Les Petits Contes

About life's little observations, which matter. About hilarious situations, which illuminate. About stories which offer immense possibilities, open endings, different interpretations and perspectives.

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Location: Singapore

A nature lover; sun-worshipper, manic book-collector, dessert-devourer and a magnet for hazards

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Assault on senses

Stepping out of your home, to go to town, or even to the suburban areas, can be a strain on your eyes and your mind.

You step into the MRT station and you are bombarded with posters. You step inside the train and you hear TV commercials booming out of the TV inside the carriages. You look up and you see hanging mobiles advertising some products or services. Sometimes you look down and the floor is painted with ads, just like the body of the train – inside or outside.

You exit from the train and flash your EZLink card – and the card reader is again plastered with some advertising. You walk out of the station – whether suburban (as in Buona Vista or Jurong East) or in the city and you are waylaid by flyers pushed into your face as well as more notices and posters stuck around the pillars along the walkway.

You walk along Orchard Road and rude teenagers, literally blocking your way, wanting to conduct shopping surveys, interrupt you at every few metre. Some literally ‘’fly’’ from another part of the street to land in front of your path.

Then you see billboards, bus-stops and static displays (‘’roadshow booths’’) getting bigger, higher and their forms or shapes getting odder along the way.

So you decide to take a taxi home. You enter the car, and you see the seat pocket in front of you, containing more marketing messages, flyers and decals blasting more ads.

Every inch of ‘’publicisable’’ space is being taken up to blind our eyes. Some of these spaces are very ‘’public’’ and it’s almost an intrusion into our private ‘’space’’.

While I applaud the creativity of media owners and advertising gurus who dreamed up more advertising ‘’spaces’’, I want to stress that some of these ‘’spaces’’ are public.

Public space is a shared space that belongs to everyone and serves as a place to gather, meet, relax, and live his or her lives. Such public spaces refer to streets, parks and public buildings – their access is not legally restricted (unlike private places like clubs). A public space should be one that is unadorned or uninfluenced by crass commercialism or advertisements. Such spaces give people a certain ‘’space’’, tranquillity and ‘’power’’ over their lives, which are so often overshadowed by commercial ‘’advice’’, white noise and entertainment.

There are designated places (even in private spaces like restaurants) in Singapore and elsewhere that prohibit or restrict smoking. The aim is to protect the well-being of non-smokers.

Perhaps we can start thinking about how the sanity and peace of mind of pedestrians and ordinary citizens can be protected from such onslaught on our senses by marketers and advertisers. Modern living is already stressful with so much distraction; our eyes need a reprieve!


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