Friday, April 30, 2010

Polarization in Singapore Media

The mainstream media in Singapore is often accused of being biased. This allegation stems from the observation that the mainstream media tends to report only the positive aspects of Government policy. Clearly, this is insufficient, and a severe failing; good reporting should give attention to both sides of an issue.

At the same time, however, I can’t help but think that the online community has committed the same mistake, by tending to report only the negative aspects of Government policy. It may be possible to justify this by claiming that we should hold different mediums to different standards, but this argument is not entirely satisfactory.

My take is that alternative media is reactionary is nature, often in response to the mainstream media. For example, if an article about a policy X is reported favorably in the papers, then arguments against X will be reported in alternative media, to serve as a counterpoint. In this fashion, well-intentioned bloggers (or citizen journalists, though I dislike the term) describe the weaknesses in public policy which are omitted in the mainstream media; a discussion of the positives is often not made as it is implicitly assumed that the reader is familiar with the source material previously published in the mainstream media.

However, the precondition of familiarity with the source material may not be satisfied; thus the intellectually lazy may be presented with an unduly negative portrayal of matters. It is troubling if anyone subscribes to any one source of information, more so if the sources are polarized or biased.

I have portrayed the roles of the mainstream media and alternative media as being complimentary; perhaps those more skeptical will instead have a more adversarial view.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Subs Versus Dubs

The issue of anime subs versus dubs rages on. From my perspective, it seems foolish to argue in terms of quality; good subs and good dubs are not mutually exclusive. A modern codec or DVD is easily capable of accommodating both. The relevant issue, however, involves cost and speed. Dubbing requires more time and money than subbing. It is this issue that the debate should be focused upon.

Fans of subs do not find dubs agreeable because dubbing inevitably raises the delay and cost of a release for limited (in their view) benefit, whereas supporters of dubs consider such delays and costs bearable. Viewed in such a primitive framework, the two options become mutually exclusive if there is to be only one type of release.

However, I wonder why things must be so. If it is not possible to accommodate everyone in a singular release, then having multiple releases may be sensible. Admittedly, the economics of having a early subs-only release and a subs+dubs release later on may be dubious, but the subs-only release, by virtue of greater speed and lower cost, may yet prove to be profitable. Alternatively, it appears that the major economic limiter is the cost of production and distribution with physical media; this seems to suggest that a digital mode of distribution is preferable.

On Writing Online

I read a number of blogs and online forums. In my opinion, arguments quickly devolve into logically poor back-and-forth spats, quite often because of the style of “discussion” which is encouraged by the medium.

The “style of discussion” I am referring to is the decomposition of an opposing argument into a number of separate paragraphs or segments, then critiquing and rebutting each segment on its own. It can easily become a hybrid of cherry picking, quoting out of context, and erecting a straw-man.

Perhaps if arguments were expressed strictly in the (logical) form of premise-conclusion such a style would be suitable. However, most articles are not written as logical arguments. Articles are more holistic, with distinct flows of argument. An approach that dissects writing into separate sections and attacks individual sections in isolation may not be entirely sound. The approach also leads to increasing myopia, as arguments and rebuttals tend to focus on increasingly minor points of disagreement.

The second problem is that it tends to give an impression of disagreement rather than agreement. It encourages one to zoom in on areas of disagreement, and comment on how those particular segments are flawed or incorrect. Inadvertently, one fails to emphasize or draw attention to how one agrees or at least finds sound the remainder of the work. Perhaps people do not see the need to express agreement, and only see the need to express disagreement or discontent, but such a tendency will, accumulated over many individuals, lead to an overwhelming amount of negative feedback quite contrary to the actual perception of the article.

Increasingly, I am favoring posts that are more concise in nature, with only one or two major points. I think that doing so is better as the logical and structural consistency will be higher; a longer article necessarily exposes unintentional weaknesses or areas for misinterpretation. Writing as a medium of argument is unforgiving; whereas speech allows for mistakes to be tolerated by virtue of memory and the fact that rebuttals and clarifications can be made near instantly, in writing your mistakes are open for careful and prolonged examination, and the latency of correction diminishes the impact of your defense.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Marital Conversion

I recently read an extremely long Facebook post on a certain issue, which, upon my analysis, seemed to be more trivial than I first thought. I present the issue below.

If one day your girlfriend or fiance were to make the following demand of you to choose one of the two following options,
A) Believe in X
B) Break up
,where X is some possible belief (for instance, the moon is made of cheese or flowers are nice smelling), what would you do?

The problem seems trivial. I present the following flowchart as aid for those who are unable to discover an satisfactory solution.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Pressure and Euthanasia

A key argument against euthanasia is that people may be pressured towards euthanasia. The argument may sometimes be interpreted solely in terms of the life lost due to such pressure. However, such an interpretation may be too limited and unsatisfactory. While there is indeed something wrong with the scenario of people dying to assisted suicide when they have no wish to, an oft-neglected aspect to the issue is pressure.

The pressure argument is this: the focus should also be on the negative pressures faced by the terminally-ill patient. It is not sufficient to introduce safeguards to prevent people from ending their lives due to pressure; rather, such negative pressure should itself be prevented. Harm, whether to the life of a person, or of a psychological or emotional nature, is harm. It is unacceptable to consider the former but not the latter.