Social media's uses and limits explored at the Centre's inaugural Kishore Mahbubani Speaker Series event
UWCSEA’s Centre for International Education launched in 2011 and established the Kishore Mahbubani Speaker Series as an extension of the Centre’s work to provide enhanced educational opportunities. The speaker series aims to address issues relevant to society and education today. The inaugural Kishore Mahbubani Speaker Series event was held at UWCSEA East on Saturday, 26 May and addressed the topic, “Can and should social media influence policy?” Professor Kishore Mahbubani, Ms Nicole Seah and Mr Thomas Zilliacus came together to address the topic from their own unique vantage points. Below, Grade 10 student Kathleen Guan shares her perspective on and summary of the event.
Can and should social media influence policy?
This was the topic of discussion at the inaugural Kishore Mahbubani Speakers Series event at UWCSEA East. Remarkably, this question would not have even been posed a decade ago. It would be an understatement if one were to say that in the past 10 years, social media and its influence have shifted from being a matter of choice, to an inescapable force. Although to many of us social media is a significant yet familiar, almost ‘run-of-the-mill’ part of our lives, its power and by-products as well as how best to utilise it, remain an enigma to policymakers and authorities alike.
The event began with one of the three guest speakers, Ms Nicole Seah, discussing the effectiveness of social media and its uses as a communication channel for politicians, and whether social media has changed the way people think and talk about politics. As a National Solidarity Party candidate in 2011 and ardent social media practitioner (with over 105,900 ‘Likes’ on her Facebook page), Ms Seah has a strong sense of how social media can engage people in politics and other conversation. What I enjoyed most from Ms Seah’s presentation were her many relevant references to pop culture, including the exploration of the subjects of ‘trolling,’* the popularity of Internet memes, satire in social media, generation gap, and my personal favourite – ‘Vote You Maybe,’ a parody of Carly Rae Jepsen’s hit ‘Call Me Maybe,’ in reference to the recent by-election in Hougang to fill former Worker’s Party MP Yaw Shin Leong’s seat.
Following Ms Seah’s presentation, Mr Thomas Zilliacus, Chairman & CEO of the YuuZoo Corporation discussed how one could control social media. Mr Zilliacus posed several critical points, including the fact that social media is controlled by its own users, and calling social media a ‘complex,’ ‘fluid-like’ and ‘ever-changing media form,’ which ‘cannot be defined with the same degree of precision as is the case for traditional media forms (e.g., television, newspapers, radio).’
The event flowed with ease as Professor Kishore Mahbubani, the guest of honour and Dean and Professor in the Practice of Public Policy at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National University of Singapore, pursued by discussing whether social media will ‘kill’ traditional media.
By the end of the event, the answer to the initial question was clear: social media does influence policy, and it is something impossible to control – a force to be reckoned with. The three guest speakers, along with Mr Hans Vriens, who led the final panel discussion, each approached the question with their own personal experiences and perspectives. Notwithstanding, it was Professor Kishore Mahbubani who stated a phrase central to the core of all three of the guest speakers’ presentations – that at the end of the day, it is the people we choose to trust who determine what we are exposed to.
* In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.