the other side
Sometimes, I wonder what would have been if I had opted for the other study , closer to my heart and previous discipline. On my third day at college, i met this course mate who had just transferred from SOAS. She told me that she preferred the environment and campus of her former college but decided to switch in preference of KCL’s ranking.
Recently, I was talking to a friend and somehow the topic touched on SOAS as she has a friend studying there. Again, i heard raves about the learning environment. I do not regret my choice, if you think that was what I am getting at, I deliberately opted for an entirely different study, an area that is diverse yet niche in reality/practicality , something that is entirely new to me. Reminds me of my courage where I took up a module in basic programming in NTU at a master level because rebellious me refused to take the module under a professor whose arrogance about his background turned me off. I could have scored an A for that module (as i had taken it during undergrad) but i would rather opt for something I know nuts about. everyone at the IT class including my Spanish prof told me that I had to work double hard to pass. Pass I did, though the grade pulled my GPA down (i got a B) …thats the price i paid for being stubbon, i guess.
What I wrote in my personal statement for SOAS (significantly shortened. they required a more detailed one but i cannot possibly post the whole chunk here):
The study of mass communications – including its operating environments, the forces, factors, and interactions between states as well as with non-state actors – thoroughly intrigues me. I am passionate about the examination of the functional role that the media plays in society, as a public sphere, serving an informal intermediary between the government and its general populace.
Since the nineteenth century, which was marked by democratic and liberal revolutions, the media has been recognised in most societies as social institutions that influence common rationalisation about life, including the political, economic, cultural and social spheres. I agree with authors Herman and Chomsky on the systematic propagandist role that the mass media has to play especially in countries where the levers of power are held by a state bureaucracy. Herman’s and Chomsky’s (1988) conceptual propaganda model highlights how the elite domination of the media creates a system that tends to marginalise dissent while serving the news needs of dominant private and political interests.
However, as Hachten and Scotton (2002) had keenly observed, the vast advent in technology and electronics has created a new information era with potential to bring about new social, political and economic consequences. In particular, satellite technology, high-speed transmission of news and data and the Internet transformed the ways nations communicate with its people and the way we interact with one another. Globalisation and innovations in media technology not just re-defined the traditional linear relations media/government has with its consumer-citizens but also the conventional constitution of audience-citizen. Convergent media, shortwave radio, satellite etc, also brought about a new kind of information producers and disseminators, thereby, a new form of active citizenry.
I am deeply interested in researching this revolutionary change in news production and information made possible by new communications technologies, in particular, its utilisation by society’s underbelly such as the minorities, the marginalised, exilic and refugee populations. In particular, I am interested to explore how these groups invoke such technologies in this borderless environment to re-create a new kind of social imagination and cultural representation for themselves. For example, the development of new media undermining some of the exclusionary strategies that the Egyptian government employs against the media arms of Islamic groups (both moderate and militant) would make an interesting study, such as how the semi-legal Egyptian Islamist group Muslim Brotherhood had created an extensive local and international online presence for themselves through their Arab (ikhwanonline.com) and English-language websites (ikhwanweb.com) with different wings, thus forming a decentralised media network for the group. As Richter (2008) keenly observed, the Muslim Brotherhood in making use of the political and technical opportunities had successfully transferred its “contents and views from its marginalized media into the mainstream press, thus creating a new public space for political challengers”.
The combination of media and technology presents a mobilising apparatus/platform for deterritorialised political action and allows marginalised/civil society actors to build solidarity movements. This seemingly displacement of power relations between media, culture, politics and citizens in this globalised information age is an area that I am keen to study more of. The paradigmatic difference between the old media and new media environments also saw that in some instances, judicious legislation is insufficient to counter such information flow. For instance, during the crisis-management of Cyclone Nargis, Myanmar’s secretive military regime attempted a media blockage saw Twitter becoming a critical tool of citizen journalism about the disaster.
Despite the negative effects globalisation had indented upon the news process, including the unequal distribution and access to such information by certain groups and countries, it would be beneficial to examine how efficient technology could provide an alternative to such. I have always been interested in the study of media power relations and citizen representation and with that regard, pursued a mass communications-centric education.
…..(blah blah blah)
I enjoy good books on popular culture, mass mediated media and the role journalism plays in conflict coverage. I enjoy reading about the representations of minorities by the media especially of Muslims, as Malay-Muslim is a significant minority in Singapore. Inspired by my reading of Venkatraman’s (2004) book “Media in a Terrorized World” and in a residual atmosphere ignited by the intense sentiment outpour over the Danish cartoons, I did a postgraduate term paper examining how The Straits Times’ (Singapore’s main English daily) new coverage of “Muslim as terrorists” would influence Singaporeans’ perceptions of Muslims/Islam which gathered an A+ grade. Now I am deeply keen to study the other side of the coin whereby those under-represented or (mis) re-presented would use technology and new media to create a more fitting cultural identity and social imagination.
In this regard, I am very keen to pursue a Master of Arts (MA) degree in mass communications in the United Kingdom, in particular the Global Media and Postnational Communication offered by The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). I understand that this detailed degree is an in-depth study of the mass media in a globalised and technology enabled era and its consequent effects upon (new) media players in Asia, Africa and Middle East. I strongly believe that the modules offered, which includes the study of the complex processes of globalisation and its disconcerting effects; how the under-represented could use convergent media and technology advancements to create their own mediated existence, will induce a new insight and examination of globalised media and its role in post- national communication. It would also enhance my knowledge of how such developments would create new dimensions for the peoples and governments in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, areas that I am thirsty to have a more in-depth knowledge of.
(blah blah blah follows)
I once again chose a very different path because … i wish to break out of familiar mould. This time round, it wasn’t in defiance, it’s in recognising that at some points in life, paths change, bringing the walk to reveal different sights.
I am on threshold, of sights to behold and I have you, friends on board as witness. i wish you well.