Research Talk by Professor James Gomez

“Social Media and Elections: Facebook Politics in Malaysia and Singapore”

By James Gomez and Tan Ge Hui

Date: Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Time: 2 p.m.

Venue: CNM Playroom, AS6 03-38

Abstract:

By early 2010, Facebook was the latest and most popular Web 2.0 platform used by the opposition parties in Singapore and Malaysia. In Singapore, the major opposition parties and its key figures had all established some form of presence on Facebook page, in Malaysia opposition parties and its key figures had gone further using the Facebook platform in several by-elections. In the general elections scheduled to be held by 2012 and 2013 in Singapore and Malaysia respectively, Facebook is expected to figure dominantly as a platform. This comparative study situates itself within the body of political communication research that evaluates Facebook`s effectiveness in harnessing voter support. The study plots pre-election use in Malaysia and Singapore and projects how social networking sites such as Facebook might figure in the general elections of these two countries. Such an analysis will provide researchers an opportunity to evaluate social media’s potential to contribute to democracy and political change in these two countries and the Southeast Asian region in general.

Keywords: Malaysia, Singapore, opposition parties, general elections, social media

Authors:

Dr. James Gomez is presently Deputy Associate Dean (International) and Head of Public Relations, School of Humanities, Communications and Social Sciences at Monash University, Australia. He is co-editor of a forthcoming book entitled New Media and Human Rights in Southeast Asia which part of Routledge’s Media, Culture and Social Change in Asia series. His recent publications include, “Online Opposition in Singapore: Communications Outreach Without Electoral Gain”, (2008) Journal of Contemporary Asia. Vol.38, No.4 and “Citizen Journalism: Bridging the Discrepancy in Singapore’s General Elections News”, Sudostasien Aktuell – Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs (6/2006), German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Germany. He can be contacted at james.gomez@arts.monash.edu.au

Tan Ge Hui earned her Master in Communications (2009) and Bachelor in Business and Commerce (2007) from Monash University, Australia. Her primary area of interest evolves around the study of alternative media and youth. She has researched on “Facebook and Youth Privacy”, “MTV and Chinese youth” and “Facebook and Opposition Parties in Malaysia” during her course of study. She is currently pursuing a translation course in Melbourne. She can be contacted at gehuitan@gmail.com

Research Talk by Ms Carol Soon

“Blogging and Collective Action: Which Networks Matter and For Whom?”

Date: Wednesday 8 September 2010

Time: 3 p.m.

Venue: CNM Playroom, AS6 03-38

Synopsis:

Political developments that took place in recent years suggest that blogging has embarked on a different trajectory, from a personal and therapeutic medium to one which impacts civic participation. Observations of how bloggers are influencing the political landscape are not limited to countries in the West but extend to Asian countries as well. Existing literature on cyber-activism is mainly focused on how technologies facilitate collective action across geographical boundaries as well as enable marginalized groups and individuals to overcome real world constraints to further their cause. In the field of sociology, social movement theorists have lauded the importance and indispensability of one’s informal and formal social networks in influencing and sustaining participation. This paper first identifies the different types of political bloggers in the local context and their levels of involvement in activism. It then examines the roles and significance of three types of social networks – informal, formal and online. In-depth interviews were conducted with more than 40 political bloggers, prominent activists as well as those who did not engage in activism. Quantitative data from questionnaires further elucidated on the relationship between social network variables and bloggers’ participation/non-participation in collective action. The findings indicate significant relationships between political bloggers’ informal and formal social networks and their participation. Although online networks play a critical role in helping political bloggers connect with like-minded activists, communication frequency, social influence, trust and information-seeking were higher between activist bloggers and their informal and formal contacts.

This paper is part of the presenter’s doctoral dissertation which examines the role of collective identity and social networks in engendering participation in collective action among political bloggers. Combined with the analysis of collective identity shared by political bloggers, these findings provide the basis for the development of a typology on the relationship between collectiveness and activism involvement.