Students to showcase innovative apps at launch of new major

19th April 2018

The School of Culture History and Language is celebrating the launch of a new major with a party showcasing the research of staff and students alike, to highlight the advantages of Asian and Pacific Gender, Media and Cultural Studies.

'The importance of understanding the power relationships embedded in these themes across the Asia Pacific has never been more urgent,' says Professor Hyaeweol Choi. 'The speed of digital technology driven changes has implications for all areas of society and meaning in contemporary life in the Asia Pacific.'

Dr Shameem Black teaches Gender and Cultural Studies in Asia and the Pacific, one of the flagship courses of the new major.

'In this course, students are asked to choose an issue to address through an app prototype that they develop in a group. The solutions they find highlight how important it is to understand the power dynamics that play out through gender, media and culture,' says Dr Black.

A case in point is Siwen Lu, a second year International Relations student. Siwen and her group developed "Ms. D" which addresses the issue of women's sexual health in China.

'In my own observations of social media in China hundreds and thousands of women, regardless of age, discuss their own experiences, such as feelings of fear and cluelessness during their first period, confusion about using a tampon, questions on different birth control methods, and virginity.

'My app would allow women access to basic knowledge about sexual health, including well-being, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexuality. Other features are as forums, helplines, and maps, so that users can get support easier and faster,' explains Siwen.

'Sex has always been a forbidden topic in China. People think anything related to it is too filthy to talk about, even sex education. Also, people think that sex education is only for people over 18, because they only relate sex education to reproduction, but ignore other things such as well-being, birth control and STDs,' she says.

'"Ms D" also includes a section on lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues. Since sexualities and identities other than heterosexuality are considered immoral in China, I feel this section is necessary, so that people can access help online when there is no support in real life.'

Siwen felt that the project helped her to realise her own potential. 'I learned lots of new things during the research process. In the past, I largely depended on my own observation, which is quite limited. By researching, I became more objective by looking through numbers and percentages on regions and groups of people I am not familiar with.'

Aghallya Janarth is a first year studying a Bachelor of International Relations.

'We made an app that was designed uniquely for use by the foreign domestic helpers in Singapore. This app would serve as an all-inclusive platform for the helpers to access information about legal rights, health services, entertainment on a budget and the various embassies in Singapore,' says Aghallya.

'As a Singaporean I have long been aware of the contentions issue of migrant female workers' rights. I knew that whatever knowledge I had was merely what was being reported in the media-which we later found out was not always done objectively- and from personal experience of having multiple domestic helpers as I was growing up.'

'When I started researching I saw very quickly that I had been oblivious to many of the deep-rooted problems the female workers faced and I realised that this was because I had grown up in Singapore always feeling safe and protected.

'I saw then just how deep the power divide was between Singaporean women and the migrant female workers. These women did not have access to something as basic as personal freedom, which many of us take for granted.

'Developing this prototype taught me to pay closer attention to the finer details of daily life that often go unnoticed by society.

'The course gave me the opportunity to discuss and learn about power and status differentials. We also went on a fieldtrip to the National Museum of Australia where we saw how Australia's rich and vibrant history has interconnections with many parts of Asia,' says Aghallya.

Siwen and Aghallya will be among the students who will showcase their apps at the launch celebration next week. For details see our event page.

Updated:  7 July 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, Culture, History & Language/Page Contact:  CHL webmaster