Courage and The Art of Belief: Communication that Intervenes

Dear colleagues and friends of CNM,

Today is my last day officially as Head of CNM. As I write this goodbye note to you, I want to thank you for the wonderful memories, the many joys of building an innovative department together, and the courage with which we have pushed inter-disciplinary conversations.

Thinking of CNM, I will always be reminded of a space- vibrant, full of laughter, and with a whole lot of belief in the positive capacity to transform the world.

This vision of CNM as a bold and positive change-maker in Singapore and in the world has been a source of inspiration for my leadership journey. We have been led by a vision of building a pedagogy and research infrastructure for Communication that Creates. The creative capacity of communication is best embodied in your scholarship and pedagogy and I am so very proud of that.

As I write this last note to you as the Head of CNM, I want to share with you a message that has been at the heart of how we, as a Department, have seen and shaped the world. It is the message that the conviction of belief is quintessential to the power of change.

Belief, when grounded in a vision for the future, builds pathways never imagined before.

Our sense of the creative capacity of communication has led to the belief that communication is most powerful when it intervenes into the world in a positive way. Amid the challenges of climate change, growing global inequalities, consolidation of power in the hands of a few, polarization, lack of public trust, and global democracy deficit, communication holds the power to materializing an ecologically sustainable, democratic, and socially just world.

The values of communication are central to the possibilities of the world ahead.

Over these years, we have grown as a Department at a dramatic pace. The novelty and practice-relevance of our modules continues to attract new students, making us a top destination. CNM faculty have been continually innovating with the curriculum, creating new course offerings, connecting these offerings to an ever-changing digital landscape, and experimenting with new methods of teaching.

Our Industry Advisory Council has played a key role in helping us shape our curriculum, guiding the development of new modules in areas such as Financial Communication and Crisis Communication. It’s been a pleasure building a cutting-edge curriculum that is grounded in continually pushing the theory-practice conversations. It has been a pleasure to invite CNM alums Audrey Tan, Co-Founder and CEO, Angels of Impact and PlayMoolah, and Mr. Julian Lim, Vice President, Group Corporate Communications, OCBC Bank, to serve on the Council. I especially want to thank Mr. Adrian Heng, Vice President, Communications and Marketing, Booq’ed Southeast Asia, for taking a leadership role in continually pushing the curriculum toward innovation. Thanks also to Dr. Chitra Rajaram, Director, NewsHub, MediaCorp Pte Ltd, Ms. Georgette Tan, Vice President, Communications (Asia/Pacific, Middle East, Africa), MasterCard WorldWide (Singapore), and Ms. Vanessa Ho-Nikolovski, Managing Director, Weber Shandwick Singapore, who have tirelessly contributed to the curriculum innovations in CNM.

The excellence of our curriculum that brings together interaction design, communication management, and media studies, is recognized by our industry partners, with the Department continually maintaining its top tier industry rankings. On a similar note, over the last few years, we have continued to be in the top tier of Communication programs in the world, our reputation resting on our imagination of creating communication to generate social impact. CNM has been a leader both in the Faculty of Social Sciences at NUS and globally in creating new grounds for building pedagogy that makes an impact. Our curriculum is solidly grounded in the Communication discipline and is simultaneously enriched by the conversations opened up by Media Design and the Humanities.

Based on six industry dialogues, we undertook an extensive curriculum transformation in 2012-2013, pulling together a curriculum with a solid core in theory and methodology (with compulsory Qualitative Communication Research Methods and Quantitative Research Methods modules) and specialized offerings in industry-relevant areas. We also started working on a Compulsory Internship that would give our students to immerse in the world of communication practice, connecting practices to theorizing. This year we launched the Internship, and look forward to witnessing its continued growth. Thanks to Malathi, Amir, Ee Lyn, Sofia, Raksha, Afreen, Kai En and Bernadette who have been working tirelessly to ensure that the internship program is delivered with excellence and serving the needs of our students.

We have been at the forefront in the Faculty in offering digital modules such as Lonce’s Interaction Design Modules, the Online Introduction to New Media and Society module targeted at NS (national service)-men, and the many flipped classroom modules that we offer. Teaching innovations such as practice-driven teaching, mobile teaching, teaching in a food pantry, and creating problem-driven communication solutions have been critical components of the module.

The Department also launched the first NUS Coursera Specialization, Public Relations in a Digital World. Comprising of four different modules, the specialization has been heavily subscribed, drawing students from across the world.

Based on the lessons learned in its extensive curriculum innovations, the Department has built capacities for communication and new media pedagogy across Asia, hosting Departments from Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, India, and South Korea on study tours. We have shared our curriculum, classroom technologies, and teaching methods with colleagues across Asia. I have enjoyed the many such opportunities to share the CNM curriculum.

Our Industry Advisory Council has also played a key role in creating spaces for academic-practice conversations, inviting industry leaders into the University. This year, we held Industry-Academic forums on Communicative freedoms and Communication in practice. These forums on one hand showcased CNM thought leadership, and on the other hand, drew on the extensive knowledge of industry partners to frame key communication questions.

The Department has witnessed a number of new junior colleagues who bring with them new energy and hopes for the future. Dr. Andrew Quitmeyer, Dr. Nancy Flude, Dr. Weiquan Lu, Dr. Shaohai Jiang, Dr. Renyi Hong, Dr. Tabarez Neyazi, Dr. Asha Pandi, and Dr. Dazzelyn Zapata joined the Department in 2016-2017 period. This year, we are delighted to welcome Dr. Soo Jung Hong into the Department. Dr. Hong, an already accomplished researcher in Health Communication, received this year the Young Health Communication Scholar Award from the Kentucky Conference in Health Communication, a much-coveted award.

With the new comes the time to acknowledge the many contributions from the past. Colleagues such as Hichang Cho, Lonce Wyse, and Gui Kai Chong have been with CNM since its early days, shaping the department and contributing to its growth. Lonce and Hichang have always been the foundations that have guided me in my journey, there for advice and support. Colleagues such as Milagros Rivera, T. T. Sreekumar, Ingrid Hoofd, Julian Lin, Seow Ting Lee, and Denisa Kera who are no longer with the Department have been amazing contributors to the ethos of CNM. Colleagues Alex Mitchell, Iccha Basnyat, Debalina Dutta, Ee Lyn Tan, Asha Pandi, Eun Hwa Jung, Dazzelyn Zapata, Nancy Flude, Aaron Ng, Raka Shome, Sameer Deshpande have always stepped up to shoulder significant responsibilities in contributing to the everyday workings of CNM as department citizens.

A strong department is held together by the hard work of our administrative team. Jen has held our technical infrastructure together with her sincerity and commitment. The tireless work of Malathi and Gayathri have been quintessential to the dynamism and rapid growth of CNM. Amir joined the team and contributed with his energy and vision. Zafirah and Halimah have joined our team with a sense of commitment to contributing to the Department. As we say goodbye to Gayathri this year, we acknowledge the strong contributions of our administrative team that form the heart of what we do in CNM. A large part of the credit for our growth and sustenance goes to these colleagues. We are grateful to colleagues such as our aunties who make sure the offices, hallways, and restrooms are always clean, and who often go unacknowledged. Our departmental climate has been grounded in this spirit of equality and respect for our staff.

Our research profile has continued to grow globally, with diverse faculty interests being held together by an underlying commitment to moving beyond the ivory tower to generating social impact. This social impact mission is exemplified in research projects that cover digital art collaborations, collaborative music, cancer communication, doctor-patient communication, social media interventions, digital storytelling in games, automation, designing interactive urban spaces, designing ecologically sustainable solutions, creating digital performance art, developing public advocacy campaigns, creating community-based participatory research solutions, etc. The social impact mission of the Department continues to touch lives in ways that push the realms of academic possibilities, while at the same time contributing to the scholarship of communication and digital media. Our 2018 CNM-CARE conference themed Communication Interventions showcased the many innovations that have been nurtured and created at CNM, bringing back colleagues Denisa Kera, T T Sreekumar, and Ingrid Hoofd.

The many speakers and visitors who have shared their work generously with us have helped us grow in our individual and collective journeys. That we are at the crossroads of new conversations is witnessed in these many threads of conversations that have been shared with us by these international colleagues who are leaders in their fields. Cherian George, Raka Shome, Charles Briggs, Anne Gregory, Deborah Lupton, Susan Douglas, Collins Airhihenbuwa, Gary Kreps, Sanjoy Bhattacharya, Debbie Dougherty, Barbara Sharf, Madeline Schwartzman, Biswarup Sen, Glenn Sparks, Kleis Nielsen, Evelyn Ho, Sameer Deshpande, and Jeff Peterson who have spent their invaluable time and energy with us in mentoring, offering workshops on publishing, and opening up conversations.

Our undergraduate and graduate students are truly our best assets. I have loved witnessing the ways in which our undergraduate students have contributed to critical and important conversations in Singapore and the region. The many social enterprises and start-ups they have built speak to the CNM spirit of innovating with a difference. Efforts such as Heart to Climb and Angels of Impact led by our alums reflect the social impact spirit of CNM. In a wide range of ways, our students have contributed to society and community. They have done so bringing their theoretical knowledge and rigorous training in methods together. At the core of these contributions is their commitment to communicating with a heart. The many innovation industries in which our undergraduate students flourish speak to this CNM difference. Our graduate students have continued to shine in Singapore and globally. They have contributed to the many vital contributions of digital and communication spaces in Asia, and continue to push the boundaries of social impact through this important scholarship. For me personally, one of the best parts of the journey in CNM has been the opportunity to learn from and converse with our students.

Summing up, the last six years have offered me excellent opportunities to grow as a teacher, scholar and leader. I have learned from our students, colleagues, and communities that communication is powerful. To believe in the transformative power of communication is to know that the discourses we generate and the meanings we work with create incredible opportunities for others, especially those who are systematically disenfranchised by powerful forces in society.

I wrap up this note sharing snippets of a hymn that I had learned in school as a student with dreams.

It takes courage to answer a call,
It takes courage to lose your all,
It takes courage to risk your name,
It takes courage to be true.

It takes courage to dare,
One that no will share;
To be standing alone,
One whom no one will own;
To be ready to stake for another one’s sake,
It takes courage to be true.

The very best of wishes to you!

You now have a new home in New Zealand to continue with these many conversations.

Sincerely,
Mohan

CNM Dialogues In Comms- The Role of Moral Emotions in Environmental Risk Communication: The Case of Environmental Victim Portrayals

Mr Hang Lu will facilitate a discussion on:

The Role of Moral Emotions in Environmental Risk Communication: The Case of Environmental Victim Portrayals

As both local and global environments experience rapid change, we have seen an increasing number of environmental victims depicted in the media. As a powerful driver of human actions, moral emotions—such as anger, compassion, and guilt—influence how we respond to these portrayals, including which actions we choose to take with regards to victims’ suffering.

In this talk, Hang will discuss the role that moral emotions play in influencing how audience members respond to messages about environmental victims. He will present findings from three experimental studies illustrating how a range of moral emotions, elicited from different sources and at different time points, shape reactions to environmental victims. He will conclude by considering implications of appealing to moral emotions in strategic environmental risk messaging as well as future directions for research in this emerging area.

DATE: Wednesday, 15 Nov 2017
TIME: 4:30 PM
VENUE: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Block AS6, #03-33, CNM Meeting Room

CNM Dialogues In Comms- The communication of and public opinion about risk, science and the environment: a multidimensional approach

Dr Silje Kristiansen will facilitate a discussion on:

The communication of and public opinion about risk, science and the environment: a multidimensional approach

Silje Kristiansen studies risk, science and environmental communication from different perspectives. In her risk coverage studies she applies a multidimensional risk construct to media treatments of different types of risk over long periods of coverage. In her PhD she tracks how the risk coverage developed in the Swiss print media after the nuclear energy accident in Fukushima, and identifies risk coverage attention phases. One of her studies looks at Swiss attitudes to nuclear energy and identifies risk perception as the strongest predictor of public opinion.

In recent work Kristiansen analyses how the US media cover different risk dimensions of different low-carbon emitting energy technologies including nuclear, solar, wind and fracking. In her presentation she will also show her research on public attitudes towards science, and on how ‘digital-born’ media differ from legacy media in their coverage of climate change.

DATE: Monday, 13 Nov 2017
TIME: 3:30 PM
VENUE: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Block AS6, #03-33, CNM Meeting Room

CNM Dialogues In Comms- Reducing Health Risk Disparities: Describing the Social Processes of Health Decision-making and Developing Culturally Appropriate Health Messages

Assistant Professor Yu Lu will facilitate a discussion on:

Reducing Health Risk Disparities: Describing the Social Processes of Health Decision-making and Developing Culturally Appropriate Health Messages

The development and implementations of successful health programs and interventions has evidenced improved health outcomes for many.  However, the success is not uniformly realized and certain groups (e.g., racial/ethnic minority groups, developing countries) suffer from heightened health risks. To address health risk disparities, it is important to examine and describe the social processes of health decision-making and, based on this knowledge, develop culturally appropriate, effective messages to promote positive health behaviour changes in targeted populations.

This talk will introduce three research projects that aim to address health risk disparities across multiple populations (i.e., Americans, Chinese immigrants, and Kenyans). This work lays the ground for continued efforts to develop culturally appropriate health messages in order to reduce health risk disparities.

 

DATE: Tuesday, 14 Nov 2017
TIME: 5:00 PM
VENUE: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Block AS6, #03-33, CNM Meeting Room

CNM Dialogues In Comms- Politically Entertained: Entertainment Media and Political Public Relations

Assistant Professor Azmat Rasul will facilitate a discussion on:

Politically Entertained: Entertainment Media and Political Public Relations

Political public relations is the art of positively changing public perceptions of political leaders in democratic societies, as public relations is a natural ally of politics. To influence public perception, political organizations have public relations experts dedicated to ensuring a politician appears in the best light possible, whether in the media or at public events. Entertainment programs are one of the most convenient vehicles used to cultivate positive perceptions of politicians and attract attention of the voters. Recent academic literature suggests that young voters acquire information about political candidates through various genres of entertainment. To examine the effects of entertainment narratives on political knowledge gain and attitude change in audiences of fictionalized accounts of female politicians, I collected data from 310 participants and the results indicated that political knowledge significantly increased and general attitudes towards female politicians became more positive after exposure to biographical political movies. A proposed SEM model of the political entertainment effects process indicated that initial political knowledge transported the audience into the biographical narrative. Increased transportation was associated with greater enjoyment, as well as political knowledge gain and more positive attitudes towards female politicians. This study contributed to the existing literature on political public relations by suggesting that fictional entertainment could be used as an effective public relations tool to change political attitudes.

In another study, I examined the effects of Facebook use on political attitudes, as social media and the Internet have added a new layer to public relations and political campaigns. Candidates need a social media strategy to keep them in the minds of voters. For example, Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been creating easy-to-share social media posts to describe her student loan policies. I was interested in examining if the new and interactive modes of communication were influencing political attitudes of young voters. Data collected from 242 young adults indicated that Facebook use was positively and significantly related to various political attitudes. Facebook use led to heightened levels of political self-efficacy and political support, while political self-efficacy mediated the relationship between Facebook use and political participation among young adults. The findings suggested that use of social media platforms led to political well-being of young publics, and enhanced efficacy of the public relations strategies in political campaigns. In accordance with recent literature in political public relations, my study suggested that social media and digital space will continue to be of critical importance to the public relations practitioners.

DATE: Wednesday, 8 Nov 2017
TIME: 3:30 PM
VENUE: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Block AS6, #03-33, CNM Meeting Room

CNM Dialogues In Comms- Mortal vs Machine: Towards an Understanding of Human-Human Communication and Human-Automation Communication in Management Decision-Making

Mr Andrew Prahl will facilitate a discussion on:

Mortal vs Machine: Towards an Understanding of Human-Human Communication and Human-Automation Communication in Management Decision-Making

Automation is playing a larger role in organizations every day. Many roles once performed by humans are now performed, or supplemented, by advanced forms of automation that allow decision-makers receive advice on important decisions without interacting with another human. This talk covers recent research on the phenomenon, including the organizational communication and social psychological consequences of automated advice. Empirical research will be presented as well as a future research agenda designed to keep pace with the rapid advance of automation, including “social” and “moral” automation.

 

 

DATE: Wednesday, 8 Nov 2017
TIME: 4:30 PM
VENUE: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Block AS6, #03-33, CNM Meeting Room

CNM Dialogues In Comms- The Role of Culture and Message Design in the Context of Family Health History Communication

Assistant Professor Soo Jung Hong will facilitate a discussion on:

The Role of Culture and Message Design in the Context of Family Health History Communication

Knowing about familial disease risk is essential for accurate risk assessment, the effective prevention of disease, and the reduction of disease risks. Communicating family history can be affected by regulatory barriers that lead individuals to resist sharing this information. In my research presentation, I will talk about the role of culture and designing cultural narrative evidence within the context of family health history (FHH) communication. After introducing the context of research briefly, my presentation will first cover the overarching theoretical perspectives that guide the method and result sections of this study. This section includes socio-cultural influences on FHH communication, and theoretical foundations for designing and testing cultural narrative messages. Then, I will briefly present research procedures that include the three phases of a formative research, a pilot study, and a randomized trial. The results of this presentation will answer three research questions regarding 1) The influences of socio-cultural norms and family/privacy boundaries on FHH communication; 2) The influences of spiritual and religious tendencies and genetic determinism on FHH communication, and 3) The differences in the processing of cultural narrative evidence about FHH communication across cultures and message conditions. Finally, my talk will briefly cover my current and future research regarding genetic and cancer risk communication and culture.

DATE: Thursday, 9 Nov 2017
TIME: 4:00 PM
VENUE: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Block AS6, #03-33, CNM Meeting Room

CNM Dialogues In Comms- How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Change: Testing Efficacy Messages Influence on Efficacy Beliefs and Intended Individual and Collective Political Engagement

Dr Jagadish Thaker will deliver a talk on:

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Change: Testing Efficacy Messages Influence on Efficacy Beliefs and Intended Individual and Collective Political Engagement

Fear, uncertainty, hopelessness, and lack of perceived ability to reduce a global threat are identified as dampening public and policy engagement with climate change, one of foremost challenges in the 21st century. Scientists argue that we have only till 2020 to reduce or stabilise emissions before the goals of Paris Agreement become unattainable, locking us in an uncertain future. Scholars find that public disengagement is partly due to exposure to fear-inducing, inconsistent and inaccurate coverage of climate change in the mass media. Then, does exposure to efficacy information in news stories that highlight people’s ability to act on climate change, individually and collectively, increase their political engagement? Using a quasi-experimental design, a single exposure to a news story embedded with efficacy information did not significantly affect perceptions of any of the three dimensions of political self-efficacy (internal, external, response) as well as perceived collective efficacy among undergraduates (N=731) in a large city in south India. Internal efficacy, response efficacy and collective efficacy had unique, significant, and positive associations with intentions to engage in individual and collective political behaviours. In addition, internal and response efficacies had indirect effect on intentions for collective political action via perceived collective efficacy. Perceived external efficacy was not associated with intentions for intended individual or collective political action, however. The results suggest that perceived self-efficacy and collective efficacy are uniquely important to increase public engagement with climate change, yet efficacy beliefs are robust and may not be amenable to easy shifts.

DATE: Friday, 3 Nov 2017
TIME: 4:30 PM
VENUE: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Block AS6, #03-33, CNM Meeting Room

CNM Dialogues In Comms- Powerless individuals or change agents? A life-span approach to gender and career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) organisations

Dr Debalina Dutta will deliver a talk on:

Powerless individuals or change agents? A life-span approach to gender and career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) organisations

The recruitment, retention, and progression of women in STEM organisations is a global challenge, with women facing obstacles at multiple levels of progression in STEM careers, resulting in the systematic underrepresentation of women in STEM fields. Whereas the challenges experienced by women in STEM fields are shaped by the patriarchal structures that often constitute these fields, the nature of these structures and women’s experiences with the structures vary across cultural contexts. My research explores the interplays of gender, culture, and careers in international organisations in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Therefore, my talk will draw upon empirical studies (mostly qualitative, including participant observations, in-depth interviews, and focus groups) conducted in U.S., Singapore, and India to examine the cultural constitution of gendered organisations in STEM, how these constructions shape the identities and experiences of women, and the strategies and resources women draw upon to sustain themselves within the often patriarchal structures of STEM organisations. Adopting a life-span approach to career negotiation and organisational sustenance, my talk will examine the ways in which gender plays out in (a) experiences of women in Asian STEM organisations; (b) women’s work home challenges and negotiations of resilience in STEM organisations; (c) role of mobile phone technologies in identity construction for women in STEM organisations; (d) effects of patriarchal STEM organisations on women’s health and wel-lbeing, and their agentic negotiations of everyday health. Women’s narratives of sustainability depict the micro-practices of negotiations of everyday organisational challenges, as well as suggest macro-level policy and program-based interventions in STEM organisations in global contexts.

DATE: Friday, 3 Nov 2017
TIME: 2:30 PM
VENUE: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Block AS6, #03-33, CNM Meeting Room

CNM Dialogues In Comms- Health Communication from Diverse Patient Perspectives: Advancing an Intersectional Research Agenda

Assistant Professor Rukhsana Ahmed will deliver a talk on:

Health Communication from Diverse Patient Perspectives: Advancing an Intersectional Research Agenda

Health communication is an area of study concerned with the interaction of people involved in the health care process and the dissemination and interpretation of health-related messages by individuals, groups, organizations, and/or mass media. In today’s diverse society, communication about health issues is influenced by the complex differences in communication styles, attitudes, behaviors, and worldviews. As such the questions arise: How do interpersonal and relational factors shape people’s health and illness experiences? How do disease and illness experiences, as both physiological and social constructs, vary across gender, ethnicity, culture, and religion? This presentation will address these questions by discussing findings from completed and on-going research at the intersections of health, communication, culture, and religion. In doing so, the presentation will highlight the importance and problematics of understanding, raising awareness, and accommodating the unique health care needs of diverse communities who often face challenges caused by cultural, linguistic and religious differences, as well as structural and knowledge barriers.

 

DATE: Friday, 3 Nov 2017
TIME: 3:30 PM
VENUE: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Block AS6, #03-33, CNM Meeting Room