Nanyang Technological University's Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information will be hosting the annual conference of the prestigious International Communication Association (ICA), the largest association of its kind in the world, from June 22 to 26, 2010, at Suntec Singapore International and Convention Centre.
More than 1,500 media and communication academics, journalists, business, government, and communication leaders from around the world will gather to discuss issues related to this year's theme, Matters of Communication: Political, Cultural and Technological Challenge. This is the first time that an ICA conference will be held in Singapore and also in Southeast Asia. It is only the second time in the Association's illustrious 60-year history that the conference is held in Asia.
Professor Ang Peng Hwa, the former Chair of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, and the chairman of the Conference organizing committee, says, "The International Communication Association holds its annual conference outside of the US once every four years. It is an honour for NTU to host this in Singapore. This is like Singapore hosting the World Cup, an opportunity that comes once in a lifetime. This conference further cements the reputation of the Wee Kim Wee School as the premier communication school in Asia, NTU as a world-class university, and Singapore as a global city for communication and information."
Preparation for the hosting of the conference began in 2005, with the Wee Kim Wee School beating out the teams from Hong Kong and Osaka for the bid. Professor Ang says, "What clinched the win for us was the team spirit within the School and the support from the University. We put to vote if we should bid to host this conference and the entire faculty voted for it even though they knew it would be a lot of work for everyone. Our Provost said that even if he had to, he would skip lunch to support the conference. The unity and overwhelming support from everyone from all levels was one of our critical success factors."
The only communication school in Singapore, the Wee Kim Wee School has seen an upward trend in the number of students interested in pursuing communication studies in the last five years.
Associate Professor Benjamin H. Detenber, Chair of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information says, "The number of applicants to our school has increased by almost 50% over the past five years, rising from about 900 in 2005 to more than 1,300 this year. We are also attracting more postgraduate students from overseas. As a field of study, it is an exciting time for communication research, especially with the advent of new media, which bring forth a host of issues and effects across various levels, sociologically, psychologically and so on."
Interest in communication studies is on an upward trend not just in Singapore but also globally. In recent years, there has been a surge of studies from countries such as India, China and the region. Although communication studies originated from the West, there is a growing number of joint research projects between universities in the Asia Pacific and other parts of the world.
It is therefore timely that at this conference, Professor Eddie Kuo, the founding dean of the Wee Kim Wee School and one of the first academics to attempt to indigenize communication studies, will chair a forum titled "Whither Asian Communication Research?" The forum is sponsored by the Asian Journal of Communication, which is edited by Professor Kuo, and is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
Hosting the ICA 2010 Conference is a boost for the Wee Kim Wee School and its students. Held on home ground, this allows its students to have a ringside view at the World Cup of communication research.
Says Ms Joanne Lee, a 23-year-old Master's student at the school, who will be presenting her research paper on corporate social responsibility at the conference, "I'm looking forward to attending the sessions by the leading academics in the various communication fields, such as in corporate social responsibility, new media and public relations. As a communication student, this is a good opportunity for me to learn from the best in the field."
During the five-day conference, more than 400 papers will be presented by key leaders and experts in the various areas of communication. The papers cover a broad spectrum of contemporary communication topics and issues, including health communication (e.g. child obesity and the media), public relations (e.g. transparency and trust in governments and corporations), organizational communication (e.g. offline and online relationships), journalism studies (e.g. press coverage of the 2004 tsunami and the recent global financial crisis), and political communication (e.g. new media and impact on censorship).
At the conference foyer will be an open space exhibition featuring multi-platform artworks and unique contemporary insights into Singapore and Southeast Asia, like the top five lists of favourite films, performers, artists, hawker food, neighbourhoods, websites, and galleries. The exhibition is jointly conceptualized by professors from NTU's School of Art, Design and Media and the Wee Kim Wee School.
One of the displays is a video project where 16 residents in opposite flats agreed to have video cameras places in their windows for a synchronized period of time, recording the activities of their neighbours as well as their ambient sounds and conversations.
Kick-starting the conference will be 11 pre-conferences held the day before, on 21 June. The pre-conferences feature sessions such as health communication campaigns, hosted by the Health Promotion Board and the Wee Kim Wee School; and the "Chindia" challenge, which explores the transformation of communication and media in China and India, the world's two most populous countries and fastest growing economies. Running concurrently is the annual Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) conference from June 21 to 23 at Suntec City, now into its 19th year.
The International Communication Association is the largest - and widely regarded as the top-ranking - international academic association for scholars in the study, teaching, and application of communication. It has more than 4,300 members from over 80 countries worldwide, comprising communication scholars and practitioners as well as those working in government, business law, medicine and other professions. It is also a nongovernmental organisation officially associated with the United Nations.