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Breaking Barriers: How Live Streaming Connects Communities in Singapore

The rise of live streaming in Singapore

 

Unknown to many, Singapore has a rather rich history with live-streaming within the gaming scene, albeit a somewhat obscure one. Most commonly broadcasted were local area network (LAN) tournaments, which are tournaments hosted in a singular location with all players in attendance. It is usually impractical to attempt to capture these events in video content, aside from the occasional photo, so the best way to experience the action was through live updates on forums or instant messaging. This served as a precursor to live streaming Singapore. Live updates allowed for friends and family of the players to watch and gain a sense of pride or anticipation alongside the players themselves as they follow the results of the tournaments. This experience could only be achieved with the direct communication of tournament results to the audience. Live streaming Singapore merely expanded this concept to a public level.

Live streaming has seen a meteoric rise in popularity over the past couple of years, especially with platforms like Twitch.tv or even YouTube focusing heavily on integrating it into their standard practices. The ability to jump into a stream at any time of the day has given an incredible amount of accessibility. Now it is as simple as opening an application on a mobile phone to be able to see through another person’s eyes, all the while being able to interact with them at the same time. It is this duality of interaction and perspective that has caused a shift in how people are interested in consuming media, particularly in a society that today places heavy emphasis on the usage of social media and a desire for global interconnectedness.

Importance of live streaming in connecting communities

Live streaming is a solitary act for some, yet a community event for many, as people from different parts of the world are able to converse and chat over live streams. As mentioned above, live streaming is an act of joining friends in doing just about anything; from watching a movie together to drawing or gaming. It provides a platform to interact with one another and to share their ideas on a particular topic, at the same time being able to view the reactions and comments made by others in real-time due to its convenience and easy access. Given the differences in time zones around the world, it can be hard to coordinate a time to gather and participate in an activity. However, live streaming manages to solve this problem by acting as a common platform. A good example to illustrate the importance of live streaming in connecting communities would be on gaming live streams. With easy access and real-time interaction, gaming live streams have the power to gather different gamers from around the world who are interested in the same game. As viewers watch and chat with the streamer, they are able to share their knowledge about the game and discuss it with others, hence building a community of gamers through the stream. This is something that cannot be achieved through pre-recorded videos and forums.

Benefits of Live Streaming in Singapore

Increased accessibility to events and activities

Aforementioned in his interview with The New Paper, Mr Ong Say How, the Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer for World Sport Group believes that with the future of sporting events being viewed over the internet and broadcasted on mobile devices, this would mean the end of mass group viewings at coffee shops or clubs. Users would now be able to view events from home or essentially everywhere, in high quality. Less the crowd, noise, and heaty environments, live internet streaming opens up a new era for sports fans who would rather escape the hassle of encountering the public at these sorts of communal activities. Now instead of going to the extent of stepping out to catch a particular event, one could simply plan an activity to coincide with an event and merely catch it online at a later time, regardless of work or location. Not only is convenience a key advantage, but this would almost certainly ring an end to missed opportunities of catching events on local television, scheduled at odd timings.

Instant streaming of events and activities has enabled Singaporeans to view and engage in activities that previously were unattainable due to cost, distance, or time. In our fast-paced society and with the ever-rising living standards, such activities will always be overshadowed by the need to work and/or in search for a more sustainable income. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the average Singaporean to be able to set aside time and money for leisure and recreational purposes. With streaming, events can be broadcast from the various happening spots in Singapore, hence making it significantly less demanding for the average Singaporean to discover and partake in activities happening where they live.

Fostering a sense of community and inclusivity

Viewers of the National Day Parade 2010 were encouraged to host their own parties and submit photographs of their celebrations, which were then compiled onto a government-organized website. This allowed Singaporeans to unite and celebrate as one people while viewing the actual parade live-streamed on television sets or internet web pages. Step-by-step interactive guides were even provided for activities such as hosting a National Day Dinner, and this helped to give the parade a more personal touch to individuals. Evidently, without the live streaming of the actual parade and various supplementary activities, Singaporeans would not have had such a chance to celebrate the nation’s birthday in a united manner. An increased sense of community and national identity can also be seen through the recent live streaming of MDA’s Our SG Arts Plan Town hall meeting. By allowing the public to view and ask questions in real-time to the panel of speakers, Singaporeans were able to play a part in the shaping of national cultural policies.

The ability to connect thousands within a matter of seconds marks great power in any given innovation. For Singapore, live streaming has given way to the destabilization of cultural barriers and the displaying of a common national identity. Where would argue that globalization has caused a disintegration of national identity, for Singapore, live streaming has caused the reverse to occur. In a land-starved state where organizing any mass event requires meticulous planning, large-scale events are few and far between. This causes difficulty in the fostering of a national identity and a sense of community. However, with recent live streaming of events such as the National Day Parade, Chingay, and the Youth Olympic Games, Singaporeans have been able to experience a sense of unity without the physical congregation of individuals.

Empowering individuals to share their talents and passions

From interviews with live streamers, we discovered a number of streaming talents and interests that differ from personal hobbies. For example, a live streamer under the nickname GreyHairedKnight is a retired person who plays RPG games and shares his life experiences. There’s also a group of language teachers in The SiFuG with a History who teach using Shogun Total War gameplay. The combination of these unique teaching methods and sharing historical knowledge drew them to continue the stream and even create a YouTube channel to reach a wider audience. All these interesting individuals have, in one way or another, impacted their viewers and shared their knowledge using the live streaming platform.

The producers are meeting with Singaporean live streamers, including celebrities Darryl Yong and Nicholas Teo. Have you met Darryl and Nicholas in person? Maybe you’ve seen them on TV or heard their music? Darryl, a web entrepreneur, plays mobile and PC games. Nicholas Teo hosts a music show and was an evangelist for a charity event, singing with a disabled child. These celebrities are actually examples of people who use the live streaming platform to showcase their talents and interests. Live streamers like Darryl and Nicholas also believe that the platform is a place where various talented individuals can gather and share ideas with others.

Challenges and Limitations of Live Streaming in Singapore

Ensuring privacy and safety, especially in educational live streaming sessions, should be the top priority. This is so because educational content may involve young children or teenagers. This concern was noted by the principal of Coronation Primary School. He was concerned that by using free popular platforms like Facebook Live or Instagram Live, putting students in the limelight may attract undesirable responses from the public. With no additional safety features, they may be exposed to negative comments and cyberbullying. An incident may turn into a scandal that would never be erased. This is what educators would intend to avoid. However, with free platforms, there is always a risk of unexpected events occurring. Given the high traffic and public access of these platforms, netizens may chance upon the live video and photobomb the session by making inappropriate comments or asking irrelevant questions, and this too could lead to a scandal. The unwillingness to risk students’ safety and preserving a good reputation led the principal to decline the request for conducting a live stream. This forced the researcher to seek alternative solutions or software that come with better safety features and audience control.

Technical issues and connectivity concerns

The use of mobile phones to create live streaming can also pose a technical issue. It is known that a phone is smaller and more portable than a laptop, but certain live streaming platforms offer more features on the desktop site compared to their mobile application. This forces streamers to consider using a more bulky method to connect to the internet at a certain location, again causing inconvenience for the streamer and possibly a loss in live viewer counts.

Slow internet connectivity at certain locations can be a problem as viewers may face difficulty in viewing the live streaming, creating frustration on their part. In recent years, internet connectivity has improved and become more easily accessible for the general public. However, there are still certain locations with weak WiFi signal, such as basements, underground car parks, and rural areas. The live streamers may also have to worry about using too much data, as it may cause extra charges.

Ensuring privacy and safety in live streaming platforms

Live streaming platforms must therefore seek to regulate content without impeding on the well-intentioned user. This requires a flexible system that can easily identify and remove harmful content. This cannot be adequately done with manpower at every stage, so the development of AI that can identify harmful content in real-time is crucial.

The Singapore government will also seek to remove any content from live streaming sources that may affect national security or the racial or religious fabric of Singapore. Any published content that threatens, promotes ill will, or hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore is an offense under the Maintenance of the Religious Harmony Act and the Penal Code. Such actions may lead to a loss of racial and religious harmony, which is crucial to the peace and prosperity of Singapore.

Live streaming sources can often cross-promote streams or spread content without proper age ratings or warnings for viewers. This can lead to unintentional viewing of unsuitable material. It is also possible for users to broadcast events in defiance of any court orders preventing the publication of specific information. This is a clear breach of both the sub judice laws in Singapore and the specific court order. Any act that is against the law in Singapore is still subject to punishment, regardless of where the act takes place or if the data is stored in a cloud. This was evident in the recent case of a youth who live-streamed multiple acts of self-harm and was subsequently charged in a Singaporean court.

Given the nature of open comments and participation in live streaming platforms, users’ privacy and safety can be compromised. There are several issues to consider. Live streaming often allows real-time, unedited content from anyone, anywhere. Such freedom can often lead to behavior, language, or content being broadcast that is not suitable for younger viewers or offends certain sectors of the community. This often breaches laws relating to racial or religious tolerance or content unsuitable for children. It can also infringe the copyright of content owners or invade the privacy of individuals being filmed without their knowledge or consent.

Overcoming language and cultural barriers

In order to provide more effective ways to cater to these language barriers, respondents suggested that translation services be made available in live-streaming platforms. This would allow streamers to reach a wider audience, as current language barriers limit their potential viewership. Machine translation is already widely available, if inaccurate. An advanced translation service, however, would be a highly complex and difficult feature to build. Respondents also suggested platforms encourage users to interact in a common language, such as English, to encourage national cohesiveness. This would likely be an unpopular decision with a majority of users and could even damage a platform’s rapport with its users if strictly enforced.

In live streaming communities, language and culture pose significant hurdles to both streamers and potential viewers. In Singapore, this issue is particularly acute, given the country’s rich cultural diversity and the fact that English is only one of four official languages. Singaporeans primarily compose in their own language, but global viewers are only able to understand English. This created a language barrier which prevented the streamers from reaching out to a wider audience. Additionally, two-thirds of the nation is made up of ethnic Chinese. Many of the older generation may not understand English and seek online content in Mandarin, so the issue of language becomes a generational one that may sustain across the coming decades. Live streamers, who may have mastered English as a second language, might not be comfortable or confident to engage a greater English-speaking audience.

Future of Live Streaming in Singapore

Live streaming technology has had a significant role in connecting people across the globe in real time. However, the technology involving live streaming is constantly evolving with many innovators and developers looking to improve the product. This is no different in Singapore as local companies and even research establishments are constantly developing new software and applications that seek to improve the experience and accessibility of live streaming. The research sector in Singapore has also received a boost to live streaming technology with the creation of ‘Fusion Stream’ – a cyber collaborative platform launched by the National Research Foundation on 26 Jan 2009. The objective of Fusion Stream is to create an online platform for scientists and researchers around the world to interact and work on collaborative research projects. The successful implementation will result in reduced cost and time taken to execute the projects, which translates to a more efficient and greater work done by research scientists. High performance in video parsing and organization is required for the success of Fusion Stream, which is a tough target by itself according to Dr. Liang, project director of Fusion Stream. This goes to show the increasing demands and expectations people have on quality live streaming and to meet these demands, more innovative software and applications must be developed.

Innovations and advancements in live streaming technology

Live streaming started to grow in popularity with the combination of esports and gaming. Twitch.tv was launched in 2011, and it allowed gamers to broadcast their gameplay and interact with viewers. The site specifically focused on the needs of streamers and provided an easy-to-use technology that allowed users to broadcast without the hassle of setting up. This led to a rapid increase of gamers and viewers. At the time of writing, the site now has an average of 15 million daily active users, and it has become one of the main ways in which gamers consume gaming content. The technology on twitch.tv was an initial factor that contributed to the growth of live streaming today because it made the notion of live streaming more simple.

Live streaming was first introduced in the 1990s, and it was considered to be an innovative tool for businesses to use for communicating their message through the use of a webinar. The technology was very expensive, and it was not very user-friendly because one had to install various software plugins in order to go live on the internet. In the early 2000s, when social media platforms started to emerge, there were also platforms that offered free personal live broadcasting and webcasting, but these were not popular because of the same reasons live streaming was not popular in the 1990s.

This chapter focuses on the technology aspect of live streaming and aims to explain how different technological advancements have changed live streaming, made it more accessible to the general public, and how it has become a more viable option for getting informative content about current events and late-breaking news.

Potential impact on traditional media and entertainment industries

Firstly, it is important to note that traditional television and cable systems are very likely to notice a massive viewer drop. As live streaming sites are very much international, viewers have the potential to access TV shows and films from different countries. For example, dramas from Korea, anime from Japan, and US TV shows. Viewers will not be limited to watching shows only released in their country. In addition, many events that were previously only viewable on cable TV such as sports broadcasts, news, and live events will be available for live stream online. This may result in certain cable TV channels that are dedicated to one type of show losing a significant amount of viewers and ad revenue. As an extension, it is highly likely that this might affect DVD sales and rentals of TV shows and films. Part of the appeal of purchasing a DVD is to indulge in repeat viewing, and with a large portion of certain shows being available to access for free, customers will feel less inclined to purchase them. This is furthered by the fact that many computers can now be connected to a TV, allowing streamed shows to be easily watched on a TV screen.

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