Prof Mohan Dutta presents the keynote at Indiana University’s Health Connections Common Conference

Wednesday 29 October, 9am-2:30pm

Whittenberger Auditorium, Indiana University

Keynote Address

Communication and spaces of structural transformation: Collaborating for alternative imaginations

Prof. Mohan J. Dutta

In this talk, I will outline the communicative processes of organizing in offline and online spaces that create avenues for alternative imaginations. Based on our ongoing culture-centered fieldwork in disenfranchised communities across the globe, the talk will highlight the key elements of interpretation and meaning that serve as nodes of organizing. I will attend specifically to the flows of meaning in networks of communication and the interpretive frames that serve as organizing entry points. I will also draw upon the intersections of culture, community and technology to discuss the interplay between online and offline spaces.

Mohan J. Dutta is a Professor and Head of the Department of Communications and New Media at the National University of Singapore and Courtesy Professor of Communication at Purdue University. He is the founding director of the Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE) at the National University of Singapore and served as the founding director of Center on Poverty and Health Inequities at Purdue University.

Dutta teaches and conducts research in international health communication, critical cultural theory, poverty in healthcare, health activism in globalization politics, indigenous cosmologies of health, subaltern studies and dialogue, and public policy and social change. Based on his work on healthcare among indigenous communities, sex workers, migrant workers, rural communities and communities living in extreme poverty, he has developed an approach called the culture-centered approach that outlines culturally-based participatory strategies for addressing unequal healthcare policies and global disparities.

Dutta has published numerous articles and book chapters, and co-edited several volumes on health communication and communication theory. He has authored several books including, most relevant to this conference, Communicating health: A culture-centered approach (Polity Press, 2008), Communicating social change: Structure, culture, agency (Routledge Press, 2011), and Neoliberal Health Organizing: Communication, Meaning, and Politics (Left Coast Press, 2014).  Currently the editor of the book series, “Critical Cultural Studies in Global Health Communication,” with Left Coast Press, Dutta also sits on the editorial board of seven journals.

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Programming abstractions for creative coding and live coding performance – A talk and demonstration

Monday, 24 November 2014, 5pm
CNM Playroom, AS6 #03-38

Gibber is an open-source, browser-based environment for creative coding and live coding performance. It also provides libraries for audio and graphics programming that can easily be used inside of any web page. One design constraint for Gibber is the use of a general-purpose language, JavaScript, for end-user programming instead of a domain-specific solution; this ensures that knowledge acquired while using Gibber freely transfers to other applications with a JavaScript API.

Given constraints on expressivity inherent to JavaScript and many other general-purpose languages, the speaker’s research focuses on programming abstractions that make it as simple as possible to perform common tasks in creative coding and in live coding performance: sequencing and scheduling, audiovisual and interactive mappings, and rapid iteration of audiovisual objects.  This talk will discuss these abstractions and the use of Gibber in live performance. The speaker will also discuss its use in education, where it has been adopted by a number of universities to teach audiovisual programming in addition to classes for middle school and high school students. The speaker will close the talk with a short live coding performance.

Charlie Roberts is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the AlloSphere Research Group at the California NanoSystems Institute, where his research explores human computer interaction in virtual reality environments.  He is the primary author of Gibber, a creative coding environment for the browser, and has given over a dozen live coding performances in the US, Europe and Asia improvising audiovisual art.

NM Graduate Research Seminar students’ research proposals

Wednesday, 29 October 2014, 3pm

CNM Meeting Room, Level 3, AS6

In this week’s department’s talk, CNM Graduate Research Seminar students share their preliminary theoretical frameworks and findings.

Naomi Tan
Voices of Hunger: Negotiating health and everyday experiences of hunger among the food-insecure in Singapore  
Despite Singapore’s reputation as a first world economic powerhouse, there exists a pocket of invisible poor that fall through the cracks. Their situation is made more complex by their experiences of food insecurity which affects their physical and mental health. This group of people are structurally, geographically, and communicatively erased from the dominant discourse. This study uses the culture-centered approach to engage in dialogue with the community of food-insecure individuals in Singapore, in order to develop a deeper understanding of the lived experiences of food insecurity. This participatory approach to communicating with the subaltern also creates an alternative space for them to articulate their everyday negotiations and to actively co-construct solutions that are meaningful to them.

Ahmed Abid (Rumee)
Alternative media and social change: A study on the plight of Rohingya minorities from Myanmar
The Rohingyas are Muslim minorities of North Arakan state of Burma (Myanmar). They are most marginalised as they do not have citizenship rights, freedom of movement and suffer from severe oppression by the state. By placing the ‘Rohingya’ stateless Muslim minorities from Burma (Myanmar) at the centre of the study, this research will try to find, whether alternative media could bring changes in their life. Here alternative media stand for non-mainstream press or news agency, social media, video data or film and indigenous performances. This study argues that through the intervention of alternative media based Culture Centered Approach (CCA) project, it is possible to politically empower and uphold the voice of subaltern community that will eventually lead to a transformation of their structural location.

Tan Ee Lyn
The unseen costs of economic might: Benzene poisoning in southern China
There has been a proliferation of benzene poisoning cases in China. In 2011, 510,000 people were left disabled due to work-related injuries and disease, up 22 percent from 2010. A prime example are cases of benzene poisoning, which come to light when workers fall ill and are later diagnosed with blood related diseases like leukaemia, leukopenia and severe anaemia. This qualitative study traces how 35 migrant Chinese workers came to be poisoned. Key research questions are: To what extent do migrant workers sacrifice their health to make a living? How do they describe their work environments? How do factories circumvent national work safety regulations?

Satveer Kaur
Communicating stories of social violence for social change:  The meanings of health among impoverished Punjabi women Post-Green Revolution

Punjab, India saw significant social, economic, and cultural changes Post-Green Revolution, which was a period of important historical disjuncture and transition in the rural, agrarian life of the Punjabis. Missing from this discourse were the health impacts of the rural Punjabi women who were further impoverished with the introduction of agricultural technology into the state. The silenced Punjabi woman is structurally, culturally, and communicatively disenfranchised amidst the capitalist and patriarchal structures present in everyday agrarian life. This thesis aims to re-narrate the oral histories on the violence of the Green Revolution, with the objective of encapsulating the health meanings of subaltern Punjabi women. The aim is to foster the creation of communicative spaces to co-construct dialogue on health, in a bid to minimize prevalent health disparities.

Bruised and abused: The perils of everyday domestic work

By Professor Mohan J. Dutta and Satveer Kaur, Centre for Culture-centred Approach to Research & Evaluation

CARE will be launching our first campaign created by foreign domestic workers (FDWs) in Singapore, “Respect Our Rights”, to raise awareness among Singaporeans about the rights of FDWs in Singapore.

This campaign is part of a larger effort aimed at curbing human trafficking and addressing specific issues pertaining to the exploitation of FDWs in Singapore.

Member of Parliament, Christopher de Souza, has drafted a bill for Parliament this October to tighten human trafficking laws in Singapore. CARE research, driven by the voices of the domestic workers, along with other groups such as the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME), seeks to create a discursive space for the discussion of a victim-centered approach in the execution of this bill, where victims are entitled to receive far more protection than they currently do. Protection includes having access to shelter and food, legal aid, medical aid, and other basic resources in order to alleviate their trafficked conditions. More information on the victim-centered approach to human trafficking can be found at HOME’s website.

Our ethnographic research with FDWs in Singapore who have been sheltered at HOME suggests the need for addressing health rights as integral to the lived experiences of FDWs.

In our culture-centered project emphasizing listening to the voices of FDWs, we hear voices of FDWs suggesting the importance of having access to fresh food and water every day, seeing a doctor promptly when they are ill, receiving their salary from their employer on time every month, having adequate sleep, not being overworked and abused physically, sexually or verbally as integral to addressing their physical and mental health. These key provisions are stipulated in their employment contract but are frequently flouted by errant employers

The concept of the cultured-centered approach inverts the research process by centering FDWs at the center of decision-making. Our roles as researchers for the FDWs are guided by the problem configurations and solution frameworks developed by the FDWs.  As an exemplar of the CCA process, the “Respect our Rights” campaign is aimed at communicating specific messages about respecting the basic rights of FDWs to all employers of FDWs in Singapore.

The campaign will be launched in the form of television advertisements on Starhub’s cable platforms, bus stop advertisements, newspaper advertisements on The Straits Times, and online platforms where our documentary film will be aired.

All media materials for the campaign were conceptualized and designed collaboratively by the FDWs and CARE, and are aimed at raising awareness on the common issues faced by FDWs. Embedded is a teaser trailer on the upcoming campaign launch on 21 October 2014.

Addressing the issue of migrant worker rights is crucial, especially in a burgeoning first-world economy like Singapore where numerous transient workers make up a critical mass of economic support for the country. In just the first quarter of 2014 alone, HOME received 405 distressed calls from domestic workers on a myriad of issues, with 159 of them reporting verbal abuse.

CARE has been working closely with HOME on fostering spaces for FDWs to share their stories, and collaborate on problem identification and solution development on the basis of these stories. HOME houses domestic workers that have fled their employer’s place of residence for reasons such as abuse and exploitation. CARE has conducted almost 50 interviews, three focus groups and 11 advisory board meetings with FDWs to garner a deeper and meaningful assessment of the structural and agentic constraints they face when engaging in domestic work in Singaporean homes.

To gain a greater insight on these issues, visit our campaign website and/or our Facebook page.

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Interpersonal Online Interaction and Hyperpersonal Attributions

Wednesday, 15 October 2014, 3pm
CNM Meeting Room, AS6, #03-33
Convenor: Assoc. Prof. Hichang Cho

“Interpersonal Online Interaction and Hyperpersonal Attributions” focuses on recent research that furthers our understanding of how and why people sometimes experience surprisingly great affection in online exchanges, from online chats to finding a match in online dating that seems too good to be true.  This presentation describes benchmark studies and the most recent extensions that advance our understanding of hyperpersonal computer-mediated communication.  They demonstrate how relational goals affect online conversations and how they insidiously change attitudes that should not have changed.  They show how individuals falsely perceive that their online partners really like them, and how the false perception actually leads to exceptionally affectionate exchanges.
Joseph B. Walther is the Wee Kim Wee Professor in Communication Studies at Nanyang Technological University. His research focuses on the interpersonal dynamics of communication via computer networks, in personal relationships, groups, and educational settings. A Fulbright Scholar (Netherlands, 2013) and a Fellow of the International Communication Association, he has held appointments in Communication, Psychology, Information Technology, and Education and Social Policy at universities in the US and in Europe.  With over 15,000 citations to his published works, he holds the ICA’s Chaffee Award for Career Productivity in 2013 and has twice been awarded the National Communication Association’s Woolbert Award for articles that have stood the test of time and changed thinking in the communication discipline for more than ten years.

GameCraft! 2014 24-hour Game Design Competition, 20-21 September

By Dr Alex Mitchell, CNM

The NUS Game Development Group (NUSGDG, organised GameCraft!, a 24-hour game design competition intended to serve as a platform for budding game developers and aspiring designers to showcase their talents. GameCraft! 2014 took place from 20-21 September at the National University of Singapore. The GameCraft! competition provides an opportunity for students from a variety of backgrounds and levels of experience to work together in multidisciplinary teams to create a complete, playable game within 24 hours. This competition provides valuable experience and exposure to students, and provides a stepping-stone for students to move out into the games industry. NUSGDG is a Student Interest Group at the National University of Singapore dedicated to the development of student talent in the field of game design and development. NUSGDG was founded in 2004 by Julius Ang, and is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

For more information:


Seventh International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling, 3-6 November 2014

This year, the International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling (ICIDS) will take place in Singapore at the Department of Communications and New Media, National University of Singapore, marking the conference’s first venture to Asia. The ICIDS 2014 Art Exhibition, “Remembering/Forgetting”, will be held in parallel with the academic conference, from 2-5 November 2014 at ArtScience Museum™ at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.

Interactive digital storytelling is an exciting area in which narrative, computer science and art converge to create new expressive forms. The combination of narrative and computation has considerable untapped potential, ranging from artistic projects to interactive documentaries, from assistive technologies and intelligent agents to serious games, education and entertainment. ICIDS is the premier venue for researchers, practitioners and theorists to present recent results, share novel techniques and insights, and exchange ideas about this new storytelling medium. Hosting the conference at NUS provides an opportunity for researchers, practitioners and students from CNM and from around the world to share new and exciting research and creative works.

For more information: