Rethinking Cyber Activism in Asian Democracies
Date : 01 Nov 2017
Time : 16:00 - 17:30
Venue : Asia Research Institute, Seminar Room
AS8 Level 4, 10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260
National University of Singapore @ KRC

Jointly organized by the Asian Urbanisms Cluster of Asia Research Institute, and Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore.



Dr Sonia Lam-Knott, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore


Cyber-activism in Singapore: A Socio-technical Approach

Dr Natalie Pang, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore
A Genealogical Approach to Individual Online User’s Cyber Activisms in the Internet History of the Republic of Korea
Dr DongHyun Song, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore









Cyber-activism in Singapore: A Socio-technical Approach

Since the development of the Internet towards greater connectivity and social media in the mid-2000s, many societies have witnessed an insurgence of activism that is mediated and sometimes facilitated by the Internet and social media. From elections in the United States to Arab Spring, studies have focused largely on the positive effects of social media on political and civic engagement such as voting, attending rallies, giving time and money, and volunteering.

But media use is only a small part of the picture, as proven by various scholars (Skoric, Zhu, Goh and Pang, 2016). Additionally, different findings carried out by researchers in different societal contexts imply that social media use must be understood by the contexts and communication settings in which they are embedded, and studies in Asian contexts are relatively lacking. It should also be acknowledged that different social media platforms have different affordances which influence the use and impacts of social media.

Using a socio-technical approach, this talk focuses on understanding activism in the past decade in Singapore, by discussing key social movements and everyday civic action, as well as key developments in Singapore’s Internet and social media scene.

A Genealogical Approach to Individual Online User’s Cyber Activisms in the Internet History of the Republic of Korea

This talk focuses on exploring the history of cyber asylum seeking phenomena in the Republic of Korea (ROK). Korean cyber asylum seeking refers to Korean Internet users who move some of their online activities from a ROK-based web to a global one. There were three notable Korean cyber asylum seeking phenomena in 2009, 2014 and 2016. These were defined by the reactions of ordinary internet users when they realized that the government was scrutinizing their personal information and oppressing their freedom of expression. This talk also discusses how ordinary internet users’ everyday online practices have expanded the constellation of Korean cyberspace. To substantiate this, this talk will explore how Korean online users traversed the social media platforms and created online archives to participate in the political events in Korean internet history.

For further Reading

- Bennett, W. L. (2012) “The Personalization of Politics: Political Identity, Social Media, and Changing Patterns of Participation”, The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 644 Issue 1, pp,20-39.
- Pang, N. & Goh D. (2016) “Are We All Here for the Same Purpose? Social Media and Individualized Collective Action”, Online Information Review, Vol. 40 Issue 4, pp.544-559.
- Papacharissi, Z. (2002) “The Virtual Sphere: The Internet as a Public Sphere”, New Media & Society, Vol. 4 Issue 1, pp.9-27.
- Skoric, M., Zhu Q. & Pang, N. (2016) “Social Media, Political Expression, and Participation in Confucian Asia”, Chinese Journal of Communication Vol. 9, Issue 4, pp. 331-347.


Natalie Pang is Senior Research Fellow at The Social Lab, Institute of Policy Studies in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Policy Studies. Before this, she was Assistant Professor in the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University, and also studied public opinion polling in The Gallup Organization as Associate Consultant. She specialises in the study of digital activism and effects of social media, and ICTs in vulnerable communities.

DongHyun Song has been working as a postdoctoral fellow at the Asian Research Institute, the National University of Singapore since Jan 2016. He previously worked at the Korea Internet Security Agency (KISA) between Jan 2014 and Jan 2016, a research agency, and the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning's sub-organization to support the government’s ICT policy making. He has completed his doctoral degree (PhD in Media and Communications) at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is currently examining social media culture in Asia in relation to the privacy and security concerns of the state’s ideology.


Admission is free. We would greatly appreciate if you click on the "Register" button above to RSVP.


In recent years, the multifaceted forms of civic practices—ranging from participatory urbanism, to artistic interventions, and to street protests launched by activists—have become more prominent in Asian cities, attracting scholarly attention across different disciplines. The transformations in civil society have raised the following questions: What are the emerging challenges and contingencies the varied interest groups are facing? What kind of conflicts can arise during and after instances of civil activism, and how can these tensions be ameliorated? How can social engagement, practice and research be bridged together by, and for, different individuals and agencies? When does social engagement become perceived as civil activism?

This seminar series, jointly organized by Asian Urbanisms cluster (ARI) and the Department of Architecture, critically presents and examines the novel forms of civic practices that have manifested in the Asian urban context through a transdisciplinary framework. Bringing together academics, practitioners, students, and the general public interested in urban spatial strategies in relation to negotiate the formation and role of civil societies, the seminars seek to initiate discourse on the following themes: First, to explore how the varied stakeholders involved in civil society groups, including academics and educators, activists, artists, NGOs, NPOs, informal interest groups and community associations, political parties, and governmental organizations currently de/reconstruct the contextual and physical understanding of shared urban space in Asia. It is of interest to review the main goals of the novel civic practices, and the extent in which these aspirations are realised. Secondly, these seminars seek to articulate how stakeholders engage in the process of collaborative knowledge production through these practices. More importantly, the aim of the series is to conceptualise civic practices as a product of the distinctive trajectories of socio-economic development, spatial/cultural policies, and the structures of political governance in the Asian region. To reiterate, these seminars provide an overview on the distinctive challenges and opportunities that contemporary Asian cities pose for civil societies, and the kind of local and global characteristics that are emerging in these locales.


Asia Research Institute | Minna ValjakkaSonia Lam
Department of Architecture | Cho Im Sik & Lee Kah Wee

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