Research Talk by Dr. Leanne Chang

“Discourse and Legitimation in Singapore: The Case of Anti-Smoking Policy”

Date and time:

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

15:30pm – 16:30pm


CNM Playroom, AS6/03-38

Political legitimacy represents the moral basis of public support.  From a Habermasian perspective, the legitimation of political domination in modern democratic societies is rooted in citizens’ rationally motivated agreement.  Only when citizens agree with a political authority’s proposals or when they perceive opportunities to seek a shared understanding with the authority would they consider a decision-making process legitimate.  This study examined communicative action by using two sets of conditions, validity claims and speech conditions.  Legitimacy appraisals are assumed to be associated with perceived validity claims and perceived speech conditions jointly and separately.  A random-digit-dial telephone survey of 2,081 Singaporeans was conducted to test the empirical bond between legitimacy and communicative action.  The selected setting involves citizen assessments of the government’s authoritarian approach to controlling cigarette use.  Results of the study indicate that perceived validity and speech conditions jointly account for citizen attributions of legitimacy.  However, validity claims play a more influential role than speech conditions in describing the legitimacy of political imperatives in Singapore.  Findings from this study suggest that the communicative action approach can be useful in monitoring the extent to which citizens are satisfied with government-public communication and levels of support for the government’s political control.


Dr. Leanne Chang’s biography can be found here

Research talk by Dr. Brian Yecies

“Detective Methods for Researching Film and New Media Culture in Korea, 1893-1948”

Date and time:

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

15:30pm – 16:30pm


CNM Playroom, AS6/03-38


The recently published Routledge book Korea’s Occupied Cinemas, 1893-1948, of which Ae-Gyung Shim and I are co-authors, contemplates a wider view on the topic than previously known. It embraces a different set of research questions and offers a global (or perhaps glocal) perspective on the transformation of local and foreign film and ‘new’ media culture in Korea and its impact on Korean society. The analysis of new primary sources from archives and libraries in North America, Asia (Korea and Japan), Australia and the UK, have enabled us to push the boundaries of perceived wisdom in our field. In particular, the recent growth of communication technologies and digital databases combined with rigorous detective work – that is, the search for scarce information and evidence – have been key to this project. This research talk will illuminate my research journey and hopefully shed light on this remarkable and understudied topic.

About the speaker:

Dr. Brian Yecies

Senior Lecturer, Media and Cultural Studies

Faculty of Arts, University of Wollongong

Wollongong, NSW 2522 Australia


Staff website:

Dr. Brian Yecies has an undergraduate degree in marketing from the Pennsylvania State University. During the 1990s, while working in the film and video industry in the US, he completed a Masters degree in journalism at the Ohio State University and a second Masters in media arts at the University of Arizona. Dr. Yecies received his PhD in cinema and media studies from La Trobe University in Australia in 2001, and then spent a year as a visiting English professor at Kyungpook National University in South Korea.

Dr. Yecies is currently a Senior Lecturer in Communication and Media Studies at the University of Wollongong in Australia. He has published refereed academic articles and book chapters in the Journal of Korean Studies, Asian Cinema, Yonsei Institute of Media Arts New Korean Cinema Series, Scope: An Online Journal of Film Studies, Screening the Past: An Online Journal of Media and History, First Monday: Peer-Reviewed Journal on the Internet, Korea Observer, Japan Focus, International Review of Korean Studies, and Acta Koreana. His research focuses on film and cultural policy in colonial and post-colonial Korea, the digital wave in Korea, and Hollywood’s expansion in Austral-Asia. Dr. Yecies has consulted for the Korean Film Archive, the Bussan International Film Commission and Industry Showcase (BIFCOM), the Jeonju Film Commission (JJFF), the Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF), as well as the NSW Film Illawarra film commission, and the Sydney Asia Pacific Film Festival. He is a recipient of prestigious research grants from the Korea Foundation, the Asia Research Fund, the Academy of Korean Studies, and the Australia-Korea Foundation. His book Korea’s Occupied Cinemas, 1893-1948 (with Ae-Gyung Shim) was published in 2011.

Dr. T. T. Sreekumar’s research provides insight into the cultural dimesion of mobile technologies in rural India

Dr. T. T. Sreekumar conducted a study on the use of mobile phones by fishermen in Kerala, India, and found that mobile technologies had amplified the deeply ingrained impulse toward cooperation in their culture and enabled new modes of cooperation as well. The research report has recently been published in Information Society.

For more information about the research paper, please see

And here are some photos taken during the field trip courtesy of Dr. T. T. Sreekumar.

Fish vendors

Fish workers

Research Talk by Ms. Vichitra K. S. Godamunne

“Biopolitics in science fiction films”

Date: Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Time: 3 p. m.

Venue: CNM Playroom, AS6 03-38


The purpose of this thesis is to analyse science fiction films from a biopolitics perspective, a distinctive philosophy taking into account how politics function in relation to human biological bodies. Science fiction often deals with issues which are too controversial for other mainstream genres.  In order to critique the prevailing political and economic ideologies of a society, science fiction incorporates certain philosophical ideas into its narratives.  A recent trend in this genre has been an increased focus on the ways in which the biological bodies of human beings exist in relation to power.  The philosophy which explores this connection between human biological life and political power is known as biopolitics.  Influential contemporary philosophers who have written about biopolitics are Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben and Roberto Esposito.  They offer dystopian views and are concerned with the processes through which the biological bodies of humans became an integral part of political power.

The four films that I have chosen to analyse for this thesis – The Island (Michael Bay; US; 2005), V for Vendetta (James McTeigue; UK/US/Germany; 2005), Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron; UK; 2006) and 28 Weeks Later (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo; UK; 2007) – all deal with certain global issues which have underlying biopolitical connotations.  The endings of these films show the triumph of a few individuals over the authorities in power.  It is these humanistic alternatives to biopolitics that I want to problematise.  Even if there were humanist alternatives, wouldn’t this too, descend to inhumanity?  Isn’t this escapism from biopolitics impossible to achieve?  My analysis will focus on the ways in which certain science fiction films explore and critique biopolitics; and I will question the approach taken by these films.

Keywords: Biopolitics, science fiction, Foucault, Agamben, Esposito

About the speaker:

Ms. Vichitra K. S. Godamunne completed her BA (Hons) in Film Studies in London Metropolitan University in UK. After that she moved back to Colombo, Sri Lanka to work as a PR Executive. During this time, she also did some freelance promotional work for Sri Lankan art film directors. She started her MA in CNM in January 2009, and this is her final semester.

Research Talk by Ms. Shobha Vadrevu

“Teachers, identity and Facebook: dilemmas, relationships and strategies”

Date: Wednesday,  20 October 2010

Time: 3 p.m.

Venue: CNM Playroom, AS6 03-38


The institution of the school traditionally defines the roles and relationships of teachers and students. However, the introduction of the social networking site Facebook into the teacher-student dynamic has the potential to change these constructs. “Friending” students is a deceptively simple act on Facebook, when the likelihood of spillover into the real-world setting of the school is strong. To investigate the impact of teachers’ perceptions of identity on their interaction decisions with students on Facebook, as well as the strategies they develop to manage dilemmas linked to these decisions, an in-depth study was conducted of 12 teachers who had varying levels of interaction with students on Facebook. The study employed open-ended individual interviews set in the context of a guided tour by participants through their Facebook profiles, and was informed by group interviews and participant observation in an atmosphere of rapport and reciprocity. A conceptual framework weaving together Turkle’s (1999) theory of identity as multiplicity and flexibility, Altman and Taylor’s (1973) Social Penetration Theory and Livingstone’s (2008) problematization of the risk-opportunity binary was constructed. This framework formed a lens through which data collected from the individual interviews was thematically analysed.
Three themes emerged that had a bearing on teachers’ interaction decisions: (1) the roles they chose to play as part of their teacher identity, (2) the level of vulnerability they felt as a result of the tension between competing forces of opportunities and risks of disclosure and privacy, and (3) the technological competence they possessed to manipulate the features of Facebook. The findings indicate that teachers selectively apply strategies in the face of anticipated and experienced dilemmas according to situations and students. It is argued that this has implications for teacher-student relationships in the real-world school setting, the integration of Web 2.0 technologies in the curriculum, and the institutional hierarchies of the school.
Keywords: Facebook, teacher identity, social penetration theory, risk, opportunity, online and offline social interaction, teacher-student relationships
About the speaker:

Shobha Vadrevu has a background in full-time, adjunct and volunteer teaching that spans 15 years. She holds a Masters in Educational and Social Research from the Institute of Education, University of London. Her interest in new media in the educational setting developed from her own experiences communicating via various digital platforms with her secondary school students who introduced her to most of those platforms. On Facebook she has over 750 friends. Almost 500 of them are students.

Research Talk by Professor James Gomez

“Social Media and Elections: Facebook Politics in Malaysia and Singapore”

By James Gomez and Tan Ge Hui

Date: Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Time: 2 p.m.

Venue: CNM Playroom, AS6 03-38


By early 2010, Facebook was the latest and most popular Web 2.0 platform used by the opposition parties in Singapore and Malaysia. In Singapore, the major opposition parties and its key figures had all established some form of presence on Facebook page, in Malaysia opposition parties and its key figures had gone further using the Facebook platform in several by-elections. In the general elections scheduled to be held by 2012 and 2013 in Singapore and Malaysia respectively, Facebook is expected to figure dominantly as a platform. This comparative study situates itself within the body of political communication research that evaluates Facebook`s effectiveness in harnessing voter support. The study plots pre-election use in Malaysia and Singapore and projects how social networking sites such as Facebook might figure in the general elections of these two countries. Such an analysis will provide researchers an opportunity to evaluate social media’s potential to contribute to democracy and political change in these two countries and the Southeast Asian region in general.

Keywords: Malaysia, Singapore, opposition parties, general elections, social media


Dr. James Gomez is presently Deputy Associate Dean (International) and Head of Public Relations, School of Humanities, Communications and Social Sciences at Monash University, Australia. He is co-editor of a forthcoming book entitled New Media and Human Rights in Southeast Asia which part of Routledge’s Media, Culture and Social Change in Asia series. His recent publications include, “Online Opposition in Singapore: Communications Outreach Without Electoral Gain”, (2008) Journal of Contemporary Asia. Vol.38, No.4 and “Citizen Journalism: Bridging the Discrepancy in Singapore’s General Elections News”, Sudostasien Aktuell – Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs (6/2006), German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Germany. He can be contacted at

Tan Ge Hui earned her Master in Communications (2009) and Bachelor in Business and Commerce (2007) from Monash University, Australia. Her primary area of interest evolves around the study of alternative media and youth. She has researched on “Facebook and Youth Privacy”, “MTV and Chinese youth” and “Facebook and Opposition Parties in Malaysia” during her course of study. She is currently pursuing a translation course in Melbourne. She can be contacted at

Research Talk by Ms Carol Soon

“Blogging and Collective Action: Which Networks Matter and For Whom?”

Date: Wednesday 8 September 2010

Time: 3 p.m.

Venue: CNM Playroom, AS6 03-38


Political developments that took place in recent years suggest that blogging has embarked on a different trajectory, from a personal and therapeutic medium to one which impacts civic participation. Observations of how bloggers are influencing the political landscape are not limited to countries in the West but extend to Asian countries as well. Existing literature on cyber-activism is mainly focused on how technologies facilitate collective action across geographical boundaries as well as enable marginalized groups and individuals to overcome real world constraints to further their cause. In the field of sociology, social movement theorists have lauded the importance and indispensability of one’s informal and formal social networks in influencing and sustaining participation. This paper first identifies the different types of political bloggers in the local context and their levels of involvement in activism. It then examines the roles and significance of three types of social networks – informal, formal and online. In-depth interviews were conducted with more than 40 political bloggers, prominent activists as well as those who did not engage in activism. Quantitative data from questionnaires further elucidated on the relationship between social network variables and bloggers’ participation/non-participation in collective action. The findings indicate significant relationships between political bloggers’ informal and formal social networks and their participation. Although online networks play a critical role in helping political bloggers connect with like-minded activists, communication frequency, social influence, trust and information-seeking were higher between activist bloggers and their informal and formal contacts.

This paper is part of the presenter’s doctoral dissertation which examines the role of collective identity and social networks in engendering participation in collective action among political bloggers. Combined with the analysis of collective identity shared by political bloggers, these findings provide the basis for the development of a typology on the relationship between collectiveness and activism involvement.