CNM Blog

CNM Blog

Archive for the ‘News’ Category

CNM writing courses on video

leave a comment

By Rachel Phua; Yeo Zhi Qi, Year 3, NM Majors and Gwendolyn Neo

NM Majors Rachel Phua and Yeo Zhi Qi share with readers their combined loves for film-making and writing in this video clip, they and their friend, Gwendolyn Neo, a graduate from Singapore Polytechnic’s School of Communications, Arts & Social Sciences, made with the help of nuSTUDIOS.

CNM Writing Modules on Film

Music by Chris Zabriskie, Creative Commons

Written by Mary Lee

August 16, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Posted in News

NM4207 students and professor on air: Tune into TV documentary series, Campaigns

leave a comment

Over the summer break, the production team of the documentary, Campaigns interviewed Dr Tracy Loh and two of her students from her class on Managing Campaigns.

The documentary is an eight-parts series tracing the history of public information campaigns in Singapore since the time of Independence in 1965.  The idea is to tell the nation’s history through the collective memory of more than 50 years of campaigns, and to understand these campaigns against the backdrop of the life and times that they were created in.

Dr Loh and Honours-Year students, Nur Safiah and Dawn Tan were featured in the final episode of the documentary series.  While the students shared about their campaigns, Dr Loh spoke about the aims and purpose of the module.

The documentary is commissioned by MediaCorp with support of the Media Development Authority.

Here is the link to the programme which was aired on OKTO channel on 13 August 2014 at 10pm.  The CNM interviewees appeared at the 19:05 minute mark of the 23-minute video clip.  Tune in!

Written by Mary Lee

August 16, 2014 at 11:59 am

Posted in News

CNM Freshmen Orientation Camp 2014

leave a comment

By Janice Chia and Chong Jiayi, CNM Freshmen Orientation Camp Organising Committee

The organising committee at CNM Society welcomed this year’s freshmen in traditional style: four days of fun-packed activities by the beach!

Seniors and 45 freshers bonded over games and barbeque at the Yacht Club chalet from 8 to 10 July 2014.

Back on campus on 11 July, the last day of the orientation programme, the Year Ones interacted with their future professors during the course talks organised especially for them.

For those of us who missed the fun and for those of us who wish to live it again, log on to CNM Freshman Orientation Camp 2014: Incognito!

Four glorious days of bonding: CNM Soc with Freshmen

Four glorious days of bonding: CNM Soc with Freshmen


Written by Mary Lee

July 25, 2014 at 11:26 am

Posted in News

CNM Homecoming 2014

leave a comment

By Chia Pui San, Year 3, CNM Major and President of CNM Society

This year, the CNM Homecoming was held on 8 July, at University Town, Town Plaza. The event was graced by Mr Viswa Sadasivan, CEO of Strategic Moves Pte Ltd and attended by graduating students and their families, CNM faculty members, alumni as well industry partners.  I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend as part of CNM Society.

The CNM Homecoming is a yearly affair organised by the CNM Department to celebrate the achievements of the graduating students, alumni and Faculty members. The event is a time for students to thank their lecturers for their mentorship, and for the Department to recognise outstanding contributions to CNM as a whole.

The programme for the evening started with a light-hearted video produced by public speaking students who took the module, GEM2027 Introduction to Public Speaking.  The video set the purpose for the evening: to showcase the accomplishments of CNM students – current and graduated.

What would a homecoming be without hearing from the head of the CNM family?  In his address to the graduating cohort, CNM Head of Department, Prof Mohan Dutta, congratulated the graduating cohort and reminded us that creativity should come with heart.  He asked that our graduating students bring the CNM spirit of giving wherever they chose to go next.

Guest-of-Honour Mr Viswa Sadasivan gave a stirring speech too.  He urged us not to be afraid to ask the difficult questions, the questions that nobody else dared to ask.  He reminded us to give back to society now that we have had the privilege of education.  His anecdote of his daughter realising as an afterthought, that some of her schoolmates went back in school to do their e-learning homework because they did not have computers at home, struck a chord with me.  I have heard these stories so often in the past that I admit I have not given them much thought. However, on this evening, those stories clearly illustrated to me, the digital and its corollary, wealth divides of our country.  I was touched and inspired by Mr Viswa’s speech.

After the speeches, the Department gave out the following awards to students and staff:

Mr Bao Ercong – CNM Best BA Student

Mr Brendan-Keefe Au Jun Ren – CNM Best B.Soc.Sci (Hons) Student

Ms Sua Wan Xin – CNM Best Student who contributed to Industry and Society

Dr Leanne Chang – CNM Best Teacher

Ms Filappova Anna – CNM Best Teaching Assistant

Dr Hoofd, Ingrid Maria – CNM Outstanding Researcher

Ms Norizan Bte Abdul Majid – CNM Outstanding Service Award

Ms Liyana Sulaiman – CNM Best Alumnus Award

Congratulations to the following awardees!

Following that, CNM Society presented the messages they collated from students and lecturers to the graduating cohort and asked that the students keep in touch with CNM Society as well as the department for collaboration opportunities.

The evening was rounded off with a great dinner and loads of fun at the selfies booth.

As a Year 3 student, attending Homecoming was a timely signpost as to what I can achieve with my university education.  Congratulations to the Class of 2014!



Written by Mary Lee

July 17, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Posted in News

Perspectives: A/P Lim Sun Sun on why the cot-bumper approach to reading media won’t work

leave a comment

Lose the cot bumper when reading media with children

Lose the cot bumper when reading media with children

National Library Board’s culling of children’s titles it thought were deleterious to family values has provoked discussion on both sides of the decision.   Assistant Dean for Research at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and Associate Professor at CNM, Dr Lim Sun Sun shares her perspective on the issue in The Straits Times.  We reproduce her opinion piece here:

‘Cot bumper approach’ to raising kids won’t work


By Lim Sun Sun, For The Straits Times

I applaud the parent who cared enough about his children’s media exposure that he demanded that the library remove And Tango Makes Three from its collection. As a parent myself, and as an academic who champions greater parental involvement in children’s media consumption, I am often dismayed at the lackadaisical approach that parents take in such matters.

However, I also caution against what I call the “cot bumper approach” to parental mediation of children’s media use. Remember when your infant child lay innocently in the cot, gazing at the colourful mobile suspended above, surrounded by lovingly chosen cloth books meant to stimulate his cognitive development? In those heady days of growth, your child was also cushioned against any kinds of bruises, abrasions and injuries because you had thoughtfully lined the crib with padded cot bumpers.

With complete control over where your child rolled and what your child viewed, yours was the beatific face of comfort and authority that she cooed at daily.

Fast forward to today where your child has a mind and body of his own, and he is free to download from a dizzying array of phone apps, to click on any of the one billion websites and counting, and to roam through the library to pick out books independently. Clearly, the blissfully simple days of enveloping your child with cot bumpers and cloth books are long gone.

In today’s bewilderingly complex media landscape, your child is inundated with a panoply of messages. Some of these messages are insightful and edifying, others are banal and frivolous, but most of them are also unmoderated, unregulated, and unpoliced. Much of the media we currently consume no longer involves gatekeepers, appointed arbiters of quality and decency who have final say over what is fit to print or air. Instead, user-generated content is increasingly dominant, be it in the form of personal tweets, Internet memes, self-published books or home videos shared online.

An amateur video of a reading of And Tango Makes Three, for example, is freely available for download from YouTube. Yes, ours is a capricious and unpredictable world where no one can foretell what will next go viral on our personal newsfeeds.

So how then is a parent to shield a child in this cacophonous media environment, to protect him from the adverse influences, discordant voices, and alternative views that run counter to the ideals that you hold dear?

Well, you may be able to effect the removal of a handful of library books, and to successfully lobby for some objectionable websites to be banned, but you will be unable to pulp every single Internet post that you abhor. As heroic as we appear to our children, we parents are ultimately limited in our capabilities. We cannot cover our children’s eyes from everything we do not want them to see, block out the voices we do not want them to hear, or hoover up all the dangerous ideas that have been inscribed on paper.

But here is a reassuring thought for all parents. Mortal as we parents are, you and I singularly hold the power to vest in our children the values we want to guide them through every obstacle in life. Irrespective of your political leanings, and regardless of your religious affiliation or sexual orientation, you hold the key to building your child’s defences against perspectives that contradict the beliefs that you subscribe to, and that you want your children to subscribe to. You can interpret, moderate and mediate for your child the media content that he is confronted with.

But parental mediation is not a process that is straightforward or that can be completed overnight. Instead, it is an ongoing journey of trust, sharing, discussion, and debate. Rather than obliterate all opinions that you consider deleterious, embrace each alternative view as an opportunity to rationalise to your child why you disagree with it.

If you spot a library book you do not like, explain why! If you are offended by a scene in a television show, unpack it for your child! Foster a relationship of mutual respect and understanding where your child knows that she can turn to you when she encounters messages that are confusing or upsetting.

Instil in your child the skills of discernment that will see him through every PG movie, First-Person shooter video game or inflammatory online comment.

Impress upon your child that she has the autonomy to choose what she reads, sees, and hears, and that even if none of it coheres with her beliefs, that she has the resilience to make sense of it all.

Much ink has been spilt and Internet bandwidth spent on the National Library Board’s decision to remove some children’s titles from its shelves. But long after the read-ins have disbanded and the Facebook campaigns evaporated, the greater tragedy of the And Tango Makes Three affair is the erroneous message sent to young Singaporeans – that any perspective which runs counter to your own can and should be silenced by a higher authority, be it your parent or a government agency. As caring parents, we would hardly wish to mislead our children on this point now, would we?

The article was first published in the op-ed pages of The Straits Times on 15 July 2014.

Reproduced from

On Facebook, the article has attracted more than 1000 shares!

Image taken from

Readers may also wish to read CNM alumna Carol Soon’s take on the role of the library in society Perspectives: Carol Soon (Ph.D, 2011) on the role of the library in society

Written by Mary Lee

July 17, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Posted in News

Challenging communicative and health inequities: New perspectives forged in a rabies epidemic

leave a comment


Written by Mary Lee

July 17, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Posted in News

In Conversation with Professor Charles L. Briggs, University of California, Berkeley

leave a comment


Our visitor this summer is Professor Charles Leslie Briggs, the Alan Dundes Distinguished Professor of Folklore at University of California, Berkeley.  Renowned globally as a leader in medical anthropology, Professor Briggs’ work on biocommunicability offers novel insights into the social construction processes through which the news media produce, circulate and reify knowledge and discourse about health, life, disease and death.  Exploring the intersections of communication and biomedicine, he offers insights into communicative processes through which meanings are assigned to biological phenomena and ways in which these meanings are mobilised within the broader structures of power.

In this installment of In Conversation With, CNM got to know more about Prof Briggs and what’s important to him:

My approach to research is to engage every bit of my being at every moment: senses, analytical openness, and human engagement and vulnerability.

The important emerging research / researchers cross disciplines and scales in tackling complex phenomena.  By the latter I mean working between specific lives, places, and conversations and global structures and processes in a disciplined way, never one that seems to identify “the local” with low-income and oppressed communities and “the global” with scientists, policy-makers, or—to be self-reflexive—globe trotting academics.

An aspect of research that policy-makers do not know is that inequalities in health communication help produce acute health inequities; if they try to tackle the latter without confronting the former, their efforts will be limited.

An urgent issue / area which anthropologists today should address is the simultaneous emergence of new, cutting-edge health diagnostic and treatment modalities (such as in Singapore) and new factors that deepen the “old” health problems, the ones that still affect the lives of most people on the planet.

A personal pursuit I have not tried but would be keen to do is performing keyboards in a salsa band—and I will some day!

An object I would never part with is my camera.

A word I frequently use is justice, social justice if you will grant me two.

My sanctuary of peace and quiet is art, especially photography.

The most important quality a researcher should have is what Walter Benjamin referred to as “presence of mind.”

If I landed a million dollar research / teaching grant, I would  throw a party!  No seriously, take on collaborations and research projects whose creativity is not constrained by conventional ideas, disciplinary boundaries, or formal education credentials.

A young anthropologist should never be afraid of questioning assumptions, including those of her or his professors’.

Singapore is a place that has changed sense of space.  I have read about Southeast Asia for so long, but all the spaces that have formed part of my Southeast Asian imaginary seemed far away.  Now I think of them as neighbours.  I feel honoured to be part of a new global community.

And I have come here to exchange ideas and experiences with the faculty and students in NUS’ Department of Communications and New Media.  I feel as if I have been in close conversation with Prof. Mohan Dutta for years; the privilege of talking with him at length and working collaboratively is a splendid opportunity.  And I look forward to getting to know more CNM colleagues and students.

Prof Briggs will be our visitor until 7 August 2014.

During this period he will be giving two talks on 23 and 25 July 2014.  Please look out for the coordinates of the talks in this blog as well as in the FASS and NUSS Professorship Lecture websites.

Written by Mary Lee

July 15, 2014 at 4:52 pm

Posted in News

Perspectives: Carol Soon (Ph.D, 2011) on the role of the library in society

leave a comment

National Library Board’s removal of two children’s titles from its shelves has prompted CNM alumna, Dr Carol Soon (Ph.D, 2011) to weigh in on the issue.  We share with our blog readers her point of view.

Libraries should promote learning, not police values

library-oldBy Carol Soon

Being an avid reader, one of my favourite childhood pastimes was to spend afternoons at the library, later trudging home with my borrowed gems. Growing up in the western part of Singapore, the Queenstown Library was my favourite haunt.

On 9 July, news of the National Library Board’s (NLB’s) withdrawal of two books was reported in the mainstream media. The NLB’s move was a response to feedback from a patron that the books go against the “pro-family” ethos of Singapore society. Based on a real-life account of same-sex partnered penguins nurturing a baby penguin at the New York Zoo, “Tango Makes Three” is a prize-winning children’s story. The second, “The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption” tells the story of a few people and their journey to China to adopt babies, among them, two female partners and a single mother.

By noon, reactions to what NLB had done spread online, with at least two individuals setting up petitions for the Board to resume circulation of the books. While the NLB’s move has attracted some support, the castigation directed at it via blogs, social media and its feedback page was glaringly obvious. The dismay towards the NLB has increased since it announced at a press conference the following day that the books will go through a “discarding process” where they will be pulped.

The criticisms against NLB’s move run the gamut from the philosophical to the material. It has fuelled the ongoing debate on the different interpretations of the term “pro-family”. It has also led to discussions about the freedom of people to read what they want, who should bear the responsibility of managing a child’s reading diet (the library or the parent) to whether it foreshadows the culling of more books deemed offensive by some (would self-help books on coping with divorce and single parenting be the next to go, some wonder).

The storm brewing around this incident is not unique to Singapore. Censorship – defined by the American Library Association as excluding, restricting or removing materials – is an ongoing tussle even in liberal countries such as Norway, Sweden and the US. Despite the Library Bill of Rights, libraries in the US have received challenges by members of the public to remove books including “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (racial stereotypes), “The Catcher in the Rye” (sexual promiscuity and vulgarity) and the Harry Potter series (the occult and disrespect to authority).

Libraries in the US are governed by the Bill which stipulates that “books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves”. It also states that “libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues” and that “materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval”. In this spirit libraries have stood up against complaints and even public attacks.

In the midst of the ongoing debate, I would like to bring back into focus the often-overlooked contribution of public libraries to our society.

During IPS’ flagship conference Singapore Perspectives 2014, Minister of State (Education & Communications and Information) Sim Ann spoke about developing empathy to deal with an increasingly diverse society and how literature could be a tool to cultivate that quality.

A public library cannot compel people to weigh different views equally, without bias and based on evidence. But it is society’s best shot at getting access to wide-ranging informational resources that can empower people to take part in discussions that yield productive outcomes for themselves and society.

Last year, I wrote an article questioning if we have what it takes for the government and citizens to talk to one another. I had argued that in order to have meaningful conversations, people need to have access to information. In this way, they come armed not just with enthusiasm to contribute to policy-making but also with facts and reason.

Political scientist James Fishkin, widely-cited for his work on deliberative democracy, has identified five elements integral to legitimate deliberation. They include making accurate information and relevant data available to all participants, and attaining substantive balance where different positions are compared based on their supporting evidence. There is also a need to allow for diversity, where all major positions relevant to the matter are considered, and the practice of conscientiousness, in which participants sincerely weigh all arguments. Finally, equal consideration should be given to views based on evidence and not on the people who advocate those views.

Singapore’s public libraries have done well in this respect. Providing free annual memberships for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (with a nominal one-time registration fee for the latter), the NLB’s numerous branches ensure that the charming playfulness of Wodehouse, the imagination of Tolkien and the iridescence of Aristotle is within everyone’s reach, regardless of the size of his or her pocket.

Besides being a bastion of knowledge, public libraries also enable Singaporeans to participate more effectively in building a better society for all. To be engaged citizens who understand trade-offs and propose expedient solutions requires that we be exposed to information and viewpoints that at times may challenge what we hold dear. Despite the very natural and human instinct to avoid dissonance, critical thinking skills are best honed when we are exposed to contradictory ideas, data and dogmas. Our public libraries, with their richly varied offerings, expose us to the unfamiliar, the unknown and the untested, challenging our assumptions and fostering critical minds.

Perhaps, the public library is a microcosm of today’s society, a place where different values, cultures and philosophies come under one roof. In the face of clashing ideals, NLB ought to leave the moral policing to the larger heterogeneous public, who should have a chance to articulate their views on what is offensive or not.

Other institutions exist to promote moral values. Our libraries should stay true to their core principles of promoting learning and literacy, and use these as their guiding light. To quote from the poet T.S. Eliot, “The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man”.

Dr Carol Soon is a Research Fellow with the Arts, Culture and Media cluster at the Institute of Policy Studies.

Photo credit: Myitchyfingers blog

Reproduced from

Readers may wish also to read Associate Professor Lim Sun Sun’s perspective on the issue in Perspectives: A/P Lim Sun Sun on why the cot-bumper approach to reading media won’t work

Written by Mary Lee

July 12, 2014 at 7:59 am

Posted in News

Telling stories through films

leave a comment

By Grace Swee, CNM Alumna, Bacheolor of Social Sciences (2010)

What fascinates me about films is how intimate yet far-reaching storytelling can be. A story can be expressed in many ways. But personally, I feel films have the ability to reel us in and take us on a revelatory journey that few mediums can achieve. All that stands between you and the story is the screen, which dissolves into another world when the lights dim. The audience are treated to a visual wonderment. One that opens up new worlds and possibilities.

Films give hope. They also paint the dark realities of humanity and offer an oasis for the human imagination. Films speak for voices that don’t always get heard and yes, most films have an agenda. Whether or not we agree with them, they are telling someone’s story.

It is this element of storytelling that attracts me to pursue this craft. There are many stories that exist around us, but sometimes we don’t notice them. It takes a storyteller with dedication to adopt the stories that are floating around and tell it with conviction. It also amazes me to see how many ways you can tell one story. Through the visual setting, the film colour and the directing of actors, every decision adds to that nuanced final masterpiece.

This is where I feel my experience at CNM has been so helpful.  The discipline of this course has allowed me to question and approach a subject matter from different angles. I don’t interpret things as straightforwardly as before. It’s interesting to realise that something you deem subconscious is actually fruit bore during the course of  arguing concepts and theories.

The journey to pursue filmmaking has its ups and downs. The joy of sharing a story with people is always gratifying and deeply significant. Yet there are challenges in the creative process and in the less-than-pragmatic life of being a freewheeling storyteller. Sometimes I do question the possibility of continuing this journey long-term… but I suppose with every story I tell, I get to hopefully leave behind a little legacy for future generations. That is a precious story in itself.

Here are sneak peeks into a couple of Grace’s films.

-      Unforgettable (2013):

忘不了Unforgettable from grace swee on Vimeo.

-      谁?/ Who? (2011):

Who 谁? from grace swee on Vimeo.

Check out to savour more of her work.


Written by Mary Lee

July 7, 2014 at 12:14 am

Posted in News

Discovering old Balestier with a map and an app

leave a comment

By Joy Ng, CNM Alumnus, Bachelor of Social Sciences, 2013

I didn’t know what I signed up for when we agreed to use Balestier Heritage Trail as the theme for this field-study by CNM’s Interactive and Digital Media Institute.  This is by far the most tedious and intensive field-study I’ve undertaken. Walking up and down Balestier Road 22 times in a span of two weeks, orientating and interviewing 22 participants for an hour each, and pushing up to four study sessions per day.  Now I fully understand why research textbooks discourage scheduling more than three interview sessions in a day.  It’s so tiring that the interviewer just wants to end the interview as soon as possible instead of actively striking a conversation.  Deadline was tight, and the sweltering heat this June was not helping for my cause.  My objective was to find out how people experienced places in a trail using mediated device. We had two types of mediated devices, a mobile app that we designed from scratch (  in iTunes App Store), and the default National Heritage Board’s (NHB) paper brochure.

“So… how’s your experience?” was my first question to greet the unsuspecting participants as they walked through the door at McDonald’s Balestier Shaw Plaza. Honestly, I didn’t have an intelligent answer to what is experience.  I had posed the question after participants had gotten their first sensation of cool air in an air-conditioned building after an hour in muggy weather. They usually say, “It was hot”; “Not too bad”; “Interesting”.  To probe, I got participants to draw their experience.  While some naturally took on the task, others were reluctant to use the pencil to describe their experience. Experience is complex, they said. But I wasn’t going to give up. With a little bit more pushing, three themes of drawing quickly emerged with 1) drawing how they feel and what they see/do on the trail 2) a mental map of their trail and 3) drawing about their connection with heritage.  Besides drawing, participants had to talk-aloud to the GoPro camera that they wore on their chest.  We had video footages of their trail experience, but due to privacy issues, I can’t share it here.



Using the drawing as a basis for verbal interview, themes for our findings started to appear

Serendipity and contradictions

“Yes, I will like a more guided path in the trail, but not so guided”.  “Yes, getting lost is fun, but I don’t want to get lost”. were some of the contradicting statements that appeared from our findings.  Through this study, we now understand how experiencing places is done through tensions and contradictions.  We found out that memorable experience are usually made up of participant’s own discoveries beyond the designed trail.  However, the most challenging part was people’s resistance to step beyond their comfort zone to seek that serendipity.  How should trail makers then design such experience to lead visitors to make discoveries “on their own”?  Moreover, was it the serendipitous discoveries or was it the participant’s aptitude for adventure that made up memorable experience?  There were limitations in this field study and we can only learn from this to design a better study the next time.

Experiencing places through mediated devices
One of the differences between users of mobile app and users of brochure is that the latter tend not to read the description of the places. They choose to focus on the map section of the brochure instead.  Mobile app facilitated reading on-the-go when user went from one place to another, but boredom kicked in when they were on the way to another place. Leaving “shout-out” comment on the app while doing the walk was undesirable as it took away the experience of immersion. The “check-in” function was a both a chore and thrill, depending on whether the place was deemed as boring or interesting.

Perhaps, the most interesting findings were on the issue of trust in a mediated device. Both group of participants trusted the devices, but the reason differed. The brochure was initially deemed trustworthy because participants could see a lot of research and money invested in the NHB brochure. The mobile app, on the other hand, was trustworthy because of the crowd-sourced content; it felt like other people were sharing their personal experiences having been on the trail.  So far, we have been talking trust beliefs. And our designed trail had provided us an opportunity to test trust intentions.

DrinkBalestierThere is an odd-interesting place with an old water kiosk in the trail. The water kiosk (the precedent of water cooler) has been around the area for three decades, serving free water and tea to poor labourers in the past. Curious passer-bys today continue to help themselves to its supplies. As one participant described it: “That is the equivalent of our modern Coke kiosk”. Honestly, the first sight of the stainless steel water canisters with a red mug at the side just look dodgy to me.

The description on the mobile app and brochure differs with the added sentence on the app: “In retrospect, I regret not trying the water”.  That influenced the acceptance and tasting of the water for the mobile app users.  And going back to the issue of serendipity, we found that the venturing out of comfort zone to try the water actually made more memorable experience.

Intuitively, we knew that our mobile app had the advantage of interactivity and the potency from crowd-sourced.  However, we also got the sense that not all things technology is good.  Brochure users rarely felt “lost” in the trail, because there wasn’t a GPS (global positioniing system) to consciously poke them to check their directions.  It’s the same idea behind why time seems to pass slower when you keep looking at the watch.  While technology is what we are pushing for, how t do we design for intelligent technology versus an intrusive technology? We started with one question in mind, and ended up more. The one question that I can answer for certain is probably my own experience of the trail.

“So… how’s my experience?”
The longest participant took six hours to walk the trail, and the shortest was 35 minutes. While they explored, I scouted the area too, spending a good 10 hours on average daily in the outdoors.  My experience of Balestier was bitter-sweet. I saw heritage sites; both the modern over-renovated ones and the old, rundown ones. The old buildings have lost their meaning and people.

The film studio is the origin of the Singapore Cinema, and it’s almost tragedy to see it in this neglected state.

The film studio is the origin of the Singapore Cinema, and it’s almost tragedy to see it in this neglected state.

The former Shaw Brothers Malay Studio, especially, was memorable for me. It has been fenced-up and the gate is   always locked.  There was this one time when the doors were wide open and I spent a good 30 minutes talking to the Malay caretaker and looking at the studio antiques.  Our conversation was in simple short English phrases and non-verbal language.  Mostly non-verbal language actually, since I can only say, “Jalan jalan”(walk in Malay). The pak cik(uncle in Malay) showed me his flower pots and the little garden that he planted.  He had adopted an abandoned peahen, which he affectionately named as Mina.  According to him, Mina is not very friendly to any one female. In fact, she defecated in protest the moment she saw me.


Other than the buildings, the elderly population in Balestier left me a deep impression. This heritage area is 180 years old and has a fairly high ratio of aging population per square foot.  I saw an 80 year-old uncle working as cleaner in the famous Whampoa Food Market.  He was well dressed with long pants and shirt, neatly combed silver hair, and a Nokia 2G phone in his chest pocket.  Without a belt, his pants hung loosely on his waist, and every step he took seemed to have taken a lot of effort.

The ongoing NHB’s Balestier Heritage Trail project is a success, but the people who are part of that heritage narrative are being neglected as are the buildings. If you haven’t been on the Balestier Heritage Trail, experience it for yourself!  See the buildings and encounter the people.  Try it this weekend!  If you like, try it with our mobile app – Crowd Trails (available for both iOS and Android platforms).  If you are lucky enough to see the Shaw Studio gate open, walk through and talk to its caretaker!  This gentleman might just give you an exclusive tour of the place.

Written by Mary Lee

June 28, 2014 at 7:16 am

Posted in News