#RIPSRNathan and Young People’s Social Memory On Twitter


At 2204hrs on 22 August 2016, Channel News Asia broke the news of former President of Singapore, Mr SR Nathan’s passing. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) made a formal statement of the death moments later around 2240hrs.

I took to Twitter to observe how young people were responding to the death of Singapore’s sixth and longest-serving president (two terms, 1999-2011). Here are the first one hundred sentiments I curated from young people on Twitter – gauged by their use of internet vernacular, their adoption of parlance popular among young people, and my brief views of their profile pictures and biographical information – collected between 2240hrs and 2320hrs, back-scrolled to the earliest possible Tweets on #RIPSRNathan.

Five categories of emotional reactions 

1) Shock and loss

this is so shocking wow #RIPSRNATHAN

Guys. I feel like a part of me is gone when I heard bout #RIPSRNATHAN 😭

2) Gratitude and respect

#RIPSRNathan no one really said thank you for everything you’ve done for this country. Hope you rest in peace. Thank you, too.

#RIPSRNathan thank you for all that you have done for Singapore

thanks for what you have done for us Mr president #ripsrnathan..

#RIPSRNATHAN my mum told me about ur sacrifices for sg, thank u, take care💫

Remember the times SR Nathan lead his team to fight the hostages during laju ferry hijacking 👍🏻 #RIPSRNATHAN

S R Nathan is one whom i respected greatly. His passing is a loss 😢😢😢 #RIPSRNathan

3) Remembrance and pride

fondly remembered, always respected. rest in peace, the people’s president. #RIPSRNathan

No other president can ever replace you. You will always be the president of Singapore in my heart #RIPSRNathan

ur commitment to serve and better SG will forever be remembered.. Thank you sir. Rest in peace. 😞 #rememberingsrnathan #RIPSRNathan

Proud to have called you my president, ya #RIPSRNathan

4) Grief in internet & young people vernacular


i’m sad now 😪😪😪 #RIPSrNathan

#RIPSRNathan :””'( I am so disheartened

heaven gained a wise angel tonight. #RIPSRNathan

My heart just broke… #RIPSRNathan

5) Allusions to heaven and the afterlife

I think heaven waited way too long for this good man. he was pure at heart. safe travels on your way home. #RIPSRNathan

sad to see you leave, but you’re in a better place called heaven #RIPSRNATHAN #rememberingSRNathan

Thank You Mr Nathan, for everything. Now sleep well. #RIPSrNathan

Eight descriptors of the late former President

1) “Cutest” president

#RIPSRNathan you’re the cutest president I’ve ever seen idk why :’)

The cutest President ;(( thanks for everything you did; charity work, minority representation- a true ambassador. #RIPSRNathan

cutest president ever #ripsrnathan

He’s like the cutest president tbh #RIPSRNATHAN

2) “Favourite” president

Thank you for all your contributions to Singapore. You will always be missed by Singaporeans. RIP my favourite president 😢😢  #RIPSRNathan

He was my favourite and is still my favourite #RIPsrnathan

my favourite president of all time 😢 #RIPSrNathan

omg he’s my fav tbh I’m so sad #RIPSRNATHAN

Thank you for everything you have done for S’pore 😔 We will always remember you as our fav president. #RIPSRNathan

honestly my favourite president. RIP #RIPSRNATHAN

Salutes to mr SR nathan “kawalann kehormatan hormat president senjaaataa!” #RIPSRNATHAN 😞⚓️ my most favourable president and thank you sir.

#RIPSRNATHAN aw he’s my favourite president :-(

was watching suria then saw the headline 😭 eh my fav siahh haiss 😔 #RIPSRNATHAN

3) “Best” president

Rest in peace SR Nathan 😔 you are the best president 👍🏻 #RIPSrNathan

Rest in peace to our ex president aka the best president #RIPSRNathan

Hope u rest in peace. best president. :( #RIPSRNATHAN

#RIPSRNATHAN the “best president” to our generation, thank you.

hands down SR Nathan is one of the best and the president that i look up to when i was in pri sch #RIPSRNATHAN

The best president i know soo far u will be missed 😔❤️ #RIPSRNATHAN

probably the best president in my generation 😢😢😢 #RIPSRNathan

Wah the best president I could ever ask for :'( #RIPSRNATHAN #rememberingsrnathan

4) “Great” president

A great & well respected man. You’ll be fondly remembered. Rest In Peace, Sir. #ripsrnathan

We have a lost a great leader. #RIPSRNathan

#RIPSrNathan youve been a great former president to all of us singaporean :(

5) “Good” and “Kind” president

He was a kind leader, always taking his time to shake every single hand stretched out to him. Thank you for your service ❤️ #RIPSRNATHAN

dearest sir, you’re a good leader & a really good man. we’ll miss you 😭 thank you for everything :’) #RIPSRNATHAN

6) “Humble” president and “common man” interactions

The reason why people love SR Nathan so much, was he started out as a common man and stayed humble throughout. #ripsrnathan

Felt like he was the most humbled and down to earth president we ever had! #RIPSRNATHAN

Rmbered reading paper wen he mentioned all he wants to do after step down he wanna get half boiled eggs at kopitiam!So humble! #RIPSRNATHAN

Will always be one of the Presidents that smile and acknowledge the nsf for our duty during ndp – #RIPSRNATHAN

I still remember getting a huge teddy bear from you when i was 4 years old#ripsrnathan

Had the honour to be able to meet and perform for him twice during the time he was President. Such a nice and humble person. #RIPSRNATHAN

It was an honour to have performed for and met you, Sir. May you rest in peace. #RIPSRNathan #SRNathan. 🇸🇬

Remember the times we ran into him jogging along ECP while we did our 2.4km runs /: #RIPSRNATHAN

7) “(Grand)Fatherly” and “Role model” president

he was so down to earth and warm and grandfatherly i’m so 😭😭😭 #RIPSRNathan

RIP to the only president I’ll love )-: you always reminded me of my dad now you’re both gone hais ☹️😔💕 #RIPSRNATHAN

#RIPSRNATHAN U will always be my role model no matter what.

You were such a grandfatherly figure 😢 thank you for everything, we will miss you #RIPSRNATHAN

#ripSRNathan . You were my role model when I was young. From watching you to NDP and everything.Thank you for what you’ve done for Singapore

the only person in the govt body i have ever looked up to even when i was a kid 😭 #RIPSRNATHAN 😭

8) “Longest serving” president

#ripsrnathan longest-serving minority president. may u rest well up there 🙏🏽

He served 2 terms as our president, biggest part of my childhood defo 🙁 #RIPSRNathan

Three constructs of young social memories

1) “Only memory” or “First memory” of a President

#RIPSRNathan You were the president I have the most impression of. :(

RT @mw04_ ‘#ripsrnathan gosh the only president we have recollections of. @CalLoveYou’

Rest In Peace to the first president I know.. #RIPSRNATHAN

You’re in a better place now. First president I knew cause when I was young. #RIPSRNATHAN

#RIPSRNATHAN he was my first memory of singapore leadership in my childhood. this is really heartbreaking news :-( RIP

sometimes i still think he’s still the president, rest in peace. 💐 #RIPSRNATHAN

#RIPSRNATHAN my first president :( you’ve contributed so much to our country and your legacy will live on even after SG100.

2) “Growing up” or “childhoods” with Mr SR Nathan

omg, i grew up with you, i love you, may you rest in peace, s r nathan. ☹️❤️ #ripsrnathan


The president I remember the most while growing up. Honoured to have been under your leadership. Rest in peace sir #RIPSRNathan

Sigh he was the only president I knew growing up. #RIPSRNathan

How I miss seeing him during NDP every year when i was young…. You’ll be missed President Nathan :,( #RIPSRNathan

Sr Nathan was the only president I know of during my childhood😥😥😥😥😭😭😭😭😭 #RIPSRNATHAN

Grew up with him as my President 😢😢#RIPSRNATHAN

Having to grow up seeing the nation under your care till your last breathe, you will always be in our hearts. Thank you😢 #RIPSRNATHAN

#RIPSRNATHAN A great President in my childhood days…

grew up with SR Nathan as our President ever since I was young 😢😢😢 #RIPSRNATHAN

Rest In Peace Mr Nathan :( thank you for being a part of my childhood #RIPSRNathan

nobody can ever replace Mr S R Nathan. thank you for everything, my childhood is the best thanks to you. #ripsrnathan

the best one. the one i grew up knowing. #RIPSRNATHAN

for some reason it feels like I’ve lost a huge part of my childhood. #RIPSRNathan

He was the only president i knew growing up😭😭😭 you will be missed #RIPSRNATHAN

remember him being president during my childhood & he seemed like a really kind man to me, rest in peace 🙏 #RIPSRNATHAN

thank you for all you’ve done for us . you’re literally the best man during my childhood ✨ #RIPSRNATHAN

I remember screaming at the top of my voice as a kid when former President S R Nathan makes his way in for National Day Parade #RIPsrnathan

3) Public portraits and experiences in school

I’ve seen Mr. SR Nathan’s picture in the hall for my whole pri and sec sch everyday 😢 Thank you for everything. RIP, sir. #RIPSRNATHAN

It a bless to have SR Nathan as president during my years of studying 😔 #RIPSRNATHAN

More than just a familiar face hanging on the wall since young #RIPSRNATHAN

SR Nathan is whom we grew up seeing in our schools,offices and everywhere else…A huge legend gone….😔#RIPSRNATHAN

From the day I start studying, I had been looking at his photo in school hall with his wife.😔😔😔😔 #RIPSRNATHAN

You were the portrait i used to see every morning during assembly in the hall 😔 #RIPSRNathan

Used to see his photo in primary school, secondary school, jc etc. #RIPSRNathan

My primary and secondary school time we always saw him now we can never saw him anymore…😔😔😔 #RIPSRNATHAN #salutetoSRNATHAN

Im sad because he’s forever my president. I felt like i pass my secondary school life with him.#RIPSRNATHAN

And some lost sheep

Can’t say I’m totally surprised, but #ripsrnathan

all the gr8 things are taken from us #ripSRNathan #Harambe2016

wait is this true huh #RIPSRNATHAN

#RIPSRNATHAN. Whose gonna be the next president? So sad.

Undeniably, there is some youth populism and mob virality at work. Nevertheless, it is intriguing to watch young people collectively craft hegemonic modes of remembrance and grief in a space they may call their own… until all the mainstream media coverage and instructive grief takes over in the morning.

over and out,

Procrastiprogress updates from the cave V.


Moshimoshi folks! How have you been?

Since the last procrastiprogress update, I’ve casually gotten married, gone on a kickass sunny honeymoon, and started postdoc #1 in a new country.

My official faculty headshot is also the best thing ever, snapped in a random dumpster in Oslo on an iPhone when I visited my dear friend Mathilde from The Selfies Research Network (TSRN) last year.

I’ve pretty much settled into a routine managing teaching, writing all the things, and juggling different strands of fieldwork.


It’s nice to finally have a transiently permanent wishcrysoffice. I no longer worry about power sockets and pee breaks from my mobile office(s). My new officemates are equal parts weird and cool (hi J, hi S), which make for quite the adventure everyday.

I recently designed a brand new syllabus for the Sociology of Popular Culture undergraduate course, which has been a dream to teach. I’ll share the module syllabus soon.

In other news, the amazing folk at The Sociological Review recently published my conference report as a result of a travel grant I won, and CNET en Español – one of the most read platforms on technology news – published a piece on Snapchat Influencers including my work on the social media industry. The Guardian also gave a shout-out to the emerging field of Cute Studies, and my aforementioned research ‘Agentic cute (^.^): Pastiching East Asian cute in Influencer commerce’ can be accessed here.


In fieldwork land, things are as best as they can be despite the perpetual torturous humidity. I’m working broadly on five projects in the next twelve months.

The first continues from my Honours research on blogshops, mapping out the industry’s ten-year history and analyzing trajectories of vernacular branding, regional trade, and longevity. I’m wrapping up fieldwork in a few weeks, and also just clinched a book contract for the monograph this afternoon (!!!)

The second continues from my PhD research on the Influencer industry in Singapore and East Asia. This has been my favourite brainchild and baby, for which I am working on clinching some last few interviews while hunting for a book publisher.

The third is a new project on memory and remembering in the digital age, seeking to understand how people construct individual, social, and cultural repositories of milestones and folklore. If you’re in Singapore, please do attend the first of my public initiatives on this research at Project SG50+1.

The fourth is a side project largely motivated by my personal grappling with death, grief, and artefacts. I want to understand how young people experience loss, manage grief, and perceive death alongside social media and digital technologies. The first of my interviews for this project begins tomorrow (I can’t promise I won’t weep through the interview), and I will be presenting preliminary findings in the panel ‘Identity and Vulnerability on the Internet‘ at the Australian Anthropological Society Conference in December.

The fifth is my postdoc project on Public Coupling. I have so much to say about this (fieldwork has been awesome sauce so far) and will dedicate a post to the project soon. Some public notes are here and a journal article on the practice of ‘monthsaries’ will be published in a few months.


On the affect front, my person and I are back to LDR-ing with affective technologies. This distance thing is always tough, and I have all the respect in the world for a whole bunch of my academic pals who are also negotiating affective space and career aspirations.

Having done this intermittently for the last 11 years and 08 months, you’d think we’re some sort of experts by now, but in all honesty, we’re just haphazardly winging it all the time.

I cope by reminding myself that if home is no where, then home is every where. Besides, I carry my person in my pocket <3



So it’s been a crazy four weeks in Singapore, crazy humidity and crazy wild baby hair included. Here’s to more successful weeks of fieldwork ahead, better weather, and a less whiney wishcrys.

Am off to enjoy the rest of my weekend, and bask in the whoohoo of the book contract (!!!). One down, three to go!

PS: Am still sharing research snippets on-the-go via Snapchat, so see you at @wishcrys.

Joseph Schooling and the rush to backstory a champion


This post is a follow-up to “Joseph Schooling and the politics of belonging in Singapore“, posted on 13th August 2016, 1155hrs, GMT+8.

It has been roughly 36 hours since Joseph Schooling won Singapore’s first gold medal at the Olympic games. Amidst this revelry, many Singaporeans have pointed out that national swimmer Yip Pin Xiu had won Singapore’s first gold medal at the 2008 Paralympics, and independent alternative media The Online Citizen has highlighted that Singaporeans’ excessive celebrations and focus on Schooling might be “insensitive” to the national athletes who are still competing in Rio.

The media reportage on Schooling’s win and construction of his backstory has been intriguing to me. I decided to do a quick analysis of the post-win narratives on Schooling by local English language mainstream news publications on their websites. Retrieved from the ‘News’ tab on Google on 14 August 2016, 2100hrs, GMT+8, the sample included AsiaOne, Channel News Asia, The New Paper, The Straits Times, TODAYonline, and Yahoo Singapore News; I excluded re-posts from foreign media. Many of these articles presented recurring themes and overlaps and are therefore attributed in the hyperlinked “source” more than once. Header image screengrabbed from Google images under the search “Joseph Schooling” on 14 August 2016, 2215hrs, GMT+8.

Folklore and Origins

Some reportage attempted to paint “The Schooling Story”, comprising his origins and folklore surrounding his feat. The first set of folklore focused on Schooling’s initial motivation to compete in the Olympics.

  • He started swimming when his parents wanted him to “learn how to tread water” (source)
  • As a child, Schooling used to visit family in Ipoh with his parents. His relatives reported: “I have never seen a boy that age who was so focused and disciplined. Even when he was here on holiday, he would go swimming as early as 5am” (source)
  • A meeting with his grand-uncle Lloyd Valberg, Singapore’s debut athlete at the Olympics 1948, at the age of 5 (source), inspired him to turn his hobby into a professional pursuit.

The second set of folklore narrated his parents’ dedication to his sport.

  • Both of Schooling’s parents were “top athletes” themselves (source)
  • Schooling’s parents sent him for a “bone-mass study” to project his height and potential in competitive swimming (source)
  • Schooling’s parents sacrificed physically, emotionally, and financially (source), such as “cooking, caring, believing, trusting, doing all that invisible stuff that parents do” (source), and spending “almost $1 million” in his 15-year training thus far (source)

The third set of folklore projected his early swimming career and summarised trajectories.

  • Schooling used to train at Singapore Island Country Club and represented Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) (source)
  • Schooling’s first coach was Singaporean Vincent Poon (sourcesource)
  • Schooling first met Phelps as a 13yo (source)
  • Trajectory of his swimming education and training (source)
  • What Schooling’s back tattoo says and means (source)
  • A “seven-year struggle” (source)
  • Career timeline (source, source)
  • Collated facts (source)

Assistance and Accolades

Some reportage underscored the assistance and accolades Schooling received. The first set discussed some of his state-sponsored aid.

  • Schooling was the “first Singaporean athlete to receive a deferment” from National Service (source), but this expires on 31 August 2016 and is being contended again (source)
  • Schooling is the recipient of Sports Excellent Scholarship from Sport Singapore (source)
  • Schooling is to receive SGD$1 million prize money for his Olympic gold (source)

The second set highlighted congratulations from prominent public figures, and Schooling’s awards and gifts from the state and corporate businesses.

  • President Tony Tan, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and various politicians’ congratulatory Facebook posts (source)
  • Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong telephoned Schooling to send personal congratulations (source)
  • Parliament to move a motion to officially congratulate Schooling (source, source)
  • Open top bus parade as a reward (source)
  • One million KrisFlyer miles and an Elite Gold card from Singapore Airlines (source)
  • Year-long free rides for Schooling and his family courtesy of Grab (source)

Charisma and Impact

Some reportage mused over Schooling’s charisma as a new public figure and the impact he has created. The first set painted Schooling as an approachable, personable man who is very much Singaporean at heart.

  • Schooling’s craving for the quintessentially Singaporean chye tow kway (sourcesource)
  • Schooling’s gratitude in rushing to celebrate with “everyone who supported me through the years and watched me grow” despite being sleep deprived post-race (source)
  • Schooling’s patriotism in wishing his win showed “that even people from the smallest countries in the world can do extraordinary things” (source)
  • Schooling’s post-win phone call to his father, including the soundbite “I love you too, Dad” (source)
  • Schooling obliging to photo requests from members of the public (source)

The second set showcased Schooling’s sportsmanship and humility.

  • Schooling’s determination and fighting spirit in overcoming swimming legends taller built than him (source)
  • Schooling’s inspirational soundbites such as “I think if we really put our minds to it, if we want something bad enough, we have the talent, we’re going to achieve it, we’re going to get it” (source)
  • Schooling’s humility despite defeating reigning champion Phelps, with interview snippets such as “I think I’m just honoured and privileged to have the chance to race alongside him” (source) and “If it wasn’t for Michael, I wouldn’t be able to do this” (source)

The third set revealed behind-the-scenes of father Schooling’s reactions; he was watching the race live in Singapore while mother Schooling was in Rio.

  • Father Schooling’s emotional witnessing of his son’s win (source, source), including video footage of his encouragement to Schooling pre-race, and congratulations post-race.
  • Soundbites from father Schooling playing down his son’s celebrity and encouraging young athletes, such as “The most important thing is to be an ambassador for all our children in Singapore that gives them hope that they also can do it. There’s nothing special about him, just a boy who is interested in the sport” (source)

The fourth set presented Schooling’s impact on grassroots communities, veteran athletes, Singaporeans, and international media.

  • Olympic Values Fund set up by Ulu Pandan residents inspired by Schooling (source)
  • Praise from Singaporean swimming veteran, legendary queen of the South East Asian Games (and personally my favourite Singaporean athlete of all time), Joscelin Yeo (source)
  • Inspired young people aspiring to become national athletes and growing their parents’ hope (source)
  • Statistics from social media reactions (source)
  • Poetic reactions from Singaporeans and the media (source, source, source)
  • Vernacular puns from Singaporeans (source)
  • A sold-out 4D number, indicating Schooling’s finishing time (source, sourcesource)
  • Roundup of international media coverage (source, source)


Finally some reportage (I am unable to verify whether or not these are paid/sponsored news coverage) detailed various perks and branding campaigns businesses are launching in conjunction with Schooling’s historic win.

  • ComfortDelgro taxis to display “Our Pride J Schooling” on their rooftop signs for a week, and a discount for commuters who book taxis to welcome Schooling’s arrival at Changi Airport (source)
  • Singapore Airlines served champagne and chocolate to all aboard Schooling’s flight to Singapore (source, source)
  • Restaurant Canopy Garden Dining to offer 50.39% discount on meals (source)
  • McDonald’s to give out free nuggets (source)
  • Food stall recommendations in response to Schooling’s favourite local dish (source)

As some of you know, I have been doing such media reception collations and social media reactions to global social movements in my personal time out of interest. If I had endless time and resources, I would have liked to:

1) do the above with all vernacular, alternative, and independent reportage on Schooling (not just mainstream English language media), including relatable narratives on social media, pockets of backstories, internet folklore, and claims to fame

2) archive and analyse all the Schooling-related media coverage, and construct a trajectory of his media populism and public image from his first press mention till today

3) code and analyse all the headlines and header images in these news stories, and how they correspond to commentary reactions from readers (usually on Facebook threads)

4) compare and make sense of how reportage on Schooling by international, American, and Singaporean media might differ

If you are an educator who has taken interest in the media tsunami over Schooling and would like to try out these exercises with your classes, do let me know how it turns out.

Over and out,

Joseph Schooling and the politics of belonging in Singapore


You guys, it’s Singapore first gold Olympic medal ever and this 21yo dude beats the Olympic Record and Phelps. What is life really?

He even placed first to three pool legends tied for second.

And how does Joseph Schooling react to his historic win? This humility, amidst some unwarranted press hate of late.


Singaporean Joseph Schooling  won the Men’s 100m Butterfly in the 2016 Olympics this morning, setting a new Olympic record and a new Asian record. He also beat his childhood hero, human fish and legendary cyborg, American Michael Phelps (who just casually won his 22nd Olympic gold between 2000 and 2016), alongside South African Le Clos and Hungarian Cseh, both of whom have been medalists at the Olympics.

Regional broadcaster Channel News Asia broke the news on their Facebook page:


But nestled under the mass of celebratory comments were a handful of commentators musing over the authenticity of Schooling’s nationality and Olympic win, because he is Eurasian and trained professionally in the US under some of the world’s best coaches.

Racial politics is volatile in Singapore, being a multi-cultural society officially comprising Chinese (74.3%), Malay (13.3%), Indians (9.1%), and Others (3.2%) – “Others” is the vague catch-all for Eurasians and other minority races (see official stats from 2015 here).

Citizenship politics is also contentious in Singapore, given the country’s migrant history. But in sports especially, the Foreign Sports Talent scheme that awards citizenship to professional players who will live in Singapore and compete for the country has been lauded and criticised. Singapore’s previous Olympic medal was won under this scheme by Chinese-born table tennis player, Feng Tianwei. (Research on the politics of “foreign talent” here).

One of the comments in the original CNA thread that reflected such thinking was this:


But Singaporeans on the internet responded swiftly; they weren’t having any of this eugenic nonsense. Anti-racist defence kept streaming in, and this is the lot I archived as of 13 August 2016, 0925hrs, GMT+8 on the original subthread:

What are Singaporeans saying? Well almost every single comment attacked the original poster (OP) or defended Schooling as a Singaporean lad. But the basis of their defence is worth some scrutiny. From this small sample, four themes have emerged:

1) Haters gonna hate

Many responses retorted the bigotry of the OP. They ranged from calling him “internet cancer” for being a wet blanket during a moment of collective celebrations, and being a “keyboard warrior” for criticising a massive effort without any input himself. Funnily enough, a handful of responses told the OP to go back to playing Pokémon Go, which has caused some uproar locally of late.

2) What is nationality any way?

The most attuned responses highlighted that nationality, race, and heritage is complex in Singapore. Some argued that Singaporeans are defined not by “blood” or “genes” but by representation, national pride, and a cultural identity. One phrase of the national pledge – “regardless of race, language, or religion” – was mobilised. Others reiterated that Singapore is after all a young, migrant country in which every one uprooted from elsewhere to make this place home. Some contested OP’s claim of a “majority genetic ability”, reminding him that Eurasians are also an official racial category in Singapore, and that his Chineseness (inferred from his last name) was not any more superior. One comment in particular pointed out that despite being the racial majority, the Chinese are not the indigenous people of Singapore any way (the Malays are)The most sentimental of the lot dissed OP for not revelling in the collective celebrations and questioned his nationality.

3) “Born and bred”

A majority of the responses leapt into legitimating Schooling’s identity and belonging, stating various claims: That Schooling was born in Singapore, that Schooling was raised in Singapore, that Schooling began his swimming training in Singapore (but had to move abroad for better training as he progressed), that Schooling is a 3rd generation Singaporean, that Schooling’s mother is Asian, that Schooling’s father speaks like a Singaporean, that Schooling eats Singapore food (heeheehee), that Schooling has a pink IC (for citizens, as opposed to the blue Identity Card (IC) for Permanent Residents).

4) Hierarchies of authenticity

Perhaps the most worrying comments are those negotiating hierarchies of authenticity. Referring to the Foreign Sports Talent scheme, these responses asserted that Schooling was more authentic than migrants who “only speak Mandarin” (the majority of athletes under this scheme are Chinese-born), that he is an “original” citizen, and that he wasn’t “imported”.

We muse about Singapore’s progress and modernity, but eugenicists still fixate on “Caucasian blood”, as purists discount one’s authenticity, belonging, and claim to the country for having lived abroad.

And what does Schooling have to say?


Majulah Singapura, homeboy.


PS: Right now, I live for the memes.

14 August 2016 2315hrs edit:
Follow-up here “Joseph Schooling and the rush to backstory a champion

Singaporeans react to the National Day Parade #NDP2016 on Twitter


Singapore’s National Day Parade took place yesterday on 9th August 2016. The annual Parade took place at Kallang Stadium and was broadcast live on local free-to-air channels. The main festivities took place between 1836hrs and 2021hrs. I tracked the official #NDP2016 hashtag on Twitter between 1800hrs and 2100hrs and report on the peaks and troughs of viewers’ reactions. Screengrabs taken on 9th August 2016, between 1800hrs and 2100hrs, GMT+8.

01 Badang

This year’s parade drew on the Malay folklore of Badang, a coolie and fisherman who acquired supernatural strength from the demon he caught, by swallowing whatever it vomited (fish). He used his strength to aid the people of the forest, moved to the Kingdom of Singapura, and later served the king.

Unfortunately, some viewers were ignorant of this historical classic.

A handful mistook Badang for a popular local concoction, Bandung.

Some were uninvested in the storyline.

Others were taken aback by the spectacle of Badang’s costume.

In fact, so allured were they that Twitter had a field day reinterpreting Badang in various context. Badang is X.

Other viewers with more historical knowledge humorously chided the inaccurate contemporary portrayal of Badang.

It seemed the skit was missing the plot.

Because the most vital expect of folkloric Badang – that his strength was derived from having consumed demon vomit – was excluded from the narrative. Don’t mess with Singapore folklore, you guys. People know their stuff.

Still, after years of re-narrativizing Sang Nila Utama and Sir Stamford Raffles, viewers were pleased with the attention given to lesser known cultural histories.

02 Spectacle

The Parade has always been a feast for the eyes, with enthralling visuals.


As in annual vernacular tradition though, costumes are endlessly mocked.

Child actors are scrutinized.

Contemporary fictions are challenged.

03 Pokémon

Since Pokémon Go was launched in Singapore the weekend prior to National Day, Trainers took their passion very seriously. Some suspected that one of the hosts might have been… thundershocked.

Young people imagined that the president Mr Tony Tan must be a Trainer himself.

Actually, every other politician suddenly had a Trainer persona imposed on them.

Dedicated Trainers were seeing Pokémon in everything.

Dedicated Trainers couldn’t wait to catch more Pokémon… even at the Parade.

04 Ads

As with most prime time telecasts, ad breaks frequently interrupted the flow of the Parade, much to the disdain of several viewers.

05 Sponsors

Viewers were also tickled that commercial corporations such as Koufu and OSIM were represented with contingents in the Parade, uniforms, flag waving, and marching included.


06 President

Many young people had thoughts about the President. For one, the Parade organized staged a videocall in the aesthetic of a spontaneous interruption to screen the President announcing that he was in a vehicle and en route to the premises.

And because the President spots a full head of slickly backcombed white hair, every public appearance invokes all the Colonel Sanders memes.

People are constantly scrutinizing your move on live TV. God speed, public figures.

07 Politicians

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is known for his prolific Facebook presence, was discovered to be a regular human person, much to the surprise of many viewers.

Other prominent politicians were policed for their aesthetic choices in life.

08 Identity politics

Perhaps the most crucial aspect of this year’s Parade was everyone’s fixation on representation and identity politics. Many viewers applauded the inclusivity and diversity conveyed.


This sentiment was largely motivated by the visibility lended to people with special needs, whose presence, art work, and performance was noted.

Viewers were also meta about stereotypical but necessary racial representation.

The live commentary highlighted that this year’s Parade featured the first woman in a handful of units.

Unicorn and rainbow subtext aside, there is still work to be done on queer representation.

Class representation was uncomfortable, as progress was equated to wealth and consumption in the visuals of one segment.

Migrant representation was sadly sorely lacking.

09 Progress & dreams

The Parade usually features a video collage in which children and young people share their hopes and dreams. Some viewers reacted to this script.

But most viewers had their responses on hand.

Pokémon is very important in life.

But ask woke young people of Twitter and they will tell you they aspire for gender and sexual equality,

racial equality,

and the space to dream.

10 Music

Not everyone agreed on the running music accompanying the performances.

Some viewers disliked the lineup, which heavily featured recent hits from American artists.

Many viewers revelled in this year’s theme song penned and performed by local band 53a, along with other local tunes.

However, it was the 1998 theme song penned by renown singer-songwriter Dick Lee that really moved hearts once again.

11 Hype man

After this emotionally-charged segment, however, the Parade got rather wild. Hyper-enthusiastic hype men took over.

12 Unicorn

As did unicorns.

13 High

At an one point, some viewers were convinced everyone was just high.

14 Viral stars

Two anonymous Parade performances also attained transient virality for doing a dab on live television…

…. and apparently showing the finger…

15 Fireworks

Ahh fireworks. The climate of the Parade annually.

However, this being the first time the Parade was held indoors, many viewers lamented the smaller scale and muted bedazzle.

Viewers were really really invested in the fireworks display.

Fireworks are a Singaporean institution.


16 Exit

Twitter backchanneling also provided mundane commentary of Parade attendees scrambling to leave the venue.

17 Spam

There was relatively little spam, although some attempted to hawk their wares.

A handful of viewers shared snapshots of how they were celebrating National Day, while others were plainly self-promotional.

18 Memes

Viewers wanted them memes. But they were only a couple this year.

19 LKY

On a more somber mood, pockets of viewers intermittently recalled the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

20 Collective effervescence

In general, the National Day Parades do what they do best: Stimulate collective effervescence and a sense of belonging.

All the feels.

Why are National Day Parades in Singapore this effective in invoking affect for the country? This despite the exclusion of some demographics of over others and the contentious identity politics over the years? Read Dr Laurence Wai-Teng Leong’s brilliant research on this here (open access).



Next up, the National Day Rally on August 21st.

See Tweet round-ups from last year’s #NDR2015 here.