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Social Media Networks and Tactical Globalization: An Exploratory Case Study of Contesting Political “Space” in Singapore

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This exploratory article attempts to interrogate the emerging responses of the traditionally powerful Singaporean city-state as it is confronted by the upsurge of social media networks. This inquiry is premised on the assertion that Singapore's city-state, historically dominated by the People's Action Party (PAP), acts as an overall enforcer by employing tactical globalization. In its drive towards development and nation-building, the city-state has identified protecting social cohesion among its diverse and multicultural population as one of its key vulnerabilities. Globalization, particularly heralded by the increasingly unpredictable electronic media, is anathema to the ethos of a city-state that leaves nothing to chance. The city-state pragmatically and selectively appropriates what it sees as benign aspects while at the same time discarding and de-legitimizing malignant features of the globalization phenomenon as it carries out its dominant role as creator and enforcer of policies. The information age characterized by the Internet provides an interesting case study of how tactical globalization is employed by the city-state. On the one hand, Singapore declares itself an open and wired nation with the goal of being an information hub. On the other hand, it controls social media through a repertoire of dominant party rolemodeling, restrictive communications policies, and harsh legal regulations warning against "crusading journalism" that could lead to political instability and damage the nation-building project. Nonetheless, very recent high-profile and embarrassing events that have tarnished top members of the bureaucracy have been highlighted through social media networks. The Internet chatter caused by the slip-ups of elites associated with the ruling party seems to be a portent of the emergence of a "politics of scandal." Levels of trust in government seem to have been dampened, evidenced by the most recent parliamentary elections that have witnessed an unprecedented defeat of a bailiwick of the ruling PAP. The unpredictability and intractability of social media networks poses a serious challenge to the Singaporean city-state that has built an ethos of control and shrewdly applied tactical globalization as it navigates the twenty-first century. This article explores the evolving responses of the city-state as it attempts to manage the potential power wielded by social media.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 February 2013

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  • The St Antony's International Review (STAIR) is the only peer-reviewed journal of international affairs at the University of Oxford. Set up by graduate students of St Antony's College in 2005, the Review has carved out a distinctive niche as a cross-disciplinary outlet for research on the most pressing contemporary global issues, providing a forum in which emerging scholars can publish their work alongside established academics and policymakers. Past contributors include Robert O. Keohane, James N. Rosenau, and Alfred Stepan.
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