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“My humping” the Prime Minister: sound-image power play in podcast politics of Singapore

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  • UserDr Shzr Ee Tan (Royal Holloway)
  • ClockThursday 27 November 2008, 17:00-19:00
  • HouseCRASSH.

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Intermedia Research Group

At the height of general elections fervour in Singapore, 2006, the republic’s prime minister Lee Hsien-Loong became the unlikely subject of a music video re-mix featuring hiphop group Black Eyed Peas’ hit, My Humps. The remix was uploaded onto the internet as a podcast, first appearing as a streaming sound file on an independent blog – and later on YouTube. It was a defiant response to government criticism of political podcasts in Singapore. This paper makes a case study of the local and virtual controversies which erupted in the wake of the said podcast. In particular, I will investigate the amphibian as well as literal relationships between music, image and text manipulated within the podcast and in its thriving aftermath. How are the semiotics involved unpacked in relation to each other, and how do political commentators in Singapore make use of ambiguities in such relationships to camouflage direct criticism of the government as a celebration of kitsch performance, or as deliberately mistranslated music/image codes? Power play in this game is further complicated by the encoding and dissemination of the above processes and products on the Internet, in a virtual environment where – in spite of its false sense of democracy – parallel-world identities and anonymous (and therefore illusorily non-culpable) communities can be created as fast as YouTube files are downloaded and spread through viral mails.

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