Scholarly article on topic 'Portraying the History of Malaysia in Online Newspapers- A Preliminary Study'

Portraying the History of Malaysia in Online Newspapers- A Preliminary Study Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Norena Abdul Karim Zamri

Abstract There has been rising interest in analyzing history textbooks and historiography of Malaysia for the past decade. Much of conducted studies highlight the controversial issues of what is included or excluded. The primary aim of this paper to demonstrate how increased participation of users in online news reshaped public history. It argues that online news goes beyond as a site of news and other informative articles, by enabling the sharing of historical knowledge on the web. This paper contributes to the body of knowledge on the new media and history by having a better understanding to assist in nation building.

Academic research paper on topic "Portraying the History of Malaysia in Online Newspapers- A Preliminary Study"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 219 (2016) 812 - 819

3rd Global Conference on Business and Social Science-2015, GCBSS-2015, 16-17 December

2015, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Portraying the History of Malaysia in Online Newspapers- A

Preliminary Study

Norena Abdul Karim Zamria*

aUniversiti Teknologi PETRONAS, Bandar Seri Iskandar, PerakDarul Ridzuan

Abstract

There has been rising interest in analyzing history textbooks and historiography of Malaysia for the past decade. Much of conducted studies highlight the controversial issues of what is included or excluded. The primary aim of this paper to demonstrate how increased participation of users in online news reshaped public history. It argues that online news goes beyond as a site of news and other informative articles, by enabling the sharing of historical knowledge on the web. This paper contributes to the body of knowledge on the new media and history by having a better understanding to assist in nation building. © 2016 The Authors.PublishedbyElsevierLtd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of the 3rd GCBSS-2015

Keywords:New Media; Malaysia's History; Online Newspapers; Representation; Textbooks

1. Introduction

Learning history is important and crucial for understanding the present. In order to be conscious of history, one person need not just to be aware of the past event, but also to think critically about history. Ironically, the knowledge of history been taught to us through textbooks and we tend to regard textbooks as a source of knowledge. History is not just about the past, it includes the glorious and greatest of leaders, the contribution of various communities and the dark side of the nation.

Consequently, the relationship between history and nation building is intricate in the context of nation states. Controversies over sensitive issues pertaining to the history, ethnicity and nation-building have been debated for years. Ever since Malaysia gained independence inl957, the inter-ethnic relations in Malaysia been viewed as a challenge in

* Norena Abdul Karim Zamri. Tel. : +0-060-13-3180293 E-mail address.-noreenakarim@yahoo.com

1877-0428 © 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of the 3rd GCBSS-2015 doi: 10.1016/j .sbspro. 2016.05.071

demonstrating national unity and social stability (Yang & Ishak Ahmad, 2012; Yang & Ishak Ahmad, 2010; Baharuddin, 2005; Abdul Rahman, 2000).

Over a decade, the contention about the mainstream history - history textbook and national museum- had received heightened attention not just among scholars, but it involves public. In fact, the trend of 'rewriting' the Malaysian History started in 1996 (Sharom, 2010). Various studies have conducted and took a more direct approach to the rising issue of controversies of history textbooks, where it emphasis on the inadequacies of representation of all ethnic groups (Kheng, 2003; Manickam, 2003; Rajandran, 2012; Santhiram, 1997; Ting, 2014).

In recent decades, the euphoria of Internet has become a platform for the evolution of the contestation of mainstream history. News, on the other hand, is maturing with the booming of the online media. The news sites have become more interactive and responsive. The potential of 'interactivity' posed by online news has fuelled staggering anticipation over the adoption of a two-way communication model, especially in the news industry. The added value such as 'interactivity' implemented by the online news particularly challenges the traditional form of the newspaper. The quality provided by the new media challenges the one-way flow of communication and providing readers and audiences to participate in the production of information (Chung, 2008).

Subsequently, the democratic culture of sharing information is not just limited to political issues; it also has opened up another window by sharing historical experience, which led to participatory history. At present, all ethnics in Malaysia have their own history and their history contains more than enough opportunities for different groups to elaborate different versions of history in order to justify their current political aspirations. As for that, the new media has opened up a medium for all ethnic to share and participate in making history based on their ethnic's history. To date, what we have known about the nation's history, that been transmitted over the generation to generation has now grown and evolved transcending sites and critical junctures over space and time.

The new media provide the opportunities for the public to participate in making history and instill the need to address of how important the history to a person and group of society. Although many studies examined the representation of Malaysia's history in school textbook (Ting, 2014; Hussin, 2008; Rajandran, 2012), the solution of misrepresentation of a certain group was still not resolved until today. The quantum of information on the historical debate is in circulation, which were unfiltered and constantly developed to this day. Hence, the perspective of history also grows richer as it contains more and more voices.

In the light of the identified problem, the purpose of this study is to address these issues, developing a conceptual framework on the factors that would influence public history making in the online news. In turn, this study provides reviews for representation of Malaysian history and demonstrates how increased participation of users in the online news has reshaped public history.

2. Contestation of history textbooks

Narrative construction is interlinked with historiography and it still remains as a key site for nation-building (Hill 2002, p. 164). Writing history especially in the history textbooks works as a key tool in promoting nation-building. The grand narrative of the history textbooks were subjected with the government's policies and mythical ideas of what a nation should be, by undoing and cutting injustice created by the past colonials (Manickam, 2003). Of course, the power of discourse, proclaimed by the state, lies in its ability to control representation within history. Representation is a process of developing meaning. It refers to the "embodying of concepts, ideas and emotions in a symbolic form which can be transmitted and meaningfully interpreted" (Hall 1997, p. 10) as signifier in the context of cultural circuits.

Individual knowledge and understanding of phenomena constructed within the social and cultural environment. This is one of Foucault (1973)'s assertions as to the representation of knowledge. What we see, watch, hear or read from the media contents are the outcrop that not meant to coincidence to be happened. Whether we realize or not, most of all characters, perceptions, experiences that we have been inhabited from the media.

In Malaysia, the history textbooks often used as a key medium in the course of action of nation building. It plays an important role in shaping the historical imagination of generations. In the 1930s, the subject of history has long been taught and introduce as one of the curricular in Malaysian primary and secondary schools (Aini Hassan 1996, p.

5). Thus, making the subject ofhistory as crucial in instilling national unity and national identity building. However, the focus ofnational history is a particular concern on the Malay Rulers as well as the indigenous people as the main dominator in the political scene. Their responses to the Western incursions and domination are the contents in the national history(Kheng, 2003). This shows the power of discourse by textbooks. Even so, the interpretation and reinterpretation ofhistory have to be done carefully.

As no history page written without interpretation, the selected interpretation of the past will prevail to the one favourable by the nation state (Whitehead 1967, p. 15). Seemingly, the representation of other ethnicities is still diminishing to this day. The topics were covered in the history textbooks including education development, infrastructure, economic growth are tend to drive to imbalance and favour to only a group of ethnic (Kheng, 2003; Manickam, 2003; Rajandran, 2012; Santhiram, 1997; Ting, 2014). Such arguments and critiques dispute the textbook's authority.

2.1. The Emergence of the Internet in Malaysia

In the age of globalization, the Internet holds a sign of media power in modern information societies. The World Wide Web has become a phenomenon. If, in the beginning, it was an invention used solely by the army, in the last decade of the second millennium it introduced for public use. Specifically in 1995, it considered as the new chapter for Malaysia to develop a new platform of communication, which is the Internet. The emergence of the Internet in 1998 has caused a major transformation in Malaysia.

The emergence of the online newspapers and websites that formed part of the new media made possible by the Internet. Hence, the expansion of the new media provides a limitless source of information compared to the mainstream media, allowed various users in one way or another to use the new media to correct the imbalance. The Internet has grown to become a significant player in the media landscape. The new media in Malaysia started as the rise of dissatisfaction of public towards mainstream media (Zaharom Nain, 2002) as well as the alteration of the political landscape. The Reformasi movement - reforms that opposed Mahathir's 'cronyistic'- and East Asian financial crisis in 1997 marked the turmoil and the birth of alternative media (Gomez & Chang, 2010). The Reformasi came to stand for alternative media and many alternative websites such Malaysiakini, FreeAnwar.com, Laman Reformasi and FreeMalaysia were blossomed at that moment (Khoo, 2002). Today, the high Internet penetration with recent affordability of smart phone devices turned everything from impossible to possible. Alternative sources are gaining popularity in the eyes of the public and making it a game-changer as it provides a platform for vigorous discourse on matters ofinterest including the ideas on the national history.

2.2. Online Newspaper as a new platform

Media is a very powerful tool to influence people and those images presented by the media could be a place in audience's memory. Eventually, many media outputs, whether audio, text or visuals that been produced, largely engage with the past. It manifested the media's conscious assumption of the 'role of public historians' (Kitch, 2005, p. 5). By making, the reader an eyewitness into history, the role played by the media in narrating history in audience minds undeniable.

In fact, media can influence on how audience interlink images that they perceived with the past, in which they engage in formulating a narrative of collective memory (Ebbrecht, 2007). Notably, each mass media has its own content types, its own creative artists and technicians, and its own business models. Many studies account various media forms such as movies, books, magazines and television as tools of historical narrative (Kitch, 2005; Ebbrecht, 2007; Hussin, 2008). Likewise, the online news media could have the same impact as film, television and docu- drama in providing images ofthe past.

On the other hand, the issue pertaining to national historiography is, even more, critical in the online media. The rapid pace ofthe Internet technology has increased not just for communication, but also acts as an extension ofthe public sphere. Particularly, the environment provided by the Internet, especially the Web. 2.0 is convenient and interactive. Various tools and sites are available for amateur historians, for example, ordinary people can share their

enthusiasm towards knowledge of history to the public. Tools and medium such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are enabling web users to share their knowledge and interest in new means. Likewise, online newspaper has become one of the mediums of these people to throw their perspectives and views in a more intellectual manner.

Although few studies unable to present the extent to which news audiences intermesh in interactivity of online feature (Li, 1998; Massey & Levy, 1999; Schultz, 1999; Chan-Olmsted & Park, 2000; Chung, 2004), the feedback and arguments, especially on issues pertaining to the content of national history are still in heightened attention. Debates and responds among public on issues of'History must-pass subject for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia in 2013 ' (The Star, 2010) and 'Narration of the history by nations' by Arof Ishak (The Star, 2015) created a national consciousness on what is Malaysia's history. Each of these influences has caused new inquiries into the nature of public history, new debates about how Malaysia's past is and should be interpreted and has thrown many historians into heated debates in the public sphere.

3. Conceptual framework

The conceptual articulated within the field of discourse analysis of media texts based on the approach to the objective of, this study. Its concern with a critical reading of the discourse in online newspaper articles on the history of Malaysia.

3.1. Representation and discourse

Representation refers to 'the embodying of concepts, ideas and emotions in a symbolic form which can be transmitted and meaningfully interpreted' (Hall 1997, p. 10) as signifiers in the context of cultural circuits. This is one of Foucault (1973)'s assertions as to the representation of knowledge. This justification relates to constructionist view in that we are fundamentally cultural beings and our judgments of the world are the 'products of historically situated interchanges among people' (Gergen 1985, p. 267). Consequently, the ways in which we represent the world are culturally specific and dependent. In this context, the discourse in online newspapers for social change is concerned with discursive representations and the socio-cultural context that shape and form such representations. Foucault's concern for discourses, among others, helped to relate 'culture' to 'representation' to the media texts that represent the world in the information age (Hobbs, 2008). However, Caldas- Couthard (2003) reminds us that newspaper articles are not naturally occurring phenomena, but are socially and culturally determined. News is not the event itself, but the ideologically framed report of the event. Caldas-Couthard suggests, "People watch or read news because they think the news is about reality" (p. 274). When people read an article in the newspaper, they tend to believe that they are facing the real situation (truth), which passed on as objectively as possible. This might make sense as in western countries, because there are diversion genres and most readers will recognize that some news stories are at least partial inventions created to sell the newspapers.

4. Objectives ofthe study

There is no similar studies were done previously more specifically on portraying the history in the online newspaper in Malaysia which resulting in limited literature reviews. Nevertheless, the authors feel that is just timely and necessary that a study to be conducted to find out the status of historical knowledge and perspectives in the online newspaper. As such, the aim of this study is to examine the ways online newspaper represents the history ofMalaysia and also to demonstrate how increased participation of users in online news reshaped public history. It is primarily concerned with the contemporary understanding of the history representations that been framed by the two online newspapers along with the dynamic changes of globalization.

Ql: How Malaysia's history is represented in the online newspaper?

Q2: How increased participation of users in the online news reshaped public history?

5. Methodology

The discourse analysis methodology used as a tool to collect and analyze the set of selected media texts, to achieve the objectives set out by this study. The rationale for its espousal is that the study deals with media representations of history in the online newspaper in which such representations are ascribed meaning. Discourse analysis been adopted as a research methodology in a variety of disciplines including, media and communication studies and culture studies. Writings on discourse analysis as a research methodology have increased in the recent years (Phillips & Jorgensen 2002, Hall 1997; Fairclaugh 1995).

This study collected the data by means of secondary data, which is the online newspaper. The data collected from two online newspapers, which are The Star Online and the Utusan Malaysia Online. The time frame of the pilot study begins from January 2010 until December 2012 as the Utusan Malaysia Online was the first online newspaper made its entry into the world of multimedia (Ariffin & Jaafar, 2009). As the search will produce a disproportionately larger number of articles from the online newspaper, a sample from the collection of Malaysia's histories' articles were selected using purposive sampling technique. Ultimately, the researcher analyzed how each online newspaper portrays the history of Malaysia, and to understand the meanings of each version of ethnic histories created and articulated through media discourse.

6. Findings

The categories and the sub-categories of this pilot study were developed to simplify the understanding of the interpretation of the data as well as to show how the data can be analyzed differently using relevant analytical techniques. The pilot data were analyzed to answer the research questions that underpin in this study.

6.1 Headline and Structural Organization

According to the data, most of the newspaper articles were written by different journalist, columnist (prominent expert and professionals) and also different background of people who throw their opinion and thought in the section such as Opinion Letter by The Star Online and Forum by the Utusan Malaysia Online. Ever wonder why certain news story dominates the airwaves while others remain unnoticed? The headline plays a major role to attract and convince people to read. It does not matter how good or bad the article is, but if the headline is catchy, it will grab people's attention to read the whole article. Discourse structure is likely to influence the formation of mental models and social representations (van Dijk, 1998). As a result, the headlined and first few sentences in the article convey that history of Malaysia needed to be revised, in reference, both online newspapers convey the same meaning that urge to revise the master narrative of national history. This is the common meaning and critical information upon which most of the articles converge and recipients perceive.

6.2 Social Actors

Media consultants, media companies, journalists, authors, experts, citizens and protesters are part of the social agents. The vast majority of what we refer as social actors hints at the sources favoured by the journalists and the framing patterns pursued by the articles of the respective event. What is worth that the depiction of social actors in most of the articles is such as Dr Ranjit Singh Malhi, Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong, Dr. Aminudin Mansor, Dr. Rais Yatim are prominent as repetitively reference to how and what should history of Malaysia mold to be. Most of the articles highlighted these actors and few others given to construct the image of these actors. Hence, it shows the significance of these actors in framing and defining the politically represented reality.

6.3 Ideological Standpoints

Eventually, both online newspapers The Star Online and the Utusan Malaysia Online represent a different ideology. As such, The Star Online represents the views and perspectives of Chinese and modern Malaysian as the organization is owned by Malaysia Chinese Association (MCA), the third largest party in the ruling government Barisan Nasional (BN). While the Utusan Malaysia Online owned by ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO), which mainly represent the views and perspectives of Malay in Malaysia. Although both online newspapers seemed to ally with the ruling power, the perspectives that represented in The Star Online were contradicted and seems to against the government. Many articles urged the government to revise the facts in the article published in the The Star Online, while in the Utusan Malaysia Online, most of the article published touched on the importance of patriotism, Ketuanan Melayu (Malay sovereignty) and social contract.

A nationalistic or patriotic ideology seems to prevail based on the ideological and cultural background as well as the institutional belonging of the different journalists. Seemingly, the ideology are concentrated to ethnic contribution and identification in the master narrative of history textbook...'What disturbs me most is the glaring bias towards glorifying one particular ethnic group and religion whilst downplaying the role of the other ethnic groups and religions, a continuing trend which started in the 1990s" (Malhi, 2015). Other are also keen to promote their ethnic contribution ... "There is no mention of the late Tan Sri Wong Pow Nee in the textbook whilst the contribution of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew is acknowledged" (Tam, 2015). In the Utusan Malaysia Online, the perspectives of malay contribution were also represented as part of the ideology... "Perjuangan menuntut kemerdekaan bermula jauh lebih awal daripada laungan " merdeka" Tunku Abdul Rahman di Stadium Merdeka pada 31 Ogos 1957. Antara yang menyumbang kepada laungan itu adalah Datuk Maharajalela, Datuk Sagor, Putum dan banyak lagi." (Ku Seman, 2011). Hence, ideology is also a way of representing the reality in correspondence with the interests of certain societal groups in the society.

6.4 Participatory Memory

Subsequently, guided by the second research question, looking at what constitute to the increased participation of users in the online news reshaped public history. Based on the findings, most of the topics discussed in the opinion letter and the forum were mainly attached to past which relates to the memory or a self-narration of history. This process is not fully egalitarian as user contributions can be moderated, but rather signifies a first step by opening up a space for participation across different platforms. Through a focus on personal memories and emotional identification with historical events, the online newspapers works as medium towards a participatory memory causes accepted versions of history to be contrasted and challenged. The new cultures of participation and digital technologies such as in the study, the online newspapers provide a more direct link between the audience and sources of historical information, but to actively engage television users in spaces of participation, where links need to be made meaningful. As such, most of the past memory shared by the writer was focusing on the contribution of forefather in the contributing to the Independence of Malaysia in 1957 and the formation of Malaysia in 1963. As Erll and Nu 'nning (2008, p. 5) argue, a 'memory' which is represented by the media and institutions must be 'actualized' by individuals to have impact on society. The online newspaper connected various backgrounds of people and provides users with further insight into how historical information is selected and produced. It encourages the engagement into a more comprehensive framework of interpretation among readers. As a result, multi-platform story productions have the potential to help construct a specific kind of collective memory and shared engagement with the past, which can arguably be termed a 'participatory memory'.

7. Conclusion

For the first time in the history of journalism, the reputable profession of journalism is now at the state or rare moment, where not just the new technology and competitors foreshadow the hegemony as gatekeeper of the news but, potentially, by the audience it serves. In fact, the online audience has the means to become an active participant in the

creation and dissemination of news and information as the Web publishing tools are easy-to-use, always-on connections and increasingly powerful mobile devices.

In fact, the quantum of information on the historical debate is in circulation, which were unfiltered and constantly develops to this day. Hence, the perspective of history also grows richer as it contains more and more voices. Few historians have considered in depth the impact that digital technology is having on the ways that history is represented and communicated in the public sphere (Sheehy, 2008).

As such, the history texts need to reflect shared ownership; sharing of history itself necessitates exclusion of certain areas of history and hides conflicts of interest (Zinn 1997, p. 510). If nations are imagined, not all are imagined equally. Even though many studies examined the representation of Malaysia's history in school textbook (Ting, 2014; Hussin, 2008; Rajandran, 2012), the solution of misrepresentation of a certain group was still not resolved until today.

A written history needs to reflect shared ownership even the teaching and learning history remains a key site for nation-building. In the future, it will be necessary to study the volume of participatory history in this age of new media and the challenge of the validity of these sources. After all, the main objective of studying history is a key tool for endeavor nation-building.

Acknowledgements

I wish to extend my gratitude to my supervisor, Dr. Muhaimin Bin Sulam and my co-supervisor, Prof. Dato' Dr. Ahmad Murad Bin Noor Merican for their valuable guidance, comments and critiques ofthis paper

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