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Prof Mohan Dutta presents the keynote at Indiana University’s Health Connections Common Conference

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Wednesday 29 October, 9am-2:30pm

Whittenberger Auditorium, Indiana University

Keynote Address

Communication and spaces of structural transformation: Collaborating for alternative imaginations

Prof. Mohan J. Dutta

In this talk, I will outline the communicative processes of organizing in offline and online spaces that create avenues for alternative imaginations. Based on our ongoing culture-centered fieldwork in disenfranchised communities across the globe, the talk will highlight the key elements of interpretation and meaning that serve as nodes of organizing. I will attend specifically to the flows of meaning in networks of communication and the interpretive frames that serve as organizing entry points. I will also draw upon the intersections of culture, community and technology to discuss the interplay between online and offline spaces.

Mohan J. Dutta is a Professor and Head of the Department of Communications and New Media at the National University of Singapore and Courtesy Professor of Communication at Purdue University. He is the founding director of the Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE) at the National University of Singapore and served as the founding director of Center on Poverty and Health Inequities at Purdue University.

Dutta teaches and conducts research in international health communication, critical cultural theory, poverty in healthcare, health activism in globalization politics, indigenous cosmologies of health, subaltern studies and dialogue, and public policy and social change. Based on his work on healthcare among indigenous communities, sex workers, migrant workers, rural communities and communities living in extreme poverty, he has developed an approach called the culture-centered approach that outlines culturally-based participatory strategies for addressing unequal healthcare policies and global disparities.

Dutta has published numerous articles and book chapters, and co-edited several volumes on health communication and communication theory. He has authored several books including, most relevant to this conference, Communicating health: A culture-centered approach (Polity Press, 2008), Communicating social change: Structure, culture, agency (Routledge Press, 2011), and Neoliberal Health Organizing: Communication, Meaning, and Politics (Left Coast Press, 2014).  Currently the editor of the book series, “Critical Cultural Studies in Global Health Communication,” with Left Coast Press, Dutta also sits on the editorial board of seven journals.

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October 27, 2014 at 3:27 pm

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Programming abstractions for creative coding and live coding performance – A talk and demonstration

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Monday, 24 November 2014, 5pm
CNM Playroom, AS6 #03-38

Gibber is an open-source, browser-based environment for creative coding and live coding performance. It also provides libraries for audio and graphics programming that can easily be used inside of any web page. One design constraint for Gibber is the use of a general-purpose language, JavaScript, for end-user programming instead of a domain-specific solution; this ensures that knowledge acquired while using Gibber freely transfers to other applications with a JavaScript API.

Given constraints on expressivity inherent to JavaScript and many other general-purpose languages, the speaker’s research focuses on programming abstractions that make it as simple as possible to perform common tasks in creative coding and in live coding performance: sequencing and scheduling, audiovisual and interactive mappings, and rapid iteration of audiovisual objects.  This talk will discuss these abstractions and the use of Gibber in live performance. The speaker will also discuss its use in education, where it has been adopted by a number of universities to teach audiovisual programming in addition to classes for middle school and high school students. The speaker will close the talk with a short live coding performance.

Charlie Roberts is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the AlloSphere Research Group at the California NanoSystems Institute, where his research explores human computer interaction in virtual reality environments.  He is the primary author of Gibber, a creative coding environment for the browser, and has given over a dozen live coding performances in the US, Europe and Asia improvising audiovisual art.

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October 27, 2014 at 9:06 am

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NM Graduate Research Seminar students’ research proposals

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Wednesday, 29 October 2014, 3pm

CNM Meeting Room, Level 3, AS6

In this week’s department’s talk, CNM Graduate Research Seminar students share their preliminary theoretical frameworks and findings.

Naomi Tan
Voices of Hunger: Negotiating health and everyday experiences of hunger among the food-insecure in Singapore  
Despite Singapore’s reputation as a first world economic powerhouse, there exists a pocket of invisible poor that fall through the cracks. Their situation is made more complex by their experiences of food insecurity which affects their physical and mental health. This group of people are structurally, geographically, and communicatively erased from the dominant discourse. This study uses the culture-centered approach to engage in dialogue with the community of food-insecure individuals in Singapore, in order to develop a deeper understanding of the lived experiences of food insecurity. This participatory approach to communicating with the subaltern also creates an alternative space for them to articulate their everyday negotiations and to actively co-construct solutions that are meaningful to them.

Ahmed Abid (Rumee)
Alternative media and social change: A study on the plight of Rohingya minorities from Myanmar
The Rohingyas are Muslim minorities of North Arakan state of Burma (Myanmar). They are most marginalised as they do not have citizenship rights, freedom of movement and suffer from severe oppression by the state. By placing the ‘Rohingya’ stateless Muslim minorities from Burma (Myanmar) at the centre of the study, this research will try to find, whether alternative media could bring changes in their life. Here alternative media stand for non-mainstream press or news agency, social media, video data or film and indigenous performances. This study argues that through the intervention of alternative media based Culture Centered Approach (CCA) project, it is possible to politically empower and uphold the voice of subaltern community that will eventually lead to a transformation of their structural location.

Tan Ee Lyn
The unseen costs of economic might: Benzene poisoning in southern China
There has been a proliferation of benzene poisoning cases in China. In 2011, 510,000 people were left disabled due to work-related injuries and disease, up 22 percent from 2010. A prime example are cases of benzene poisoning, which come to light when workers fall ill and are later diagnosed with blood related diseases like leukaemia, leukopenia and severe anaemia. This qualitative study traces how 35 migrant Chinese workers came to be poisoned. Key research questions are: To what extent do migrant workers sacrifice their health to make a living? How do they describe their work environments? How do factories circumvent national work safety regulations?

Satveer Kaur
Communicating stories of social violence for social change:  The meanings of health among impoverished Punjabi women Post-Green Revolution

Punjab, India saw significant social, economic, and cultural changes Post-Green Revolution, which was a period of important historical disjuncture and transition in the rural, agrarian life of the Punjabis. Missing from this discourse were the health impacts of the rural Punjabi women who were further impoverished with the introduction of agricultural technology into the state. The silenced Punjabi woman is structurally, culturally, and communicatively disenfranchised amidst the capitalist and patriarchal structures present in everyday agrarian life. This thesis aims to re-narrate the oral histories on the violence of the Green Revolution, with the objective of encapsulating the health meanings of subaltern Punjabi women. The aim is to foster the creation of communicative spaces to co-construct dialogue on health, in a bid to minimize prevalent health disparities.

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October 25, 2014 at 12:07 am

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Bruised and abused: The perils of everyday domestic work

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By Professor Mohan J. Dutta and Satveer Kaur, Centre for Culture-centred Approach to Research & Evaluation

CARE will be launching our first campaign created by foreign domestic workers (FDWs) in Singapore, “Respect Our Rights”, to raise awareness among Singaporeans about the rights of FDWs in Singapore.

This campaign is part of a larger effort aimed at curbing human trafficking and addressing specific issues pertaining to the exploitation of FDWs in Singapore.

Member of Parliament, Christopher de Souza, has drafted a bill for Parliament this October to tighten human trafficking laws in Singapore. CARE research, driven by the voices of the domestic workers, along with other groups such as the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME), seeks to create a discursive space for the discussion of a victim-centered approach in the execution of this bill, where victims are entitled to receive far more protection than they currently do. Protection includes having access to shelter and food, legal aid, medical aid, and other basic resources in order to alleviate their trafficked conditions. More information on the victim-centered approach to human trafficking can be found at HOME’s website.

Our ethnographic research with FDWs in Singapore who have been sheltered at HOME suggests the need for addressing health rights as integral to the lived experiences of FDWs.

In our culture-centered project emphasizing listening to the voices of FDWs, we hear voices of FDWs suggesting the importance of having access to fresh food and water every day, seeing a doctor promptly when they are ill, receiving their salary from their employer on time every month, having adequate sleep, not being overworked and abused physically, sexually or verbally as integral to addressing their physical and mental health. These key provisions are stipulated in their employment contract but are frequently flouted by errant employers

The concept of the cultured-centered approach inverts the research process by centering FDWs at the center of decision-making. Our roles as researchers for the FDWs are guided by the problem configurations and solution frameworks developed by the FDWs.  As an exemplar of the CCA process, the “Respect our Rights” campaign is aimed at communicating specific messages about respecting the basic rights of FDWs to all employers of FDWs in Singapore.

The campaign will be launched in the form of television advertisements on Starhub’s cable platforms, bus stop advertisements, newspaper advertisements on The Straits Times, and online platforms where our documentary film will be aired.

All media materials for the campaign were conceptualized and designed collaboratively by the FDWs and CARE, and are aimed at raising awareness on the common issues faced by FDWs. Embedded is a teaser trailer on the upcoming campaign launch on 21 October 2014.

Addressing the issue of migrant worker rights is crucial, especially in a burgeoning first-world economy like Singapore where numerous transient workers make up a critical mass of economic support for the country. In just the first quarter of 2014 alone, HOME received 405 distressed calls from domestic workers on a myriad of issues, with 159 of them reporting verbal abuse.

CARE has been working closely with HOME on fostering spaces for FDWs to share their stories, and collaborate on problem identification and solution development on the basis of these stories. HOME houses domestic workers that have fled their employer’s place of residence for reasons such as abuse and exploitation. CARE has conducted almost 50 interviews, three focus groups and 11 advisory board meetings with FDWs to garner a deeper and meaningful assessment of the structural and agentic constraints they face when engaging in domestic work in Singaporean homes.

To gain a greater insight on these issues, visit our campaign website and/or our Facebook page.

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October 23, 2014 at 2:44 pm

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Interpersonal Online Interaction and Hyperpersonal Attributions

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Wednesday, 15 October 2014, 3pm
CNM Meeting Room, AS6, #03-33
Convenor: Assoc. Prof. Hichang Cho

“Interpersonal Online Interaction and Hyperpersonal Attributions” focuses on recent research that furthers our understanding of how and why people sometimes experience surprisingly great affection in online exchanges, from online chats to finding a match in online dating that seems too good to be true.  This presentation describes benchmark studies and the most recent extensions that advance our understanding of hyperpersonal computer-mediated communication.  They demonstrate how relational goals affect online conversations and how they insidiously change attitudes that should not have changed.  They show how individuals falsely perceive that their online partners really like them, and how the false perception actually leads to exceptionally affectionate exchanges.
Joseph B. Walther is the Wee Kim Wee Professor in Communication Studies at Nanyang Technological University. His research focuses on the interpersonal dynamics of communication via computer networks, in personal relationships, groups, and educational settings. A Fulbright Scholar (Netherlands, 2013) and a Fellow of the International Communication Association, he has held appointments in Communication, Psychology, Information Technology, and Education and Social Policy at universities in the US and in Europe.  With over 15,000 citations to his published works, he holds the ICA’s Chaffee Award for Career Productivity in 2013 and has twice been awarded the National Communication Association’s Woolbert Award for articles that have stood the test of time and changed thinking in the communication discipline for more than ten years.

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October 9, 2014 at 7:40 am

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GameCraft! 2014 24-hour Game Design Competition, 20-21 September

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By Dr Alex Mitchell, CNM

The NUS Game Development Group (NUSGDG, organised GameCraft!, a 24-hour game design competition intended to serve as a platform for budding game developers and aspiring designers to showcase their talents. GameCraft! 2014 took place from 20-21 September at the National University of Singapore. The GameCraft! competition provides an opportunity for students from a variety of backgrounds and levels of experience to work together in multidisciplinary teams to create a complete, playable game within 24 hours. This competition provides valuable experience and exposure to students, and provides a stepping-stone for students to move out into the games industry. NUSGDG is a Student Interest Group at the National University of Singapore dedicated to the development of student talent in the field of game design and development. NUSGDG was founded in 2004 by Julius Ang, and is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

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October 2, 2014 at 7:33 am

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Seventh International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling, 3-6 November 2014

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This year, the International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling (ICIDS) will take place in Singapore at the Department of Communications and New Media, National University of Singapore, marking the conference’s first venture to Asia. The ICIDS 2014 Art Exhibition, “Remembering/Forgetting”, will be held in parallel with the academic conference, from 2-5 November 2014 at ArtScience Museum™ at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.

Interactive digital storytelling is an exciting area in which narrative, computer science and art converge to create new expressive forms. The combination of narrative and computation has considerable untapped potential, ranging from artistic projects to interactive documentaries, from assistive technologies and intelligent agents to serious games, education and entertainment. ICIDS is the premier venue for researchers, practitioners and theorists to present recent results, share novel techniques and insights, and exchange ideas about this new storytelling medium. Hosting the conference at NUS provides an opportunity for researchers, practitioners and students from CNM and from around the world to share new and exciting research and creative works.

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October 2, 2014 at 7:27 am

Posted in Events

OMGBRB blogwar: Orchestrating controversy and manufacturing disorder in commercial lifestyle blogging

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Wednesday, 1 October 2014, 3pm
CNM Meeting Room, AS6, #03-33
Convenors: Cindy Lin and Denisa Kera

Commercial lifestyle bloggers who blog for a living rely on viewer traffic on their social media platforms for advertising income.  Contrary to positive reputation management strategies such as fostering intimacy with readers, some bloggers have taken to orchestrating controversy in the industry just so to generate hype as they compete to capture the attention of curious readers.  Their attempts quickly create an intense sense of disorder which they exploit in order to create publicity for themselves and intensify exposure for their social media platforms.  Using the lifestyle blogging industry in Singapore as a case study, this talk investigates bloggers’ engagements with status claims, appearance manipulation, and ‘tell-all’ exposés to disrupt the equilibrium of blog viewership and negotiate their command in the attention economy.
Crystal Abidin is pursuing a PhD in Anthropology & Sociology at the University of Western Australia, Perth.  She is passionate about everything to do with gender, ethnicity and heritage, and the Internet.  Through her dissertation, she studies narratives of self-creation and intimacy through young women’s commercial blogging practices in Singapore.  Crystal can be contacted at <>

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September 26, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Posted in Research

Points of View: A/ P Benjamin Bates, Scripps College of Communication, Ohio University

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Bates-PictureThis September, CNM welcomes Associate Professor Benjamin Bates, Barbara Geralds Schoonover Professor of Health Communication in the School of Communication Studies at Ohio University’s Scripps College of Communication.

Dr Bates’ research and teaching is in the public understanding of health and healing.  Although first trained as a rhetorical scholar, Dr. Bates appreciates and uses critical, qualitative, and quantitative methods to address questions at the intersection of health, medicine, and questions of public need. Specifically, he investigates communication campaigns in the context of public and environmental health and public understanding of health and healing. In addition to extensive teaching in Athens, Ohio, Dr. Bates has also taught and researched in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Here are some of his perspectives on scholarship, and about life:

My approach to research is to allow the problem or situation to determine how we address it. It is the need found in the field that should determine if we adopt a quantitative, qualitative, critical, or interpretive approach.

The important emerging research/researchers are those that you might least expect. When I edited Communication Quarterly, I found that some of the most interesting and innovative work was being done by people that are not well-known in the field.  “Big names” are often afraid of losing respect, but new scholars are willing to take risks in their research and writing.

An aspect of research that policy-makers do not know is that not all valuable research can be immediately monetized or applied.

An urgent issue / area which researchers in public health should address today is mundane disease. When I have worked in Southeast Asia and Africa, HIV/AIDS seems to have dominated the conversation; we don’t pay enough attention to diseases that aren’t “sexy,” things like cholera, malaria, and typhoid that infect and affect far more people.

A personal pursuit I have not tried but would be keen to do is to train as a chef. I enjoy cooking, and perhaps as a second career might try to feed bodies instead of focusing so much on feeding minds.

An object I would never part with is very difficult to name. I think that experiences are more valuable than objects; I would rather lose my possessions than my memory.

A word I frequently use is “choice.” Choice is joyous, and choice is tragic; it lets us say yes to the good, but also closes other choices. Every time we act, or do not act, think, or do not think, speak, or do not speak, we are making a choice.

To me, health is a complete state of physical, psychological, social, and spiritual well-being, if you’ll allow me to borrow heavily from the World Health Organization.

And to be healed is to enact practices that get us as close to that complete state of well-being as possible.

An important piece of writing or research that young researchers should read is Kate Turabian’s Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations.  A close second would be William Strunk and E.B. White’s Elements of Style. You will find many important things to inform research and teaching, but these two books help us to learn how to express ourselves effectively.

If I landed a million dollar research / teaching grant, I would still need a lot more money to accomplish the research I want to do! To bring together an interdisciplinary research team, including undergraduate and graduate students and community members, requires that we compensate a lot of people for time, energy, and effort. Our research project network, Integrating Professionals for Appalachian Children (, used nearly that much in a single year! And there was still much more work that we wanted to do.

A young rhetorician should never be afraid of learning statistical analysis. The art of rhetoric, if we believe Aristotle, is observing the best available means of persuasion in a given situation, and in the increasingly evidence-based best-practices teaching and research world in which we live, an ability to create and critique via quantitative research is going to be ever more important to humanities and qualitative scholars.

The essential qualities of a ‘model’ rhetorician are to be, as Quintilian might argue, a good person speaking well. The development of character, in addition to the development of persuasive powers, is essential.

It was in Athens that I met the woman who agreed to marry me.

The people in Africa see health as economically constrained (though I would say that it is true everywhere). With so many development needs throughout the various nations of the continent, leaders and citizens often are asked to choose among agricultural, health, industrialization, environmental, and many other investments.

In Southeast Asia, health is somewhat of a post-industrial development issue. Campaigns for more exercise, healthier food choices, pollution reduction and the like seem to have emerged only after gaining a relatively stable economic footing. If we compare the most pressing issues in Singapore to those in Vientiane, we can see that health becomes a significant focus only after relative economic stability is attained.

Singapore is a land of embodied tensions. Like so many of the great world cities, Singapore is cosmopolitan and traditional. It is open to external ideas, but also wants to express a unique identity.

And I have come here to learn more about enacting culture-centered research and service from the CARE Center and CNM.  It is one thing to read about new and innovative approaches to doing research, but, to get a fuller feeling of a new method, it can be very helpful to see it being enacted in the field.

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September 17, 2014 at 9:35 am

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CNM amongst world’s top 10 communication schools ~ QS rankings 2014

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National University of Singapore is placed 9th in the 2014 QS World University Ranking for Communication and Media Studies, ahead of University of Amsterdam and Michigan State University.

CNM was in the fourth spot last year.


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September 16, 2014 at 12:29 pm

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