1. Description of Our Team
Zi Xiang T., 15, Leader Pao-Jung K., 17, Filmmaker Xinming X., 18, Filmmaker Hubert T., 15, Website designer Teacher-mentor: Mr. Eric Koh
The main catalyst for our interests in censorship lies in the fact that we have been at the receiving end of censorship ourselves. In fact, approximately a year ago, when we first embarked on our Doors to Diplomacy project, our topic in mind was actually concerning the monarchy of a neighboring country and its effects on the country’s democratic development. However, we were told off for approaching such a sensitive topic (seeing how we might inevitably criticize the monarchy) and were essentially “censored” by our teachers.
We were given a lecture on how Singapore is a small country and we needed to demonstrate diplomacy and sensitivity to our larger neighbors. From then, we realized the pervasiveness of censorship and how the long arms of censorship can reach insignificant individuals like ourselves.
Our roles are usually not as clear-cut as the description above suggests, for we often engage in group discussions and help each other in our jobs. From experience, it is definitely true that “two is better than one” as we were able make up for each other’s flaws.
One of the more interesting aspects of our team is actually the diversity within our team. Zi Xiang and Hubert are both local true-blue Singaporeans, Pao-Jung had spent his childhood in Taiwan while Xinming had spent his childhood in Mainland China.
Due to our different backgrounds, we actually share very different views. For example, Pao-Jung usually holds more liberal views and believes strongly in the freedom of expression and a free press. Xinming, on the other hand, is more tolerant of authority in general and believes that censorship is necessary to ensure a harmonious society and minimize conflicts. This diversity sometimes led to disagreement, but we feel this actually enhances our work as more perspectives are being represented and thus, more objective.
Last but definitely not least, our teacher-mentor, Mr. Eric Koh, gave us advice and logistic support and we are very grateful for his guidance and support.
2. Summary of Our Project
Our website was quite ambitious as we were actually tackling the issue of censorship in its entirety. To help us conceptualize the issue, we split the overarching issue of censorship into the different types of censorship based on the different purposes of carrying out censorship. We also devoted a web-page to each important issue, such as freedom of expression and self-censorship.
In the course of our project, in addition to conventional research and literature review, we also carried out surveys within the school population, interviewed people on the street and also did a profile interview on a civil servant, Mr. Terence Seow, and a filmmaker whose works had been subjected to censorship, Mr. Martyn See.
In conjunction with our school’s Social Studies coursework, we created a social documentary incorporating our research and interviews. We hope that the social documentary can serve as a platform for people to know more about censorship as well as Singapore.
We realize that censorship is quite a serious topic, so we try to lighten up each webpage by using pictures and embedding video links. We even included a few humorous, if not risqué, video links on our home page. It is our hope that our website, along with our social documentary, can reach out and educate people about censorship while being fun at the same time.
In retrospect, the best part of this project has been the journey and experience it has provided us with. We learned more about ourselves and, most importantly, had fun while doing constructive work at the same time. Such a process, in our opinion, can never be replicated in a classroom alone.
3. Our Computer and Internet Access
A. Percentage of students using the Internet at home:more than 50%
B. Number of workstations with Internet access in the classroom:4-6
C. Connection speed used in the classroom:dial-up modem
D. Number of years our classroom has been connected to the Internet:more than 6
E. Additional comments concerning your computer and/or Internet access (Optional):
Actually, Singapore being a city-state, we actually have an extremely high broadband penetration rate and with the advent of 3G mobile phones (which can access Internet) and free public Wi-Fi in designated areas, the number of users connecting to the Internet will rise with time. Internet, along with the new media in general, is able to reach out to more Singaporeans than ever before as it transcends the boundaries that traditional forms of media face, such as costs, time and space.
We hope to capitalize on this fact by incorporating fun multimedia elements into our website, such as embedding videos and Flash animations, such that we are able to reach a wide audience and be able to raise their awareness in social issues like censorship in an enjoyable manner.
4. Problems We Had To Overcome
Firstly, censorship is actually quite a sensitive issue in Singapore. This actually posed a bigger problem than expected. When we sought interviews with people on the streets, most of them evaded us especially after finding out what our interview topic was. Out of those who agreed, some jokingly requested to have their faces blurred out in our actual documentary.
This was even more obvious when we sought in-depth interviews with professors at our local universities. All of them turned us down and a few even responded by commenting on that the subject was “too sensitive” for them to express their views openly. This ironically fell into one of the highlights of our project: self-censorship (you can find out more about self-censorship in our website!).
As such, we could not interview as much people as we would like to. Most of all, it reflected the political and cultural realities in Singapore. To overcome this, we had to be extra persuasive and a big, wide smile really goes a long way in convincing someone to be interviewed. :)
Secondly, we were also encumbered with technical difficulties. This surfaced repeatedly when we were filming our social documentary. A main problem we faced was in picking up the voices of the people speaking in public places. As our equipment was more amateurish than professional, we do not have a microphone and instead had to improvise by using our mobile phones as a secondary mike and fit the audio captured by the mobile phones to the video footage during the editing process. Other technical hiccups occurred as well (some too technical to be concisely expressed here), but we are glad to say that with hard work, we were able to solve or circumvent most of them.
5. Our Project Sound Bite
“Censorship: Protection from Reality”
6. How did your activities and research for this Doors to Diplomacy Project support standards, required coursework and curriculum standards?
Our Doors to Diplomacy project was done as part of Raffles Institution’s Research Education programme. This meant that our project had to fit into the existing Research Education framework, which is structured to include a project proposal, a final report and carry out surveys and interviews. Our social documentary is also part of Raffles Institution’s Year 4 Social Studies curriculum.
As we carried out the Research Education’s regular coursework, we found that the tools utilized in Research Education were very beneficial for us. Examples include compiling our bibliography in APA style, conducting surveys and interviews with other people in our community and accessing news archives and other sources of information effectively.
However, we found that the soft skills we have acquired along the way are crucial too. For example, we can honestly say that the interview component of this project has emboldened us to step outside our comfort zone and approach complete strangers for their opinions. Other soft skills were teamwork, the importance of communication, as well as time management.