The modern online news site

I was just taking a closer look at the homepage of the Straits Times news site. I realised how much it’s changed from its earlier days, and it has now taken on a new dimension.

Besides the ‘traditional’ web news articles, the site has now incorporated various other new media platforms: blogs; forums; its video channel, RazorTV, its citizen journalist portal, Stomp; and even its online classifieds portal, ST701.

This multi-dimensional and multi-sensory approach to news sites seems to be the way to go, to reach out to a more IT and new media-savvy ‘readership’.

Not only that, with the online sales portal, Mocca.com, launching its FULL THROTTLE MocCarnival , an auto and car enthusiast event last Sunday on 23 Nov, it seems like a new trend has started, with online events spilling over into reality.

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Obama’s ‘fireside chats’ take the high (tech) road in cyberspace

A couple of posts ago, I blogged about Obama’s clever use of new media and how that’s helped him to win the recent US Presidential elections. In fact, he’s come to be known as the Youtube President!

Not surprisingly then, that Obama has chosen to stay on the Youtube course and use it to broadcast his weekly address to the American public (actually, he now has the potential to address an international audience as well). 

Obama is giving what is known as the traditional weekly radio broadcast by US Presidents, a tradition started by Roosevelt, a modern-day twist. Back then, and since then, the ‘fireside chats’ of the various Presidents have been broadcast on radio. Now, with new media, Obama has found an added channel to reach out to the public, especially the younger set that forms the Youtube and Facebook generation.

What’s also interesting is that by going direct to Youtube, the Obama administration has greater control over what is broadcast. According to the Straits Times article on Obama’s online chats, Obama and his people could “would curb the power of a traditional but often unpopular middleman between presidents and the populace: the mainstream media”. This means that the public get a dose of Obama unadulterated and unmediated (as much as non-mediation via media is allowed). Doing this would also make Obama’s government “more transparent“.

Obama’s first Youtube address after he won the elections is available on his website: www.change.gov. Subsequent addresses can also be viewed there.

In fact, this website has proved to be a source of information on Obama and the directions he’s taking as the President-elect.

And with Youtube videos being so embed-able, his address would be seen by so many more, due to the viral nature of ‘marketing’ on new media.

Now, I’ve mentioned previously as well that our local political groups could also learn something from the Obama campaign and its use of new media. Just yesterday, there was news that PAP is aiming to click with the young by letting the IT-savvy watch short videos of PAP MPs at events on its revamped PAP website.

Party chairman Lim Boon Heng said, “New media is facilitating change. Our party is gearing up our resources to harness this new platform.” In fact, on the Young PAP website, there are articles on new media and its social impact

Now, while it’s good and timely for our local political parties to incorporate the use of new media, I believe more must be done than just posting videos of MPs at events. More could be done to harness the power of new media to reach out to the public and allow for the age of participation and a new generation of digital natives. Perhaps the digital natives out there would like to share how better engagement could be achieved via new media.

Internet Addiction classified as a clinical disorder

Do you constantly yearn to go online?

Do you feel agitated and distressed when you don’t go online?

Do you experience difficulty in concentrating or getting to sleep? 

If you display these symptoms amongst others, and you are online more than six hours a day, then according to a new manual on Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD), you would be diagnosed as a ‘Net addict’.

The IAD which could soon be adopted by China could be seen as a form of help for China’s Net addicts as net addiction becomes diagnosed as a real problem. China is probably the first country to classify Internet addiction as a clinical disorder. According to state media, the authorities are concerned about the increased “compulsive Web use by millions of Chinese”. Dr Tao Ran, who has researched pathological addictions in China, drafted the diagnostic manual with other psychologists in the Military General Hospital of Beijing. They came up with the manual after studying ‘1300 problematic computer users’.

According to another psychologist, Dr Kong Derong, “Web games are the biggest culprit for Internet-related crimes in China, especially World of Warcraft, which has made many young minds unable to tell the real from virtual world”. Hm…one wonders if WOW creators have something to say on that…

Recognising Internet addiction as a disorder just like alcohol or drug addiction could pave the way for more treatment procedures. In fact, China has already started some aggressive measures. It has a started a military-style boot camp, complete with electric-shock therapy  to ‘wean’ younger addicts off their addiction, and it’s also started shutting down some Internet cafes and suspending their licenses as it was concerned that these were facilitating the addiction process. 

It’s still not sure how successful these measures are. However, recent research indicates that “42 per cent of Chinese youngsters polled felt ‘addicted’ to the Web, as compared to 18% in the United States”. Many say that acknowledging your addition is the first step in the treatment process, so it looks like things are looking up for China’s net addicts. 

However, some also this move in a more sinister light, and feel that China’s move to cut down the ‘negative’ influence of the Net, which includes people thinking and acting for themselves, is yet another extension of exercising control.

Also, some wonder, if the manual is adopted by other countries such as Singapore, what the rate of ‘net addiction’ would we get here? Electric-shock therapy, anyone?

Notwithstanding the quibbles over the yardsticks and motivations, Internet addiction is a serious problem, and does warrant serious attention. Perhaps, China’s step here is a way of prodding others to take the problem more seriously and to take some definitive measures to resolve it.

Obama and New Media

Obama has won the US Presidential elections, and will be stepping into the White House and Oval Office come January.

Many have seen his success at the elections last week to be very much tied up with his strong presence online, especially with the use of new media. Many have discussed Obama’s Youtube and Facebook win, and how he’s used new media to reach out to the masses, especially the younger voters, and made an emotional connection with them (via technology!). In a post I made months back, his win was already on the cards, given Obama’s Facebook domination!

Many see the Internet as a great equaliser, as anyone can use it, and most of its apps are virtually free (pun intended), and in Obama’s case, it has been an equaliser in his fight for votes.

From being a relative unknown, he’s now catapulted to being one of the most powerful men (if not, potentially, the most powerful man) in the world! For many, that signifies the American dream. That also signifies democracy. Beyond that, that also signifies the power of new media. 

And for the many who were not allowed to vote (apparently, many non-Americans wanted to!), they could get into the action online as well. There were many online polls that allowed participation by all (isn’t that just what Web 2.0 is about – the Age of Participation)! Even WordPress had its own virtual poll. So did Facebook and other online sites! Even my Fluff pet on Facebook could take part in the polls, and be voted for!

Not surprising, Obama won in those polls too, and the online poll figures do closely match the actual results. So, in a way, we can see the online world as a microcosm of the real world.

Bikini-teacher should be banned from blogging?

Recently, a controversy erupted on the mainstream press as well as in new media about Gwen, a micro-bikini-clad teacher who entered racy pictures of herself in an online bikini contest. Touting herself as an ‘Ah Lian’, Gwen blogs about her tattoos and piercings and partying ways, all very un-teacherlike accessories and behaviour.

That calls to mind the question of whether there are some people who should not keep blogs. I mean, those in professions such as the teaching profession are supposed to be good role models and who are supposed to help uphold the morals of society. What if they blog and spill the beans on their personal lives and what if these are deemed more undesirable. What if their students read about it? Where do you draw the line between personal and professional lives? When is it okay to blog about your professional life in your personal blog?

So, many questions. No easy answers. 

Many have gotten into trouble before for blogging about work. Remember Otto Fong who ‘out-ed’ himself on his blog? He’s since left the teaching profession.  One wonders how long Gwen would stay in the profession. One thing’s for sure, her blogging ways would have to change if she were to stay on.