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Women Farmer’s Voices on Climate Change: A Culture-Centered Approach to Climate Change Adaptation

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February 19, 2014, Wednesday, 3.30pm -4:30pm
CNM, AS6 #03-33, Meeting Room

Although there is increasingly scholarly work to mainstream gender in climate change adaptation literature, many studies are not grounded in lived experiences of poor women in the global South. This paper applies the culture-centered approach to climate change adaptation literature by foregrounding the voices of lower-caste women farmers’ from low-income households in a semi-arid region in south India. Based on interviews and focus groups, we find that women farmers argue government policies, such as promoting genetically modified crops, negatively affects the adaptation strategies they already practice, for example, planting a variety of climate resilient food crops to adapt to increasing uncertainty in rainfall patterns. Adaptation research and policy-making need to foreground the voices of marginalized communities such as women farmer’s to frame, implement, and assess its outcomes, in the absence of which, such policies would most likely perpetuate the gender-inequalities, and hinder equitable social change.

Jagadish Thaker (Ph.D., George Mason University) is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE), Department of Communication and New Media,NUS, Singapore. He examines ways to enhance vulnerable community’s adaptive capacity to climate change impacts, and he specializes in the fields of health communication and climate change communication.  Prior to joining NUS, he assisted Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz (Yale Project on Climate Change Communication) to conduct the first national sample survey of Indian’s climate change beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and policy preferences, and has co-authored two reports: Climate Change in the Indian Mind, and Global Warming’s Six Indias, an audience segmentation analysis. He also worked as a research assistant on a NSF grant examining the role of American broadcast meteorologists’ as climate change communicators. Recently, his research examining the evolution of climate change discourses in India was published in Climatic Change.

Written by Mary Lee

February 16, 2014 at 1:33 am

Posted in News

Flipped! Where students lead the class

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By Dennis Ang and Rohini Samtani, Year 2 NM Majors

Playing online games as part of attending classes. Watch videos as part of picking up new content. Being part of a class where the teacher is also considered a student. Dream school? Actually, an everyday reality for many students at the Department of Communications & New Media where some of its instructors have adopted innovative learning modes involving online tutorials, flipped classroom and peer teaching in their classes.

“I noticed both quiet concentration and unabashed laughter”, said Dr Anne-Marie Schleiner referring to the days that she experimented with augmenting classroom learning with exercises on – powerful software that gives educators more control over a popular sandbox game environment known as Minecraft - in the NM3227 Critical Game Design module.

Making learning engaging and fun is not the only reason this CNM professor is exploring a different pedagogical approach though. “With, the person in the instructor role can teleport students from one location to another in the game. She can augment or subtract a student’s capabilities. These instructor powers allow for crafting assignments with carefully controlled parameters. Yet Minecraft is still an open enough of a game to afford plenty of room for student agency and creativity”.

In the end, it is “more work all round, but it is also exciting. We have to try know things but also remain critical about what ultimately is worth the effort.”

Associate Professor Lim Sun Sun uses flipped classroom practices in the NM2209 Social Psychology of New Media module to make the precious face-to-face time at lectures more productive. “It is difficult to interact directly with many students whilst giving a lecture. The  large class sizes in some of our modules also means that lecturers will not be able to teach all tutorials and thus, will not be able to have that important direct interaction with students,” she explains.

“Flipping my class allows me to connect with students like never before,” she notes, mentioning that the concept of a flipped classroom allows the limited face-to-face time in lectures to be used more productively since students now come to class already having looked through and learnt new content when they viewed recorded lectures online. “My students felt that recorded lectures were very useful for self-paced learning. They felt greater ownership of their learning when they were given the choice to view the recorded online lectures at a time when they were most alert”.

Assistant Professor Denisa Kera experiments with other teaching models because the conventional one is “boring and creates false hierarchies”.

She had found so many things that are wrong with the way we have been used to learning things. “It starts at the basic level – from suspending who you really are in the classroom, and taking on the role of an empty vessel that needs to be managed, to reducing yourself to a small part of a system. These are things which need to be addressed and changed. I want to break the mould of one professor-to-many students and replace it with a format of many-to-many interactions and a culture that we can all learn from each other”.

A strong believer of “cultivating our ability to learn from every situation and person”, Dr Kera adopted a pedagogy in the NM3213 Digital Humanities module which puts the educator into the shoes of the educatee. “The module picks up from the idea of peer education, where the learner utilizes the available knowledge, online and offline. I crowdsourced the whole learning process so students and teachers learn not only skills and share information but in the process, we understand the various perspectives and views of different people about the subject”.

Inspired by the spirit of hackerspaces – community-operated workspaces where people with common interests come together regardless of expertise to learn, experiment and create – her classes are designed so that everyone taps into and learns from the expertise of one another. “There is no big authority, but many processes of tinkering, sharing and learning from each other, which also open some unexpected views and encounters and make the whole process more authentic and meaningful for everyone.” she said.

Students in her module have the opportunity of conducting a class that equips peers with the knowledge needed to experiment with a visualization tool and then giving an assignment which everyone – including the educator – needs to complete. “Everyone was equal, since everyone is an expert for that one week during the semester and he/she is motivated to share knowledge and prepare some creative and fun tutorial, but then also assess our performance individually and as a class. That way we share the load of work with preparation and assessment and we all learn more from each other”

“I wish I had been more active as a student. I guess I would get C, but still I will make more effort to finish the tutorials next time. I was a lousy student, I guess that was the only bad thing. Next time, the other students should be stricter with me”, she said reflecting on her performance as a student in the module. “We were all terrified at the start. But every week, we learnt something new in terms of how to prepare the tutorials and presentation.  We were able to learn from our mistakes and to address them immediately rather than wait for some forms and stuff. Then, there was this great moment when the students felt an ownership of the module and my role became more of an occasional moderator. I was not needed at all and that was the best moment in my pedagogical career so far”.

Though there may never be an education tailored for specific individuals, the approaches taken by these educators here have made it possible for students to take increased ownership of what they learn, as well as their class, be it in digital or physical space.

Written by Mary Lee

February 9, 2014 at 3:47 pm

Posted in News

CNM Soc recognised for promoting campus vibrancy

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By Chia Pui San, Year 2, Exco President of CNM Society

This year, the Communications and New Media Society was recognised for its efforts in enhancing the NUS experience of CNM majors at the university’s 9th Student Achievement Awards. Presented with the Recognition for Campus Vibrancy certificate, the award serves simultaneously as a reminder and reward for the CNM Society’s executive committee to continue to organise initiatives and projects that will benefit CNM majors.

The Office of Student Affairs had organised the Awards to give recognition to exceptional individual students or student groups who have made noteworthy contributions to NUS outside of their scholastic pursuits.

In AY2012/2013, CNM Society launched a marketing competition, Pitch It! 2013, together with the Bizad Club. The event was open to tertiary students from all polytechnics and universities in Singapore. CNM Soc also organised Adobe workshops with the objective of giving CNM majors an edge in by equipping them with basic design skills. Yet another popular initiative is the industry visits. The visits were organised with the intention of introducing CNM majors to possible job opportunities after graduation.

This year, the CNM Society is planning another range of exciting events. Coming up is Pitch It! 2014. The 2014 edition takes the form of a digital social media advertising competition, tweaked to give the CNM majors a chance to take what they have learnt in class to apply to a real-life scenario provided by our corporate partners. Sign up at to join the fun.

Congratulations, CNM Soc!

Written by Mary Lee

January 27, 2014 at 10:54 pm

Posted in News

Book on branding, Brand Alchemy launched

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CNM adjunct faculty and instructor of the new module, NM4229 Cultural Communication & Creative Expression, Mini Chandran Kurian has launched a book on branding. Titled, Brand Alchemy, the book provides insights into the stories behind some of the world’s most iconic brands, and captures the magic of branding as a communication tool. A brand is iconic when it is empowering. It can be validating for the audience, tapping into an emotional cosmos and satisfying the need to belong to a group or community. It sketches an inspirational canvas. It redefines aspirations. An iconic brand becomes part of one’s everyday life. Mini’s book delves into the history of branding and gives the reader a close peek into destination brands, event brands, social responsibility brands and even personality brands.

A writer and book designer, Mini Chandran Kurian has engaged with the written word for over 25 years. Sunshine moments have included capturing stories and images in journalistic print, penning travelogues on elysian lands, a research project in cultural mapping for UNESCO, being published in the Anthology of Asian Poets, and finally, hitting the high note as an experiential book designer. She writes and produces well-researched, pictorial books, on subjects as varied as the magic of branding, the good life in Goa, the biography of a philanthropist, the culinary magic of South India, cultural exchange through international trade, and the creative isolation of hereditary folk artists.

CNM faculty for Cultural Communication and Creative Expression, Mini Chandran Kurian launched a book about iconic brands around the world


Written by Mary Lee

January 14, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Posted in News

Light Up Lives, Darkness | Interrupted

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By Nur Safiah Bte. Alias Year 4, Communications & New Media | University Scholars Programme

When it comes to infrastructure for energy, particularly, light energy, Singapore is an anomaly in Southeast Asia. For not all places in the region are lighted up 24/7. One such poorly lit place is the Riau Islands, the cluster of islands off Batam. The inhabitants of Riau receive electricity only a fraction of the evening. Thereafter, they use kerosene oil lamps, which emit unhealthy fumes. On top of that, the rising cost of kerosene makes them a liability to the household income.

The founder and team of Nusantara Development Initiatives (NDI) seek to disrupt this energy poverty in an innovative way through the Rumah Ibu Terang (Mothers of Light) Programme. In the Rumah Ibu Terang Programme, local women get trained to be entrepreneurs before venturing out into their social networks to sell solar lamps to those who need them most. More than 20 women entrepreneurs have been trained under this scheme. The programme has been successful because it taps into the women’s knowledge of the local environment. The earnings from the lamps sold ultimately empower women to raise the quality of their lives as well as that of their children’s.

NDI is currently expanding its operations with a crowdfunding campaign called Darkness|Interrupted. The Riau Islands is a big region and we want to set up more training hubs so that our solar lamps can reach more families. We need to train more women. You can donate as little as USD$3 or buy the Kiran solar lamp that we sell to the women in the Riau Islands for USD$30. Solar lamps are also really useful for those who love to go adventuring. The bigger Nova lamp can even charge your fancy smartphones. The campaign ends on 10 January 2014.

Look at that radiant smile!  Introducing Marlia, 30, NDI’s solar lamp entrepreneur from Pulau Air Raja. This mother of two has been with the Rumah Terang Programme for three years now. She also plays the role as our programme coordinator in the village, taking charge of lamp stocks and inventory management.

Look at that radiant smile!
Introducing Marlia, 30, NDI’s solar lamp entrepreneur from Pulau Air Raja. This mother of two has been with the Rumah Terang Programme for three years now. She also plays the role as our programme coordinator in the village, taking charge of lamp stocks and inventory management.


I have been volunteering with NDI for two years now as I was motivated to find a more efficient way to contribute to our neighbouring countries. I am attracted to the social entrepreneurship model and have gone to Vietnam to study Community Development and Social Entrepreneurship under the STEER program organised by the International Relations Office, NUS. Following that, I took a Social Entrepreneurship module under A/P Albert Teo under the NUS Business School. I still have a lot to learn.

Written by Mary Lee

January 8, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Posted in News

The merits of hackerspaces and the liberal arts: Dr Denisa Kera’s one-on-one with Tech in Asia

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CNM faculty, Denisa Kera’s involvement in the open-source technology movement has caught the attention of online tech media, Tech in Asia. Below is an excerpt of Dr Kera’s interview with the publication:

“Tech startups in Southeast Asia are getting acquired, and more investors are looking at investing in the ecosystem. As such, the need to develop innovation capacity is more crucial than ever.

An answer to this is the open-source technology movement, consisting of hackerspaces, makerspaces, and DIY Biology (DIYBio) movements. Concerned with innovation and bringing the benefits of scientific and emerging technological developments to the public, these avenues are used for public participation in science and for meeting needs beyond the scope of for-profit enterprises.

Assistant Professor Denisa Kera of the National University of Singapore (NUS) has made it her career to study and participate in these movements. She is a faculty member of the Department of Communications & New Media and her research covers issues in philosophy and design.

She follows and supports science community labs and alternative R&D places, such as hackerspaces, makerspaces and fabrication labs across the world, with a special focus on DIYBio movements, consumer genomics and various citizen science projects. She looks at issues in science communication, of making science understandable by the public and accessible where it is not traditionally available.

Tech in Asia: What brought you to NUS?

Denisa: I was curious. I’ve spent most of my life in Europe and the only place I visited in Asia was Japan before moving to Singapore. I also had friends engaged in art and science projects in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. On a personal level, I was running two non-profits and worked at a university in Prague. I was burnt out and wanted to take a new direction.

What is your involvement with the open source science movement?

I travel to visit and work with hackerspaces, DIYBio labs and various other forms of grassroots citizen science movements around the world. As a researcher, I’m curious to understand what’s the best way for a society to interact with, adopt and integrate emergent technologies, and as an open science advocate I’m looking into ways we can support research and development in the Global South, consisting of Asian, African, and Latin American countries.

What is so unique about the hackerspace movement that makes them relevant to society?

They let science amateurs like me understand and get involved in the process of designing, tinkering and playing with various ideas and technologies. I’m also excited about their potential to support research in the developing countries, such as Indonesia or Nepal.

The hackerspaces attract some of the most interesting people you can meet in a city; the pragmatic visionaries who are not afraid to take on any challenge, but jealously protect their autonomy and freedom. They actually preserve the original mission of the universities, which is academic freedom.

Most people think it is about the freedom to do research, but it is more than that. We need a space or an institution which will enable citizens to develop skills necessary for taking an active part in the public life of their communities.

The so called “artes liberale”, or liberal arts, refers to knowledge that sets you free. It doesn’t mean humanities as people misinterpret today. I dare to say that nowadays the liberal arts mean not only law and rhetoric, but also knowledge of science protocols, programming and hardware hacking.

Hackerspaces are the best place to gain such knowledge and skills on your own terms. Then you can make informed decisions on stuff like Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), or be able to set up ad hoc, secure and independent networks during acts of civil disobedience.”

To read the rest of the interview, go to

Written by Mary Lee

January 4, 2014 at 5:29 pm

Posted in News

Geert Lovink sparks lively discussion on networked culture at CNM

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By Dr Ingrid Hoofd, Assistant Professor, CNM

Media theorist and critic, Geert Lovink ran a workshop for CNM and FASS graduate students and staff from 12 to 13 December 2013.

Prof Lovink, who is Research Professor of Interactive Media at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam and Professor of Media Theory at the European Graduate School, stimulated the participants into lively discussions on a range of issues that concerns the online culture today: Wikileaks and Snowden, the Bitcoins phenomenon, Wikipedia research, and alternatives in social media and search engines.

The 10 participants came away with lots of ideas, inspiration and two complimentary readers, Critical Point of View: a Wikipedia Reader and Unlike Us Reader: Social Media Monopolies and Their Alternatives.

As the founding director of the Institute of Network Cultures, Prof Lovink also met with folks from NUS Press and the Centre for Contemporary Art where they discussed the potential and challenges of digital publishing.

His engagements must have inspired him too, for he looked forward to a more extended visit in the near future.

Written by Mary Lee

January 4, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Posted in News

NUS students find their voice in NM module on public speaking

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Last semester, 300 students from across NUS signed up for the NM module on Introduction to Public Speaking, GEM2027.

Back in AY 2010-2011, the module’s founding instructors had envisioned a highly hands-on module in which students get a chance to craft and present speeches in front of their peers. Their goal had been to help students become more polished speakers, at ease with speaking in front of an audience.

As the course gained popularity, the seminar-format module meant initially, for NM Honours Year students only, was scaled up, and under Dr Tracy Loh’s leadership, got converted into the present lecture-tutorial format. Today GEM2027 is a much sought-after general elective module, available to all NUS undergraduates.

“Feedback for this module from the students has been very positive, with many citing it as one of the most practical, useful and enjoyable courses in their NUS careers,” said Dr Loh.

Prospective students can look forward to another fulfilling experience as this semester’s module coordinator, Ms Elizabeth Cardoza and her team endeavour to fine-tune the course. “The GEM2027 teaching team will continue to improve student skills development in public speaking by delivering interesting lectures and facilitating enthused tutorials”.

To tell potential students more about what to expect from the course, we asked a recent GEM2027 graduate, Hannah Ee, a fourth year student from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering to share with us her thoughts about the public speaking course offered by CNM:

As a Year 4 engineering student who is about to go into the working world, I decided to take GEM2027 Introduction to Public Speaking after hearing seniors who are already in the workforce talking about the presentations they need to give to their colleagues and bosses monthly. I came into the module with hopes that the course would make me more comfortable with giving speeches and presentations in front of a group of people. I was not disappointed.

Our tutor, Ms Tan Ee Lyn, makes every class seems like a chat between old friends. She provides timely and helpful feedback on our speeches and exhorts us to continuously strive upwards and onwards. By the end of the semester, everyone in the class had seen a marked improvement in the delivery of their speeches all thanks to the help from our tutor. From my own perspective, I was less nervous and more confident in standing in front of a crowd and delivering a speech.

There were three graded speeches in this module, namely epideictic speech, informative speech and persuasive speech. The topics of the speeches are not set: you can choose any topic that you like and present it in any way you want within a certain time limit. Having a limitless sky from which to expound our ideas gave form to a myriad of styles in presentation. From the comments that Ms Tan gave us, I was able to find a style that best suited me, but yet was able to convey the intentions of my speeches effectively and succinctly.

GEM2027 also provided me a platform to meet friends across faculties and years. Taking this module without my friends, I was nervous and jittery when I stepped into the first tutorial class. It turned out that most of the students in my tutorial class were taking the module alone, and all of us soon bonded, becoming fast friends. By the end of the semester, I knew everyone in the class and we are still keeping in contact through Facebook.

Public speaking is important to everyone. As students, we might find ourselves presenting our project to our classmates, or even our final year project to a panel of graders. For some of us, we would need to present monthly updates to a group of people which might include your bosses and colleagues. Some of us might also find that we have to do presentations to clients. I would recommend this module to anyone who is looking for opportunities to practise and polish their public speaking skills. Students will also get to explore ways to present before they settle on a style most comfortable for themselves.

Written by Mary Lee

January 3, 2014 at 8:18 am

Posted in News

Economic inequality is detrimental to everyone’s health

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In an opinion piece for the Straits Times (14 December 2013), Professor Mohan Dutta highlighted the impact of economic inequality on an entire community, and made a case for the evaluation criteria of the quality of a health care system to include questions about the experiences of low-income families when a member falls sick. The issue is highly pertinent amidst current discourse and concerns about inequality in Singapore.

Written by Mary Lee

January 2, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Posted in News

Documenting to learn from rage at

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By Cheong Kakit, Graduate Student, CNM

A riot broke out in Little India on the night of 8 December, 2013, sending shock waves to the rest of the country as Singaporeans witnessed their first large-scale outbreak of violence in 50 years.

As a CNM student, it was interesting to observe how the incident was shared and reported via social media. Like many people, I first learnt about the riot from my social media feed. Initially, people were sharing a single image or short video clip. In the days rolled by, however, a flood of reports from multiple sources surfaced, making it difficult to verify the accuracy of each social media post.

To try and make sense of the incident, my friend, Eugene Gao and I, put together a real-time social media feed,

The word cloud capturing live sentiments of the riot

We used technology where we could aggregate all content related to the riot from social media. For we wanted to re-present how the incident was being reported by various media, both official and alternative media sources, so that people can can learn about the incident from multiple sources.

At the same time, we wanted to highlight the current sentiments about the issue. So we incorporated an interactive word cloud which identifies the key words and the contexts which the word has been used in real time.

About the website’s future, Eugene said: “Even as the issues settle into the back of our minds in the coming months, the website is still a means to document and remember this historic moment in our lifetimes as Singaporeans.”


Written by Mary Lee

January 1, 2014 at 6:34 pm

Posted in News