Betting On The Straights Casino Cultural Studies Essay

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The built environments of urban landscapes have been historically responsible for linking the physical structures of man, particularly the uniqueness of architecture to commercial and political functions. The relationship between architecture and the messages it sends is symbolic of society and can be perceived as a text to be read for cultural meaning. The key to understanding the rhetoric of design and public spaces is to observe the ways in which society is shaped in direct consequence of builder intentions. The players include corporations in the commercial sphere, individuals on a more residential and smaller scale, or governments acting 'for its' citizens and in most cases, largely funded by taxpayers. The power of visual communication is its lasting impact on society, the eternally documented image-centric reminder of authority and ingenuity without the need for well-crafted wording and skilled orating. On the island country of Singapore, acres upon acres of prime marina real estate have been developed into an eye-catching family playground of sorts, a strategic government initiative to renovate its global image and prosper economically in a shrinking world. In the process, however, Singapore has become a paradoxical place of economically-driven mixed symbology. The intent of this study is to focus on one such development, the newly opened Marina Bay Sands, as it best defines the communicative power of urban development and architecture and the government's contradictory practices in pursuing its status-related agenda.

Government supporters believe Singapore's architectural achievements (especially those lining Marina Bay) in most recent years have come to symbolize economic growth, self-sufficiency, and a loosening of authoritarian censorship. However, critics argue that the island-state's recent promotion of innovative infrastructure is a ploy to boast economic stimulation and that the still existent art censorship has and will continue to have a "stifling effect on the cultural scene." [1] 

Since its birth as a sovereign republic in 1965, Singapore's self-sufficiency has relied heavily on 'human drive' as its most significant resource. Led by the independence-seeking People's Action Party, Singapore has since become a global economic contender, fueled by a strict cultural code and pragmatism. The adoption of pragmatism, doing what is most practical in terms of economic growth, has defined and been defined by various cultural indicators. [2] The embrace of "multiracialism, multiculturalism, multilingualism, and multireligiosity," which together represent the '4 Ms model,' has been instrumental in establishing the country's political and socio-economic identity and has been the basis of policy-making. [3] In the process of unifying heterogeneous peoples under an authoritarian structure,

To understand the contentious nature of media governance in Singapore, it is crucial to emphasize its beginnings as a conflicting nation seeking relevance and autonomy. When the PAP initiated control in 1965, internal cultural obstacles threatened the new nation's survival, including religious and ethnic tensions between the Malays and Chinese. Meanwhile, Singapore's geographic proximity to other Islamic-Malay nations created an external perception of resemblance, which endangered its autonomous image. The country's first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew hoped to overcome these barriers by toting Singapore citizenship as its most valued commodity. [4] To succeed economically, Yew needed to qualify shared principles, promote policies and procedures to ensure coherence and shed cultural diversity.

The Constitutional Commission was appointed the responsibility of safeguards and equality guarantees to the diverse people of Singapore, but the Constitution in itself demonstrates governmental contradictions. [5] As it relates to creative expression, Article 14 of the Constitution states that every citizen has the right to freedom of speech, expression, association, and peaceful assembly. Yet, additional clauses clarify that Parliament may impose restrictions on these rights in the interest of national security, foreign relations, public order, or morality. [6] Mandated laws represent the first of three tiers of censorship, which together deter citizens and foreign journalists from speaking out again political objectives. The second and third tiers of censorship represent government entities and bodes that enforce regulations and censorship laws and the act of self-censorship respectively.

The responsibility of government regulatory bodies in regulating visual communication reaches far beyond that of content analysis; these groups are, in a sense determining the value systems and moral boundaries of their citizenry. The basis of government control is the necessity to maintain common conservative values and homogeneity within a largely compliant society. The work done and acts created to restrict any deviating sense of culture have suggested that "cultural in an increasingly global society [is] being judged too important to be left in the hands of the unregulated." [7] To assume cultural identifiers and subsequently establish laws based on that set of principles, leaves out many voices and dictates the future of creative expression and cultural richness in Singapore.

Singaporean Martyn See Tong Ming underwent 15 months of police investigation for the release of his illegal short film "Singapore Rebel" and now operates an anti-censorship blog, on which he considers the implications of censorship laws, particularly those that relate to artistic freedom. [8] Ming worries that the greatest negative outcome is the ensuing personal fear which causes artists to self-censor thereby limiting creative potential and ingenuity; this is in direct contrast to the leadership's goals of economic stimulation through innovation. Government action in response to defamation claims usually includes fairly strict surveillance. As a result, Singaporeans typically try to avoid suspicion by not partaking in public political activities or displays of opposition. [9] Auto-regulation based in fear will easily develop as actions or inactions become attitudes over time.

Arts Engage, a Singapore-based arts coalition maintains other legal concerns regarding censorship, including secrecy, intimidation, lack of consumer knowledge, impoverished public discourse, and disproportionate responses. These actions, which include letters of complaint to the press and government over relatively innocuous matters and appear to "trigger a disproportionate and over-cautious response," are evident in a few of the recent censorship accounts on record. [10] One colonial-era law, the Sedition Act disallows any act, speech, words, publications, or expressions that incite anti-government sentiments, hatred among citizens, or result in racial tension. It also includes a catch-all that grants the government to suspend any text which contains seditious content. [11] Recently, a 21-year old blogger was placed under police investigation for posting cartoons of Jesus Christ online. In another example of what some would consider an act which does not warrant its punishment, 50-year old Ong Kian Cheong and his wife Dorothy Chan served an eight week sentence in prison for attempting to distribute anti-religious publications. [12] 

Censorship has become increasingly more difficult with the advent of the Internet. Singapore was the first country to create regulations specifically geared for Internet content. [13] The imposition of these restrictions adheres to the state's primary goal for its media: to inform and educate. Alternatively, entertainment value and forums for personal and political expression would seem to be a greater threat to regime consistency. However, if fear has efficiently generated adherence, bloggers, journalists, and broadcasters aren't so much a threat as a fraction of the unified conservative populace. The primary concern of censorship critics is the loss of the diversity on which the republic was formed and thrives today. Implying that there is little importance in minority apprehension, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew once stated "We cannot override the majority's concern over the impact of a liberal attitude towards media content on the younger generation just to placate a vocal minority." [14] 

Singapore currently finds itself engaged in a major conflict of interest in which traditional moral values and the desire to become an international arts hub and major industry competitor must somehow coexist. Only 10 years ago, theaters had to cut offensive scenes or face withdrawal of funding, television shows such as "Sex and the City" were banned from airing, and any references to homosexuality were strictly forbidden. [15] Although film and television is still harshly regulated, many theaters have been allowed to stretch their previous boundaries. This is a result of Singapore's efforts to become a state-of-the-art international theater community. It seems the country is tending toward acceptance of creativity with economic promise.

When the centerpiece of the theater enterprise, the Esplanade Theater opened in 2002, government leaders hoped the $343 million entertainment complex would become "imprinted on the world's architectural and artistic consciousness." [16] The 2,000-seat theater and adjoining concert halls have since played host to numerous talents, including the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. The structure sits on a prime piece of waterfront property, situating it on Marina Bay near the mouth of the Singapore River. Its striking outer glass shell, covered in aluminum sun shades resembles a pineapple (See Figure 1.1). The Esplanade is sustained on corporate sponsorships and rent generated from retail spaces, but the government supplies government subsidies for the remaining budget. When asked about ticket sales, Benson Puah, the chief executive of the Esplanade Company admits "instead of saying we're selling tickets, we're promoting the arts." [17] The Esplanade has become instantly recognizable and represents the type of architectural rarity only a wealthy nation can assemble, but it is also a calculated symbol of development and progress, one which alludes to capitalist freedom and ingenuity.

Across the bay from the Esplanade, the newly opened Marina Bay Sands luxury casino, the second most expensive in the world at $5.5 billion, symbolizes outward prosperity in a global economic downturn. [18] Designed to attract roughly 50,000-70,000 travelers a day, the facility boasts three stunning 55-story accommodation towers connected by a roof skywalk terrace (See Figure 1.2). The complex arguably best epitomizes Singapore's 2005 decision to legalize casino gambling despite citizen concern about crime and gambling addictions. [19] Situated in the booming financial district, the luxury hotel, casino, shopping, and entertainment destination also represents the evolution of what was once a simple fishing village. A values assessment of this development may in fact reveal a cultural shift in the mindset of Singaporeans. However, if the Sands was a purely economically-driven endeavor to attract wealthy tourists, authentic creativity may still be lacking.

[additional architectural samples and figures will be included here…]

[Buildings have been used as symbols…examples here - how this can be dangerous]

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Singapore has been criticized in the past for lacking creativity based on the assumption that its people share a common and unchanging set of values and worldviews. Certainly, cohesiveness is somewhat of a commodity for the authoritarian regime, but the extent to which they remain contradictory in policy and practice will determine the sum of resistance. If the government took less of a told in shaping their arts scene and permitted the arts to evolve on their own the people of Singapore and the international arts community would be more apt to consider them economic and creative competition. [20] 

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Over the last few years, Singapore has worked to become amenable to improving the city's cultural life through globalization, specifically working to articulate creative ingenuity to the international community and businesspeople traveling through the country. A division of The National Arts Council, DesignSingapore was created to foster local design talent and market Singapore as a progressively modern city. The council funds a design quarterly and website with news from the design community. This typifies the extraordinary link between media and architecture. [21] 

Design publications have become an art form of their own, especially in countries like Singapore… [ additional facts from rise of style]

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Government efforts to bring make the arts an intrinsic element of Singaporean culture is a sure sign of commitment and shows promise for the future of freedoms regarding creative expression. However, these efforts are still very heavily state-controlled. To truly promote and advance the arts, particularly a distinctive architectural style of their own, no one group of individuals can be granted the opportunity to further a solely economic agenda. Reconsidering censorship laws will help to restructure the agenda and reflect "authentic culture in the physical and mental landscapes of Singapore or invent new ones." [22]