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 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?
This week’s assignment is about the Smart Nation initiative, which was launched in late 2014. Part II can be found here.
A Brief Overview
The Smart Nation seeks to improve the way we live, work, play and interact with each other through the use of data analysis and information communication technology. These technologies are gradually being implemented in our public infrastructure, transport networks, housing environments, businesses as well as healthcare and day-to-day services. These innovative solutions aim to create a sustainable and comfortable way of life, which simultaneously connects members of society and strengthens community ties.
“I think for Singapore, what we really want to look at is how do you use technology, networks, big data to deliver the benefits to citizens in terms of improving their quality of life, to forge stronger communities, to improve productivity and industry and how technology can be an enabler as we move towards an ageing population. At the end of the day, what defines a smart city is whether technology has made a positive difference in the lives of the citizens.”
— Chay Pui San, Deputy Head of Smart Nation Programme Office
A well-designed Smart Nation initiative
I think the Smart Nation tele-health initiative is a thoughtfully designed improvement to eldercare, especially in our aging society. It understands the needs of our fast-paced society where working adults are divided among many commitments such as their career, children and elderly parents. The elderly monitoring systems allows family members to monitor their parents or grandparents remotely. The system monitors movement patterns, notifying caretakers of their whereabouts and any unusual activity within the home through a mobile application.
Elderly can also wear panic buttons around their necks to alert caretakers of an emergency. If they were to fall, the elderly person can immediately signal for help using the button. This is rather well-designed as it is portable, physical and works well regardless of one’s digital competency. Although simple, it makes far more sense than a sleek mobile application.
Connectivity and Openness
Seamless connectivity is an integral aspect of Smart Nation. This ensures reliable real-time data which can be used to monitor transport networks, crowd patterns and environmental conditions.
So what can be done with all this data? It works hand in hand with openness to build a smarter nation and encourage innovation. Businesses and individuals can access government data to co-create solutions. We see these independent initiatives manifest as popular transport applications like SG BusLeh and the Facebook chatbot Singapore Bus Uncle, which can track real-time bus locations, arrival times and measure how packed a bus is. These applications were made in the spirit of open source and their interfaces even have a local flavour.
Apart from being open and transparent, these initiatives can also be improved through continuous community contributions and feedback. Although not everyone can develop chatbots and apps, members of a town can contribute by sending on-the-ground updates (e.g. lift breakdowns, mosquito breeding grounds etc.) to alert agencies about municipal issues.
Becoming a Smart Nation: Potential Problems and Possible Solutions
As a society, we will have to alter our behaviour and way of living in order to fully utilise this technology. To achieve this, we will need bridging schemes to encourage people to embrace these new technologies and way of life. For example in 2016, new modes of contactless payment such as Apple pay and Android pay were made available in Singapore. Exclusive incentives such as timbre+ $1 Good Eats were set up, which encouraged people to try the new system.
More importantly, the technology should be embedded in a seamless and non-intrusive fashion. This is where good, people-driven design comes into play. With the development of a smart nation, members of the community also need to play an active role so as to not feel detached or herded.
Many of these initiatives are implemented using smartphone applications, typically with graphical user interfaces (GUI). Although these are a great start, how will we prevent marginalised groups of people in our society from being left behind as Singapore develops into a smart nation? Perhaps, some of these digital technology solutions should be installed in public spaces for people who lack access to smart devices. Furthermore, to aid members of our community with low computer competency, we should aim to go beyond GUI, and incorporate more tangible media interfaces.
Singapore’s future as a Smart Nation is exciting and promising. Nonetheless, we have to be aware of such limitations and work towards minimising any gaps in society created by technological differences.
Jenny Holzer’s work largely revolves around text in public spaces. Her iconic Truisms (1978-87) have been displayed in public spaces through a variety of means such as photocopied posters, storefronts, billboards, electronic signs and even T-shirts.
Please Change Beliefs (1997) is a development of Holzer’s earlier work in physical public spaces. She sets up her truisms in a publicly accessible virtual space where visibility is not limited by geographical locations or proximity, demonstrating the “collapse of the local and remote into a networked space or ‘third space’.”[i]
Holzer further expands on this idea of accessibility, which is intrinsic to open source, by allowing anyone to alter and add to the work. The title itself is an invitation to reconsider and rewrite these notions of truth. The altered truisms are a mix bag of insightful, ludicrous, dark, humorous, skeptical and optimistic. We inevitably identify with some of these appended truisms, destabilizing the seemingly fixed and timeless definition of ‘truth’.
Although it is facilitated by Holzer, the work moves away from the conventional ‘artist-audience’ model to the “collaborative, many-to-many systems of writing [and] media-making”.[i] By partaking in this editing of truisms, the users are converted from audience to participant to contributor. Furthermore, the work functions as an expanding database of collective thoughts and ideas. It exemplifies the notion of a collective narrative created with a potentially infinite number of minds, coming together in a single ‘third space’.
Text as Medium
As highlighted by Galloway and Rabinowitz, the “virtual space creates social situations without traditional rules of etiquette [and] diminishes our fears of interaction”.[ii] Contributors can proclaim these truisms, without attaching authorship or receiving backlash. Furthermore, the use of text instead of image makes it less intimidating as anyone connected to the web has an equal say.
This, coupled with the sense of anonymity, are important factors in maintaining the rawness and authenticity of these altered personal ‘truisms’. Overall, I believe that Holzer’s work is effective in writing a global collective narrative, and does illustrate the following concept:
“This dramatically alters the act of writing and narrative, from the singular activity of a very personal form of individual expression, to a collective activity that is highly collaborative: all publishable instantaneously to a global audience.”
[ii] Galloway, K. & Rabinowitz, S. “Welcome to Electronic Café International,” (1992) in Packer, R., & Jordan, K. (Eds.). Multimedia : from Wagner to Virtual Reality ([Expanded ed.). New York: Norton, 2002.
Not unlike the Dada performances at the Cabaret Voltaire during the early 20th century which revolutionised the roles of artist and institution, the open source system is our highly-connected and technologically-fuelled era’s retelling of this art historical narrative of intervention and opposition. Open source shifts the dynamics of art-making from vertical to lateral; anyone can be an artist, curator, participant and critic. It is an inclusive platform, not limited by space or traditional tastemakers.
Open source extends the social aspect of art-making further. Creators, netizens and our peers can provide constructive feedback and contribute to the creative process and product. The open source system can also be a channel of inspiration and learning as it heightens our awareness of contemporary issues and concerns, and allows us to witness ongoing projects by our contemporaries as they develop. This grants us insights into their creative process and methods which are equally, if not more valuable than the finished product.
Our school’s Open Source Studio (OSS) has helped cultivate this practice of sharing, collaboration and openness which are crucial today. Furthermore, OSS offers a comprehensive view of our practice. It does not separate or privilege finished works over ideation, work-in-progress, inspirations or potential projects. Instead, the OSS platform is an integrated reflection of our practice that serves as a portfolio, process log and archive simultaneously, all while remaining accessible to employers, our peers and practitioners all over the world.
First date? Meeting friends of friends? Family gatherings with people you aren’t quite sure how you’re related to? Lauren McCarthy’s Conversacube is an interactive device which aims to eliminate conversational awkwardness by guiding and prompting users on what to say in order to effortlessly navigate such situations.
The Conversacube is placed in the centre, with one side facing each user. Each face of the cube has a small screen to display prompts and a microphone to monitor audio levels and speech. Users are guided individually on how to respond in order to achieve smooth and attentive conversation. It also comes in different sizes for pairs or groups.
This gadget is both a conversation aid and an interactive device which generates physical and social interaction among users. At first glance, Conversacube may seem like an unnecessary novelty or a fun party gimmick. However, it brings up important questions about our modern social environment such as our reliance on technology, as well as social norms and behaviour. Will we eventually depend on a device to teach us how to be human? What soft aspects of ‘being human’ will we lose (or have we lost?) as we strive for innovation and efficiency? With redeuced face-to-face communication and increased dependence on virtual communication such as texting and social media, such a reality may not be too far away.
Touchy is a wearable interactive art device by Eric Siu, a new media artist from Hong Kong. It is a helmet-like device which resembles a camera and covers the user’s eyes, blocking their vision. When the user is touched by another person, the shutters will open and close, allowing the user to see for an instant. When the user maintains contact with someone for 10 seconds, the built-in camera in Touchy will take a snapshot of that instant, capturing the result of this togetherness.
Touchy touches on concepts such as physical communication, memories, social interactions and the ironic ‘un-socialness’ of social media. It also aims to combat problems like social anxiety and isolation (hikikomori), ramifications of our modern world.
The camera metaphor is pronounced as the device resembles a camera in terms of shape, colour and material. It also has shutters and a LCD screen at the back. Its helmet like shape with a pair of shutters at the eye area also has clear affordances of how it should be worn.
What is striking about this device is that the user and the device become one; so much so that they become another device altogether, a ‘human-camera’. The user no longer interacts directly with the device and instead becomes an extension of the machine. The interactivity occurs when this ‘humera’ interacts with other people. This interactive art device can also function as part of social interaction experiments and performance art pieces.
Wearable tech often serves the user and has practical, tangible benefits such as monitoring and providing information. However, Touchy actually impairs the user by limiting their vision in order to seek out ‘softer’ aspects of human interaction.
Song Wig is an ingenious and playful piece of wearable tech by Japanese creative lab PARTY. This interactive device offers a new way of sharing music. The user experience has a large social element, as the users interact with the device as well as with one another.
One main user wears the device and shares music with physical proximity. It works similar to wireless headphones and syncs with devices via bluetooth. In terms of interactivity, it has limited user input and feedback. However, the metaphor and the resultant interaction that it generates between people makes up for this. It’s simple yet the affordances are easily identifiable. It also encourages physical interactivity between users.