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 🙂
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.
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 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.
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.