Monday, June 15, 2009

The Digital Domino Effect

The surprising outcome of the March 8th 2008 General Elections in Malaysia, can be safely attributed to the use of digital media. Low's article, Malaysia's digital revolution - the death knell for The Star, and the rise of the e-news portal? (2008), highlights how the opposition's use of the alternative, largely digital, media was the turning point of their campaigning.

This was done through SMS, through popular opinion sites such as Raja Petra Kamaruddin's website, Malaysia Today, independent media organizations such as Malaysiakini, and the blogs of opposition party members such as Jeff Ooi 's Screenshots and Tony Pua's Philosophy Politics Economics (Low 2008.

(Source:, 2009)

All of this led to what I term the Digital Domino effect - a cumulation of digital media efforts that let to an escalation of support for the opposition party.

However, merely having the megaphone does not ensure the crowd will listen to what one has to say. What the opposition did was to identify their audience, purpose and context accurately, allowing them to tailor their message for effective dissemination. Their target audience varied according to the form (Bear 2009) the message was disseminated in - sending out SMSes via mobile phones meant they could reach out to a diverse demographic from every strata of society, while the online alternative media aimed to reach out to a tech-savvy, urban audience.

However, the function (Bear 2009) – to educate the people about the opposition’s mission, and to inform them of the opposition’s side of the story, which is often misrepresented in the mainstream media - was the same across all forms.

Besides that, the choice of forms were highly interactive, a hallmark trait of the new media (Bezjian-Avery, Calder & Iacobucci 1998). People could leave instant feedback after they read opinion pieces on a blog, or forward an interesting SMS to their friends. The new media is also personalized to increase the receptiveness of their target audiences – blogs not only provide textual information, but are multimodal (Walsh 2006) as they have visual accompaniments like pictures, and some even have live streaming videos. SMSes are kept short and simple to encourage their dissemination – the shorter the text message is, the more likely it will be forwarded to someone else.

In conclusion, the opposition party harnessed the new media and the Internet effectively as they were able to meet the needs of their audiences and fulfilled their very purpose of existence, by providing honest, unrestricted opinions to the masses that hungered for the truth.

(400 words)


Bear, JC 2009, Form and Function in Design and Publishing, viewed on 15th June 2009, <>

Bezjian-Avery, A, Calder, B & Iacobucci, D 1998, ‘New media interactive advertising vs. traditional advertising’, Journal of Advertising Research, vol. 38, no.4, pp. 23-32

Low, B 2008, Malaysia's digital revolution--the death knell for The Star, and the rise of the e-news portal?, CNET Asia, viewed 15 June 2009, <>

Walsh, M 2006, 'The 'textual shift': Examining the reading process with print, visual and multimodal texts', Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 24-37.

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