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In Conversation with Prof Barry Wellman, Lim Chong Yah Professor: Only Connect

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This Semester 2 of FY 2014/15, CNM hosts Lim Chong Yah Professor Barry Wellman, FRSC (Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada).  During his one and a half months with us, Professor Wellman will teach NM5771, Networked Society as well as give two talks – one on Wednesday 4 February, 3pm, CNM; the second one on Friday, 13 February 2015, 5pm – 6pm, LT 12, FASS.

Well-known for his scholarship on social networks precipitated by the Internet and social media technologies, Professor Wellman is the co-director of NetLab Network at the Faculty of Information of the University of Toronto. His areas of research are community sociology, the Internet, human-computer interaction and social structure, as manifested in social networks in communities and organizations, all of which are driven by an overarching interest in the paradigm shift from group-centered relations to networked individualism. In 2012, he co-authored with Lee Rainie, the prize-winning Networked: The New Social Operating System (MIT Press). To date, he has written or co-authored more than 300 articles, chapters, reports and books. Among the concepts Prof Wellman has published are: “network of networks” and “the network city” (both with Paul Craven), “the community question”, “computer networks as social networks”, “connected lives” and the “immanent Internet” (both with Bernie Hogan), “media-multiplexity” (with Caroline Haythornthwaite), “networked individualism” and “networked society”, “personal community” and “personal network”; and three with Anabel Quan-Haase: “hyperconnectivity”, “local virtuality” and “virtual locality”.

Prof Wellman shares with CNM his thoughts about research and why the self-sufficient individual is a specious entity.

I entered into researching about social networks because I was inspired by my professors when I went to grad school at Harvard. Harrison White was the best network analyst there was and taught us about looking at people beyond categories. He urged us to look for connections instead. Other mentors included Charles Tilly.  Tilly was an urban historian who had taught that the relational ties people had, went beyond the group and the neighbourhood, into networks. I realized how true this was when I joined a “Save our Neighbourhood” meeting, held to stop the Spadina Expressway from cutting through downtown Toronto.  At first sight, the group appeared just like groups from other cities fighting to preserve neighbourhoods against cars. But as I looked harder, I realized that many of those activists in that room did not even live in downtown Toronto. They were not a little neighbourhood group at all. They were a network of community activists who had come from all over Toronto.

My approach to research is a dance between theory and evidence collection. I usually start with basic questions; refine these through interviews before getting out more precise questions through quantitative research like in-person surveys.

A utopian networked society would be people having multiple, partial and dynamic connections that change formations according to the needs of the individuals and their groups; so that the whole networks move forwards as people support one another in large, diverse, dense and ever-morphing patterns of interactions.

I am worried about surveillance by governments and large companies, and people not being connected to one another in person. That said, in practice, everyone is connected in flexible and multiple ways, and not captured by any one group. Instead, they just build computer assistance into their networked selves.

The best relationships combine face-to-face and online and grow the important social capital fostered in these interpersonal ways.

The best way(s) to keep a relationship is mutual exchange and not make too many demands on the other person. This axiom is borne out in American anthropologist Elliot Liebow’s study of the street corner culture of poor black men in Washington DC in the 1960s. Liebow found that sustainable relationships among the urban poor were those that featured a give-and-take reciprocity.

A personal pursuit I have not tried but would be keen to do is to be point guard for basketball, NBA.  

A person I would never want to part with is my wife, Beverly.

My favourite social media platform is Twitter.

Being self-sufficient is a myth. In Chapter 2 of Networked Society, we observed that even a ‘rugged individualist’ like golf superstar Tiger Woods admitted that he was “connected and constructed by his membership in multiple social networks” (p. 39). A neuropsychologist has even argued that the brain craves social interaction. In other words, we are wired to interact and move in networks. Even amongst those who think they are free agents; they should realize that their decisions are situated in the environment that shapes them.

A visitor to Toronto got to realize that it is even more multicultural than Singapore. Fifty per cent of people in Toronto are born outside Canada. First-time visitors should also know that Toronto is below freezing point five months of the year.

Singapore is a new adventure for Bev and I. Everything is the same and yet different. We appreciate how the opportunity to do the same things in different ways.

We have come here to learn!

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January 21, 2015 at 9:54 pm

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Seminar: Social Media and the 2014 Indonesian General Election

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Friday, January 23, 2015

CNM Playroom, AS6 #03-38


3:00pm – 3:10pm

Welcome Remarks by Dr Weiyu Zhang, Assistant Professor, Department of Communications and New Media


3:10pm – 3:40pm

Social Media and Civil Society in Indonesia: A Case Study on Jokowi’s Campaign Volunteers

Ririn Radiawati Kusuma, Master Student, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy


3:40pm – 4:10pm

Recording thoughts on Facebook: Which side are you? ~ Highlights from Jokowi Presidential campaign

Dr Dyah Pitaloka, Postdoctoral Fellow Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation


4:10pm – 4:40pm

KawalPemilu: Transforming An IT Initiative into A Social Movement

Elina Ciptadi-Perkins, Public Relations Consultant & Media Strategist, KawalPemilu


4:40pm – 6:00pm


Dr Weiyu ZhangDr Weiyu Zhang is Assistant Professor at the Department of Communications and New Media, National University of Singapore. She holds a Ph.D. in Communication from Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania.  Her research focuses on civic engagement and ICTs with an emphasis on Asia.  Her published works have appeared in Journal of Communication, Communication Theory, Communication Research, Information, Communication, & Society, International Communication Gazette, Computers in Human Behavior, Computers & Education, and many others.  Her recent project is to develop and examine an online platform for citizen deliberation, funded by Singapore’s Ministry of Education.

RirinKusumaRirin Radiawati Kusuma is a second year student in the Master of Public Policy Programme at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP), National University of Singapore. She graduated with her Bachelor degree in Psychology from the Islamic University of Indonesia in 2006. After graduating, Ririn worked as a journalist in Media Indonesia, the second largest newspaper in Indonesia, and then the Jakarta Globe, the second biggest English newspaper in Indonesia. Before enrolling in the Master’s degree at LKYSPP, she was in charge of business news in While she is doing her Masters, Ririn also works as a Research Assistant at the Asia Competitiveness Institute (ACI) at LKYSPP. At ACI, she contributed to the Indonesian Competitiveness Index for 33 Provinces. Her primary research interests include competitiveness, energy and mining policy, sustainable development, communication and social media.

DyahPitalokaDr Dyah Pitaloka completed her PhD in Communication from the University of Oklahoma under Fulbright Program in May 2014 and is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE), Department of Communication and New Media, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore. Her involvement with 2014 Indonesia election was started when she was introduced to Ainun Najib from Kawal Pemilu and the crowdsourcing model that the team used to gather volunteers for guiding the election process. Her interest on the whole process was particularly about how the supporters of the Prabowo and Jokowi groups alike, use language to frame their thoughts, influence and persuade their Facebook friends about the candidate that they stand for.

ElinaCiptadiElina Ciptadi is an award-winning public relations consultant with more than 10 years experience. Her work for various clients has garnered some of the most prestigious awards in the public relations industry, from the Stevie Award for Best Communications Team to the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) Golden World Award for Crisis Management. After being a senior executive at Indonesia’s largest public relations firm IndoPacific Edelman (now Edelman Indonesia) for six years, she moved to Singapore in 2007. Following her departure from a full time career, she focuses on managing the communication of some important causes, from better learning space for children to public participation in election data watch. During her career in Indonesia,vElina has been account director to many of the largest communication campaigns Indonesia has ever seen – dealing with issues from image recovery, industrial dispute, global merger and acquisition, disaster communication to product recall. She has also coached many top executives of Fortune 500 companies prior to critical media engagement. Elina spent the early years of her career doing public relations in the education and hospitality industry. She has a Master of Business Administration from University of Western Australia and a Bachelor of Communication (Business) from Bond University.

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January 19, 2015 at 1:40 pm

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Initial steps towards Assistive Augmentations

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January 21, 2015, Wednesday, 3pm

CNM Meeting Room, AS6, #03-33

Our senses are the dominant channel for perceiving the world around us, with some, like our sense of vision, are more critical than the others vision. With impairments and lack thereof, people find themselves at the edge of sensorial capability and seek assistive or enhancing devices. We wish to put sensorial ability and disability on a continuum of usability for a certain technology, rather than treat one or the other extreme as the focus.

At the heart of this talk is the design and development of mobile assistive technology, user interfaces and interactions that seamlessly integrate with a user’s mind, body and behavior, providing an enhanced perception. We call this enablement, Assistive Augmentation. Using modern biological understanding of sensation, emerging electronic devices and agile computational methods, we now have an opportunity to design a new generation of Assistive Augmentations. This talk will present several proofs of the concept of Assistive Augmentations for enhancing human I/O in the application areas, including assistive/rehabilitative designs; immersive media and collaboration; and interactive learning technologies.

SurangaDr. Suranga Nanayakkara is an Assistant Professor at the Engineering Product Development Pillar ( of Singapore University of Technology and Design ( Before joining SUTD, Suranga was a visiting Postdoctoral Associate at the Fluid Interfaces group in MIT Media Lab ( He received his PhD in 2010 and BEng in 2005 from National University of Singapore ( At SUTD, Suranga directs the Augmented Senses Research Group ( His work has been published in HCI Journal, TOCHI, CHI, UIST; several technology disclosures and patents; printed and electronic media such as Discovery News, TechReview. Suranga was recognised as a young inventor under 35 (TR35 award) in the Asia Pacific region by MIT TechReview. His current research encompasses the use of sensory augmentation to enhance human perception, where he focuses on creating technologies that seamlessly integrate with our bodies, minds and behaviours.

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January 18, 2015 at 5:25 pm

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In Conversation with A/P Evelyn Ho from Asian Pacific American Studies at USF

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In this second semester of AY2014/15, NUS students enjoy the chance to read a new module, NM4883C, Communication & Asian Holistic Healthcare.  The module is taught by Associate Professor Evelyn Ho who is visiting from University of San Francisco where she is professor at the Department of Communication Studies and the Asian Pacific American Studies Program.  A/P Ho’s teaching and research interests lie in exploring the intersections of health, culture and communication.

She shares with readers, among other things, her thoughts on the importance of culture in health communication research, on what patients can teach us and on her penchant for an oft-used interpellation:

I entered into health communication research, and specifically, the culture aspects of health communication research because of my initial interests in cultural communication research. I remember a moment when my White American roommate went to the acupuncturist and having never gone before, I asked her “How was it? Did it hurt?” Her response stuck with me. She said, “Don’t you know? You’re Chinese!” I knew years later there was something culturally important in that conversation. 

What I learnt from patients in my studies is that they need to be heard. They are talking to me because they believe that I am in a position to do something with the information they are sharing. This has been particularly humbling for me because while sometimes I am in a position, many times I am not. 

An aspect of research that policy-makers ought to recognise is that people are usually much more complex than the aggregate and that people themselves – communities/groups/individuals need to be at the table when those policies are made. 

An urgent issue / area which researchers in public health should address today is inequality in access to care. The best teachers I know have insisted that if health care is not free to the poorest among us, we have not accomplished anything.

To me, health is being well enough to thrive and operate freely in the world. 

And to be healed is to return to the state of health.

A personal pursuit I have not tried but would be keen to do is climb Mount Kinabalu, although I’m not sure my old knees would handle the pounding.

A word I frequently use is “dude” – I try not to but it just sometimes comes out – there’s a great article about this term that I use for teaching, written by Scott Kiesling. Like that article states, sometimes it’s used as a condolence “Dude, I’m sorry.” or sometimes as an expression of surprise “Dude! Get out!”. Unlike an actual “dude” though, I never use the drawn out “duuuuude” to show acceptance. 

If I landed a million dollar research / teaching grant, I would keep doing what I’m doing with less administrative duties! I love the teaching and research and honestly, most of the service I do back home I care deeply about too because it promotes various critical diversity issues on campus.

A visitor to San Francisco got to realize that it is much colder there than you think! It’s often windy and foggy and you should always bring a jacket with you. Once armed with a jacket, then get outside! There are amazing nooks and crannies all over our very small (7 mile by 7 mile) peninsula. You can walk all the way across from Bay to Beach in just a few hours and see everything from bison, to waterfalls, to skyscrapers, to outdoor murals, to museums, to sea lions, and hear many languages in the mix.

Singapore is so lush and tropical. I’m loving all the different plants and flowers.  The people I’ve met so far have been kind and open and super helpful! 

And I have come here to learn from Singaporeans about health :)

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January 15, 2015 at 1:46 am

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Millet Matters: From Marginality to Millennial Crop

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January 13, 2015 at 2:23 pm

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We welcome Lim Chong Yah Professor Barry Wellman

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image001-2We welcome Lim Chong Yah Professor Barry Wellman to CNM. Prof. Wellman will be with us from January 2015 onwards.

Canadian-American sociologist Professor Wellman is currently the director of NetLab at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Information (iSchool). His research spans over a wide range of topics in networks, including virtual community, the virtual workplace, social support, community, kinship, friendship and social network theory and methods (NETLAB, n.d.). He has authored and co-authored numerous world-renowned articles, chapters, reports and books including the “Networked: The New Social Operating System”, which received the PROSE award for sociology and social work in February 2013, and “Social Structures: A Network Approach”, which International Sociology Association named as one of the hundred most significant sociological books (Sociology: University of Toronto). In 2012, Toronto Globe and Mail recognized Professor Wellman as the receiver of highest h-index for citations among all Canadian sociologists (Sociology: University of Toronto). He was also granted the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oxford Internet Institute in 2014 (Oii internet awards), and career achievement awards from the Community and Urban Sociology section of the American Sociological Association (2006), Communication and Information Technologies of the American Sociological Association (2004), Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association (2001), Mentoring Award, International Network for Personal Relationships (1998), and The International Network for Social Network Analysis (1994). Additionally, in 2007, Professor Wellman received the tittle of “Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Professor Wellman will deliver a public lecture on February 13, Friday at 5 PM (venue TBA). During his visit, he will be using Room 20. As he said in his interview with Figure/Ground in 2012, it is important to: “make alliances with faculty who you not only like, but who are really topnotch, can open doors, and also tell you what’s going on” (Illiadis, October 30, 2012). Accordingly, we invite CNM students to take the opportunity and introduce themselves to Professor Wellman.


Iliadis, A. (October 30, 2012). A Conversation with Barry Wellman. In Figure/Ground. Retrieved From:

NETLAB: Studying the Intersection of Social Networks, Communication Networks and Computer Networks. Retrieved From:

Oii Internet Awards: Recognising Excellence. University of Oxford. Retrieved From:

Sociology: University of Toronto. CV Barry Wellman. Retrieved From:

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January 9, 2015 at 11:25 am

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Creating and testing an integrative, Chinese Medicine diet for Chinese Americans with Type 2 Diabetes

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Wednesday, 14 January 2015, 3:30pm
CNM Meeting room, AS6, #03-33

Research demonstrates that Chinese Americans are at a high risk for Type 2 Diabetes.  In addition, many Chinese Americans with diabetes use both a Western biomedical approach and a Chinese medicine/Chinese “folk” medical-foods approach to the treatment and maintenance of their diabetes (often without consulting their healthcare providers about their culture-based health practices).  Standard diabetes diet and nutrition self-management education programs do not account for people’s choices of foods as based on Chinese medicine principles.  The purpose of this project was to create a nutrition programme that adheres to biomedical standards and Chinese medicine principles.  Such a diet could lead to more positive behavioral change regarding their diet/eating habits.  While previous research has approached diabetes education from a variety of cultural perspectives, this study aims to develop the first integrative and culturally-sensitive approach to diet and nutrition recommendations that takes into account those Chinese medicine principles that also align with medical food/diet recommendations.
EvelynHoDr Evelyn Y. Ho is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies and Asian Pacific American Studies at the University of San Francisco. Beginning with an understanding that communication is a cultural activity and that health care systems and beliefs are profoundly cultural, Dr. Ho’s teaching and research focus broadly on the intersections of health, culture and communication. Health care in the United States is increasingly confronted with a variety of domestic and international-based alternatives to Western biomedicine and her research studies the discursive construction of holistic medicine especially in relationship to biomedicine. Recent projects have focused on patient education for talking about complementary and alternative medicine with biomedical practitioners and the use of Chinese medicine among Chinese Americans and Type 2 Diabetes. Previous research has examined public health acupuncture clinics in Seattle and in San Francisco where the focus was on the use of acupuncture and massage therapy use for HIV-related neuropathy. Her research has been published in Health Communication, Diabetes Educator, Patient Education and Counseling, Qualitative Health Research, Research on Language and Social Interaction, Journal of Applied Communication Research, and elsewhere.  At USF Dr. Ho teaches courses in Communication and Culture, Ethnography of Communication, Health Communication, Holistic Medicine, and Asian Pacific American Studies. She is the Vice-Chair of the Health Communication Division of the International Communication Association (ICA).

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January 7, 2015 at 12:16 pm

Posted in Research

Dr Chen Xiangyu, Visiting Researcher with CNM-CARE, on resistance in Chinese cyberspace

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CNM welcomes Dr Chen Xiangyu, who is visiting from Nanjing Forestry University until November 2015.  During his visit, Xiangyu will be giving research talks and work with the CNM-CARE unit.

Dr Chen’s research interests include the relationship between social resistance and new media, collective behaviours in Chinese cyberspace, communication for social change, social impact of new communication technologies, political communication, civic participation communication, environmental protest and communication culture.

He shares with us his work and plan for his visit.

What is your main research interest?

My research focuses on the resistant behaviours in the Chinese society, especially those that happen in cyberspace. When I speak with the scholars of Singapore about my researches, the majority of them think my researches are very political sensitive, because when it comes to the social resistance, most of Chinese leaders wouldn’t like to talk about it and always keep silent. Actually, some points about Chinese problem are distant from the Chinese reality. In recent years, there have been a growing number of Chinese scholars beginning to study the social resistance from many directions.

Social resistance is becoming one of the most important issues in China, with the Chinese government having to deal with the effects of protest from a whole new perspective.  Without an effective mechanism to express opinion, more and more protestors are choosing the Internet to express their points of view. Over the past decade, some even regard online platforms as the only one approach to contest and advocate.  Now, while some online protests have led to desired outcomes fairly quickly, many have not.  In the case of being ignored by government leaders, protestors may resort to extreme ways of galvanising cyber citizens, including starting rumours in order to pressure government leaders to come out from hiding behind their bureaucracy and take accountability.

Studying resistant behaviour in the Chinese cyberspace has taught me that it is not enough to explain Chinese society only through using the Western theoretical frameworks. This is not to say we should discard Western theory. However, the more I learn about Western theory and the differences between Western and Chinese theoretical frameworks, the more I understand China.

Why have you chosen to come to CNM?
CNM is the one of the best Communication and Media Studies departments globally. You are well-known for adopting a multi-disciplinary approach to studying communication. Most notably, is the culture-centred approach (CCA). There are many factors affecting the resistant behaviours taking place in the Chinese cyberspace. The most important I think is the Chinese culture because culture not only determines the motivation, but also shapes the form of resistances. I have come here to learn more about CCA and how it can help me understand Chinese online resistance.

What do you hope to accomplish while you are here?
During my visit, I shall broaden my theoretical knowledge of new media and social movements by attending talks and seminars and utilizing the abundant library and electronic resources. Where possible, I shall be pleased to give talks and exchange my points with scholars in Singapore.

What are your first impressions of CNM and NUS?
NUS is the one of the most serene and beautiful universities around the world. When I come here for the first time, I am deeply attracted by the campus scenery and academic atmosphere. What I sense in CNM is warm-hearted help, incredible patience and excellent academic strengths. I look forward to a productive and memorable visit.

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January 7, 2015 at 9:34 am

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Talks by Prof Ran Wei, CNM’s Isaac Manasseh Meyer Fellow

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Professor Ran Wei, Isaac Manasseh Meyer Fellow at CNM will be giving two talks during his visit to NUS from 15-24 January 2015:

Monday, 19 January, CNM Meeting Room, 6.00 – 7.15 pm

Meeting the challenge of publishing Asia-focused research internationally,

In this seminar, I will discuss trends in American academy with a focus on challenges in publishing in top-tier journals.  In the context of conducting research to advance theory and generate broad knowledge, I will analyze issues concerning the goals and approaches of Asia-focused research. My talk ends with three suggested strategies to meet the challenge. From the perspective of publishing, Asia-based scholars should (1) pursue mainstream theory-based research; (2) aim to publish in journals of high IF (impact factor), and (3) groom star scholars.


Friday, 23 January, CNM Meeting Room, 1.00 – 2.15 pm

New Media Research at a Crossroads: Predicaments and Solutions,

Rapid advances in new communication technologies have paved the way for an abundance of new applications and services. Corresponding with this growth, new media research in Western countries has moved center stage in the study of mediated communication. New media research is even touted as a new discipline in the social sciences. With new media’s critical role in enhancing economic growth, in fostering innovation, and in triggering social change, the extensive scholarly attention paid to new media is understandable. In this essay, I make a plea for applying some brakes on fast-moving new media research. Analyzing fundamental problems in the field, I find that we face three predicaments: (1) atheoretical, (2) ahistorical, and (3) context-free research. I argue that new media research, no matter how fashionable, cannot be sustained unless we solve the three predicaments.

Professor Ran Wei is Professor at the University of South Carolina, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, and Editor of Mass Communication & Society.  His research interests are new media, media effects, mobile media, and international advertising. Details of his work can be found at

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January 7, 2015 at 8:18 am

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Brain-Computer Music Interfaces

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Wednesday, 3 December, 3:30pm

CNM Meeting Room, Level 3, AS6

Electroencephalogram (EEG) systems provide useful information about the brain activity of humans and are becoming increasingly available outside the medical domain.   Similar to the information provided by other physiological sensors, Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI) information can be used as a source for interpreting a person’s emotions and intentions.  This talk focuses on the application of BCI as an intelligent sensor, similar to a microphone or camera, which can be used in the study of the inter-relationship between computer music systems, intentions and emotions.  In this talk, the speaker hopes discuss: How BCIs as intelligent sensors can be integrated into computer music systems?  What constitutes appropriate musical adaptation in response to physiological data?  How is the user experience of music interfaces enhanced through BCIs?

Rafael Ramirez is Associate Professor in Computer Science at the Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain. He obtained his BSc in Mathematics from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and his MSc in Artificial Intelligence and PhD in Computer Science from the University of Bristol, UK.  For five years, he worked at the Department of Computer Science at the School of Computing of the National University of Singapore, first as a postdoctoral researcher and then as a lecturer. His research interests include Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Data Mining and their application to cognition, music technology, creative processes, and brain-computer Interfaces. He has published more than 100 research articles in peer-reviewed international Journals and Conferences.  He is chair and program committee member for several artificial intelligence and machine learning related conferences, as well as a reviewer for several international journals.  He has given invited seminars across Europe, Asia and America.

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December 3, 2014 at 9:12 am

Posted in Events