Courage and The Art of Belief: Communication that Intervenes

Dear colleagues and friends of CNM,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The very best of wishes to you!

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


CNM and ARI Research Talk: The Question of China and the West in World Philosophy- Presented By Steve Fuller


This talk will survey the changing relationship between the ‘West’ and ‘China’ as representative of certain cultural and philosophical ideals, especially the contemporary significance of that relationship, given the recent re-emergence of China as a global superpower. In this context I will pay special attention to the claims made in Bryan van Norden’s new book, Taking Back Philosophy: A Multicultural Manifesto, which appeals in part to Chinese philosophy as a foil for Western philosophy.


Steve Fuller is Auguste Comte Professor of Social Epistemology in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick, UK. Originally trained in history and philosophy of science, Fuller is best known for his foundational work in the field of ‘social epistemology’, which is the name of a quarterly journal that he founded in 1987 as well as the first of his more than twenty books. From 2011 to 2014 he published a trilogy relating to the idea of a ‘post-‘ or ‘trans’ human future, all published with Palgrave Macmillan under the rubric of ‘Humanity 2.0’. His most recent books are Knowledge: The Philosophical Quest in History (Routledge 2015) and The Academic Caesar (Sage 2016). His works have been translated into over twenty languages. He was awarded a D.Litt. by the University of Warwick in 2007 for sustained lifelong contributions to scholarship. His latest book, Post-Truth: Knowledge as a Power Game, is published by Anthem Press in 2018.

24 April 2018
4:00 PM – 5:30 PM

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Block AS8, #04-04
ARI Seminar Room

If you are an NUS Staff or Student, register online at:


CNM Research Talk: Queer will: Hikikomori as willful subjects- Presented By Dr Rosemary Overell


This presentation considers hikikomori as willful subjects. The hikikomori are a portion of the Japanese population who withdraw into their homes. These are mostly young people (between 15 and 35) and mostly young men. The focus of this presentation is how hikikomori constitute a challenge to dominant national imaginaries of Japan as a ‘corporate-family system’ (Allison 2013). This presentation analyses popular media and psychiatric representations of hikikomori, particularly from Saitô’s (2013) work as exemplifying Ahmed’s (2014) notion of willful subjects. It is argued that the hikikomori’s apparent willfulness produces them as Queer subjects who are out of place and pace with the dominant heteronormative, masculinist culture of contemporary Japan.


Rosemary Overell completed a doctorate, majoring in cultural studies and Japanese studies, at the University of Melbourne in 2012. Her thesis, Brutal: Affect Belonging In, and Between, Australia and Japan’s Grindcore Scenes, explored how fans of grindcore metal music feel ‘at home’ in scenic spaces. Rosemary’s research included two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Osaka, Japan, as well as in Melbourne, Australia. Rosemary has taught for a number of years at the University of Melbourne in cultural studies, Asian studies, media studies and cultural geography. Between 2011 and 2013 she co-ordinated subjects on popular music cultures and lifestyle and consumer cultures.

In 2014, Rosemary published her book Affective Intensities in Extreme Music Scene with Palgrave. Currently, she is teaching two second-year communications subjects and working on nikkeijin migrants and youth cultures in Nagoya, Japan. She is also interested in experimental ethnographic methodologies.

She is also a member of the Performance of the Real research theme steering group.

20 April 2018
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM

NUS Central Library
CLB-04-04, Theatrette 1

If you are an NUS Staff or Student, please register at

Invited Speaker at King’s College London- Assistant Professor Taberez Ahmed Neyazi

Dr. Taberez Ahmed Neyazi has been invited to speak at the Transnational Law Summit 2018, which is being convened under the theme: The New Human Condition: Creating Justice for Our Future at King’s College London, from 10-13 April 2018. As part of the critical inquiry into the crisis of democracy, the rise of authoritarianism and populism the Summit will discuss on the crucial role of journalism in activism and societal reaction.  Dr. Neyazi will be speaking on the impact of new media on political ‘voice’, protest and representation, as part of a deeper inquiry into the ‘transformation of the public sphere’ and into new formations of resistance and democratic power. The participants in the Summit include Journalists, Artists, Academics, International Organisations, NGOs, Cities, Courts, Social Movements, and the Arts.

Random Blends 2018

Random Blends is 10 years old. It’s the showcase event for NUS’ Department of Communications and New Media, and will feature over 25 compelling projects by students, alumni and staff. Playing on the prefix ‘re’- commonly used in reduce, reuse and recycle– Random Blends is our re:ply to an environment desperately crying out for change. We challenge your ideas about the environment through interactive and out-of-this-world exhibits. Experience innovative applications of technology, and join us as we explore the socio-political environments that surround us. Immerse yourself in thought-provoking artifacts, stories and campaigns that are firmly anchored in urgent social issues.

Together with Zero Waste SG, PM Haze, Seastainable Co.,The Sustainability Project, Books and Beer, and Haikini, CNM invites you to a space of collective responses, thoughts, emotions and hopes for environmental sustainability. Be part of a unique eco-sustainability movement that blends modern tech with environmental awareness.

Random Blends will be at University Town on 5 – 6 April 2018. Join us!

CNM Research Talk: Defamiliarisation and Poetic Gameplay in Art Games- Presented By Assistant Professor Alex Mitchell


Certain video games tend to be perceived as somehow different from the mainstream, not conforming to the expectations that most players bring to games. One common feature of these art games is the way that they often defamiliarize some aspect of the game experience by undermining player expectations so as to achieve a poetic effect.

Starting from Shklovsky’s notion of defamiliarization and Utterback’s concept of the poetic interface, Alex Mitchell draw parallels between poetic language and the techniques used in games to create what he refers to as poetic gameplay: the structuring of the actions the player takes within a game, and the responses the game provides to those actions, in a way that draws attention to the form of the game, and by doing so encourages the player to reflect upon and see that structure in a new way.

In this talk, Alex will provide an overview of the work done to develop the concept of poetic gameplay, including a series of close readings of art games, empirical studies of player response to art games, and the development of a collection of “literary devices” that appear in these games. He will also discuss ongoing work to describe these literary devices in the form of design patterns, and preliminary results from a study of the use of these patterns by game designers. He will then conclude by sketching out proposed future work to explore the relationship between defamiliarization and repeat experience of interactive artworks, and to understand the relationship between poetic gameplay and aesthetic experience.


Alex Mitchell teaches interactive media design in the Department of Communications and New Media at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Alex’s current research investigates various aspects of computer-based art and entertainment, focusing in particular on games and interactive stories. He has a BSc and an MSc in Computer Science from the University of Toronto, Canada, and a PhD from the NUS Graduate School for Integrative Sciences and Engineering. His recent publications include “Rereading and the SimCity Effect in Interactive Stories” in Interactive Storytelling (2015), “Making the Familiar Unfamiliar: Techniques for Creating Poetic Gameplay” in DiGRA/FDG 2016, and “Making it Unfamiliar in the Right Way: An Empirical Study of Poetic Gameplay”, in DiGRA 2017. His creative work has been shown at venues such as the Displacements exhibition (13 Wilkie Terrace, 2013); Passports: Through the Red Dot Into Other Worlds (Lorong 24A Shophouse Series, 2013); Seni Mini (Mi Casa Su Casa, 2014); Print Lab (Grey Projects, 2014); Interstitium (Lorong 24A Shophouse Series, 2015); 50 Obsessions (LaSalle College of the Arts, 2015); and Repurposing Nostalgia (42 Petain Road, 2016). His fiction has been published in Dark Tales, Balik Kampung 2, and in several issues of the Twenty-Four Flavours series, a collection of flash fiction published by Math Paper Press. He was the general chair for the International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling (ICIDS) 2014, and is a member of the ICIDS steering committee.

23 March 2018
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM

NUS Central Library
CLB-04-04, Theatrette 1

Register at

Student Showcase: Take 3, Fight HPV- Prevent Cervical Cancer

Join CNM students at University Town, who are currently doing an Independent Study Module to outreach to female students about HPV vaccinations.

Where to find them?

Date: 15 – 16 March 2018
Venue: University Town Plaza

Other Resources:


Opinion: Rahul Gandhi In Singapore- The Truth Vs The Fake

Professor Mohan Dutta discusses the controversy generated by a question and answer (Q&A) session with Mr. Rahul Gandhi, leader of the opposition party, Indian National Congress, during his visit to the Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore. Gandhi’s style of participation in the question and answer session, the article argues, teaches the world the spirits of argumentation and dialogue that form the soul of Indian democracy.

Theoretically and empirically, I have many points of disagreement with Rahul Gandhi. I disagree with his unfettered celebration of connectivity and fiber optic cables when narrating the story of India at the cost of obfuscating the narratives of poverty, in access, and inequality.

Source: The Citizen

CNM-CARE Research Talk: Rethinking Censorship In An Age of Authoritarian Resilience- Presented By Professor Cherian George



Most discussions on media freedom implicitly contrast it to totalitarian control. While it is intuitively appealing to think of liberty as the opposite of tyranny, this binary framework does not help us understand how today’s authoritarian regimes sustain themselves. Integrating empirical research on censorship practices, this presentation considers how media policies contribute to authoritarian resilience, with a particular focus on Asia, including Singapore. Although not ideologically opposed to spectacularly repressive methods, many states have shifted to stealthier forms of censorship. They also apply differential levels of censorship, allowing selective liberalisation to enhance their legitimacy among publics and co-opt large segments of the media and culture industries, while stifling communication that would potentially challenge their political dominance.


Cherian George is professor of media studies at Hong Kong Baptist University. He researches media and politics, including freedom of expression, censorship and hate propaganda. He is currently working on a book on media and power in Southeast Asia for Cambridge University Press. His previous books include Hate Spin: The Manufacture of Religious Offense and its Threat to Democracy (MIT Press, 2016), and Freedom from the Press: Journalism and State Power in Singapore (NUS Press, 2012).

28 March 2018
2:30 PM – 3:30 PM


Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Block AS4, #01-19

Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium
University Town

Register at