When I first came to Singapore I was confused by people outside the industry using the word ‘marketing’ when they meant shopping at a supermarket or wet market. Of course, this word came from the common description of a place where livestock, poultry, seeds as well as fruit and vegetables would be sold. In England, they even have the term ‘market town’. Maybe everyone is getting more business savvy in Singapore these days. I seem to hear ‘marketing’ used less than ‘shopping’. Marketing as part of the product cycle seems to be a widely understood term.
Chambers 21st Century Dictionary clearly describes the word ‘media’ as ‘the means by which news, information etc is communicated to the public usually considered to be TV, radio and the press collectively’. The Oxford English Dictionary has an almost identical definition.
However, somewhere along the line in Singapore, the term ‘media’ began to be linked specifically to film-making. Film is not mentioned in either of the dictionary definitions. Maybe there was a confusion with the word ‘medium’ which does encompass photography as well as watercolours and clay.
The term ‘visual arts’ is more commonly associated with filmmaking – and also with sculpture and painting. Certainly animation, visual effects, and computer games would fall comfortably under this category.
To add confusion, IFRA, the German printing organisation, runs awards for publishers and printers organises an event called ‘Asia Media Awards’ (strictly speaking this competition should be the Asia Newspaper Design Awards) while the Singapore 4As runs another show titled ‘Singapore Media Awards’, where the prizes are given to the media specialist agencies for their prowess in selecting media – press, TV, outdoor etc.
Singapore recently opened a new building which has been named Mediapolis. But so far we haven’t heard of any magazine publishers or radio stations moving in. The prospective tenants are all connected to the film industry. Maybe this landmark tower should have been named Filmpolis. Of course, it can be argued that the word ‘film’ itself is not correct as we capture or create images as much on a digital file as celluloid strips. If this continues, when we send teenagers off to the Polytechnic for a Media Studies course, will we discover they have not been learning about newspaper journalism and PR communications but how to direct movies?
With the convergence of the traditional media and newer vehicles like mobile phones and the Internet, which now also communicate information to the public in ever-increasing frequency, we have to accept the term ‘media’ denotes a bigger umbrella.
However, should we include feature films in this broadening category?
Personally, I still can’t get my head around calling Spiderman 3 a ‘media’. Is a special effects company like Lucas Film now to be known as a ‘media’ firm? I find disconcerting that the term ‘media’ is being used so casually and, to my mind, incorrectly.