Volume 4 Issue 2
January – may 2008
A NANyANg TechNologicAl
Wee Kim Wee school
of commUNicATioN ANd
Are we controlling the pace of change... or is it controlling us?
Behind the scenes of Amazing Race Asia 2
with winner Collin Low
THE WRITE STUFF
Wall Street Journal writer Serena Ng reveals
what it takes to get the scoops
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Alumni from the last 10 years make confessions
3 chair’s message
4 on campus
Cutting edge research,
international awards and creative
fund raisers… students and
faculty are making news and
making an impact.
12 The changing Face oF
Have we lost the art of
communication, or just
revolutionised it? Connexscions
looks at how new modes of
communication are changing the
way we socialise.
giVing Back To socieTY
20 green piece
SCI profs are giving new meaning
to the term “green campus”.
22 WhY noT.
Physically challenged athletes
competing against able-bodied
athletes? Why Not? declare the
students who pulled together a
campaign to give recognition to
23 pLasTic surgerY
Three girls with one plan to
use their Final Year Project in a
[minus]plastic campaign is what it
took to galvanise 1,000 youths
aLumni in The neWs
24 The WriTe sTuFF
Wall Street Journal business
writer Serena Ng started at the
bottom and powered her way
up. Connexscions finds out what
it took, and what it cost, this
determined young woman.
26 amaZing grace
Amazing Race Asia 2 winner Collin
Low spills the beans about getting
stressed, getting lost and his one
gripe as a pioneer SCI grad.
28 Where are TheY noW?
Alumni from the last 10 years
reveal how SCI prepared them
for the real world and who really
made an impression on them.
JaN – May 2008
Team Leaders: Thaddaeus Wee,
Ng Peiru, Tee Zhong Cheng, Lim Xinyi
Writers: Kerrie Li, Rachel Tan, Goh
Ji-en, Fergie Alwyn, James Ho,
Giresh Prabhat, Ang Yiting, Chung
Qingyun, Phay Sze Min, Liu Ting Ting,
Team Leaders: Darell Tea, Desy
Indrawaty, Joanne Yan, Daena Ch’ng
Layout Artists: Freddy, Verena Chua,
Eugene Sng, Wong Chin Yen, Lim
Chee Han, Winson, Kang Lee Peng
(Summer), Cheu Eng Kiat, Lee Heng
Leong, Edmund Tan, Wong Wai Leong
Dr Yeoh Kok Cheow (K.C. Yeoh),
Ms Juleen Shaw,
Mr Christopher Yaw
Special Thanks To
Dr Ang Peng Hwa, Dr May Lwin,
Dr Angela Mak
CONNExSCIONS is produced entirely by students.
Send us your news to include in the next issue at
GOODNESS OF FIT
As I write this, it is the time of applications for admission
into the School. The preliminary numbers suggest that
we will have a bumper crop of applications.
What we look for in the applications are the traits that would
make a successful student. Or in statistical lingo, goodness of
fit. Like the best universities, we do not just look at academic
results. To be sure, they count for a lot. After all, the major
examination results were achieved after almost two years of
preparation. In contrast, the written test and interview take
only a few hours.
What we are looking for is, for want of a better word, Passion. The word Passion is used so
loosely that sometimes it equates with “hobby”. As in: I was so mentally exhausted that my
children told me to indulge in my passion—photography.
The word Passion is from the Latin word “passus” and it means “suffering”. The idea is that
one believes in something so strongly that one is prepared to suffer for it. (So the next time
some one says he or she is passionate about you, ask him or her to prove it.)
I have met many passionate (in the Latin sense) graduates from the School. Some have taken
lower paying jobs so they can pursue their photography, journalism, non-profit organisation
work, taking care of baby, etc. Singapore society
tends to measure one’s worth on the toy index—
the more toys the better. Lower paying jobs can
only mean few toys.
This year, I can think of a couple of final-year
projects that had Passion. Two ladies did a photo
exhibition about widows in India, a group that
cannot afford much by way of toys. Another
group of two ladies did a photo exhibition of
the Karens, a hill tribe living in the Myanmar-
Thailand border, a group that had whatever
little toys taken away from them.
I was particularly proud of Collin Low when
he attempted to run the Amazing Race Asia 2 in an
ethical way. That requires Passion because being
ethical can easily result in short-term loss.
passion means believing
that what you are doing
is so worthwhile and
important that you are
prepared to pay a price
for it. This requires an
optimism and an idealism.
i have met many sci
graduates like that.
This year, the School ran a film festival. Originally, it was proposed that funding should
come from the School because it was part of a practicum. In the end, we decided that the
students should go out to raise funds. (We were giving them an opportunity to be passionate.)
And although it was additional work, raise funds they did.
Faculty in the School are also involved in projects that require Passion. Thanks to the Wee
Kim Wee Legacy Fund, we will increasingly be able to expose students to overseas experiences
uniquely available only to the best communication and information schools in the world. Such
exposure, however, requires time and energy from faculty. Again, there is Passion.
What Passion translates to is a belief that what you are doing is so worthwhile and important
that you are prepared to pay a price for it. This requires an optimism and an idealism.
We have met many of you who are like that.
Let’s hope we will meet more like you among the incoming group.
Ang Peng Hwa
It was an evening of fun, food and
friends, with a “guest appearance” by
the infamous Sweeney Todd thrown in
—who could ask for more?
Alumni members, Year 4 undergrads and
SCI staff were treated to a special screening
of the Oscar nominated movie, Sweeney
Todd, at Vivo City GV Max on February 15th.
While the infamous barber took star billing,
a pre-movie reception featuring garlic bread,
brownies, Swedish meatballs, satay and other
delectable finger foods played a winning
Old friends and new took the opportunity
to meet and catch up. Many who were drawn
to the critically-acclaimed movie nevertheless
appreciated the opportunity to mingle during
the pre-movie reception.
BY Ang Yiting,
ANd PhAY Sze Min
While Sweeney Todd
took star billing, the premovie
reception played a
winning supporting role.
Kelly Teo, from the 2002 cohort,
remarked, “The atmosphere is casual and
great. It allows interaction at one’s ease.”
Guests appeared to be enthusiastic
about continuing the idea of a movie
gathering. “Having gatherings like dinners
make the atmosphere more formal as
people are forced to interact, whereas at
this kind of movie screening, guests mingle
freely over the refreshments,” added Kelly,
to nods of agreement from her friends. C
Fun, food and friends were the main attraction.
Photos by Joanne Yan
Student FilMS tAke oFF to
SCI student films are travelling. Daphne Tan’s FYP film
Man with a Camera was selected to be shown at the
4th Singapore Short Film Festival from March 13th
to 17th. Along with Singapore Standard Time, the FYP by
Joycelyn Khoo, Lo Hwei Shan, Loo Pei Yi and Serene Ng,
both films also made the cut for the 1st Asian Berlin Film
Festival from January 16th to 23rd, as well as the Toronto
Singapore Film Festival from April 4th to 6th.
Another FYP documentary, Remorse, is set to enter a
film festival as well. The movie explores the entire process
of organ donation in the Philippines. Producer Shun Yi
and editor Lin Hui wanted to do an in-depth study on the
controversy surrounding organ donation.
From the outset, their team had decided to go beyond
the 24-minute limitations of an FYP to produce a detailed
feature that did justice to the complexity and controversy
surrounding the organ trade.
A knack for telling good
stories has earned these
humble student films a place
in international festivals.
The result is a short film about family relations and how
the protagonist deals with his mistakes. It was selected by a
panel of judges—including respected home-grown director
Jack Neo—as one of the top three films for Fables, a short
Filming a good movie is not an easy process and it was a
challenge for the FYP teams to think of new and interesting
stories that engage the audience and fit into a short time
frame. Filming overseas was even more challenging because
of language and cultural issues.
“Language was definitely the biggest problem,” revealed
Lin Hui, whose team discovered that the less educated
Filipinos could only converse in Tagalog. Thankfully, fellow
CS student, Anna, stepped in as the translator for the group
Liew Shixiong, the star of Remorse.
BY JAMeS ho
Other obstacles that young, independent filmmakers
often face are the lack of professional actors as well as
The budget for Remorse was “$40 for all the props and
everything”, revealed Chee Harn. “Other equipment such as
the camera was on loan from the school!”
Their documentary expenses came up to an astounding
$23,000, inclusive of three trips to the Philippines, lodging,
food and equipment. The “standard package” for all FYP
undertakings is $200.
Undaunted, the group saw this as part of the challenge.
In order to raise the funds, their FYP team canvassed for
sponsorships and even produced a recruitment video for the
Nanyang Business School.
To budding SCI filmmakers, Lin Hui and Shun Yi emphasise
the importance of perseverence and “having a lot of backup
plans”. Says Chee Harn encouragingly, “Keep trying and
learning how to tell good stories. These are essential traits of
Photo source: http://www.ntu.edu.sg/SCI/about/news.html
In an effort to raise funds for the
CI Club, student and business
manager Philip Lim, along with
fellow club members, decided to adopt
an idea suggested by Dr Mark Cenite
to set up a booth selling special items
donated by faculty members and
professors. The event not only proved
to be a success, it also managed to bring
students and staff together in a fun and
“This event aimed to raise funds for
the CI Club, in order for us to be able
to organise more and better events
for faculty and students,” said Philip.
“We were also hoping to foster facultystudent
Many interesting items were up
for auction, attracting the attention
of both students and professors alike.
This included a half bottle of whiskey
donated by Mr Andrew Duffy, a dinner
for two at Dr Detenber’s place, and even
a Canon camera worth $250 donated
by Dr Nikki Draper. No wonder the
response was so great that almost all
the items on sale and up for auction
were snapped up!
BY Chung Qing Yun
The funds collected will be channelled towards initiatives to serve the student
and faculty population, for instance the publication of student magazine Comma,
as well as student-faculty dialogue sessions and the invitation of famous media
personalities to NTU to interact with students.
The project was not all smooth sailing. The organising committee ran into a
few challenges such as the valuation of items and logistical problems. But they
soldiered on, and with their concerted effort, a significant amount of money was
raised towards a good cause.
“I would like to thank everyone who has supported this endeavour, including
CI Club members and the faculty, who generously supported us as well as the
students who came to patronise the booth,” said Philip. “It was their interest and
support that made this event a success.” C
Alumni of WKWSCI met and mingled by the Singapore River on March 6th
during their monthly gathering. Alumni, grad students, Year 4 students, Year
3 students on internship, faculty and staff are invited for a happy hour session
at Brewerkz every first Thursday of the month. Join us for a chat and a drink
or two! C
Faculty members donated both valuable and quirky items towards the auction.
Photo source: www.dbs.com.sg
Sci proF gueSt lectureS
In an EU-sponsored international
programme on Digital Library
Learning (DILL), Assoc Prof Abdus
Chaudhry gave lectures in Estonia on
Run by a consortium of three
universities, students in this unique
programme spent one semester in each
Partner University in Estonia (Tallinn
University), Norway (Oslo University),
and Italy (Parma University). They
could choose to spend the fourth
semester at either of the three partner
universities. Twenty students were
selected for the first batch from a pool
of 120 students from 14 countries.
The Information & Knowledge
Management Module offered at Tallinn
University was taught by four visiting
professors from USA (University of
Indiana), UK (Sheffield University),
Austria (Informatics Lab) and Singapore
(NTU). Estonia is a dynamic country
among the new member states of the
European Union. Despite its small
population of less than two million,
Estonia is well-known for its innovative
drive and cozy environment as well as
the artistic and scholarly contributions
of its inhabitants.
The location of the university
between Tallinn medieval old town
and the presidential palace, with its
adjoining museums and the classic
Kadriorg Park, offers a stimulating
and friendly environment for both
scholars and students. Dr Chaudhry
commented that the International
Programme in Digital Library Learning
(DILL) provided a good example for
starting a possible regional programme
by ASEAN universities in the area of
knowledge management in Asia.
Despite the small
population of Estonia,
it is well-known for its
artistic and scholarly
He observed that the international
group of students was very motivated
and enthusiastic about learning new
things. Professor Sirje Virkus, the
course leader at the University of
Tallinn, commented that the presence
of a selective group of international
students enriched the learning
environment and provided an excellent
opportunity for their students to learn
about different cultures and systems
Assoc Prof Abdus Chaudhry in the historic Medieval city.
A Russian Orthodox church in Tallinn.
BY ASSoCiAte ProfeSSor AbduS ChAudhrY
of education. DILL students considered
this as an outstanding opportunity of
exposure to three different education
systems and interaction with the
international faculty. C
Photos courtesy of dr Abdus Chaudhry
putting FAceS to tHe
Mr Patrick Soh is studying Internet usage among youths in Malaysia,
where up to 90% of urban youths have access to the Internet.
Whether we like it or not, “Internet is the way of
life for the future,” observed Mr Patrick Soh,
a visiting scholar from the Singapore Internet
Research Centre (SiRC). Indeed, according to surveys in the
US, Europe and Singapore, more than 90% of youths have
embraced the Internet. Likewise in Malaysia, up to 90% of
urban youths have access to the Internet.
The research project Mr Soh is currently undertaking
involves the relationship between Internet usage and youth
dependency in Malaysia. Such studies have been carried
out in the West but not as comprehensively in Malaysia.
Mr Soh’s research attempts to understand the motives of
young people using the Internet, their usage patterns and
their dependency on it.
BY PhAY Sze Min
Today the Internet allows communication unimaginable
just a few years ago. However, Mr Soh believes that Windows
Live Chat, Youtube, Facebook and other social networking
sites are just the beginning, and that the full effect of these
social changes have yet to be realised. The recent celebrity
photo scandal in Hong Kong does not only demonstrate the
powerful impact of Internet, but also how invasive it can be
in our private lives.
“youtube, Facebook and other
social networking sites are just
the beginning of the impact of the
Internet in all our lives.”
When asked to predict what will be important in the next
few years, Mr Soh said, “I think there will be information
overload and more personal filters such that we can get
personalised news for individuals. Viral communication and
‘trustworthy’ sources may become paramount. Governments
will find it harder and harder to censor news or to shape
Mr Soh is thankful to SiRC and NTU for the opportunity
to learn from the NTU research community.
“It is the experts and professors that drive the best
research, not just the resources or facilities. And NTU has
many of these great people!” he enthused. “I do hope that
NTU students appreciate them—people like Professor Eddie
Kuo, Ang Peng Hwa and Marko to name a few. Learn all you
can from them!” C
98 SCI students enrolled in the first year
93 SCI students enrolled today
0 hours that Chronicle editors stay awake at a stretch on publication days
1:3. Current ratio of male vs female undergrads in SCI
Mrs Angeline Sim, Manager of Student
Affairs, still takes time to smell the roses.
When a student’s father passed
away recently, Mrs Angeline
Sim’s heartware kicked into
overdrive—she helped to coordinate
a school-wide donation drive that saw
over $4,000 being collected within
three days. The student’s father had
been the sole breadwinner of the family.
It is this mix of empathy and
practicality that makes Mrs Sim
Ms Nithiyah hanging out with one of her
favourite people—her nephew.
When Ms Nithiyah d/o
Muthukrishnan went out
of her way to assist a tourist
to his destination, “he thanked me with
such genuine gratitude” that it stirred
something in her. “That was when I
realised that helping others fulfilled me on
a deep level. It just felt right!” she quipped.
invaluable as Manager of Student Affairs
at WKWSCI. This is a role that requires
her to work closely with both faculty
and students on several key areas.
And if students get to know her
well during admissions and through
their professional internship, final
year projects, student exchange
programmes, and ad-hoc undergrad
publicity events, it is because Mrs
Sim is actively involved in all four
years of an SCI undergraduate’s life!
Where does she get her job
motivation? From the simple, heartfelt
“thank you” e-mails and cards
she receives from students and staff
Helping otHerS iS
So when Ms Nithiyah joined NTU
as Executive Officer, Secretary to HOD,
Division of Information Studies, it turned
out to be an ideal “customer service” job.
She is impressed by the different
types of courses offered in NTU and how
students are encouraged to test their
mettle with value-added assignments
and global experiences. Learning the
workings and intricacies of NTU equips
her to handle students’ queries and
assist lecturers, she added.
Previously working at Zhenghua
Community Club (CC) as part of
the People’s Association, Nithiyah
marketed CC courses, activities and
who acknowledge her commitment. So
precious is this affirmative feedback
that she keeps the mail in a separate
folder and re-reads them from time to
time to spur herself on.
Of the many people she works with,
she said, “The staff here at WKWSCI
are very open-minded and warm. They
accord everyone a great deal of respect
and flexibility and give credit when
it is due. The students are a creative,
responsible and spontaneous lot—I
enjoy interacting with them. Overall, I
am blessed to work in such a collegial
school and I hope to build on this
facilities to the public.
She answered customer queries by
phone and e-mail, as well as handled
Her move to NTU was a challenge
to herself to learn more and hopefully
optimise her full potential.
When asked what part of the job
gives her the greatest satisfaction, Ms
Nithiyah replied, “The answer lies in the
question itself: ‘JOB’. The job gives me
the greatest satisfaction for one reason—
it reflects who I am. My job is something
that I wake up every morning to go to. We
spend almost 10 hours working—can we
do it if there’s no satisfaction in it?” C
Joining tHe wAr AgAinSt
cyber cr Me …
Between 2001 and 2006, there where 124 reported
cases of females in Singapore who fell victim to sex
crimes after meeting their abusers online, out of
which about 80 cases involved victims under 16.
Twenty years ago, this would not have happened. Then,
cyber crime was virtually unheard of; today it is impossible
This is why Assoc Prof Dr Alfred Choi believes in
the importance of making policymakers and the public,
particularly young people, aware of cyber safety.
“Results show that efforts to educate the young on cyber
safety are taking off, but just a few cases of cyber crime
will see a lot of people hurt,” noted Dr Choi, who is also
chairman of the National Committee on Youth Guidance and
His recent study revealed these findings: Over 50% of
youths say they chat with strangers more than 10 times a
month, 30% out of the 50% chat with strangers an astounding
30 times a month or more.
There is good news, however: More than 70% say they
do not give their contact numbers, addresses or talk about
their problems to strangers online, which shows that youths
today, though seemingly casual about befriending strangers
online, still practise some discretion.
“But the law is only one side of the equation; the best
deterrent against potential negative effects of the Internet
is to inculcate in our youth the right values, ethics and best
Internet practices,” observed Dr Choi, who is involved in the
launch of a pilot cyber wellness mentoring programme at
NorthLight School later this year. C
Sci’S role in new MediA booM
BY Liu ting ting
New Media, identified as an industry of promising growth for Singapore, has been attached with great importance in
recent years. Consequently an Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society (AIMS) has been set up to seize
the opportunities and meet the challenges of the New Media landscape.
As more and more of us embrace New Media, the issue is not just an academic one. WKWSCI Chair dr Ang Peng Hwa is in
the AIMS Working Group, which is due to produce its first report soon. The council was set up by the Ministry of Information,
Communications and the Arts (MICA) to study and advise the government on long-term social, ethical, legal and regulatory
implications of New Media.
“For Singapore, we see New Media as an important area to get into. So we’re putting resources into getting people to use
it and developing new products and services for New Media to see how we can be efficient in running the country,” said dr
Ang, who is dedicated to researching media law and policy, with a special emphasis on the Internet.
In his role of helping the committee carry out its inaugural report on Law and Policy, dr Ang has visited China, Japan,
Korea and Australia in order to exchange views with other researchers and potential partners.
On his fascination with the Internet, he said, “The Internet is like a platform where people can put up things and talk about
things. I would not say it’s value-neutral, but it is most influenced by how people use it. It’s used for many purposes ranging
from serious to leisure. ”
That said, dr Ang—a former newspaper journalist—still believes in the role that traditional media plays in our lives.
However, he points out that traditional media needs to adapt, especially in its revenue and advertising models. C
Photo source: www.cbsnnews.com.
… And cHildHood MyopiA BY Ang Yi ting
Primary school children with spectacles perched on top
of their tiny noses—this common sight struck Dr May
Lwin, who was inspired to begin research on myopia,
with a focus on communications to the public.
Singapore has one of the highest rates of myopia in the
world, with 25% of seven year olds, 33% of nine year olds and
50% of 12 year olds struck by it. This pattern of increasing
severity and its early onset has made myopia a growing public
health concern in Singapore.
The typical rate of decline in a primary school child is 100
degrees every year. Subsequently, by secondary school, the
child would be a candidate for acute myopia of more than
500 degrees. Early onset of myopia also leads to greater
risks of associated complications such as glaucoma, retinal
detachment and macular degeneration.
Along with Dr Saw Seang-Mei from the Yong Loo Lin
School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Dr
Lwin embarked on research that attempts to understand
how best to utilise health communications to enhance eye
By understanding human attitudes and behaviour, Dr
Lwin hopes to encourage more effective design of promotional
communication campaigns on battling childhood myopia.
As myopia is not perceived to be life-threatening, it is a
challenge for campaigns to find trigger points which prompt
the public to have regular eye check-ups. Another challenge
is to help reduce barriers such as high costs.
Dr Lwin has observed that there are now more proactive
health policies to combat childhood myopia in Singapore.
For instance, primary school children are now able to have
their eyes tested free, reducing the barrier of high costs and
facilitating the opportunity of eye check-ups for every child.
“Of course in the long term, we hope to help prevent
eye-related diseases, not only in kids, but also in the older
population,” she added.
As to the question of why Singapore has one of the
highest rates of myopia in the world, she mused, “It’s a
very hard balance —parents want their children to do well
in school so they may think: ‘Wearing spectacles shows
that the child is very studious; that’s not too bad, right?’
It’s a culture factor at times. That’s also what makes the
research very interesting.” C
Photo source: www.smh.com.au
FACE OF COMMU
IT Has beeN dubbed aN arT. buT IN our wIred
NoTHINg If NoT a scIeNce. we looK aT How
commuNIcaTIoN Have TraNsformed THe
Have we lost the art of communication, or has it just been revolutionised? We look
at the true significance of communication: its purpose of building meaningful and
timeless relationships generation after generation.
Childish game, or important historiCal reCord?
Ring a-ring o’roses,
A pocketful of posies.
We all fall down.
Circa 1665—George Vicars was a modest man in Derbyshire, England, who worked tirelessly
as a tailor. He never expected that the day he ordered a bundle of cloth from London, he also
ordered a roll of death to his village of Eyam. A deadly disease arrived with the flea-infested
bundle of cloth, and within a week, George was dead from plague. The plague spread quickly,
a horrifying monster that left a permanent stench of death in the village. No attempts at
folk medicine could stop the sneezing, the red rings that appeared around the private parts
of a person, the painful, blackening limbs and finally… death.
Historians believe the lively and light-hearted child’s rhyme Ring A-Ring o’ Roses was
actually born from this tragic period of English history. Others believe that the rhyme also
referred to the bubonic plague that ravaged the city of London 1665. Symptoms of the ratborne
plague included sneezing and a rosy rash that appeared on the victim’s body.
People filled their pockets and pouches with strong-smelling herbs and a posy of
flowers to ward off the disease and the stench of rotting flesh. We all fall down—by the
time the Great Fire blazed through London, finally eradicating the disease, more than a
world, commuNIcaTIoN Is
dIffereNT modes of
way we socIalIse.
by Thaddaeus Wee, James ho, Giresh PrabhaT,
Kerrie Li, racheL Tan, Goh Ji-en AND FerGie aLWyn
fifth of the population had perished.
This and many other nursery rhymes have been discovered
to have historical origins. In an age when the printing press had
just been discovered and the printed word was not yet available
to the average illiterate person, nursery rhymes were often
used to parody royal and political events; some even contained
subversive messages hidden in sing-song couplets.
It was an era of brilliant minds, political satirists and
playwrights who contributed enduring works to mankind;
but, as we see in nursery rhymes, even the common illiterate
farmer, tailor or salaryman had an important role to play in
communicating and passing down history.
Word of mouth—a vital form of communication since
time immemorial—was to hold sway for another two
hundred years before the written word asserted itself among
the common man.
a vivid glimpse of life past
Like nursery rhymes, folk stories passed down through
word of mouth give us an important historical record and a
glimpse of a way of life long gone.
Without the benefit of the printed word, parents would
groits were African storytellers
whose job included memorising the
genealogy of every family in their
village, going back centuries.
They were the historians of their
time and, through them, storytelling
became an art and a teaching tool.
sit their children on their laps and instead of reading bedtime
stories such as Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast, they would
recount colourful stories based on personal encounters
or ancestral history. The same stories would be told and
retold to many future generations, forming the basis of each
culture’s rich history.
Indeed storytelling was such an important form of
communication that every ancient civilisation revered its
storytellers. Groits, for instance, were African storytellers
whose job included memorising the genealogy of every
family in their village, going back centuries. They were the
historians of their time and, through them, storytelling
became an art and a teaching tool used to convey ideals,
morals and cultural values from one generation to the next.
In the period of black slavery in America, storytelling
and oral tradition took on even greater significance. The
more slave owners tried to suppress their slaves’ heritage
by forbidding them to speak their own language and
forcing them to speak English, the more the slaves staged
quiet revolutions around African stories and songs—some
communicating desperation and exile, others expressing
love, joy and even hope.
The oral tradition of African-Americans is most clearly
illustrated in Toni Morrison’s 1987 Pulitzer Prize-winning
novel, Beloved. The poignant story is spun around Margaret
Garner, a slave who murders her own daughter to keep her
from slavery. Told through the eyes of the slaves, the story
is related in the vernacular of African-Americans, with a
haunting epilogue that reiterates, “This is not a story to
In modern times, when communication has shifted away
from our roots of oral tradition, much of our rich and ancient
culture has passed into oblivion, literally buried under the
weight of technology.
“This is not a story to pass on” (Beloved)—Toni Morrison
reminds us that even with the sophisticated communication
systems we have today, there is always a need to look back at,
and hold on to, our roots even as we write our own history by
setting down new ones.
THE PRINTED WORD
A bOOk fOR EvERY cHID
The advent of writing heralded the dawn of history. It was
writing that gave events in history form and shape, allowing
us to set down factual, as well as perceived, events. As
Winston Churchill wryly observed, “History will be kind to
me, for I intend to write it.”
In so saying, Churchill put in perspective the controversial
fact that history is often written by the victors. In winning
the battle, they also won the opportunity, if not the right, to
present their side of the story.
A double-edged sword, writing has been used not only
to record history, but to manipulate it as well. In fact, the
earliest writing from ancient Egypt was found to be used for
subversive political purposes.
Nevertheless, without the written word, much of history
would have gone unrecorded. And, provided the account
is unbiased, the degree of accuracy is greater than that in
oral tradition, which is infamously akin to playing a game
of Chinese Whispers where messages often get distorted or
even completely lost.
From Stone Age cave markings to the papyrus writings
of the Egyptians, from the first book by the Chinese to
the German Gutenberg press almost five centuries later,
humankind created modes of communication to keep pace
with their social sophistication.
The arrival of the postal service, allowing messages to be
carried across long distances, allowed communication—even
among strangers—to become commonplace. And the rise of
publishing put a book in the hand of every child, making
knowledge truly egalitarian.
PHONOGRAPH & RADIO
THE RISE Of cOMMUNIcATION TEcHNOLOGY
Despite the growing and commonplace use of books and
periodicals, oral communication did not die. It simply evolved.
The term “broadcasting” itself came
from an agricultural term, meaning
“scattering seeds”. From that point
on, messages no longer had to
be personally passed from one to
another; it became a one-to-many
affair, like the scattering of seeds.
The 19th Century saw the rise of technologies and new
inventions like the photograph, phonograph, telegraph and
radio. Such communication technologies were initially met
with fear and apprehension. Thomas Edison proclaimed that
his recording machine would “annihilate time and space, and
bottle up for posterity the mere utterance of man”. Suddenly
people could see the images and hear the voices of other
people not present or no longer living. These technologies
allowed communication to transcend time and space and
Few people know the significance of the logo of popular
music store HMV—a terrier with its ears cocked to a
gramophone. HMV is an abbreviation for “His Master’s
Voice”. The famous image comes from a painting of the same
name by painter Francis Barraud. In the painting, Nipper
the dog is confused by the sound of his late master’s voice
emanating from the trumpet while perched on top of the
While the invention of recording devices immortalised oral
communication, the invention of the radio saw the beginnings
of what is now known as “mass communication”.
Photo source: lambert, Hulton archive , getty Images
On Christmas Eve, 1906, Reginald
Fessenden, from Massachusetts, used a
synchronous rotary-spark transmitter
for the first radio broadcast. Ships at
sea heard a broadcast that included
Fessenden playing O Holy Night on the
violin and reading a passage from the
Bible. It shocked the sailors who, up
to that point, had only used the radio
to communicate with other ships.
The term “broadcasting” itself came
from an agricultural term, meaning
“scattering seeds”. From that point on,
messages no longer had to be personally
passed from one to another; it became
a one-to-many affair, like the scattering
The rise of communication
technology saw a turning point in
forerunner of the sms
“Mr Watson—come here—I want to
see you.” These were the first words
spoken via the telephone, by inventor
Alexander Graham Bell to his assistant,
Thomas Watson, in March 1876.
Nowadays, the most widely used
communication tool is the phone —both
land line and mobile. It is the epitome
of telecommunications, which means
“ when ethan was 11 or 12, he
got a suit and a briefcase
and we went to the
minneapolis International airport with
a super 8 camera and made a movie,”
relates Joel coen, multiple oscar
award winning director of No Country
for Old Men of his brother ethan.
while ethan coen laboured with
8mm film cartridges to shoot his
movie in the ‘60s, filmmakers today
have an easier time shooting with
cheap, portable video camcorders.
The rise of digital technology has
been the biggest breakthrough for
the movie-making industry. one of the
major changes it’s brought, according
to scI lecturer Nicole draper, is the
introduction of non-linear editing
systems which have “revolutionised
the way people work in the industry”.
ms draper contrasts this ease of
editing with the literally gargantuan,
uphill work of the past: “when I started,
film was this big steenback flatbed.
you had to take your audio, which was
recorded on a nagra that you carried.
so all these cost and materials and the
editing system were so cumbersome
and specialised, that it really limited
where and how you could work.”
Non-linear editing systems have
your average mic.
Apple, one of the fruits
of the digital revolution.
made editing much more flexible
in terms of costs and mobility. Highdefinition
cameras are affordable
for budding filmmakers who cannot
afford to hire a 35mm camera and
crew. The convenience of the new
editing systems has allowed anyone
and everyone to become his or her
ms draper also waxes lyrical
about the continued improvements
in video quality. “The more portable,
the lighter, and the better quality the
cameras get, the more filmmakers can
do, with less.”
accessibility due to low costs and
increased convenience means that
more directors can step into the fore
with their independent, low-budget
films. add the distributive power of
the Internet, and you have the perfect
equation to broadcast yourself— just
look at youtube!
Instead of relying on bulky
and specialised editing machines,
filmmakers can now edit with powerful
software, such as final-cut Pro and
avid. as ms draper succinctly puts it,
“right now, I can edit on this laptop”.
The digital revolution has so
liberated film editing that now,
perhaps the only place one can find a
venerable steenbeck flatbed editor is
in a film archive.
“I’m not kidding, the steenbeck was
the size of my desk!” quips ms draper.
Now when it comes to hardware,
size does not matter. C
A blast from the past—the
Steenbeck flatbed editor.
“communicating from a distance”.
Before the Industrial Revolution,
telecommunications took place at snail’s
pace—how quickly a letter arrived in the
hands of the recipient depended on the
speed of the physical transportation used
to transmit it. Letters from Stamford
Raffles in England would take at least
three months to reach Farquhar stuck
in the backwaters of Temasek—oh, how
cold the heart could grow!
The telegraph, used to transmit
telegrams, was developed and patented
in the United States in 1837 by Samuel
Morse. Using Morse code, telegrams
were charged according to how many
characters the message contained. So
to save costs, a msg wld proly luk lyk tis.
(They may not have known it then,
but these users were probably the
forerunners of SMS-mad Singaporeans.)
With the high costs involved, though, it
was only popular among the affluent.
The increasing popularity of the
telephone saw mass communication
take on epic proportions. By the 1980s,
people became increasingly mobile;
consequently, a Motorola researcher
and executive is widely considered to
be the inventor of the first practical
mobile phone for handheld use in a nonvehicle
setting. Using a somewhat heavy
portable handset, Cooper made the first
call on a handheld mobile phone on April
3rd, 1973. The first commercial citywide
cellular network was launched in Japan
The subsequent advent of Short
Messaging Service, or SMS, has
changed our lives forever. It became
the messenger that could not be
shot, no matter how unwelcome the
message. Rightly or wrongly, SMS
is now even used by bosses to fire
their employees and by spouses to
end marriages. Are there benefits?
Indoubtedly! The photo of a fugitive
on the run, for instance, can be sent
to all mobile phone subscribers.
It is a remarkable use of mass
communication in social service (that
is, unless you are the fugitive).
But there are consequences to
such mass communications at our
fingertips. With messages getting
more abbreviated and transmissions
becoming more “faceless”, have we lost
the art of communication?
movies were a powerful medium
of communication in the 20th
century—but what continues
to make them vital today?
scI lecturer Nicole draper believes
that film and television have kept their
place as a distinctive medium because
they provide a “more immersive kind
of experience” than books. The visuals
allow you “to actually see stories play
out in front of you”.
It is this immersive social experience
operating in the “faCeless”
world of the internet
As humankind continues to evolve,
so does communication. With the
development of the Internet in the mid-
1970s, the speed of communication has
been exponentially increased, and our
social interactions have transformed
to keep pace. First, there was the
introduction of Electronic Mail (e-mail).
Then came online chatrooms, online
SMS, popular social networking sites
such as Facebook and Friendster, and
much more. We no longer have to leave
messages on phones, or coordinate
different time zones across the world.
Communication has evolved to a stage
where it can now be carried out over
time and space, as and when and where
The benefits are obvious. But
what are the implications? Are we
controlling the pace of change or is
it controlling us? Inevitably, there
continued on page 18
that makes documentary films a
powerful tool with the potential to jolt
people into action and advocacy.
audiences crave “something new
and interesting, something that they
haven’t thought about or seen before”,
observes ms draper.
The movie, 15, for instance, which
was produced by singaporean
filmmaker royston Tan, is a gritty film
depicting the harshness of teenage
SMS is the messenger
that cannot be shot,
no matter how
“what is fascinating about 15 is that
it shows us something that we, in the
west for instance, just assumed didn’t
so are singaporean filmmakers
up to the challenge of making and
marketing home-grown content to an
ms draper believes it is possible, but
with one caveat: “you have to be willing
to keep at it, keep practising, keep
making films”. C
Have you been poked yet?
I’m sure that you, savvy scI alumni, have already been educated
on the virtues of facebook, and may even have fallen under
its potent spell of scrabulous and mahjong and superpoke. but if by
some remote chance you haven’t, it’s time to jump on the bandwagon.
There is a valid reason for the appeal of facebook; witness the
numerous scI facebook groups that are buzzing hotbeds of information,
social interaction and even sources of job opportunities. skeptics may scoff
that it’s just a waste of time, but the truth is that such groups are the virtual
equivalent of bumping into old friends.
samantha santa maria, from the class of 1997, initiated the group “NTu
school of communication studies alumni” whose members number 85. The
highlight of her experiences since setting up this group was a meet-up she
attended in New york late last year that she said could not have been possible
“It was a lovely weekend spent catching up with people I hadn’t seen since
graduation. we posted photos of our get-together on the facebook group soon
after,” gushed samantha, who lives in Houston, Texas.
sally wuu, a year 2000 graduate, is the founder of another alumni group, “NTu
comm studies”, with a current count of 135 members.
“I’m currently stationed in shanghai and it’s a really great way to keep in touch
with my friends in singapore and even track them all over the globe,” enthused
sally. “I discovered that one NTu friend I have is in sweden studying yet another
doctorate in linguistics!”
when asked why someone should join an NTu facebook group, samantha
said, “To keep in contact. anyone in the media industry will tell you, it’s who you
know that will help you make that next move, wherever that may be.”
lecturer Nikki draper, the initiator of yet another scI group, “The NTuwKwscI
exchange students’ group”, set it up with a slightly different agenda in mind.
“I wanted a way to keep in touch with the exchange students while they were
overseas,” she said. “There are some students who might be at a particular school
together, but the vast majority of students are often the only person from scI
where they’re now located.”
she also pointed out the great potential of these groups, and how it could be
beneficial for all involved. “In the broader context it also can be a sort of mentorship,
in terms of helping current students to see and understand how other people
have… what other people have done once they left school, what are the kind of
things they might be grappling with in terms of career and career choices.”
The most popular scI group is “NTu school of communication and
Information”. with 620 members, it is the largest of all NTu-related groups.
The fact that something as cold as technology can be the means towards
warm fuzzy feelings is an oddly remarkable feat.
There may be old NTu friends waiting to get in touch with you again. If all it
takes is logging on, filling in the appropriate fields and clicking the right buttons,
why not? C
is some controversy. Detractors say
the pace of our highly wired life has
encouraged multi-tasking, which
has in turn led to a life of harried
frenzy. We constantly feel the need to
check our inbox or the latest Youtube
posting. Our lives revolve around
these communication technologies,
How the Internet
defines you ultimately
depends on how much
meaning you invest in it.
This growing obsession could turn
us into sufferers of what the March
issue of Reader’s Digest terms “pseudoattention
deficit disorder”. Trained by
endless hours of web surfing, our minds
are constantly on the lookout for “brief
hits of excitement”. We hardly pause to
linger before we move on to the next
potentially exciting distraction. When
this attention deficit translates to
other areas of our lives, it may make us
ineffective listeners and lazy thinkers
by Thaddaeus Wee
who binge on instant gratification. We
would soon lose our ability to focus and
pay attention, important elements that
make social interaction so unique and
In contrast to the era of oral
tradition, when communication
inherently included the concept of a
community living together and sharing
the same moral and cultural values,
the Internet has turned the idea of
“community” on its head.
Now we have “virtual communities”—
we no longer share a history or a physical
space. The world in which we exist may
not technically even exist! Take for
instance the popular virtual world of
Second Life, where global participants
have simulated relationships, activities
and jobs, read virtual newspapers
and invest in virtual stocks. More
significantly, people are free to join, or
leave, virtual communities as they wish.
It may be that while the breadth of our
relationships and communications has
increased, the depth of each relationship
has been compromised.
Social networking portals such as
Facebook, Friendster and Myspace
allow people to update their
profiles by sharing their
photos, videos and
essentially their lives
with friends and
ask: How many of
these people on
your friends list
are people you’d
really consider as
a friend in your
offline life? Is it
really possible to
have 1,269 “friends”?
Facebook may say that
you have 1,269 friends, but
the truth is, friends aren’t just
a static number on a web page.
We often forget that friendship
takes more effort to maintain than
merely updating our profiles. Even
worse, some have turned these tools
into a numbers game and a popularity
contest, begging the question: Do
communication systems started off as smoke signals, evolved into semaphore,
then electrical telecommunication, and finally to the wireless networks with
which we are now familiar.
so what exactly has the digital revolution changed? It brought about the
great paradigm shift from analog to digital communication. It has epitomised
humankind’s ability to communicate with one another over long distances, instantly
as “prophet” of the electronic age marshall mcluhan famously pronounced,
“The medium is the message.” The digital revolution has affected our ways of
thinking, promoted non-linear thinking, and even adding new vocabulary to our
but as spiderman wryly puts it, “with great power comes great responsibility.”
The boon of the digital revolution can also be our bane. besides the ethical concerns
of privacy (think HK-star edison chen), the greatest danger we must be wary of is
Technology might cost a pittance to the average man today, but let us not
forget the fact that technology still costs, and below that “average” score, lies
you actually exist if you don’t have a
This is taking the question too far, of
course. Undoubtedly, the social benefits
the other half of the population. The
convenience and power granted by the
digital revolution has yet to be made
available to all, and those without it are
Those in the upper echelons of
social power are often so inundated
with communication technology,
that they frequently forget about the
existence of those who live without
these devices. Hence, the growing
we must remember our social
responsibility to not just use technology
to better our own lives, but also to
improve the lives of those who are
still struggling. Ironically, the digital
of the Internet are many. Networking,
information sharing and keeping in
touch with people across the globe
are excellent reasons to harness the
Internet. How the Internet defines you
depends on how much meaning you
invest in it. If it is merely a vessel for
“collecting” friends like amassing
Hello Kitty collectibles, then
its value becomes somewhat
changed our meaning?
of Technology Professor,
Sherry Turkle (2004)
indirectly asks this question
when she states, “The tools we
use to think change the ways in which
Let’s face it. The march of evolution
—social, technological, or otherwise—
is not about to be stopped. The Internet
has become an irrevocable part of our
lives, and we say, “If you can’t beat ’em,
join ’em—or rather, poke ’em.” C
revolution is as much the creator of the
digital divide as its solution.
The existence of initiatives such
as “one laptop Per child” (olPc) is
our moral imperative. This initiative
by seymour Papert, a massachusetts
Institute of Technology professor,
allows anyone around the globe to
make a donation (through what else
but the Internet) towards a fund for
buying laptops for children in lessdeveloped
so before you fire off your next
sms, don’t just count your blessings
for technology; consider how we
can collectively tear down the digital
HOW IS THE
cHANGE IN THE
NExT 5 YEARS?
“There will be a counter-revolution
against always-on, omnipresent
media. More and more people will
realise that their infocomm-rich
lives have left them time-poor, and
that time is their most scarce and
most precious resource. They will
try to reclaim time by turning off
– Asst Prof Cherian George
“People always ask if the law can
keep up with new communication
technologies. In most cases, the
answer is: Yes, we can rely on the
lawyers and lawmakers to quickly
extend intellectual property law,
defamation law and censorship to
new media. I wish the technology
worked as reliably as the lawyers.”
– Asst Prof Mark Cenite
“The fundamental and most
important factor in communication
is the content (and) who we
are communicating with. E-mail
and instant messaging are not
much different from the way we
communicate with our friends and
– Asst Prof Younbo Jung
“Among the older generation
communication won’t change, but
the newer generation is likely to
evolve new and complicated forms of
codes (SMS/electronic). But I hope
that people will realise that e-mail
and SMS-ing is an unsatisfactory
means of communication and will
revert to voice and face-to-face
– Mr Andrew Duffy
GIVING BACK TO SOCIETY
Mode of transport: Electric Scooter
Battery Life: 4 - 7 KM (depends on the mode: turbo / economic)
Top Speed: 30 KM/H
Carbon Emissions: 0
How it works: Step on it, put pedal to the metal and off you go!
Dr YEOH KOK CHEOW, AssistAnt PrOfEssOr,
DivisiOn Of PubliC AnD PrOmOtiOnAl
trAnsPOrt Of CHOiCE: ElECtriC sCOOtEr
“We live in a designed world; I believe we can design the
environment too with a little effort from every single one of us,”
says Dr KC Yeoh. Dr Yeoh bought an electric scooter after seeing
a colleague ride one at the School of Art, Design and Media. It
was love at first sight for its huge cool factor. Tired of waiting
for the “always-full” shuttle buses from Nanyang Heights, he
decided to get a scooter and the rest is history.
“Sometimes to me, the whole environment thing seems
like a sham—I still need electricity to charge the battery!”
says Dr Yeoh with his trademark grin. “But I have a clear
conscience; I feel good contributing to the environment.
As consumers, we just try to minimise the usage of something
big, chunky, expensive and wasteful.This is really one of the
best things I’ve done for myself. I believe in setting examples,
so I guess this is one way of showing what I believe in wholeheartedly.
And I must say the scooter is money well spent!”
BY Ng Peiru
ArE GIVING NEW
mEANING TO ThE TErm
Green is the new black. It’s smart, it’s cool and it’s
in. Little wonder then that our own professors have
taken to saving Gaia. Instead of driving gas guzzlers,
these “green commuter” profs are giving thought to
their mode of transport, in the process saving money
and enjoying their journey!
photo by Joanne Yan
Mode of transport: Electric Bicycle (Pedal-assist)
Price: S$1,200 - $1500
Battery Life: 10 - 15 KM (reduces the most while going uphill)
Top Speed: 20 KM/H
Carbon Emissions: 0
How it works: Pedal as you would a normal bike; the battery
assists you when going uphill.
Mode of transport: None; he walks
Battery Life: Depends on your stamina
Top Speed: Depends on your fitness
Carbon Emissions: 0
How it works: Just pump those legs!
photo by Joanne Yan
photo by KC Yeoh
Dr bEnJAmin Hill DEtEnbEr, DivisiOn HEAD,
DivisiOn Of COmmuniCAtiOn rEsEArCH
trAnsPOrt Of CHOiCE: HOnDA CiviC HYbriD
Dr brADlEY frEEmAn, AssistAnt PrOfEssOr,
DivisiOn Of ElECtrOniC AnD brOADCAst mEDiA
trAnsPOrt Of CHOiCE: ElECtriC biCYClE (PEDAl-Assist)
Interested in killing three birds with one stone? That’s exactly what Dr
Benjamin Hill Detenber does with his Hybrid—he travels in comfort, does his
part for the environment and saves money. Dr Detenber reckons he saves up
to 50% on gas mileage (as compared with his previous Nissan Cefiro) and on
road tax (because of the smaller engine). Interested in being more eco-friendly
and saving costs, Dr Detenber decided to switch to the Hybrid—winner of the
2006 World Green Car Award. “We go to the gas station less frequently and
spend much less each time we do,” explains Dr Detenber. “It’s actually quite
peppy! That is, it has good acceleration due to the electric motor.” Does he
have aspirations to become a green ambassador? No, as he doesn’t believe it
is his role to convince others to be more eco-friendly—“they need to come to
that realisation themselves. I am just happy to share some facts and talk about
our positive experience!” C
GIVING BACK TO SOCIETY
Environmental awareness kicked in at graduate school for Dr Bradley
Freeman. The influence of “green” friends and the sobering realisation that a
sick environment has a toxic effect on humans, spurred him on to take some
concrete action. “It was a slow process, learning from friends. Soon I naturally
adopted some of their practices as my own,” he says. “Am I perfect? No. But I try.”
Of his transport of choice, he says, “The convenience
of being able to zip to office and zip back home in about
five minutes each trip is the best gift that the electric bike
has given me.” Seeing a bus go by when it is full, being
“smothered with all kinds of things behind the bus and the
taste of carbon monoxide on my tongue” are pet peeves that
Dr Freeman won’t have to worry about anymore.
Dr AbDus sAttAr CHAuDHrY, DivisiOn HEAD,
DivisiOn Of infOrmAtiOn stuDiEs
trAnsPOrt Of CHOiCE: “KA mOtOr” (‘KA” is “lEg” in CHinEsE DiAlECt)
Dr Abdus Sattar Chaudhry had been using leg power long before it became
fashionable to go green. “I started walking as a hobby 30 years ago,” says Dr
Chaudhry. “It has been helpful in maintaining good health.”
It’s also the journey he enjoys as he meets colleagues from other schools along
the way. “I like talking to people. I was able to make a couple of good friends
by walking together,” he says. “Discussions with them were quite educational for
me because of their different perspectives on issues like culture.” Bad weather
sometimes forces Dr Chaudhry to take the bus in the morning. However, he never
fails to walk back home in the evenings and tries to encourage others to walk
with him. “I try to take other colleagues and friends on walks with me,” he says.
“I mention to them that walking is more enjoyable when you have company. It
becomes a social activity as well as exercise.”
Mode of transport: Honda Civic Hybrid
Price: S$69,000 (price provided by Kah Motor)
COE Rebate: $13,000
Road Tax: $347 (6 months)
Top Speed: Similar to cars of the same cc
Carbon Emissions: 50% reduced
How it works: Drive with a legal licence
photography by Joanne Yan
GIVING BACK TO SOCIETY
A lACK Of rECOGNITION
fOr dISABlEd AThlETES
BECAmE ThE drIVING
fOrCE BEhINd A
Why Not. CAmpAIGN.
WHY NOT. This in-your-face challenge is actually
the name of the Final Year Project (FYP) chosen
to represent WKWSCI at the next Effie Awards.
The FYP was designed to address the lack of recognition
for athletes with disabilities.
“We used a full stop in the name because we are not asking
a question on whether such a task is possible, but making a
statement that athletes with disabilities are strong and are
kicking some ass,” quipped Komathi A L E, a member of the
FYP group supervised by Dr Arul Chib.
Calling themselves TeamABLE, the group was united by
their common love of sports as well as the strong sentiment
that something needed to be done to get athletes with
disabilities recognised by the public.
Since the 1980s, athletes with physical or mental
disabilities ranging in age from 15 to 50 have been backed
by the Singapore Disability Sports Council. But not many
other people know of either their challenges or their
Why Not. sought to change this with its two-part
campaign—firstly, the Why Not. Challenge, a friendly
competition held on January 5th combining abled and
disabled athletes from various tertiary institutions, and
secondly, the sending off of the disabled athletes to compete
in the 4th ASEAN Para Games held in Thailand.
The prospects of insufficient sponsorship and the
logistical challenge of establishing a level playing field for
BY ChristiNa lim
TeamABLE: (from left) Hoe Heng Howe, Komathi A L E, Lee Jia Yan
Athletes enjoying themseves at the Why Not. Challenge
both able-bodied and disabled athletes proved to be no
deterrent to the team.
“The athletes with diabilities were simply a joy to be
with. The able-bodied athletes were also forthcoming and
encouraging when interacting and participating in activities
with them,” observed Komathi. “We could see the gap being
bridged simply as a result of doing things together.”
In a moment of inspiration, TeamABLE also gathered
encouraging messages from the public to present to the
athletes at their send-off to the ASEAN Para Games on
January 16th at Changi Airport. The athletes were pleasantly
surprised that they had so much public support, and it helped
boost their confidence and bring huge smiles to their faces.
Did TeamABLE play a part in helping Team Singapore’s
eight teams bring home seven gold, eight silver and four bronze
medals from the ASEAN Para Games? We like to think so. C
photo source: www.channelnewsasia.com
1,000 YOuThS plEdGEd TO rEduCE ThEIr uSE
Of plASTIC fOr AIlING mOThEr EArTh.
Three girls with one plan to do their bit for the
environment—this was all it took to inspire 1,000
youths to pledge to reduce their plastic usage. Initiated
by three final-year WKWSCI undergraduates—Chiew Han
Joo, Chitraveni Kumar and Elaine Lim Geok Choon—as
their Final Year Project, the [minus]plastic campaign was
developed to address the issue of excessive plastic usage in
The group worked together with the Environmental
Challenge Organisation Singapore (ECO) to amplify the
message of responsible consumerism. Their chief aim was
to raise public awareness
on this crucial issue and
encourage attitudinal and
behavioural change among
youths aged 17 to 25 years
For the three organisers,
lack of time was their
greatest challenge. Plus,
with only three members,
theirs was the smallest
Public and Promotional
Communication FYP team
Quipped team member
Chitraveni, “It sure put a lot
of constraints on us, like not having enough arms and legs to
do a million things!”
Celebrities such as Eunice Olsen, Paul Twohill and
Rosalyn Lee turned up for the campaign launch at the high
traffic Atrium@Orchard on January 12th to pledge their
commitment to reduce plastic usage in their daily lives
through small and manageable ways.
“Star appeal helped, but essentially, it was the
campaign messages that sustain interest,” noted
To carry through the message of
“We are what we use”, the team
suggested throwing a “green
party” using biodegradable corn or
tapioca forks and spoons instead
of the usual plasticware.
More fun and innovative ideas can
be found at their website www.
GIVING BACK TO SOCIETY
BY ChristiNa lim
Chitraveni. “We aimed to bring the messages closer to
the heart, to encourage everyone to make an impact just
by incorporating simple and easy habits into their daily
Contrary to popular belief, youths in Singapore show
good awareness and understanding of environmental issues,
with many agreeing that it is indeed important to help the
environment before it is too late—so found the team in an
One of the creative ideas the team suggested to carry
through the “We are what we use” message to youths, was
to throw a “green party”,
corn or tapioca forks and
spoons instead of the usual
plasticware. Many more of
their fun and innovative
ideas can be found at their
According to the team,
the main lessons they
learnt from their FYP
were to “plan strategically,
execute swiftly, and end
Their project supervisor,
Dr Arul Chib, added, “It is usually a source of satisfaction
when WKWSCI students take on socially responsible FYP
projects. I am doubly proud of their efforts because of the
impact the [minus]plastic campaign has had.”
He encourages the government representatives,
social agencies and sponsors involved in the campaign to
continue this project in a sustainable manner beyond the
constraints of an academic semester. C
ALUMNI IN THE NEWS
WHAT dId IT TAkE for serena ng To
bEcoME A rESpEcTEd joUrNALIST AT
THE Wall Street Journal?
If we were to draw up a list of SCI grads who have gone on to do the school proud, Serena
Ng’s name would be among the top. Her byline in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is a
familiar one, what with news agencies buzzing over the worldwide subprime crisis.
Remarkably, this WSJ writer who has made a name for herself in the demanding arena
of business journalism did not take a single business module during her time at WKWSCI.
From a business-illiterate graduate to respected business journalist—her story is one of
resilience and pure determination.
The Class of 2000 grad shares with us her journey to the New York-based newsroom of
the legendary Wall Street Journal.
Serena, thanks for taking time to speak
with us. Judging from the number of
stories you’ve had, WSJ is keeping you
very busy! Last year was a particularly
eventful and challenging year—the US credit
markets experienced an unprecedented bout
by lim xinyi
of stress and turmoil which affected stock
markets worldwide. It was challenging to
report about what was going on in the debt
markets in a clear and engaging way, but
with the help of my editors I think the paper
did pretty well.
Is the subprime crisis still your
focus? Yes, that’s still a theme this
year. I’m also looking at some issues in
the markets for the types of mortgage
securities that caused big losses for
big and small banks and brokerages
There’s a rumour that you’ve had
the most front page bylines in WSJ!
I had a couple, like over a dozen last
year. Initially it was quite overwhelming
to be on the front page, because that’s
read and scrutinised by many. But on
hindsight, it was a great experience
because it raised my profile as a reporter
and I also got more reader feedback to
my stories. Personally, more important
than the byline is the satisfaction I get
when I see a story I worked hard on for
weeks being published and knowing
that I did my best to make it as complete
a story as possible.
How does working for WSJ compare
to your previous experiences?
When I worked in Singapore for some
publications, I was covering mainly
spot news, which were mainly pretty
straightforward daily reports. At
WSJ, I’m required to present the news
differently: To explain the broader
implications of the news and what it
really means for our readers. I’m also
able to spend time on investigative
reporting, which has allowed me to
dig deeper into issues and the people
making the news.
So how did you start out in
journalism? My first journalism
internship was at Cleo magazine, where
I wasn’t paid a cent and had to buy coffee
and cigarettes for my editor every day.
And during my six-month internship at
Reuters Singapore while I was at SCI, I
wasn’t allowed a byline because my boss
felt that interns weren’t qualified to
write for the wire. That changed after I
ghost-wrote an article that he thought
was excellent. He found out that I had
written it and I started getting bylines.
Did your experience as the chief
editor of the Nanyang Chronicle
help? Yes. The Nanyang Chronicle was
where I wrote my first story and learnt
about how a newsroom operates. The
long hours and late nights my classmates
and I spent putting the paper together
taught me that a lot of effort goes into
a good publication.
“almost everyone I
knew in school took a
great deal of pride in
what they did and set
very high standards for
themselves and their
peers. It always made
me want to strive harder
and aim higher, to see
how far I could go.”
Any other experiences that had an
impact on your success today? In my
first news writing class, Mr Tan Lai Kim
showed a video on The Boston Herald,
where he had worked before. It showed
what an American newsroom was
like, with journalists running around,
discussing ideas with editors, and
talking to sources on the phone. There
was even a scene of Mr Tan himself on
the phone. I recall thinking that there
was so much life and energy in there,
and it was one of the first things that
made me aspire to work in the United
States as a journalist.
So that’s how everything started!
How about your peers? Among other
things, I really enjoyed being around
schoolmates who were truly passionate
about their studies and pursuits.
aLUMnI In THe neWs
Any advice for aspiring journalists?
It’s important to try out different
topics and styles of writing, including
those you may not be interested in —it
may help you figure out what you’re
good at. I used to be good at Math but
I hadn’t taken a single class in business
or economics before I ventured into
financial reporting. I was apprehensive
at first, but managed to learn a lot on
the job by asking a lot of questions.
Also, be open to criticism about your
writing and your approach to stories,
and keep journalism ethics in mind.
Let’s talk about your life in the
United States. Was there a culture
shock when you first arrived? Of
course. The main thing I had to get
used to was how the cost of living
was so much higher. Also, I quickly
learned that people here speak their
minds about everything and don’t
usually hold things back—if you don’t
say what you want, you won’t get what
Does being a Singaporean make a
difference in your life and work?
Some have the impression that we’re
used to being told what to do and don’t
have much initiative. I’ve set out to
change that stereotype and to show
that I am as competent as my peers in
my workplace, and I think I have been
relatively successful in doing that. I’ve
also managed to find things in common
with my American colleagues—for
example, I was a varsity softball player
at NTU and I now play for my paper’s
softball team every summer.
One last question: What do you miss
most about Singapore? Local food,
of course! Especially hawker food like
fried carrot cake, one of the few things
you can’t find here. C
aLUMnI In THe neWs
gENTLEMANLy WINNEr of AMAZING RACE ASIA 2,
COllin lOW, SpILLS THE bEANS AboUT gETTINg
STrESSEd, gETTINg LoST... ANd HIS oNE rEgrET
AS A pIoNEEr ScI grAd.
by tee ChOng zheng
Ten countries. Twenty-four days. A 50,000 km race around the world, broadcast to thousands. And who should
emerge winner of Amazing Race Asia 2, but a WKWSCI grad! Countless viewers watched with bated breath during the
broadcast of the Amazing Race Asia 2 finale, as the likable and competitive Collin Low—together with race partner
Adrian Yap—struggled, straggled, and finally scrambled his way to the finish line as winner. But not many know that Collin,
36, AVP of regional sales at ihub Media, is from the pioneer batch of SCI graduates (Class of ‘97). Being “one of us”, Collin
gives Connexscions some juicy, behind-the-scenes nuggets on the good, the bad, and the bungee in Amazing Race Asia 2.
Congratulations, Collin, on your win! What’s life been like now that you can finally
be open about winning the Race? Winning the race has been an awesome experience.
But receiving congratulatory messages from friends, family and strangers has made the
whole experience even more memorable!
So the $100,000 question is what
you’re planning to do with the prize
money. I’ve no plans with the prize
money yet. But I’ll probably use some
of it to pursue Pilates—I’m off to the
United States soon to attend a Pilates
workshop. I hope to start my own Pilates
studio one day. (Aside from his fulltime
career, Collin is a part-time Pilates and
gym instructor at Pilates Bodyworks
and California Fitness Centre.)
Going back to the finale episode,
for a moment there you and Adrian
looked like you might end up
finishing last of the three teams.
What crossed your mind at that
point? To do our best and just to cross
the finish line with class.
“In the self-drive legs,
adrian became more
challenging as he had
to read my lips via the
rear view mirror and I
had to sign to him using
only one hand while
driving. We kept missing
turns because we
What actually motivated you to join the Race? To travel
around the world and to meet people from the region.
Were you discouraged at any time? Yes. Often. Especially
in Hong Kong during the counting money challenge. We
were the last to finish the task. We kept telling ourselves to
stay positive and not to give up. Our aim throughout was not
so much to win the USD$100,000, but to enjoy the whole
In your opinion, did being from Singapore help or
hinder you as a contestant? It definitely helped. We are
multilingual and we thrive under stress!
What proved to be the most difficult, fun and
unexpected points in the Race? Most difficult—selfdrive
legs. Communicating with (hearing impaired)
Adrian became more challenging as he had to read
my lips via the rear view mirror and I had to sign
to him using only one hand while driving. We kept
missing turns because we couldn’t communicate fast enough.
Fun—bungee! But it was scary too! Unexpected—getting to
travel out of Asia to Europe and South Africa!
Which part of the Race left the most lasting
impression? The South African leg when we visited the
children’s home. We painted the house and donated
USD$5,000 courtesy of Standard Chartered Bank. That was
very nice, being able to do something for the community
In the course of the Race, did you and Adrian discover
anything about yourselves? That we perform well under
stress! Also that disability is a state of mind… Adrian is a
Tell us something that viewers don’t see. We had to
travel with a cameraman and soundman. So when we booked
air tickets, we actually had to buy four. If there weren’t
enough seats, we couldn’t fly!
And did you actually see anything of the countries you
visited? We had 12-hour pit stops and 36-hour pit stops.
For the 36-hour pit stops, the producer organised guided
tours to places of interest. The tours were usually about four
hours long. We spent the rest of the time just resting and
savouring every moment.
Racing through Tokyo in search of the next clue.
aLUMnI In THe neWs
So which team did you get along with best? Tell us
something we don’t know about some of the other teams.
I would say we got along best with Natasha and Paula from
Thailand. We were quite close to Ann and Diane from Malaysia
as well. In fact, we were pretty neutral and got along with most
of the teams. Terri wasn’t as mean and as unreasonable as she
appeared on TV. Marc and Rovilson were extremely competitive.
Brett and Kinar were extremely sweet as a couple. Vanessa and
Pamela may look “ditzy” but they were tough!
Let’s talk about your time at NTU. Who else was in the
first batch of students to graduate from SCI? Michelle
Saram and Amy Khoo, an ex-broadcast journalist with CNA.
What are your fondest memories of NTU? My hall life.
I was involved in many hall activities—in fact, I was the
chairperson for one SCI Dinner & Dance!
We’re curious—what made you choose NTU/SCI when
it was an unknown at the time? I wanted to go into
advertising and I felt SCI would give me the grounding. The
only gripe I have is that, being from the pioneer batch, I
didn’t get to enjoy the new school building and amenities till
I was in the fourth year! C
Breaking news from AXN—auditions
for Amazing Race Asia 3 were just
completed in March. Will there be
another WKWSCI grad for us to cheer
on? You’ll just have to tune in and see!
Photo courtesy of AXN channel.
aLUMnI In THe neWs
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
ConnexSCionS cATcHES Up WITH ScI ALUMNI
froM THE pAST 10 yEArS
WHAT ARE YOUR FONDEST MEMORIES?
“My four years in SCI were probably the happiest period of my school years. I remember watching
short films like Nanook of The North and Un Chien Andalou and wondering how on earth Inuit
Eskimos and 1920s French avant-garde films were going to enhance my job prospects. Working on
our Final Year Project was another highlight of SCI—it was the culmination of what we had learnt
in the past four years. That also provided us the sideshow of getting a number of our classmates to
pose as talents for our print advertising campaign.”
– Jaime Lee, Class of ‘01, Asst Vice President, United Overseas Bank
“The time when I was a Group Leader for Freshman Orientation camp. When I
came back to SCI in 2006, I nearly fell off my seat when I heard the Funky Chicken
cheer/song/dance. And that gig about the ‘missing freshie’ is still going on, after all
these years… These ‘traditions’ bring back wonderful memories for me.”
– Terrie Wong, Class of ‘02, Postgraduate Student
“The friendships that were forged
at SCI. Especially when almost
everybody ends up working in the
same sector—the media—which
means our job scopes are related
in certain ways. This provides the
good network essential to our
– Alvin Lim, Class of ‘05, Online
Marketing Executive, Singapore
“Back in 1999-2000, we were in the process of setting up the radio station,
Fusion. We worked really hard and there were lots of late nights, but there
was a great sense of accomplishment when we eventually made it on-air. We
also had the radio practicum module, when we had to produce short capsules
for airing and also present two-hour shows live on Passion 99.5FM. It was a
new thing for us but we had a lot of fun, not to mention plenty of boo-boos
on air as well.”
– Sun Renjie, Class of ‘01, On-Air Promos Producer, MTV Asia
THE MOST vAlUAblE THING
“I met my wife, Goy Sze Wei,
who was in the same year
as me. Actually, I believe at
least SIX of us SCI guys have
married our classmates. It’s
probably a record for any
– Ian Tan, Class of ’01,
and Partnership Manager,
aLUMnI In THe neWs
WHO lEFT A lASTING IMpRESSION?
“Prof Randolph Kluver who taught International Relations. He’s got the entire world history
at the back of his hand. To him, I say: I’d be happy with just half of your brainpower. Prof Foo
Tee Tuan taught Asian Film Studies and he opened my eyes to the brave new world of beautiful
Asian art films. To him I would say: Thank you for the gift of perspective. The technicians
and staff at the TV studio are amazing too. They work long and laborious hours, yet remain
so patient when so many impatient ‘kids’ bug them for equipment. Without you guys, where
would we be?”
– Claire Lum, Class of ‘06, Analyst, JP Morgan Chase
“Dr Mark Cenite, for his brilliance, sincerity and style. My friends and I loved his classes because
they really inspired us to think. He made Political Science and Media Law come alive. Best of
all, there were no airs about him despite how silly your ideas might sound. And of course
he made black THE colour of coolness. I’m also very thankful to Ms Hedwig Alfred for her
tough love. Her hands-on approach drilled the essence of news writing into our heads. She’s a
walking Wikipedia, extremely conscientious, and one of the best teachers I’ve had.”
– Jean Loo, Class of ‘07, Freelance Documentary Photojournalist
“The person I remember is Lee Shu Mian, my Final Year Project partner. I’m still in contact
with her. Our research was on the use of puffery in advertising in Singapore. We had to buy
video tapes and get the help of family members to record many TV advertisements, before being
cooped up in the video room to analyse them. Both of us slept for less than 20 hours in the last
week leading up to the deadline. I couldn’t have asked for a better project partner and friend
during that stressful period!”
– Helen Ng, Class of ‘98, Lecturer, Media and Communication, Singapore Polytechnic
YOU “INHERITED” FROM SCI WAS…
“I think it would be a sense of adventure and
confidence. Being from the pioneer batch,
we pretty much had to do everything for
‘the first time’. While there were mistakes
along the way, this made the whole journey
an adventure. We had to be confident of
ourselves and have a never-say-die attitude.
I think these values are still existent in many
of us now.”
– Anne-Marie Teo, Class of ‘97,
“How to fix a faulty computer
mouse: ‘Blow on the ball’,
according to one lecturer.
(Fortunately we’ve all
graduated to optical mice.)
Seriously though, a respect
for thorough and sound
research, which is essential in
my current job.”
– Celine Tan, Class of ‘01,
Assistant Editor, 8 Days
aLUMnI In THe neWs
HOW DID SCI pREpARE YOU FOR THE
“Well, there is actually a lot of difference between school and the ‘real world’. Among
us, we sometimes discuss whether our education at SCI was worth it, and I would
say that it was. In terms of understanding the industry, structured ways of thinking
about PR campaigns etc—they are all applicable at work. It’s not just about the
fundamentals, which can be easily picked up. What’s important is the strategic
thinking—for example, how we help companies manage crises. I think this is what
the PR world needs right now.”
– Wong Voal Voal, Class of ‘97, Regional Director, Hill and Knowlton
SHOUT-OUT: “Make the best of your time in school, set long-
term goals for yourself in the real world and try not to lose track
of it in the flurry of temptations.”
– Edwin Koo, Class of ‘03
“Not to sit in a corner and let others take the lead. To stand up and take a stake
in your environment, even if you may make a fool of yourself… all these from the
arguments we had in tutorials, involvement in Extra-Curricular Activities and the
overall school culture in SCI.”
– Dilong Goh, Class of ‘01, Business Owner, Goh IGS & Automation Pte Ltd
SHOUT-OUT: “Enjoy learning. Make sure you get the best
out of what the school has to offer… and if you feel you’re
not getting enough, ask for more! “
– Jean Loo, Class of ‘07
SHOUT-OUT: “I’m part of a jazz trio named Jazzical Belles. We
met at Convocation ‘05! SCI is like the proverbial box of chocolates;
you never know who you’ll meet and where it will bring you!”
– Claire Lum, Class of ‘06
“I was thrown into the deep end of news photography when I left school and joined
Streats in May 2003. The journalistic lessons from school reminded me that being a news
photographer was no different from a news reporter—being curious about everything
was the key to understanding your story and telling it properly, whether in words or in
pictures. The ethics I learnt were also useful once I found ways to apply them. But, really,
nothing beats the university of hard knocks in the ‘real world’.”
– Edwin Koo, Class of ‘03, News Photographer, The Straits Times
aLUMnI In THe neWs
AS A STUDENT I WAS USUAllY FOUND…
“…at the Nanyang Chronicle editorial
office rushing for deadlines, or at the
canteen having prata and Milo with
my classmates in between lectures/
tutorials, or in my ex-boyfriend’s
dorm room! Now I’m found at work,
which takes up most of my time, or
pampering myself with massages
and manicures over the weekend.”
– Vivian Lim, Class of ‘97, Assoc
Director, Savills (China)
“… in hall three, juggling a myriad of hall activities while
trying to graduate. Now I’m usually at work, putting in
overtime. Home, trying to destress. Clubs and pubs, trying
to reclaim my youth.”
– Celine Tan, Class of ‘01, Editor, 8 Days
“… on bus 199 wondering if
I was late for lecture. Now I
can usually be found at some
HDB block climbing stairs as
part of my training.”
– Esther Tan, Class of ‘04,
Copywriter, Ogilvy & Mather
IN THE NExT 3 YEARS, I DREAM OF…
“… pursuing my master’s
– Wu Yashi, Class of ‘07, NIE
Postgraduate Trainee Teacher
“… playing in
a band and
– Gan Tat
Wee, Class of
Congratulations to Dorothy Ho (Class of ‘97) who gave
birth to a girl on February 19th! Dorothy was overwhelmed
when she first held baby Ruby Dokken—“I still can’t believe
she’s here to stay and we can’t exchange or return her! Hah!”
Dorothy remembers the “US SCS Alumni Meeting” in New
York last year with fondness. “It was awesome to meet
everyone, in the US of all places, and to catch up!”
“… at the front of the lecture halls raising my hand to ask
the first question. Now I’m found anywhere and everywhere
my news assignments take me.”
– Edwin Koo, Class of ‘03, News Photographer,
The Straits Times
“…taking a break from work and
going to Japan to practise Aikido
– Jaime Lee, Class of ‘01, Asst Vice
President, United Overseas Bank
“…sailing round the world in a 30ft
sailboat.” – Chong Wei Yong, Class of
‘02, Events Director, Lemlabs
“…climbing Mt Everest or writing
– Esther Tan, Class of ‘04,
– All intervews by Lim Xinyi