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Communicating with Power


Edited By Cherian George

Communication is ubiquitous and information is abundant. Political and economic markets are more open than they have ever been. Yet, there is no escaping the fact that communication continues to flow across fields where power is distributed unevenly. This collection of articles analyzes and responds to asymmetries of power in a diversity of contexts. They are drawn from presentations at the 2016 Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, held in Fukuoka, Japan. The conference theme presented an opening for scholars from various disciplines and academic traditions to engage with the questions of power at different levels of analysis—from micro sites of power like a doctor’s consultation room, to the geopolitical arenas where nations wage war, make peace, and spy on one another. The resulting collection straddles different methodologies and styles, from survey research to essays. Leading scholars and junior researchers have combined to create a volume that reflects the breadth of communication scholarship and its contemporary concerns.

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Chapter Ten: Shifts in Communicative Power: Social Media and Elections in Singapore (Debbie Goh / Elmie Nekmat / Natalie Pang / Carol Soon / Weiyu Zhang)


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Shifts IN Communicative Power

Social Media and Elections in Singapore


Power in communication resides in the ability of citizens, institutions and governments to influence the minds and wills of their target constituents. Communication theories on systems, networks, framing and mobilization emphasize different aspects of the complex phenomenon of communication. The advancements of Internet technologies from Web 1.0 to real-time on-the-go communication, made possible by mobile phones and instant messaging applications, have diffused power from those who held traditional positions of influence to the previously disempowered. The ability of one to communicate with power is most critical during high-stakes political periods such as elections.

Defined as “partly free” by Freedom House (2014), Singapore is an electoral democracy characterized by the dominance of one ruling party, the People’s Action Party (PAP). Competition from opposition political parties has been limited, and the republic has also been criticized for its strong stances against alternative media on the Internet and the right of assembly. These sanctions are often defended on the grounds of upholding harmony and social values such as religious tolerance. Due to the country’s track record of suppressing assembly and other forms of civic mobilization, combined with its economic and developmental success, Singaporeans have been described as generally apathetic and disengaged, with political engagement heightening only during elections, manifesting in a variety of activities such...

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