CONNExSCIONS - WKWSCI Home - Nanyang Technological ...

CONNExSCIONS - WKWSCI Home - Nanyang Technological ...


Volume 4 Issue 2

January – may 2008

A NANyANg TechNologicAl


Wee Kim Wee school

of commUNicATioN ANd


alumnI newsletter




Are we controlling the pace of change... or is it controlling us?


Behind the scenes of Amazing Race Asia 2

with winner Collin Low


Wall Street Journal writer Serena Ng reveals

what it takes to get the scoops


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

disabled athletes.

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

into action.

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

Writing Team

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,

Christina Lim

Layout Team

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



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




A Movie-ing


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

supporting role.

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,

Chung QingYun

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

internAtionAl wAterS

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

film competition.

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

in Philippines.

Liew Shixiong, the star of Remorse.


Other obstacles that young, independent filmmakers

often face are the lack of professional actors as well as

budget constraints.

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

filmmakers!” C


Photo source:


LeLong! LeLong!

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

lively way.

“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

hAPPy hOUr

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:

Sci proF gueSt lectureS

in HiStoric

eStoniAn city

In an EU-sponsored international

programme on Digital Library

Learning (DILL), Assoc Prof Abdus

Chaudhry gave lectures in Estonia on

February 2008.

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

FAcebook generAtion



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.


in nuMberS


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

public opinions.”

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


fACe on


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


fACe on


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.

running on


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

Her pASSion

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

culture.” C

facilities to the public.

She answered customer queries by

phone and e-mail, as well as handled

walk-in customers.

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

to ignore.

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:


… 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

protection behaviour.

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:



12 coNNexSCIoNs



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.

A-tishoo! A-tishoo!

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

pass on.”

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.

coNNexSCIoNs 13


“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 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.



Despite the growing and commonplace use of books and

periodicals, oral communication did not die. It simply evolved.

14 coNNexSCIoNs

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

even death.

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

latter’s coffin.

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

of seeds.

The rise of communication

technology saw a turning point in

human communication.


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

The Nagra-E—not

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

own director.

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.

coNNexSCIoNs 15


“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


for change

16 coNNexSCIoNs

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

in 1979.

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

you like.

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

gangsters’ lives.

SMS is the messenger

that cannot be shot,

no matter how

unwelcome the


“what is fascinating about 15 is that

it shows us something that we, in the

west for instance, just assumed didn’t

exist here.”

so are singaporean filmmakers

up to the challenge of making and

marketing home-grown content to an

international audience?

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

without facebook.

“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

coNNexSCIoNs 17


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,

they say.

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

Giresh PrabhaT

18 coNNexSCIoNs

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

acquaintances. Some

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

and accurately.

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

daily lives.

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

information snobbery.

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

Facebook profile?

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

significantly disadvantaged.

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

digital divide.

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


Have our

communication mediums

changed our meaning?

Massachusetts Institute

of Technology Professor,

Sherry Turkle (2004)

indirectly asks this question

when she states, “The tools we

use to think change the ways in which

we think.”

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

divide. C









“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

their devices.”

– 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

coNNexSCIoNs 19




Mode of transport: Electric Scooter

Price: S$2,000

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!

Cool Factor:

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




“GrEEN CAmpuS”

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.

Cool Factor:

Mode of transport: None; he walks

Price: S$0

Battery Life: Depends on your stamina

Top Speed: Depends on your fitness

Carbon Emissions: 0

How it works: Just pump those legs!

Cool Factor:

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


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

Cool Factor:


photography by Joanne Yan







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:


1,000 YOuThS plEdGEd TO rEduCE ThEIr uSE


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.


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

opinion poll.

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”,

using biodegradable

corn or tapioca forks and

spoons instead of the usual

plasticware. Many more of

their fun and innovative

ideas can be found at their

website www.minusplastic.

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







WHAT dId IT TAkE for serena ng To


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

you want.

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





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,

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.”

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

while racing.

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

living testimony!

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



froM THE pAST 10 yEArS



“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

Press Holdings

“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


“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

faculty batch.”

– Ian Tan, Class of ’01,

Marketing Communication

and Partnership Manager,


aLUMnI In THe neWs


“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


“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,

Business Owner

“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



“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


“…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



“… pursuing my master’s


– Wu Yashi, Class of ‘07, NIE

Postgraduate Trainee Teacher

“… playing in

a band and

touring around

the world.”

– Gan Tat

Wee, Class of

‘07, Marketing


MTV Asia

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

a book.”

– Esther Tan, Class of ‘04,


– All intervews by Lim Xinyi


More magazines by this user
Similar magazines