Issue 103, October 2011
New media today
Participants attending the Alumni Forum learn about trends and roles of social media networks

The internet, Facebook, Twitter and other channels of social media have gained increasing popularity in recent years, not just as platforms to connect people, but also as marketing channels. Companies and even political parties now turn to new media to engage their target audience.

This and more was shared by the three speakers who spoke at the Alumni Forum: ‘The role of new media in today’s world’, held as part of NTU’s Alumni Homecoming event this year. 

Absence of media and political change
Forum Chairman and speaker, Professor Ang Peng Hwa, Director, Singapore Internet Research Centre, NTU, related his experience of a research study he conducted to better understand how social media is used to engage citizens.

Citing the example of Nepal in February 2005, when business transactions and news channels suffered disruption due to the cut off of communication channels – landlines, internet, mobile – to combat Maoist insurgents, Prof Ang explained how the role of and the dependence on new media is better realised, through its absence. The disruption affected business transactions as many business owners had to engage in traditional modes of communication, like couriers. Newspapers also became thinner and emergency services were not easily available.

These disruptions led to the citizens’ loss of faith and confidence in their King, which ultimately led to their withdrawal of political support.

Social Network Society
Assistant Professor Marko M Skoric from NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information spoke about the Social Network Society (SNS) as well as the trends in technology-mediated sociability.

He emphasised that whilst studies indicate a mainly positive impact of SNS use on civic and political engagement, such as the lowering of transaction cost and the increase in information flow, one must also be wary about its negative implications. These include the lack of privacy, the loss of productivity when employees engage in social media platforms, and the accidental leak of sensitive information.

On the future of SNS, Prof Skoric said, “We will see a decrease in the use of email, as more people share personal messages over these networks. Organisations will have greater ability to collect and analyse personal data. There will also be rising expectations regarding the transparency of public organisations and we can expect greater volatility of public opinion too.”

Being in the know
Speaker Ms May Chen, an alumnus from NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information’s Class of 2010, shared how she used social media channels in her job as a journalist with the Straits Times Sports Desk.

"Often, I am alerted of a news lead via Facebook and Twitter. Once I see the message, I check with my colleagues and try to gather enough information to write an interesting news article on it," she shared.

“In fact, I think these social media channels are getting pretty addictive, especially for users from my generation. I am checking my Facebook and Twitter accounts most of the time, if not always. But if not for these channels, I might not be able to produce news worthy articles for the paper,” she added, with a laugh.

The forum was held at the School of Biological Sciences on Saturday, 15 October.

© Alumni Affairs Office