NM6102 visits Social & Cognitive Lab

By Daniel Teo

CNM graduate students from the research methods class NM6102 visited the Social and Cognitive Lab on March 21, 2013. The trip was organised by A/P Maria Kozhevnikov, one of the teachers of the class and director of the lab.


The students were at the lab to get a first-hand experience with advanced neuroimaging equipment, specifically electroencephalography (EEG), which measures the electrical activity of the brain.

Masters student Prashanth Thattai Ravikumar volunteered to be wired up to the machine. A “hairnet” comprising a dense network of electrodes was first soaked in a solution of baby shampoo and potassium chloride. The solution improved the connection between the electrodes and scalp for more precise measurements.

The sopping wet hairnet was then carefully positioned over Prashanth’s scalp. “I feel like a knight!” Prashanth said about the headpiece which enveloped most of his head.

After being hooked up to the EEG, Prashanth began playing a computer game. In the adjacent room, his classmates watched the changes in the electrical activity of his brain on a computer monitor.

Psychology graduate student Obana Takashi who was in-charge of the EEG, also asked Prashanth to perform a series of tasks like blinking his eyes and clenching his mouth. The CNM students watched in amazement as the readings jumped at each movement that Prashanth made while out of sight in the neighbouring room.

After the demonstration had concluded, A/P Kozhevnikov and Takashi explained how the information from the multiple data points were collated and mapped onto different regions of the brain.

For the budding scholars, the lab visit and EEG demonstration, while a welcome change to the typical 3-hour seminar, also inspired them to think of the many ways neuroimaging techniques could be incorporated into future communication research.

A memorable exchange experience

By Joyce Xu


I am an exchange student majoring in journalism and political science from the University of Hong Kong and would like to share what this semester has been for me.  For this term, I have taken modules in Communications & New Media, Political Science and Southeast Asian Studies.


At the Department of CNM, I took Introduction to Media Writing (NM2220) and Writing for Communication Management (NM3219).  As a journalism major in my home university, I was taught news reporting and writing, television production as well as journalistic ethics. We rarely touched on public relations. In contrast, at NUS, I have gained a lot of practical knowledge and integrated training in the field of public relations.  The two modules exposed me to a wide range of knowledge and skills such as public relations theory and practice, crisis communication, speech and press release writing.  The subjects have sparked my interest in corporate communication and led me re-think my career goals. It seems now to me that becoming a public relations practitioner is a viable way of engaging in the print media industry.  My mods at NUS required group-based multi-disciplinary projects and presentations.  They were great opportunities to make the acquaintance of local and foreign friends and get myself steeped into a vibrant academic culture. I am also impressed with how NUS profs use social media for teaching. Google Plus, for example, is really an effective platform for teachers and students to interact with one another and exchange ideas in a quick yet sustained manner.


Interview with Mdm Leong, the owner of Nam Seng Noodles & Fried Rice

Outside class, I am grateful to be given the chance to write an article comparing Singapore and Hong Kong for The Ridge magazine.  The campus paper also despatched me to interview Mdm Leong Yuet Meng, the owner and chef of Nam Seng Noodles & Fried Rice.  Many Singaporeans will fondly recall Mdm Leong’s bustling wanton noodles stall standing just next to the National Library when it was the library was still at Stamford Road.  I went on to report on the opening ceremony of the Festival of Media Asia 2013 held from 3-5 March at Sentosa.


My Southeast Asian Studies class, on the other hand, led me to carry out fieldwork in Chinatown.  For this project, I interviewed the shopkeepers at Pagoda Street and conducted in-depth research on the history of this Chinese enclave.


These hands-on experiences mean a lot to me: they broadened my social and intellectual horizons and enhanced my understanding of Singapore. My analytical and communication skills have also been improved amid the multicultural learning environment of NUS.

Reporting the Festival of Media Asia 2013 at W Hotel, Sentosa

Flying miles away from home to experience a different culture has given me valuable cross-cultural insights and interesting encounters.  I feel my perspective of the world expanding by the minute at each encounter with a classmate, lecturer or interviewee.  When I return to Hong Kong, I hope to continue to keep an open and curious mind and capitalize on every learning opportunity to explore and reflect about the world around me.  As I prepare my return to HKU, I know I shall look back at the past four months with delight and gratitude.


Joyce Xu is an exchange student studying Bachelor of Journalism (II) at the University of Hong Kong

Prepping for Interviews

By Lim Guan Liang, Ivan (CNM Major, Year 2)

Interviews, interviews and more interviews! Now’s the time of the semester that students are receiving calls for these nerve-wrecking, make or break affairs – be they for internships or scholarships. To some, this may not be new. But for the many others, it may be the first time ever.  And first times are naturally going to be scary!

If you’re one of these people, don’t fret! There’s always a first time for everything. Interviews are no exception. I admit I’m no expert at them,   but having personally attended several scholarship interviews over the   past few weeks, I’ve learnt a number of things that might be useful for  you! Here I’ll be sharing some of my experiences, as well as providing some tips for those who will too be going for interviews in the near    future.

Basically, I believe in a three stage preparatory sequence that seems to work for me. This starts with the most important step – know yourself.   I say this because interviews are very much about selling yourself, and if you do not know yourself (just imagine a salesperson not knowing his product), you’ll obviously will find it difficult to clinch the deal. Thus, before any interview, do take time to do a little “research” on yourself, something I’m sure us CNM students have ample experience in! For instance, ask yourself what are your strengths and weaknesses (everyone has them), and note them down. Think about what you are as a person, your interests, and any other interesting things about you. Note them down. Knowing yourself also comprises knowing how you can fit within the organisation that you’re interviewing for. Look up the organisation  you are interviewing for, note their distinguishing elements (what they   do, mission and core values etc.), and think how you are a match for   them.

With these things done, you’ll naturally progress to the next stage, which  is to prepare accordingly. With all the notes that you have made    about yourself and the organisation, now’s the time to organise them into coherent thoughts with which you’ll rehearse, preferably until it becomes second nature whenever you’re asked about them. One way to do this is simply by looking up common interview questions, then answering them with those notes. A Google search will throw up a whole range of possible questions, and while those for jobs will tend to be slightly different from those for scholarships, the common questions generally remain the     same.  Here’s a short list of the most common scholarship questions that I’ve heard being asked:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Why did you choose the course you are studying in now?
  • Why did you apply for this scholarship?
  • What is your greatest achievement/thing you are most proud of?
  • What are your goals/strengths/weaknesses/career aspirations?
  • Did you apply for scholarships elsewhere? Why?
  • Why should we select you?

Answering the list of questions above should generally give you a comprehensive picture of yourself. Rehearse them either with yourself or with others. Interviewers will ask different variations of these common questions, and in your first few interviews, it’s natural if you stumble    over your answers. But practice makes perfect, and you will improve      your answers over time! Being completely honest with your answers    helps too.

The final stage is when you actually get to put what you’ve done into practice. At the interview place, be cheerful (both before and at the interview). This means basically being as positive as you can be – smile    at people, and talk to them. You will probably meet other candidates at    the interview, and yes they will be competing with you for the same spot, but I find that interacting with them before your actual interview begins   is a great way to warm up, especially since you already have common ground as fellow interviewees. Not only will it help to alleviate your nervousness, you’d probably realise that the things you say to them (introductions etc.) are very similar to what you’ll eventually say to your interviewers! It’s like last minute rehearsals before the big event. And it works.

These are just some small pointers you might want to take on in your coming interview preparations. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again – there will always be new opportunities! For every interview you   go for, do remember to know yourself, prepare accordingly, and be as cheerful as you can be. I sincerely wish you the best of luck for all of   them!

Research Talk by Ms Anne Marie Schleiner

Remixing the Game in the Global South


Date and Time: Wednesday, 10 April, 3:00 PM

Venue: CNM Meeting room, AS6, #03-33, 11 Computing Drive, S117416, FASS, NUS

Google Map:


About the talk

Recent game scholarship and studies have recognized a shift in player demographic as digital gameplay expands from a hard-core PC game players to casual games attractive to all ages and genders.  Yet few, except for isolated studies of media literacy, have acknowledged that such administrators of digital farms on Facebook and argonauts of cartoon bird challenges are also located outside the First World, in Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia. In actuality, players outside the First World have been playing digital games all along, although not always at the same venues as in the “global North”, in the United States, Canada, Europe and South Korea and Japan, where Internet in the home is more pervasive. But from a game studies or ludological perspective, beyond acknowledging and making visible the players and spaces for digital gameplay in the global South, what more can we learn from these practices?  Must we assume that we have little to learn, that digital culture flows only from one source outwards, from the technologically affluent North, unaltered in its original form, to the rest of the globe?

In this book I will argue that on the contrary, important works, approaches and tactics have been emerging among players, game makers and artists in the South, that have much to contribute to digital scholarship and practices across the globe, potentially from South to North, but also tactically, from South to South.  Not only players, but also game designers and artists in “the global South” have been actively participating and borrowing from game culture for as long as there have been digital games, using play as an artistic means to positively intervene in problem zones of urbanization, to represent aspects of local cultures in digital games, and as a design approach.


About the speaker

Anne-Marie Schleiner is engaged in gaming and net culture in a variety of roles as a cultural critic, curator, anti-war activist, and gaming artist/designer. She has taught at universities and artist workshops and participated in art residencies in Germany, Belgium, Spain and Mexico. She has exhibited in international galleries, museums and festivals, more recently the Body in Women’s Art Now at London’s Rollo Art and the New Hall Art Collection, University of Cambridge. She teaches critical game design in the Communications and New Media Program at the National University of Singapore in South East Asia and in 2012 completed a doctorate in Cultural Analysis titled “Ludic Mutation: The Player’s Power to Change the Game” at the University of Amsterdam.

Letter from India

March 28, 2013

Dear Friends and Teachers at CNM,

Hope you are all doing super fine.

I have been in India since January, and have been well.  So much has happened since I started term here, and I am bursting to share my experiences with you. Please sit tight.  This is going be a loooong email.

Initially, it was frustrating. Really frustrating.


Firstly, getting access to the Internet.  College wifi is almost never on.  When it was, there was only access till 5pm.  So we got to get our own mobile Internet.  We do this via a thumb drive called a dongle.  Then again, the speed of the Internet depends on the strength of the signal that the thumb drive catches from airwaves. So you need to be in the right area. It’s almost like using a cellphone. If you are in a right place, you’ll get good signal.  I also needed to top-up the value in the SIM-card that resides in this dongle.  So when I run out of credit, it would be no access to the Internet for the day!


Secondly, I have to get used to the style of teaching here. I am with the second year Journalism class in Lady Shri Ram College for Women which is a college within University of Delhi.  They do a three-year honours course with a teaching style that is very different from NUS.  At NUS, we have lecture for two hours and tutorial for one to two hours. Here it is almost like the junior college system. I have 55 minutes of classes and most of the time, my day stretches from 10am to 4pm unless the teachers cancel class because they are not around and tell the class representatives to relay the message to us.


I take four classes here. The teachers teach usually by reading from a book or their laptops or screening a movie and then discussing it. The discussion for ‘International Media Scenario’ is always lively with everyone trying to get their word in. There are practical classes where in ‘Reporting and Editing for Broadcast Media’, I got to produce a radio documentary on ‘Cricket and Politics in India’ on my own. We also learnt how to shoot outdoors using professional cameras (the ones news camera crew use for broadcast) and made different types of shots, including close up, shift focus.  There is no randomness in the decisions behind each shot. Every shot has a message for the audience.


But there were also some less than pleasant classes. One such module is “Advertising & PR”.  Unfortunately, the students in this class are not learning much about public relations.  They don’t learn how to make a PR plan, how to write a media pitch or even a press release.  If they want to learn these, they would have to take their own initiative outside of classes to do this.  What students here are learning are the theories and the different advertisements in India over the decades. The teacher takes the syllabus, splits it up and assigns each student some parts of the syllabus as assignments.  Students have to find information about say, Types of Advertisments or Theories of Advertisements and produce the assignment. She doesn’t teach them much. Their approach is very exam-centric.  According to the teacher, her method of teaching was what it would take to help students pass an exam.  So really, I pity the students.  They know among themselves that this is not the way to learn about advertising and public relations.  For myself, I have definitely learnt more about Indian ads, some failings of MNCs when they advertise in India and such.


I have the same set of classmates in all four mods.  One of my favourite mods is Development Communication and Rural Journalism. It’s a really good class to take to understand the role of what I’ve been learning (Communications), in development. Lessons in this class cover criticisms of dominant paradigms of development and how development strategies always need to be needs-based and to keep in mind the people you are making policies for.  I wonder how feasible this is?  India is a big country and every state has different needs. It is impossible for ‘one policy fits all’ here, unlike in Singapore.


Unfortunately, I have nothing useful to tell you about their versions of Principles of Public Relations and Writing for Communication Management.  Instead, I have been sharing the faculty and students here about how NUS conducts these classes.  I hope they will go and find out more about how these modules can be taught and learnt.


Thirdly, I would like to share about how the safety of women in Delhi is handled in this college. I am staying in a hostel just beside the college. If I want to go out of college, I will need to write a day-slip and ask for my hostel warden to sign in. I have a curfew by 7.30pm. If I want a ‘Late Night’ I will have to write in my ‘Leave Book’.  That allows me to stay out by 9.30pm. I am allowed two late nights on a weekday per month. Weekends are allowed for ‘Late Nights’.  As you can see, the rules that they have put up for us can be very rigid if one views them from a Singaporean perspective.


It was only after the recent Holi celebrations, did I fully realise the consequence and the reasons for women’s safety in India. After all, the strict rules and lockdown indicate the extent of the ‘hooliganism’ that happens. I wonder why some men behave that way?  Do they think that they are having fun?


Over the past three months, I have heard conversations about Delhi Gang Rape case and followed the trials.  There are reports of the rape or of the woman fighting her attackers every day in the newspapers (I read The Indian Express). You can imagine the kind of fear this creates among some women. Rapes also happen to homeless women on the streets, or those who stay out late at night, or just happen to be unlucky. Earlier on, I have not been able to write about it because I have not encountered anything untoward. (Thank goodness, actually!).  Then, I didn’t think I fully understood the mindset of the young women here too.  Now I think I do, and am able to write something which I hope is of some value.


For the first few weeks that I was here, everyone would tell me not to go out on my own, not to stay out late, and to avoid crowded places at all times.  The fellow hostellites, who themselves are not from Delhi but from other states, see me as a foreign woman who is vulnerable, especially since I am unable to speak Hindi to the people around here. Even for them, Delhi is a dangerous place, unlike their own hometown. They advise me because they are trying to protect me.  But I am not used to it, and it feels very restrictive at times trapped in college.  Still, this is their country after all. They would know better, I think.


So I only go out and about only if my roommate is free to go out with me, or someone is taking me out. I go out alone only if I’ve been to the place before, so I know the directions. I would take the rickshaws if the place is near, and speak Hindi to the driver. I will ask how much before I board “Kitna bhaiya?” (How much, brother?) so that you won’t pay too much when you get off the rickshaw. It’s really not that bad when you’re on the streets. If you ask someone for directions, they will help. Sometimes, I think the threat is in the mind. I rarely take the public bus when I’m alone, though it’s the cheapest option (10-20 rupees no matter the distance, that is, like 50 cents in Singapore). There are too many routes and buses. There is a bus conductor and you need to tell him where you are going so that he can charge accordingly. During peak hours, I have seen from the outside that the bus will get so crowded that people will stand in someone else’s leg space when people are already sitting there. So, because of this, my friends would tell me not to take the bus too, because somebody might “rub you the wrong way”.


Once when I was walking to India Gate from the National Museum, alone, an auto-rickshaw (a motorised rickshaw) driver asked which tourist area I wanted to go to. I refused him many times saying I wanted to walk to India Gate since it’s not very far, but he  followed me on the vehicle. I lied to him that I had no money so that I could throw him off. But he was insistent and said he could give me a ride to India Gate, and then to Lodi Garden where he wanted me to visit a tourist shop. I would get a free ride and he would get one litre of petrol. It was a win-win situation. I agreed to take the ride to India Gate (less than 1km away from where I was standing). He said he would wait for 15 minutes to let me take a look at the place and after that I should come back. So I went around India Gate and clicked photos, but I took off after that. That was the nearest I came to “danger”.


India is a huge country.  The significance of being in an enormous country is something that one doesn’t really appreciate or think of, living in Singapore and knowing only Malaysia’s geography well enough.  It has diverse people, diverse terrains, diverse cultures. North and South are extremely different in terms of language and culture. So is east and west India.


Just last week, we celebrated Holi. It’s celebrated mostly in Northern India.  Generally one smothers coloured powders on the faces of one’s friends and family.  In Northern India, people throw water balloons too and at passer-bys.  In Singapore, I’ve seen my friends celebrate Holi whole-heartedly on the fields just outside Kembangan CC. But here in Delhi, the University put up a poster saying “No colours, no water guns, no hooliganism”.  Essentially, that is the same as saying, “No Holi”. The poster also said that there will be police patrolling outside the colleges, security will be up. The rationale for this is that Holi, even in Delhi University is one of the days where women are prone to sexual harassment and plain injuries.  People in cars wind down their windows and throw water balloons at passer-bys. According to my friends, that hurts. In co-ed colleges, the men might take the opportunity to smother powder on the usually untouchable zones of women’s bodies. It is ironic that in the capital of Mother India, such lengths have to be taken to make Holi safe for passer-bys; whereas in Singapore, Holi is celebrated out in the open, albeit, restricted areas. In the end, in the college, we managed to have one hour of fun chasing each other and messing each other’s hair with colours.

On the note of adventure, I’ve climbed up high enough to touch snow for the first time in my life.  I saw the Himalayan Mountain Range and rode a camel in the desert, twice. I took a streetwalk tour guided by a former street child.

At present, I am also doing a part-time internship with a start-up company, Skillhippo.com.  In my first week at work, I gave the staff a presentation on ‘Twitter for Business’.  Now, I handle their Twitter account.

When I think about home, I think about our food, my family and friends.  Boy, I do miss Singapore food, especially, Malay food. It helps that there are many Chinese restaurants here.  I patronise these when I get bored of eating Indian food.

And then there are my family and friends back home.  I appreciate Singapore and NUS so much more when I’m here. At the same time though, I’ve made many good friends with the locals and I will say that I will be very sad to leave them when the time comes. I deeply believe the friendship will run deep even when I am back home

That’s the end of one of the longest emails I have ever written, folks!  Thanks for reading this far.


I really look forward to being home again.


Nur Safiah Bte. Alias

Communications & New Media | University Scholars Programme

Exchange student at Lady Shri Ram College for Women since January 2013

After five hours, finally, me and my room mate (Joanne Chung, Yr 3, Sociology + USP) reached Triund Peaks, part of the Dhaoladar Range. It was too cloudy so we didn’t see the three distinct peaks. (This is the local name for Himalayas. Location: Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh.


Celebrating Holi in the Hostel Common Room


On a street walk led by former street child, Kailash (On the right in dark blue). He is about 19 years old now. He moved to Delhi from Bihar when he was eight years old, with his 12 year old brother because he wanted to go to school. In Bihar, school was too far away, so he helped with his family farm instead. He came directly to Salaam Balaak Trust (hyperlink: www.salaambaalaktrust.com) in Delhi where they help street children with lessons. Now, Kailash works for them, giving tours in English to tourists. Kailash is different from many street children. Many street children have to be convinced by social workers before they go into a drop-in centre.

Random Blends 2013 ~ What the student exhibitors say


Credits: Grey of Prism Visuals

Having one’s work projected onto the walls of the ArtScience Museum was a special experience

By Harris Lim

Another PR major, Harris Lim was at the launch of Random Blends 2013. He too spoke to the exhibitors. Amongst them was Cheong Ying Hui, a second year NM major, whose piece, “2030” was put on display along with five other pieces in the “Comics” section of the exhibition. This was her first time participating in Random Blends, and she was very excited to have her piece picked from many other submissions. Ying Hui’s thrill was all the sweeter when “2030’ was also selected to be part of the token of appreciation to Guest of Honor, Mr. Janadas Devan, Chief of Government Communications.

Two other first-timers, Ivan Lim and Isaiah Lim were also glad to have their joint work “Ghostbusters” on display. “I was surprised when they told me that my work would be put on display during Random Blends,” Ivan said modestly. “I feel very grateful that my hard work is being recognized.”

The largest exhibit, “Digitisation”, belonged to Koh Zhi Kai, a third year NM major and his team. Their work spanned almost the entire length of the Expression exhibition hall. Although it was the second time his work was picked for Random Blends, he felt as excited as ever. What made it very special for him this year was the venue. The ArtScience Museum is an iconic building in the Marina Bay area, distinctive for its well-articulated galleries, fashioned like the fingers of our hands. The “finger tips” of each gallery features skylights that illuminate and bring forth fully the artistry of the works on its walls. For Zhi Kai, the architecture of the venue alone is inspiring. As he puts it, “The exhibition space in the ArtScience Museum evokes our emotions and imaginations”. His other piece on display at the exhibition was “Cinemagraphs”.

Random Blends is open to all visitors keen for interactive experiences

Random Blends 2013 at ArtScience Museum

Student participants with Head of the Department of Communications and New Media, Prof. Mohan Dutta (centre, left) and guest of honor Mr Janadas Devan, Chief of Government Communications at the Ministry of Communication and Information (centre, right)


By Low Jingyi and Magdalene Tan, Year 2, NM Majors


We aren’t design aficionados or gaming experts; just a pair of curious public relations majors keen to visit new places and share about them in writing.  So, when we received an invitation to the opening night of Random Blends 2013, we immediately accepted the invitation as well as the chance to blog about it.


Random Blends is a digital art exhibition organised by the students of Communications & New Media Department every year since 2009.  This year, Random Blends was held from March 22 to April 7 at the ArtScience Museum in the integrated resort, Marina Bay Sands.


“The location of Random Blends 2013 is great.  It gives what is essentially a student-run event, a professional feel,” said Jeal Ng, Chairman for Random Blends 2012.


Random Blends had begun with a concentration in photographic works.  Since then, collections have taken an eclectic turn to project more comprehensively the multi-modality leanings of the department.  The 36 designs on display this year ranged from comic illustrations to collages, interactive storytelling, user experience designs, playable art and interactive games.  Most of the creators were student designers of CNM majors or students from the School of Computing.


“Having dabbled in some of the game making tools some time ago, I really enjoyed the games designed by my peers and seniors.  Playing the games as they are projected on the wall also added a new dimension to the experience. The game design ideas are engaging and fun!” said Samuel Cho, a year one CNM student who was with us on opening night.


Loh Sze Ming, Curator and Head of Public Relations for Random Blends 2013 elaborated: “In the selection of work for display, we looked at the aesthetics and the message behind the artwork.  For example, if you take a look at the comics section, some of the works cover thought-provoking themes like national identity and xenophobia in Singapore, and presented the issues in direct, questioning ways.”


The same aesthetic and conceptual appeal of the students’ work had impressed the venue sponsor: “Our definition of art science is looking at the processes that underlie artistic and scientific development.  We believe that they are joined through creative acts. It is about creativity for us. We felt that this showcase really encapsulated that because it was showing the processes that the students had undertaken and it was showing very creative products of that process,” said Anna Salaman, Associate Director of Programming at Art Science Museum.


The student exhibitors explained that the production of a piece of work involves the demanding process of gathering insights from people, iterating and reiterating the initial drafts till it was time to submit them for evaluation, selection and display.


Yet, it was also “very meaningful to see our games being displayed here” and even more gratifying “to see the public enjoy playing them,” said Edwin, a Year 3 Computing major.


“We want our audience and participants to be impressed by the standard of our students’ work.  Many people may think that school projects are substandard. We want to demonstrate that our students can hold a public exhibition. We are heartened that CNM has been very supportive,” said Sze Ming.


“It’s the first school project that we’ve showcased for a significant period of time. I’m really delighted that it is here for two weeks, usually it’s just for a day, but we felt that the quality and range of these projects were worth showcasing for a long time. The whole exhibition is really beautifully laid out,” said Anna Salaman.


More than 100 visitors attended the opening night.  Just about everyone was impressed by the exhibit, and inspired everyone who left.

Research Talk by John D. Freyer & Johan Lindquist

Opening the Flatpack: Ethnography, Art, and the Billy Bookcase


Date and Time: Wednesday, 17 April, 3:00 PM

Venue: CNM Meeting room, AS6, #03-33, 11 Computing Drive, S117416, FASS, NUS

Google Map:


About the talk

This presentation will discuss an ongoing research/art project that explores the cultural significance of a specific object, namely IKEA’s Billy Bookcase. IKEA: a brand synonymous with affordability, mobility and functionality, introduced the Billy Bookcase – the quintessential item of flatpack furniture – in 1978, and has sold more than 35 million units worldwide since.

In his book The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History Since 1900, David Edgerton argues against our attraction to novelty and “high-tech” in innovation and design. Instead, we should direct our sights towards what Edgerton terms the “invisible world of technologies” that people actually use, many of which have served the poor and middle class more than the wealthy. The condom and the sewing machine, corrugated metal and flat-pack furniture. Forget bioscience and nanotech, writes Edgerton, “Think of cheap PCs, mobile phones and IKEA furniture. Mass production is now so common it is invisible.” IKEA directly and indirectly employs more than a million people selling wooden furniture. This global triumph of “old” technology yields a compelling yet unexplored picture of the substantive relationship between human beings and their tools, technologies, and culture.

Co-organized by artist and author John D. Freyer (Virginia Commonwealth University) and anthropologist Johan Lindquist (ARI and Stockholm University), Opening the Flatpack aims to investigate and develop methods for approaching the Billy Bookcase; an object that is pervasive in everyday life but rarely taken seriously as a site of conceptual concern. Following Edgerton’s lead, and using multimedia and interdisciplinary approaches drawn from the disciplines of art, anthropology and economics, Opening the Flatpack explores the global reach of IKEA through the lens of this humble domestic object: the top-selling bookcase in the world.


About the speakers

John D. Freyer is an interdisciplinary artist whose projects include his internationally renowned Internet project and book All My Life for Sale, his national PBS program Second Hand Stories and his readymade projects Walm-Art.com and Big Boy.  His work has been reviewed in The New Yorker, The Sunday London Times, Art Forum, Print Magazine and NBC’s The Today Show.  In 2011 Freyer completed a Fulbright Fellowship in Stockholm, Sweden.  He is currently an Artist in Residence at Light Work in Syracuse NY and will join the faculty in the Department of Photography & Film in Cross-Disciplinary Media at Virginia Commonwealth University in Fall 2013.

Johan Lindquist is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Asia Research Institute at NUS and Associate Professor of Social Anthropology at Stockholm University in Sweden. He is the author of The Anxieties of Mobility: Development and Migration in the Indonesian Borderlands (University of Hawai’i Press, 2009) and his documentary film B.A.T.A.M. is available from Documentary Educational Resources. His current research is focused on transnational migration from Indonesia, and in particular the brokering of migrant labor in this process.