, but indirectly suggests that Trump is, conversely, the ‘ally’ of the people.
Breitbart, Online Media & the Spread of Alternative Facts
Similarly, the Breitbart article uses caustic writing, coupled with a potent but rather partisan word choice. Breitbart’s wide following makes it all the more dangerous as it propagates ‘alternative facts’ and worrying conspiracy theories such as the powerful hidden hand of the Deep State. This irresponsibly sows seeds of anxiety and
distrust among people. The article also presents interpretations and biased projections as infallible truth. It references sources at its own convenience, only bringing in that which supports their views.
The spread of such fake news has been accelerated by online and social media, which has become a go-to access point for many (be it for food recommendations, news or entertainment). An unfortunately apt illustration of the proverbial ‘empty vessels make the most noise’, it spreads news information through content virality — attention-grabbing thumbnails and headlines generate more interests and views. This coupled with our friends’ approvals through a ‘share’ or ‘like’ affirms its credibility.
What is worrying about platforms like Breitbart is how believable it sounds. To navigate current murky information waters, users need more than passive reading and instead require an investigative spirit to search for verification and source reliability.
I believe humour can be a great entry point to these divisive issues. Satire and parodies like the SNL sketch comment on recent events with fresh perspective. Ironically, their use of exaggeration creates clarity — it probes dialogue by revealing and magnifying behaviour and subtleties that may have gone unnoticed. It also looks for the humour in an otherwise tense political climate.
A Singaporean Aspiration
In a short 50 years, Singapore has become a unique and
unprecedented phenomenon of economic success. However, this came at a cost; for one, there’s a clear monopoly in our news media. Many of us look up to the United States as the pinnacle of free speech, and an aspiration for young nations. However, with the
recent (mis)use of online media and President Trump’s views on press platforms, this Singaporean can’t help but wonder if the
longstanding edifice of the free press is crumbling, or perhaps was it only ever an idealistic facade?
For my final project, I will further develop the persona of an ‘influencer’ from my second live broadcast. I intend to use it as a starting point to question the current use of social media in politics and various forms of ‘influence’. I will continue to explore persona, spectacle, costume and parody in the context of contemporary Internet culture.
I plan to take on the role of a social media influencer in Singapore who has decided to find new ways of spreading her influence. She has decided to attempt bigger endeavours, starting with local politics.
On Live Broadcast & Performance
Social media influencers are a very special phenomena in Internet pop culture. It is a unique product of the internet age. Influencers reset the playing field; anyone can be a famous internet celebrity and no longer require traditional broadcast institutions or a network of contacts and companies. Influencers use social media platforms and live broadcasting to communicate with followers and share their lives.
Similarly, in recent years, social media has become irreversibly intertwined with political campaigns and information. These 2 groups of people inherently rely on social media to either influence, incite or inspire. Thus, I would like to merge these two major aspects of contemporary internet culture, in parallel with the massive reach of social media and the liveness of performance.
The performance will not be a political criticism. Instead of legislation, we will look into the softer more human side of local politics to question issues such as authenticity, connecting with the people and the small proportion of women in local government etc. I plan to examine certain ‘tropes’ of both influencers and local politicians such as #OOTDs (outfit of the day), ‘meet-n-greets’ at hawker centres and house visiting.
Developing Collective Narrative and The Third Space
Although I will prepare actions beforehand, like Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece (1965), the broadcast’s narrative will be a collective product developed together with the audience.
Even the unexpected — such as unanticipated responses or technical difficulties experienced in Nam June Paik’s Good Morning, Mr. Orwell (1984) — must be embraced. The narrative will be heavily influenced by the responses of both audiences in the first space (physical audience) and third space (live stream viewers). My persona, body and live streaming medium will serve as a bridging method to simultaneously connect both spaces and audiences.
“The possibilities are endless: we ask, what can’t you do with your own television channel beamed out to the whole world!?” — Randall Packer, “The Third Space Network” (2016)
This closing statement by Randall Packer exemplifies the agency of the individual. Armed with a phone and a larger-than-life persona, I hope my final project can illustrate the democratic reach of the individual, unconstrained and unfiltered by official channels, to create meaningful interactions with and between audiences.
Challenges and Concerns
With any performative work, this will be a personal challenge to push myself out of my comfort zone. I typically abstain from topics like politics in my work so this route will be challenging on multiple levels, such as managing tone and public sentiment. I hope to be able to push the medium of live broadcast further and am still exploring ways to do so.
This week’s live broadcast was made in the style of Jennicam (1997). Like live webcam or surveillance footage, the camera was static and unacknowledged, creating a sense of observation and even voyeurism.
I realised that my and my brother’s rooms are mirror images in terms of the layout and furniture. However, we are total opposites and our private living spaces suggest very different inhabitants.
I set up the surveillance camera in the hallway at home; its field of vision (aka the viewer’s field of vision) was framed between these
2 ‘reflected’ rooms, creating a real life ‘split screen’ effect. In addition, save for the narrow dividing wall, the webcam window creates the illusion of us being in the same space, working in a shared study.
“When Ringley was not visible “the set” was ever-present; there to be read as one reads an advertisement — signifiers everywhere, like a Jacques Tati still of a sleepy village evoking a particular mood and era, everything reeking of time and a version of normality.” — Steve Dixon, “Webcams: The Subversion of Surveillance” in ‘Digital Performance’ (2007)
In reviewing the broadcast, I see a likeness to theatre sets. The
identical harsh fluorescent lighting serves almost as a spotlight to these ‘stages’. We perform the everyday in these sets, be it reading, playing piano offstage or typing on our laptops. The ‘reflection’ also creates momentary temporal confusion: are we actors in the same set but from different scenes of the play?
It is surprisingly difficult to show mundane moments that have so far been kept thoroughly private within the walls of my home. Perhaps more so than being interviewed or addressing the camera, these everyday private moments where I am at ease are more revealing. Furthermore, because we live in an age of constant stimulation (the Internet has an abundance of stimulating and gratifying content), despite understanding the value in works like Jennicam, I can’t help but feel a residual tinge of creator’s guilt for letting viewers spend time watching something as ordinary as me in my PJs.
This week I decided to explore another persona: a zealous and enthusiastic rookie reporter who has her first assignment as a youth correspondent at NTU. I appropriated terms and vernacular that we often hear in news programmes such as announcing the current local time and moving between site and studio.
The video in the link is actually the second broadcast of the day. In the first broadcast, I was standing in an open walkway and approached people coming down the stairs and from the buildings behind. I realised that location matters in inviting participation as the people who were walking were less likely to stop and talk to me.
‘Programme viewers’ watching the live broadcast also commented on how the youth did not seem keen on being interviewed. After 3 unsuccessful attempts at engaging an interview, I maintained the context of a live programme and informed our viewers that we were unsuccessful and would try again in a few moments.
A few minutes later I tried a second broadcast but at an open area with tables. Since they were already seated, it was harder to refuse and thus easier to engage participants into the broadcast. To maintain continuity (for viewers who had seen the earlier broadcast) and to emphasise the ‘liveness’ of our mock news programme, I acknowledged the earlier difficulties in the conclusion.