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!
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.
You sit still in the Christmas Eve of ’99, staring at me at my desk. As the years roll by, this photograph has faded along with my memory of you. I scanned in a digital copy in hopes of preservation, but that does not apply to the archive in our minds.
I’m afraid I’ll forget how you used to make porridge. I’m afraid I’ll forget the sound of your singing voice. I’m afraid I’ll forget all your sayings and quips which I laughed at growing up. Like the increasing distortion of these glitched images, everyday I forget a bit of you, and hold on dearly to photographs that can’t compare to the smell of your powder and nightly stout.
Please click here for my 2nd Facebook Live broadcast. This post has been updated to include more information about influencers and online celebrities in Singapore’s social media landscape.
Some post-broadcast thoughts
This week I wanted to experiment with performance, persona, parody, and the context of social media live streaming.
Social media influencers and online celebrity beauty and lifestyle bloggers have become ubiquitous on the Internet and pop culture landscape. In Singapore, influencers have a sizeable following on social media, especially Instagram. A large subset of influencers are good-looking young women who offer fashion inspiration, beauty advice and are sometimes ‘famous for being famous’. Companies often approach influencers for product sponsorship (marketing through individuals) which they will share with their followers. These online personalities typically build their following on multiple social media platforms and may have accompanying Youtube channels with videos like makeup tutorials, fashion hauls and Q&As.
Although there are multiple positive aspects of social media and influencers, it has been criticised as rather narcissistic and unhealthy especially for youth, if they are too invested in online fame and followers.
It was very intimidating yet refreshing to take on a persona totally different from myself and commit to it unabashedly and without breaking character. I approached strangers in the SMU campus with the absurd proposition of giving them my autograph and convincing them to become my fans.
As part of the performance, I appropriated online vernacular (e.g. #follow4follow and “subscribe to my channel”) and the way online personalities interact with their fans locally and remotely through live streaming and ‘vlogging’.
Compared to my first broadcast, the second had more views and responses. This is probably because the broadcast was humorous and relatable to users of social media. It was heartwarming and surprising to see comments and reactions from people I haven’t been in touch with for years.
I was slightly nervous during the broadcast, not unlike the feeling of going up on stage. The ‘live’ medium initially creates a sense of performance and self-consciousness but that will likely disappear after getting used to the medium. I was surprised and really felt the immediacy of the medium when my friends commented and reacted during my live broadcast.
This was my second time using Facebook Live, the first was a few days prior at my friend’s birthday party. In comparison with my second broadcast, the first came out more as a comedic personal home-video filled with chatter and giggles. I’ve realised that being a reporter is challenging as it requires us to be aware of our environment and the events unfolding before us. I find that it’s also slightly different from capturing personal memories. It can be personal but I do feel compelled to offer something to the audience; be it something interesting, humorous, informative or insightful. What do you guys think?
We left our service apartment in a hurry, lacing up our boots in the lift. My friend, Lin, and I were making a day trip to a wildlife park in a Ballarat, a town 110 kilometres north-west of Melbourne. We arrived at Southern Cross station, only to find out that the train service had been disrupted, and we had two minutes to catch the only outbound bus to Ballarat. Thankfully, we did.
Our journey to the west was very pleasant. We passed pastoral scenes of cows, trees, hills and farms. Lin and I were beaming with anticipation about meeting kangaroos up close.
Two hours later, we arrived in the town of Ballarat which looked particularly empty that day. Having dozed off on the ride, we were the last of five passengers to alight. As we walked toward the rustic station doors, we heard a low voice call out from behind in Aussie-inflected Mandarin:
Surprised, we turned around and saw a man in his early 30s. Before we could squeak out a response, he shot another question, this time in English: “Where are you from? Beijing? Shen Zhen?”
We courteously replied, Singapore. “Oh, Singapore,” he said, walking toward us and speaking enthusiastically about how lovely he thought our country was, except for our strict gum laws.
“Don’t people get caned for chewin’ gum?” he asked again. This seemed to be a common misconception so we assured him that chewing gum is allowed. However, selling gum might land one a hefty fine or a staycation at Changi prison.
“If you guys don’t chew gum, how d’you keep your teeth so white?” he asked with a deep smile.
“Dentists,” I replied, with a look of caution.
By then he had sat himself down on the bench by the station doors, closer than necessary, and we noticed that he had bandages on his right fist and forearm. While we were bundled up as thick as sheep in layers of fleece and wool, he was wearing nothing more than a shirt, bermuda shorts, socks and sandals. He continued his questioning, asking about our ages and what we were doing back home. Being a pair of non-confrontational Asian girls, we obliged, and he seemed a tad too happy upon hearing we were 21.
“So, what are you girls doing in Ballarat?” he asked, staring intently. With growing hesitation, we explained that we were on a day trip from Melbourne to visit the Ballarat Wildlife Park.
“I have a wildlife park. In my home.”
He replied in a serious tone. He proceeded to roll up his shorts, exposing even more of his legs to the chilly winter wind. Are crazy people usually climate-resistant? Lin glanced at me, trying to convey with her eyes that we should make an exit, however the man continued,
“You girls ought to be careful. There are many bad people in Ballarat… Why don’t you come to my place. I’m on the way to pick up my car.”
Upon hearing this proposition, we thanked him, declined and excused ourselves, insisting that we were late for our bus and were only in town to visit the (real) wildlife park. We left the station, debating the man’s intentions till we stopped at a map signboard outside, trying to orientate ourselves using our trusty Google Maps application. Panic set in when we noticed a lightly dressed sandalled figure approaching us from the periphery.
The man from the station had reappeared. “I’m going to pick up my car now, so I can show you around.” Gesturing at my mobile phone, he ordered, “Take down my number. O, FOUR, FOUR…”
Stunned, I only managed a vague “umm…” for a comeback before he continued, “Go on, O, FOUR, FOUR, TWO, SIX, TWO — ”
I interrupted him, maintaining that we were late. We thanked him, said a curt goodbye, and walked as fast as our short legs could take us without looking too obviously like we were running away. We glanced behind and saw that he was following us.
Born and raised catholic, my faith miraculously grows in proportion to fear. Barely religious, I started mumbling Hail Marys and making the sign of the cross every road junction.
I like to think that it was due to our masterful manoeuvring through side roads and alleys that he lost our trail. But, more likely, he got bored of following us after several blocks.
Despite getting lost once more, the Ballarat Wildlife Park was thoroughly enjoyable. At dusk, we left the town with two discoveries — firstly, kangaroos had surprisingly sharp genitalia; and secondly, perhaps we shouldn’t speak to strangers so indiscriminately.
Back on the virtual grid after nearly three years of being an online hermit who shunned all social media. This rebirth signifies an exciting new beginning. Things are strange and new, but I’m ready to become one with the Interweb.