Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Meeting Tan Tarn How (or, "I'm not allowed to blog about it")

The lady, the MC, who started the session rolling said, "Please do not blog about today's session". Or something to that effect.

The audience laughed.

The lady responded in good humour, "I'm not sure if I should be worried about the laughter".

She was just the messenger, obviously. I'm not sure why the need to make the remark though. Maybe it was to set the context for the discussion that was to follow.

This was a policy forum held at IPAM, relating to "new media". The flyer said it was organised by the Strategic Policy Office, Public Service Division, together with the Institute of Policy Development, Civil Service College.

I estimated about 100 participants or so, all employees of various civil service departments as well as statutory boards. Not sure how many of the participants have blogs. Even if they did, I don't think many would be blogging about it (who has the time? heh). But it was clear from the subsequent discussions that many of them read blogs at the very least.

Maybe the "no blog request" was to assure participants that they needn't worry about expressing themselves candidly, for the subsequent discussions.

A better way might be to say, "Follow the Chatham House Rules":
"When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed".
(See this and this). Incidentally, the facilitator of the panel discussion later emphasised "we'll follow the Chatham House Rules" a few times -- but alas the "no blog rule" was left as it was.

OK, being the dutiful government agency employee that I am (i.e. "Kiasi"), I'll not mention the title of the form. I'll not even mention the titles of the presentations. Not even the speakers...

... Ah, what the heck, I'll mention the panelists, 'cos I found the session really engaging:
Too bad I can't blog about some of the points resulting from the discussions. I thought all of them had smart things to say, in response to the questions and comments from the participants.

The three academics -- Dr Lim, Dr George, and Mr Arun -- responded to most of the questions and comments. Their responses were coherent and articulate (I'd have rambled instead). In particular, I was most impressed with Cherian George, from the way he latched on to the key points made by some participants (some of whom, in contrast, made lengthy statements rather than questions!) and used apt analogies to explain his views.

Some questions were also submitted via SMS, and later displayed on screen along side the "live" discussion. I thought it was a very in-thing to do, and more important, it allowed those less inclined to take the microphones to express themselves.

But alas, I can't really blog about any of that.

What I can say is that I met Tan Tarn How at the session, who was there as a participant, and who also gave a very thoughtful and interesting response during the panel discussion. I've read his blog before (he says he hasn't had time to update it). But I didn't know about his other blog for his alter-ego.

We had a chance to chat during the break. I asked him about his research interests. He shared some interesting observations about the state of the Singapore Blogosphere. Maybe he ought to put some of that observations to update his blog : )

* p.s. Actually I'm just being a smart-ass here, in writing this post. Apologies to Tarn How if he feels slighted that he's been mentioned merely as a "last resort" (not the case!)

The organisers aren't to be blamed for the lack of details in this post either.

All I really wanted to do was to share, in my usual rambling way, that such a discussion forum is being organised by a government agency, for government employees from various agencies.

This is progress, in my opinion.

Two years ago, I would not have imagined such a discussion being organised, for government employees. Back then, anything "new media" was generally seen as frivolous or merely a fad. Or little understood at best, and hence not most people's awareness.

This is hardly the first forum on "new media" for government employees. And I don't think will be the last. As one speaker said, there's no agreement on how the government should deal with new media.

In the end, I suspect the only way to manage new media is like how Singapore has managed the Internet -- you don't, because you can't.

Hmm... perhaps more on this, for a later post.


  1. Haha, a good piece of meta-humor about the state of new media in Singapore. Sounds like an interesting conference :)

  2. Backbencher2:03 pm

    I was at the session and I benefitted from the sharing by the panelists and the presenters. However, I came away feeling that new media = blog because of the emphasis on blogs. We didn't even talk about podcasts, managing a virtual community, sharing of softwares, resources etc. The facilitator or someone should have tried to widen the scope of the discussion. It seemed to suggest that all involved are still not too familiar with what constitutes new media, or we're all blog-mad.


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