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

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 <>

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

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.

Mobile communication: A transformative technology and a probe with which to illuminate social processes

Wednesday, 17 September 2014, 3pm

CNM Meeting room, AS6, #03-33

This talk will cover several areas of research with the common thread being mobile communication. In one way or another, the mobile phone or mobile communication is involved in all the work. That said, the talk will move in several different directions.  These range from fine grained ethnographic analysis of the mobile phone’s introduction in Myanmar, to survey analysis of the transition to digital news (consumed on mobile devices), to the examination of large databases to understand diffusion of contagious diseases, to using large databases to examine the structure of our closest social sphere. These different research activities will help policy makers and business leaders to understand how mobile communication affects traditional culture (the work in Myanmar); how it is in the process of restructuring news organizations; how to approach the management of disease; and how to conceptualize the core social networks. In a broader sense, the work is motivated in some cases, by the urge to capture the transition of society as it confronts new technological solutions. In other cases, it is motivated by the desire to use the mobile phone as a probe that can help to illuminate fundamental social structures.
Rich Ling (PhD, University of Colorado, Sociology) is the Shaw Foundation Professor of Media Technology at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He also works at Telenor Research and has an adjunct position at the University of Michigan. Prof. Ling has studied the social consequences of mobile communication for the past two decades. He has written The Mobile Connection (Morgan Kaufmann, 2004), New Tech, New Ties (MIT, 2008) and most recently Taken for Grantedness (MIT, 2012). He is a founding co-editor of Mobile Media and Communication (Sage) and the Oxford University Press series Studies in Mobile Communication.


“Guided but not so guided”: Understanding the mediated experience of place through a mobile application

Wednesday, 10 September 2014, 3pm
CNM Meeting Room, AS6, #03-33

In this paper, we present an exploratory field study examining how the visitors’ experience of place can be mediated through technology. For this, we had 20 participants explore a less “touristy” neighborhood in Singapore equipped with a custom mobile application that allowed individuals to create their own trails and follow those created by others.  We found that the mediated experience of place is a complex phenomenon that can be mediated through mobile technologies by supporting immersive and participatory experiences.  Additionally, study participants highlighted an interesting tension between wanting to be guided through the app or trail guide, but at the same time, they needed to feel that they were making serendipitous discoveries.  Findings from this project will have both theoretical and practical implications for enhancing the visitor’s mediated experience of place through location-aware technologies.

Read a first-hand account of the study in the field at Discovering old Balestier with a map and an app

Jude Yew is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communications and New Media, National University of Singapore and is affiliated with the Keio-NUS CUTE Center. He joined CNM in 2012 after finishing his Ph.D and postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan. His research is focused on studying and designing social computing systems that encourage prosocial behavior. His past work has studied and designed environments for large-scale scientific collaboration, the use of social tagging in learning, and the sharing and reuse of user-generated content in online communities. He has received funding from the NSF and the Rackham Graduate School for this work.

Good food, good company, great trip: Our tech sojurn to Japan (JENESYS 2.0)

By Cheong Kakit, Satveer Kaur, Derrick Ng and Naomi Tan, CNM Graduate Students

Student exchange between JENESYS 2.0 participants and Nagoya Institute of Technology

Student exchange between JENESYS 2.0 participants and Nagoya Institute of Technology

Japan is arguably one of the most popular tourist destinations among Singaporeans, and you would be hard pressed to find someone who has something negative to say about their experience there. This July, the four of us were given the opportunity to visit Japan as part of the JENESYS 2.0 Programme organized by Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE). Established in 1977, JICE is mainly involved in developing and coordinating international cooperation activities, and has been running the JENESYS 2.0 programme for about seven years now. The programme was kindly sponsored by the Japanese Government. Our group of 25 made up the 21st Batch of students from local universities in Singapore, including NUS, NTU, and SUTD, who would be visiting Japan from 30 June to 8 July 2014. Our journey began and ended in Tokyo, but much of our time was spent in Aichi Prefecture, known not only for their rich history, but also as a technological hub.

This immersion programme was aimed at exposing Southeast Asian youths to the Japanese way of life and business, specifically in the science and technology and digital media sectors. Our Japanese hosts not only facilitated the trip meticulously and in a very well organized manner, they also did it with warmth, always ensuring all our needs were well taken care of. Their kind hospitality towards us was mirrored in our everyday interactions with the Japanese as well. Aptly summed up by Satveer:

“Japan is a place with soul. The soul of the people. The Japanese’s respect for society and for themselves must be valued and reinterpreted in our own spaces. We have so much to learn from a culture of people that pride on harmony with a focus on their society before themselves.”

The JENESYS 2.0 Programme

The JENESYS 2.0 programme included highly informative and educational components which were designed to give us insight into the Japanese industries, their history and philosophy, and also some of the exciting new ventures in the field of science and technology. For instance, we visited the Sony ExploraScience Museum in Tokyo to see and feel first-hand some of the new technologies in light, sound, and entertainment. We were also invited to the Brother Communication Space, an impressive and modern exhibition space which included a museum documenting Brother’s manufacturing history and also the future of Brother’s product offerings.

Sony ExploraScience Museum and Brother Communication Space (Nagoya)

Sony ExploraScience Museum and Brother Communication Space (Nagoya)

Visualising technology: "The better to see you, my dear"

Visualising technology: “The better to see you, my dear”

Besides learning more about the industries in Japan, we were also exposed to the history and culture of Japan. The programme was successful in keeping a balance between displaying Japanese modernity without neglecting the cultural roots. We spent a wonderful afternoon at the Inuyama Castle in Nagoya, learning about the history of this distinctive landmark (often claimed to be the oldest castle in Japan), making our way through the beautiful gardens and past Shinto shrines, climbing up a treacherous four steep flights of steps, to be rewarded with breathtaking views of the Kiso River.

Even so, most of us agreed that one of the most memorable segments of the programme was the homestay. Thanks to the JENESYS 2.0 programme, all of us spent two days living with a Japanese family. The homes we stayed in were beautifully crafted with a perfect balance of contemporary architecture on the outside and yet, keeping to the premise of the traditional Japanese home on the inside. Most homes had a living room constructed with bamboo and/or the earthen straw with quaint touches of Japanese motifs and features such as the suikinkitsu (water harp) placed in the gardens of Japanese homes. If you were lucky, you might have the opportunity of spotting the age old koto (stringed musical instrument) in the living room of these homes.

Although we were no doubt well fed at every single meal, there was really nothing better than a delicious home-cooked meal prepared with love by our homestay mothers, eaten at the dinner table with the rest of the family. From crispy tempura to hand rolled sushi, everything was made to perfection in the Japanese home. Sometimes, dinner would be washed down with warm sake, as in the experience of Naomi, who lived with a family of sake brewers!

Interestingly, while we often assume that technology results in the weakening of local traditions, we found that most Japanese people were able to embrace new technologies while preserving their cultural identity. For example, during Kakit’s homestay, his host father utilized his smartphone to plan and organize a visit to a sumo training session. Upon arrival, the family was quick to capture beautiful images with their mobile phones and digital cameras.

As much as were in awe of the beautiful homes amidst the green hilly terrains in Nagoya, we were charmed by hospitable and warm families we had adopted. It was a teary consensus that this was the best part of the trip for many of us, particularly evident when we had to say goodbye after our short but treasured two days with them.

The JENESYS 2.0 programme allowed us to gain a holistic perspective on the Japanese way of life, both at work, at play, and in the very homes of the Japanese people. The well-planned programme exposed us to the business culture of Japan, the university life of Japanese students, and finally back to the roots of how the Japanese live. By immersing into the culture of the people, one can truly understand and reflect on the way of the Japanese as oppose to naval gazing from the outside or just as a tourist.

Japanese Technology and Infrastructure

It is well known that Japan is a producer of innovative technologies and products. One needs only to look around their home to notice that we are surrounded with Japanese appliances. From smart-televisions to washing machines, Japanese products are often known to be cutting-edge and of superior quality.

From the moment we touched down at Haneda Airport, the convergence of technology and everyday life was apparent. For example, some vending machines allowed for people to simply tap their mobile phones against a sensor to pay for their drink. In another case, a group of us were able to customize our ramen orders entirely through a vending machine. Virtually in all places we travelled to, washroom seats were equipped with electronic controls for specifics tasks, and some even had heated toilet seats.

Another highlight of our trip was taking the public trains. We had the opportunity to not only take the Shinkansen, the famed Japanese high-speed bullet train, but also the chance to navigate the complex web of the local train network. We were told that the Japanese trains were never late and on one of our stops on the bullet train, the 20 odd contingent of us, along with other passengers, had only three minutes to get off the train! The local train network might look like an indecipherable maze of lines at the beginning, but once you understand how it works, travelling to any part of the city will be a breeze. Luckily for us, we had Derrick, a seasoned train traveler who also had a good grasp of Japanese!

JICE was also kind enough to include a student information exchange session with the Nagoya Institute of Technology (NIT) where we able to interact with not only the technologies, but also with the bright minds that were responsible for building such applications. Here, we met Dr. Takahiro Uchiya, the professor in charge of the research lab. Dr. Uchiya’s research interests are in artificial intelligence, knowledge engineering, and spoken dialogue systems. He and his team of students acquainted us with his latest project, a user-generated smart dialogue system named Mei-chan. Mei-chan is a digital signage system that is not only physically available on the grounds of NIT, as a digital signage board, but also available as an application download on any smartphone. As Professor Uchiya puts it, the objective of the project is to develop a new spoken dialogue system framework based on user-generated content, and to advance speech recognition and synthesis technologies.

Mei-chan is not merely an interactive system that gives you directions. She is actually a virtual reality character that one can talk to, flirt with, ask around for directions, weather, horoscope, and so on. Unlike previous systems, Mei-chan was able to express a range of emotions, including shyness, anger, happiness and disappointment. She even exhibits physical attributes such as blushing, smiling, and unhappiness. Hence, Mei-chan is not only able to recognize your questions based on specific keywords, but also respond like she understands you. Needless to say, most of us had fun trying to elicit these responses from the system.


A participant experiencing the technology at Nagoya Institute of Technology (Photo Credit: Eugene Chiong)

A participant experiencing the technology at Nagoya Institute of Technology (Photo Credit: Eugene Chiong)

To sum up, the JENESYS 2.0 programme presents an excellent opportunity for anyone planning to work or study in Japan. The programme allows you access to industries and communities that you would not get as a tourist, giving you deeper insights into the Japanese way of life and their culture. We would definitely encourage undergraduate and graduate students to participate, as it is a more authentic and localized way of experiencing Japan. As reflected by Derrick:

“Having previously travelled as a tourist to Japan, the JENESYS 2.0 programme gave me an entirely new lens to experience this amazing country. Through this, I was able to live and fully participate in the rich diversity of Japanese culture. This made my experience all the more unforgettable.

Dr Jude Yew is a winner of the First Picture Singapore Award

Dr Yew's winning entry captured the poignant desolation of a remaining tree

Dr Yew’s winning entry captured the poignant desolation of a remaining tree

CNM assistant professor, Dr Jude Yew is among the 24 winners of the Singapore Research Nexus’ inaugural Picture Singapore photography competition.

Dr Yew’s entry, Last Tree Standing, was taken on the Pulau Semakau Intertidal Walk.  Participants were packing up to return to shore when Dr Yew took the photo at the intertidal flats beyond the mangrove line.  A mangrove tree – the only one – stood out on the flats.

The competition drew more than 100 entries, each of which will be incorporated into the SRN PhotoBank.

The award ceremony will be held on Thursday 4 September 2014, 11am – 12pm at NUS Central Library, Theatrette 2.  Please RSVP with subject header, “Awards” to if you plan to attend.  Thereafter, the winning entries will be displayed at the Artsbuzz gallery in Central Library until 22 September.


Discovering bee diversity through collecting and digital imaging: Integrating citizen science and professional datasets through online biodiversity portals

Thursday, 4 September 2014; 7.30pm to 9.00pm
CNM Meeting Room, #03-33

This talk will demonstrate how diverse datasets, documented with both physical and virtual vouchers and submitted by both professional researchers and amateurs contribute to discovery of bee pollinators and status assessments for these.  The speaker will also discuss opportunities and challenges for those collecting bees and other insects abroad, based in part on his expeditions to countries such as Ecuador, China, and Turkey.  The talk would appeal to those who are interested in furthering citizen science movement concerning bee diversity.

Expect to witness an insect pinning demonstration as well!

Those attending the talk are advised to read ahead. Get your reading from <>

John S. Ascher’s research focuses on the taxonomy, distribution, and ecology of bees and wasps. He joined NUS-DBS as an assistant professor in June 2013, is a Research Associate of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research and of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH).  In 2005, he initiated at the AMNH, collaborative digitization of label data for bee specimens across more than 10 collections using web-based software. These data are shared online through the biodiversity portal, Discover Life which maps them together with verified citizen science records.  In addition to working extensively with museum collections, he also identifies bees and wasps to species based on photos submitted by the community to Bugguide and other online image databases. John received his Ph.D. in Entomology from Cornell University, 2004.  For further information, go to

Communicating research findings to stakeholders: Lessons from developing the Social Media Resource Kit for youths-at-risk

Wednesday 3 September 2014, 3 PM

CNM Meeting Room AS6, #03-33

Research on children and media is ultimately geared towards improving the well-being of young people, seeking to enhance their engagement with media, through media, as well as by media. The field has developed a rich tradition of research excellence, providing valuable findings that inform policy-making, legislation, public education, pedagogical design, product and content development, and not least, counselling and parenting. As media assumes a growing role in the lives of children, the imperative to conduct child-centred media research becomes increasingly urgent. Even more pressing is the need to convey these research findings to the very stakeholders who can apply, optimise, and benefit from them. However, opportunities for such research to be translated into policy changes, public education, community outreach, and content development, which have direct societal impact, are not always forthcoming. In my talk, I share my experience of developing the Social Media Resource Kit for the Central Youth Guidance Office of the Ministry of Social and Family Services. My research found that for youths-at-risk in particular, online social networking may expose them to peer modelling and peer endorsement of delinquency, and draw them into extended social networks containing criminal elements, thereby undermining efforts to rehabilitate them. These findings were distilled into a guide for counsellors and teachers in Singapore who actively work with youths-at-risk. The Social Media Resource Kit includes explanatory information on social media, outreach strategies, factsheets, self-assessment quizzes, conversation guides, activities, and media reports. I will explain how the kit was developed and disseminated with inputs from various public sector agencies so as to enhance its utility, adoption, usage, and reach. I will also discuss my strategies for securing institutional support and stakeholder buy-in.

Sun Sun Lim is Assistant Dean for Research at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and Associate Professor at the Department of Communications and New Media, National University of Singapore. She holds a PhD in Media and Communications from the London School of Economics. She studies the social implications of technology domestication by young people and families, charting the ethnographies of their Internet and mobile phone use. Her recent research has focused attention on understudied and marginalised populations including young children, youths-at-risk and female migrant workers. She also conducts research on new media literacies, with a special focus on literacy challenges in parental mediation and young people’s Internet skills. She has conducted extensive fieldwork in Asia including in China, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. She has published in flagship journals in the field including the Journal of Computer Mediated CommunicationJournal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, Computers in Human BehaviourNew Media & SocietyCommunications of the ACMTelematics & InformaticsFeminist Media Studies and the Asian Journal of Communication. She is an Editorial Board Member of the Journal of Computer Mediated CommunicationCommunication, Culture & CritiqueJournal of Children and Media, and Mobile Media & Communication.She is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Association of Internet ResearchersShe sits on the Media Literacy Council and Singapore Media Academy Board.