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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Professor Mohan J Dutta recognised as Provost’s Chair Professor

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Professor Mohan J Dutta, Head of CNM, was recently recognised as a Provost’s Chair Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in recognition of his outstanding and impactful scholarly accomplishments, which are internationally acknowledged.

Professor Dutta’s recognition as Provost’s Chair Professor recognizes his recent work with the culture-centered approach and with setting up the Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE). In his scholarly work, Professor Dutta has published over 170 articles and book chapters, and seven books.  He has won multiple research and teaching awards, including the Lewis Donohew Outstanding Health Communication Scholar Award and the University Faculty Scholar Award from Purdue University.


In 2012, Professor Dutta published his book “Voices of Resistance: Communicating Social Change” with Purdue University Press.  Drawing upon social change processes rooted in imaginations of alternative forms of global and local organizing ranging from the Zapatista movement to the Occupy movement to the “Save Niyamgiri” movement, the book foregrounds the voices of communities at the margins of the globe. Through the presence of marginalized voices in dialogue, it foregrounds political, economic, social and cultural thought that challenge the market-driven principles of neoliberal globalization.





2013 also marked the release of Professor Dutta’s edited book “Reducing Health Disparities: Communication Interventions” co-edited with University Distinguished Professor Gary Kreps and published by Peter Lang.  The book outlines a variety of communication interventions covering multiple levels of health disparities.

pic2 In 2013, Professor Dutta published over 10 journal articles, including the article “Voices of hunger: Addressing health disparities through the culture-centered approach” published in the Journal of Communication.  The article outlines the culture-centered approach in addressing food insecurity, documenting the communication processes through which communities at the margins participate in partnerships with academics to develop locally meaningful solutions addressing hunger.  Through in-depth interviews, community dialogues and PhotoVoice exhibits, opportunities are created for listening to the voices of the food insecure who are otherwise absent from the discursive spaces of policies and programmes.

Pic3In his leadership with the Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE), Professor Dutta continues to experiment with his ethnographic fieldwork with the culture-centered approach to social change, seeking to contribute to the theory, methodology and practice of social change communication.  The “Voices of Hunger” projects emerging from this research address a wide range of locally rooted problems through the participation of marginalized communities, who collaborate together to develop locally meaningful solutions. In the ongoing work with the indigenous tribes in the Jangalmahal region of West Bengal, Professor Dutta is working with local communities on co-creating irrigation systems to meet community needs.  Yet another ongoing project growing out of this work focuses on building a community creative center as a space for celebrating local cultural performances, arts, sports, and physical activities.  CARE currently houses 12 active projects and two completed projects.

Pic4Through over a decade of experience running field projects, Professor Dutta has distilled the key tenets of the CCA, and mapped out a methodological framework for carrying out grassroots –driven interventions of social change.  Through collaborations with successful grassroots transformative projects, a number of projects have tested the key conceptual tenets of the CCA.  The project collaboration with the team of Dr. Nina Wallerstein, the original proponent of the concept of community-based participatory research, demonstrates the impact of CCA across the globe.  Prof. Dutta has advised 26 PhD dissertations that have empirically tested the theoretical framework of the CCA in various marginalized settings ranging from rural women in Nepal to Burmese refugees in the US.  Currently, at NUS, Professor Dutta is advising four doctoral students and one MA student who are working on the CCA.

Prof Dutta hopes to continue the community-driven grassroots work of the culture-centered approach that envisions social change through structural transformation.

Written by Mary Lee

June 23, 2014 at 10:35 pm

Posted in News

The Dot Big Bang is coming!

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By Elizabeth Cardoza, Adjunct Asst. Professor, CNM

I teach the NM modules “Copyright and New Media” and “Media and Communication Regulation” and recently attended the Annual Meeting of the International Trademark Association ( in Hong Kong. Amongst the things I picked up at the conference, the most exciting topic must be what is called the “Dot Big Bang” – the new gTLD (generic top-level domain) programme that effectively impacts brand owners worldwide, ever-keen to create and invest in digital domain assets that show a return on investment.

The Internet domain name system has operated since 1998 as a hierarchy with 22 gTLDs such as ‘.com’,’.net’ and ‘.org’.  ICANN’s (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) new gTLD programme may well be the largest singular change to the Internet.  This liberalisation of the root zone allows brand owners, community groups and entrepreneurs to own and operate their own suffixes like ‘.london’, ‘.paris’, ‘.nyc’ to ‘.web’, ‘.shop’ or even ‘.ninja’ and represents more than 1000 new TLDs. Opportunities and threats loom large and warrant sophisticated trademark policing strategies from brand owners who will have to monitor this increased range of domains for increased risks of brand damage, fraud and counterfeiting.

To learn more about generic top-level domains, please view the Youtube clip Cybersquatting and Internet Domain Names from WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Written by Mary Lee

May 30, 2014 at 7:35 pm

Posted in News

CNM participation at FASS Open House 2014

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By Zai Muhd, Year 3, NM Major

Open House 1

CNM Society members, staff and faculty spent the Saturday of May 17, 2014 on their feet fielding questions from streams of prospective NM students and their parents at the FASS (Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences) Open House.

The department’s booth at The Shaw Foundation Building on campus was teeming with CNMers and visitors who had come to find out more about CNM’s multidisciplinary curriculum, pedagogy and culture. The most popular questions posed were, “How is CNM different from other communication schools in Singapore?”, and “What are the career paths a CNM graduate can take?”. The visitors got their answer when the CNM hosts explained the department’s broad and flexible curriculum and the myriad of professions and industry sectors our graduates are now in. They had also liked that CNM offers internship opportunities and that we rank among the world’s top 10 communication and media studies departments.

Open House 2014- 2

Pameline, 18, who will be matriculating in the coming new semester, said that she’s been waiting for the FASS Open House to find out more about what the NUS Communications and New Media degree can offer her.

“Right now, I’m really keen on the publications and design modules. I  may even want to try the advertising strategies module,” said Pameline.

We wish to assure Pameline that, come August, she and her fellow freshmen will be spoilt for choice!

Written by Mary Lee

May 19, 2014 at 8:36 pm

Posted in News

Youth to trek Himalayan range for a cause

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By Chandini Manoharan, Year 1, Electrical Engineering

Ashik (left) and Ashok after an intense training session for their upcoming expedition.

Ashik (left) and Ashok after an intense training session for their upcoming expedition.

These days, it is not often that one hears of youth risking their lives for a good cause. But by attempting one of the world’s toughest treks, and during the monsoon season, in order to raise funds for the Society for the Physically Disabled, Ashik Ashokan, a Communications and New Media student in NUS and his friend Ashok Kumar, an undergraduate from the Singapore Institute of Management, are going to do just that.

The 23 year-olds aspire to complete the Annapurna circuit in Nepal, which includes an arduous trek of 220km around a Himalayan mountain range and a summit point with an incredible altitude of 17, 769 feet – all without the assistance of a climbing guide. The climb is made all the more challenging by having to carry a 15kg load on their backs for 21 days and having to brave hostile weather conditions and reduced oxygen levels at high altitude.

However, to Ashik and Ashok, the challenges that they face are only paralleled by the challenges of the physically disabled face, day in, day out. For their endeavour, they hope to raise S$50, 000 for the SPD.

“We have built a campaign, Heart2Climb to raise awareness about the challenges our physically disabled friends face everyday, and to inspire other youth to step out of their comfort zones and give back to society,” said Ashok.

Ashik added: “While many people hold a desire to make a positive difference in the world, only few have the courage to accomplish it. We believe, however, that if one puts all of one’s heart into a good cause, one will have the strength to make it through”.

Written by Mary Lee

May 8, 2014 at 9:37 pm

Posted in News

Meaningful Media at Media Rise, Singapore

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By Jacqui Hocking, Creative Director @LateNiteFilms & @GoneAdventurin in @HUBsg

Earlier this month, I received a phone call from a passionate women, Srivi Ramasubramanian. Srivi is the Executive Director of Media Rise, an incredible organisation that began in Washington DC.


Her goal was to connect into the creative community in Singapore to start some important conversations around the Media’s role is social and environmental impact:


2013 Media Rise Festival

I was asked to speak at their first event in Asia, as part of their #EarlyRise movement to discuss my perspective on creating meaningful media to accelerate social change. I would be speaking alongside two other people in the space; social entrepreneur Grace Clapham and social justice documentarian Julio Etchart.

From left to right: Grace, Julio and myself

The idea of #EarlyRiseSG was to help connect people already inspired to make an impact and ignite collaboration and conversation.

The three main objectives are:

  1. CELEBRATING success stories of how content creators, storytellers, designers and educators use media for social good;
  2. EMPOWERING media to integrate human values, such as compassion, connectedness and respect for all; and,
  3. ENCOURAGING partnerships among media professionals and change-makers to accelerate social transformation at the individual and community level.

What did I get out of the event?

Singapore is an amazing place, which is full of events for creatives and social innovators. As someone that works out of Hub SG, I’m constantly surrounded by inspiring organisations that focus on purpose before profit. There are even some organisations like Our Better World that focus on media and storytelling. What made #EarlyRiseSG so special, was that it was an inclusive event which invited not just creatives, not just corporates or academics, but everyone from across all backgrounds.

                             Live networking session at Early Rise Singapore


I spoke with corporates from within big multi-nationals such as P&G, producers from TV networks, and academics studying media / online behaviour and psychology. It was a real mixed crowd.

Grace Clapham’s presentation talked through her organisation “The Change School” / “Change” which helps individuals realise their ideas and passions.

I connected with this presentation on an individual and consumer level.


Julio Etchart spoke with vast experience about his work in social justice and the environment. He has lived with tribes battling against the corporate powers and spoke with passion about the hope of sustainable eco-tourism in pristine wilderness. Julio has pioneered the practice of photovoice with NGOs and has facilitated workshops in participatory image-making with grassroots communities in many countries in the majority world.

I connected with this presentation from a community level.


So  — with the consumer and community represented, I decided to shift the focus of my presentation to a key missing element — and one I feel most passionate about in recent years. The role of business for good and the potential for collaboration with multinationals and for-profit organisations. So, I presented from a corporate angle.

CSR is a common theme in big companies — but what we’ve developed here in Singapore is a new idea:

Corporate Social Possibility. The possibility, (which has been noticed by CEO of Unilever, Paul Poleman) of corporations DOING WELL by DOING GOOD.

Possibility. That is the key. Potential for communities, consumers and big multi-national companies to work together for a common goal.

                                                 A slide on how our enterprise works from the ground up


It’s something which cannot be achieved individually, without the authentic connection and collaborations between each party. We also need to utilise and combine a number of different areas: Non-Profit, CSR and Marketing.

That’s how our enterprise, Gone Adventurin, was founded.

Next Steps?

This is only the beginning. I’m super excited to be connected into the MediaRise community and to continue building a strong network of collaborators in Asia. I’ve been told there will be a follow up of the first #EarlyRiseSG event soon — and I hope to see more people across all the different areas and connect online with more people from across the world — to see how we can all contribute to make the world a better place to benefit all.



This blog entry has been reproduced from

Written by Mary Lee

May 1, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Posted in News