Reading Review – ‘Tension and Creativity: Singapore’s Media in Transition’.


‘Tension and Creativity: Singapore’s Media in Transition’.

Ang, Peng Hwa. (2000).


In the reading of ‘Tension and Creativity: Singapore’s Media in Transition’, Ang Peng Hwa aims to paint a backdrop of the coming changes in the Singapore media scene. With the light of a transitional stage of a country there she listed three levels in various sectors. Firstly, there is a push by the government towards a knowledge-based economy. Secondly, there is a restructuring engendered by the economic, political, financial, banking and monetary crisis in the Asian region. Lastly, Singapore wants to use technology and be at the forefront of technological development (2000, p.90).


The origin of this transitional change in the media of Singapore is related to a culture that is changing and the culture is changing because people are changing (Ang P. H. 2000, p.90). However, with the need for this change, the Singapore government will need to change from the once-thriving environment of controlled media to that of a more liberal and creative direction. Even the format of which radio and TV target audiences have changed, but we see this very clearly on the Internet. The print media however is different as it caters to the masses and has strong advertising profits. From the 1970s till today, all newspaper publications are from the Singapore Press Holdings.


In contrast to print media, broadcast TV is almost entirely owned by the government – attributed partly to historical legacy (Ang P.H. 2000, p.98).  Film censorship has been a major topic in Singapore and sadly, satellite television is banned in Singapore except for embassies, financial institutions and selected agencies. This infrastructure brings in cable television with a strategic plan to stave off satellite TV broadcasters (Ang P.H. 2000, p.102-103).


In the 90’s the need for freedom of speech in Singapore was ignited by a new medium – the Internet. The Internet has brought about a major significant change in the lifestyle and culture of Singapore. Ang P.H. also mentions that the government has three levels of Internet censorship via filtering and proxy servers. Singapore, having one of the highest Internet penetration rates in the world, is no exception. One of the most successful online? businesses is PostOne which later became Hotmail and was bought over by Microsoft for US$400 million in 1998. By 2000, Hotmail service has gain 10 million users (Ang P.H. 2000, p.106). The most important question, argues Ang P.H., is for Singapore in the future: ‘Can Singapore tolerate failures in business?’ and ‘Will Singapore businessmen be broadminded enough to appreciate the value and meaning of intellectual property?’ (Ang P.H. 2000, p. 106).


My Views

I disagree that being technologically advanced will put Singapore at the forefront in the world of economy. Technology by itself is nothing without creative individuals. I would like to borrow a quote from Janine James: “The great brands of the future will not be brands but interactive cultures around which people resonate.” (Coyne P, 2005 p.188). The Internet in the 21st century is very much about social networks… It is about people and their culture.


As technology progresses, we will see more multi text and creative types of visual communications, especially in the areas of high definition broadcast TV and the supernova highways of the World Wide Web. The values and saturated real-ness of color will bring to life the impossible as far as the human mind can imagine to the screens. This makes creative individuals powerful and important, as they will use technology to bring cultures together.


Any business today is strong because of its branding. Any organization needs to know that there is a need for “creative thinkers” as an integrator and facilitator for innovation, a means to strategize the future, identifying new markets and developing new products. Core values and perception in a brand can create better chemistry with consumers through good PR with the help of integrating creative thinking processes. According to Florida R in his book ‘The Creative Ethos’, he mentions that human creativity is multifaceted and multidimensional. It is not limited to technological innovation or new business models (2003, p.22). Creativity involves distinct kinds of thinking and habits that is cultivated in the individual and society. Everything from our work culture, our values and communities reshape the way we set ourselves as economic, social and marketplace leader (Florida, R 2003, p.22). A design, creative, art or media manager must create direction and vision; not just in production and implementation. The media leader intelligently explains what is possible and makes it happen. This creates value for customers. 


The notion that technology is the key factor in social change is not entirely true. Technology has impact, but most fundamental changes in social structures begin with the outpouring of human creativity and a creative mind-set (Florida R, 2003, p.26). To develop a “design” in culture, an organization must hire talented people, those who can collaborate on a constant stream of always improving products, communication, services, systems and experience for customers who didn’t know they needed it, but will spend a premium when they see the need.


Creative communications plays an exceedingly important role especially in technology and globalization. A creative person brings about illumination and entertainment. Kress and van Leeuwen (2006, p.215) talks of this semiotic role in any production—its meaning, composition and performance which need to have representations from images with skillful use of language. TV broadcasting enhances communication as a new and powerful means of social integration and control (W, Raymond 1974, p.17). Creative visuals were used as social, commercial, at times political means to influence the world as what W, Raymond suggest above (1974, p.17).


Another disagreement that Singapore will move forward with just knowledge is not entirely possible. Intelligence is not the same as creativity. It may have the ability to deal or process large amounts of data but creativity involves the ability to synthesize – sifting through data, perceptions and materials to come up with solutions that are new and useful. It requires self-assurance and the ability to take risk. (Florida R, 2003, p.31).We understand that creative communications is about telling a “story” within social values with shared knowledge and experiences – touching the hearts of individual, community and humanity.


How many people actually get to see these representations of images based on their real life social experiences? In the chapter ‘The Rise of the Creative Class’ Florida R writes: ‘Creativity draws on ordinary abilities like observing, remembering, speaking, seeing, hearing, understanding language and recognizing analogies (2003, p.32). Schriver (1997, p372) mentions that we ourselves may not perceive these representations unless our frame of reference comes from sources such as personal knowledge of beliefs, attitudes, cultural values and organization for which the content is targeted and whom it is for. However, each of us writes a story based on recounting of events in sequential recollection process (Putnis, P & Petelin, R 1996, p.226). It demonstrates that we do have distinctions and a complex range of variables of attitudes from previous experiences, interest in the subject, knowledge of the subject, the physical and mental state at the time, the physical environment, fluency, skill and maturity. Yet all these are not just knowledge. They are our human creativity and this is the tension that Singapore’s government must be willing to address – our creative differences.


Creativity is about adding color to our ideas that will help to create powerful visuals; which then brings us to a higher level of sensory appeal. It applies to all modes and genres… from writings?? to books to architecture and interior design to typography, product and document design (Kress, G and van Leeuwen, T 2006, p.230).


I do observe the enduring power of brands. It is not of tricks and gimmicks, but because they tap into a human truth – and that truth is about human interactivity.


For example, Apple grew out of being just a computer company; trying to come out with the most powerful computers every 15-18 months. They designed the iPOD and iTUNES which have become an integral part of millions of users worldwide. Everyone who owns an iPOD knows and experiences the “improved” lifestyle one has after owning an iPOD. iTUNES us to buy and download songs that have sentimental value to us legally; without piracy issues.


Another example is Kodak – a century old brand almost became obsolete at the start of the age of digitalization. “Kodak moments” was and is part of our culture. Ironically, Kodak actually invented much of the technology of digital photography. But sad to say, Kodak never received the credit due them and instead seemed to become obsolete.


Kodak realized they needed to be more direct in adopting a digital vocabulary and point of view [perception]. Even though media was changing; attitudes towards pictures stay the same. Kodak changed their strategy to be a gallery on the web where pictures that have been taken are stored. Kodak transformed themselves into a digital company, and by doing that have reaffirmed with a digital voice that it is a company about pictures. The fact isn’t that Apple is about grey or beige square computers; it is about a lifestyle where design meets function.


We will always be working towards greater complexity, in order to create greater simplicity. The most important aspect of design is the ethical, which has to do with creating quality of life. The power of creativity is sustainability. Creative thinkers change perceptions of reality and view – this I call perceived value.


In solving problems, there will always be tension, but a creative solution is the key. Any social or culture that works with just one medium are limiting themselves. What makes a great business or nation is consistency – one that has all elements of aesthetics, clear organization of information and interactivity. There is a choice so that you have control over how you experience it.


Singapore needs creative thinkers that can think multidimensional and be experimental. That is what it takes to create a creative hub. But more than that, we need an environment where people are motivated to do creative activity by their own interest and having personal enjoyment in those activities (Florida R, 2003, p.34) Creativity will then flourish in a social environment that is stable, allowing continuity of effort, yet diverse and broad-minded political openness and most of all an intellectual receptiveness to new concepts.



Ang, Peng Hwa. 2000, ‘Tension and Creativity: Singapore’s Media in Transition’. In inform.educate.entertain@sg: arts & media in Singapore. Singapore: Ministry of Information and the Arts. Pp.88-119


Florida, Richard 2003, ‘The Creative Ethos’, The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Family Life. Pluto Press Aus


Patrick Coyne 2005, Communication Arts: Design Annual 46 – Editor’s Column, Volume 47, Number 6  Coyne & Blanchard, Inc Menlo Park, CA


Kress, G and van Leeuwen, T 2006, Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design, 2nd Edn.,  Routledge, London & New York, Chapter 4, p.113 & Chapter 7, p.215


Putnis, P & Petelin, R 1996, Professional Communication: Principles and Applications, Prentice Hall, Sydney, Chapter7, p.223-263.


Schriver, KA 1997, ‘The interplay of words and pictures’, Dynamics in document design: creating texts for readers, Wiley Computer Pub., New York. Chapter 6 p.361-441


W, Raymond 1974, ‘Television: Technology and Cultural Form, Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, pp.3-25



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