22 May 2007

Singapore Blogosphere and Political Participation

medium_PGConferencePoster.jpgI recently attended a Postgraduate Conference for the presentation of PhD research on the intersection of power and communication technologies organised by the Institute of Communications Studies (ICS) at the University of Leeds. I presented a paper titled -

The Singapore Blogosphere and Political Participation: An Ethnographic Approach.

This paper questions whether or not blogs can help create participatory forms of democracy in non-democratic societies which have suppressed political participation among their citizens. Drawing on an event in July 2006 within a group of websites related to Singapore, this paper asks to what extent do bloggers in Singapore use their blogs for purposes related to politics, and investigates whether the blogosphere facilitates political participation among Singaporean bloggers. The internet has been heralded as a force for democratisation in the world (Pitrodi 1993) and also simply another means of disseminating propaganda, fear and intimidation in Singapore (Rodan 1997). Such predictions of how technology will affect upon futures is not new. This paper accepts Hine's (2000) position that there is a need for an ethnographic approach to question the assumptions inherent in these predictions of an increased public sphere and at the same time a loss of privacy associated with the technology. Singapore while being regarded by the Chinese Communist State and possibly the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) “as a laboratory for one possible future for the twenty-first century”, (Castells 1998) is regarded as a semi-democratic regime (Brooker 2000). A regime which allows elections but has limits on political and civil liberties and restricts competition between political parties (Brooker 2000). An ethnography of the Singapore blogosphere might help in analysing how the internet is constructed and shaped by social actors in order to overcome the technological focus and the domination of research that focuses on the United States of America. This paper argues that a sustained participant observation within the Singapore blogosphere could illustrate the position that the internet both creates public space to facilitate political participation and also helps to legitimise the semi-democratic nature of the Singapore regime.

The complete paper is available here in pdf format.

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