This page lists a selection of my research projects (reverse chronological order).


Short Video Apps in China

This project is an individual small research grant hosted by the MCASI Research and Creative Production Committee, under the School of Media, Creative Arts & Social Inquiry at Curtin University, October 2019–March 2020. This project supplements the DECRA/Curtin research “Social Media Influencers as Conduits of Knowledge in Australia and Asia”.

Short video apps are the latest digital media format to proliferate on the internet. The format allows users to communicate their message via video, sound, and layover text, emoji, and stickers in clips that are only 15-60 seconds long. This has given rise to innovation around how young people, brands, businesses, and even news networks design their content in order to reach their target audience in a saturated digital media environment. To understand the landscape, ecology, and economy of short video apps, my fieldwork will focus on the biggest international markets in China housed in Beijing and Hangzhou. I will be conducting personal interviews with the tech companies who fund and back these apps, the short video app platforms themselves, influencer incubators and agencies who are experts in grooming and commercializing talent on these apps, and aspiring and current short video app creators. This fieldwork to collect primary data is especially crucial as the short video app ecology is under studied despite the phenomenon having taken off globally since 2016. There are less than a dozen academic and conference papers on major platforms such as TikTok/Douyin, and most of the public knowledge on such apps is limited to popular media coverage and personal opinion blogposts. As such, this research will contribute to foundational peer reviewed research on the phenomenon.

Project page >>


Knowledges on Douyin vs. TikTok: Platforms, Populism, and Performance

This project is an individual research bursary hosted by the Centre for Culture and Technology (CCAT) at Curtin University, and is funded by Tencent (China/Australia), August–December 2019. This project supplements the DECRA/Curtin research “Social Media Influencers as Conduits of Knowledge in Australia and Asia”.

Since launching the short video app (短视频) Douyin (抖音) in the Chinese domestic market in September 2016, internet technology company ByteDance (字节跳动) subsequently launched an international version TikTok in September 2017. In November 2017, ByteDance bought over and integrated a predecessor competing short video app Musical.ly, which was first launched in April 2014, and continued to operate Douyin and TikTok as two different platforms for the domestic and international market respectively. Subsequently, Google Trends and international media coverage on Douyin and TikTok soared, as compilations of Douyin posts went viral on YouTube and Facebook, and the international userbase on TikTok grew. In response to public misrecognition and misconception around both apps, this pilot study is focused on reviewing the current pool of knowledge on Douyin and TikTok. Focused on the platforms, the study will employ the walkthrough method to understand the distinctions in features, functions, and user experience of both apps. Focused on populism, the study will conduct a content analysis of mainstream press and popular media articles providing reportage on both apps to understand the discourses pedalled about internet popular culture and ideogeographical politics. Focused on performance, the study will draw from digital ethnography and personal interviews to understand how users of both apps make decisions about the types of content they follow and consume. It is hoped that this pilot study will serve as the foundation for a more extensive survey of the short video app ecology (短视频经济) in East Asia.

Project page >>


Social Media Influencers as Conduits of Knowledge in Australia and Asia

This project is an individual grant hosted at Curtin University, and is funded by the Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) (Australia), July 2019–June 2022 (DE190100789). The project is also supplemented and extended with support and funding by Curtin University, July 2019–June 2024.

The project aims to evaluate how social media Influencers can become conduits to communicate information among young people between Australia and East Asia. As icons on the internet who are experts in holding attention and amplifying content, Influencers have expanded from being mere commercial enterprises to being conduits of public service information by reaching wide, diverse, and sometimes marginalized youth audiences with important socio-cultural messages. This study will glean lessons from leading Influencer ecologies in East Asia (China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan), to understand how we can use internet-native communication formats to improve inter-cultural knowledge and relations in Australia. This study will offer a framework for examining the Influencer industry in Australia based on expert economies in East Asia. Its analysis of young people’s internet cultures will generate new knowledge on how information circulates and is received in innovative communication formats between young Australians and young East Asians. The study informs how young people in Australia can improve their inter-cultural communication skills, how community groups can improve inter-cultural integration, and how businesses and policy makers partner with Influencers to amplify information.

Project page >>


Decoding the Weaponizing of Pop Culture on WhatsApp in Singapore and Malaysia

This project is a collaboration between researchers from five universities across Australia, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom, and is funded by the Facebook Integrity Foundational Research Award (USA), January–December 2019.

Although ‘misinformation’ and ‘fake news’ have become international buzzwords since the US Presidential Elections 2016, several Southeast Asian nations have long confronted a tight control of their (inter)national media, draconian censorship regulations, and sedition/defamation acts. The rhetoric of ‘misinformation’ and ‘fake news’, and their older counterparts ‘propaganda’ and ‘media manipulation’, are regularly enacted by incumbent governments to control political opposition and grassroots dissent. However, a saving grace in these nations are the private-grouped, platform-encrypted messaging apps such as Telegram and WhatsApp that accord users an extent of privacy and freedom from state surveillance. Further, information shared in the form of internet popular culture – such as memes, folklore, chain mail, and viral artefacts, in the form of text, images, gifs, and videos – allows for a layer of plausible deniability wherein users can disperse and dispel organised efforts as mere humour, in an act of subversive frivolity. Using traditional and digital ethnographic observation, personal interviews, questionnaires, and content analyses, this project focuses on Singapore and Malaysia to understand how internet popular culture is being weaponised on WhatsApp by the state, political parties, grassroots groups, and corporations.

Project site >>


Kpop fandoms and metrics on social media

Blurb to be updated.

Project page to be updated>>


Social media Influencers in Swedish and Scandinavian fashion retail

This project is an individual grant hosted at the Media, Management, and Transformation Centre at Jönköping University, and is funded by Handelsrådets (Sweden), July 2017–June 2019.

Influencers have been known to extensively impact consumption patterns, and retail businesses are increasingly roping in Influencers in order to engage with their young consumers. As prolific social media users who are opinion-shapers and key leaders, Influencers are internet personalities who first began as everyday users before garnering followers, fame, and fortune over time. Using the backdrop of their lifestyles as a canvas for advertorials, Influencers function as ambassadors to different brands and sell advertising space on their digital estates. This project is an exploratory study to learn about how social media Influencers in the Swedish and Scandinavia context interact with followers and impact consumer behaviour. It employs ethnographic fieldwork comprising participant observation, personal interviews, and web archaeology.

Project page >>


Sexuality education via social media programming

Blurb to be updated.

Project page to be updated>>


Evaluating the Tangible and Intangible Heritage of Shopping Centres in Singapore

This project is a collaboration between researchers from four universities in Australia and Singapore, and is funded by the National Heritage Board (Singapore), March 2017–March 2019.

With more than 200 malls across the island, Singapore has 1.08 sqm of retail space per capita, or an estimated one mall for every 53,000 people. Despite its ubiquity, there has been scant scholarly and public attention paid to shopping malls as potential sites of heritage in Singapore, perhaps because they are a postcolonial phenomenon as compared to religious and civic landmarks. Being highly transient buildings, most malls undergo frequent redevelopments to keep up with rapidly changing trends. As consumer outlets, they are often given lower regard as identity markers. After the novelty of their initial opening fades, the more enduring shopping centres in Singapore are often remembered for their iconic landmarks, distinctive retail and businesses, and the lifestyle trends that have emerged around specific malls. However, as malls are either physically demolished or revamped to respond to changing market conditions, much of such characteristics disappear as well. As entire generations are brought up in shopping malls, they have become sites of cultural memories and heritage. It is therefore timely that a more sustained research and documentary process be effected to raise awareness of these places as prospective sites of both tangible and intangible heritage.

Project site >>


An oral history of punk cultures in Singapore

This project was a small individual grant for independent research, and was funded by The Substation (Singapore), April–July 2017.

Project page to be updated>>


Internet antagonisms and digital folklore in Singapore

Blurb to be updated.

Project page to be updated>>


Young people and digital grief etiquette

This project was an exploratory study for independent research, and was partially funded by Edgeryders (Belgium), August–October 2016.

Project page >>


Young couples, aspirational homemaking, and wedding commodities in Singapore

Blurb to be updated.

Project page to be updated>>


Astroturfing on tumblr: Self-harm, influencer commerce, guerrilla marketing, and politics 

Blurb to be updated.

Project page to be updated>>


Mixed race persons and identity politics

Blurb to be updated.

Project page to be updated>>


Childhood, celebrity, and commerce on social media

Blurb to be updated.

Project page to be updated>>


The Influencer industry in Singapore and beyond

This project began as several pilot studies throughout my undergraduate education in Sociology and Gender Studies at the National University of Singapore (August 2007–July 2011). Thereafter, it was developed into a coherent project as a PhD thesis in Anthropology & Sociology, Communication & Media Studies that was partially funded by the University of Western Australia, August 2011–August 2015. Following this, the project was independently extended and expanded with several industry partners in Southeast Asia and is still ongoing as a longitudinal study of the Influencer industry in this region.

Project page to be updated>>


A history of blogshops in Singapore and Southeast Asia

This project began as a third year undergraduate research project in Interdisciplinary Gender Studies at the National University of Singapore, August 2009–July 2010. Thereafter, it was developed into a coherent project as an Honours thesis in Sociology at the National University of Singapore, August 2010–July 2011. Following this, the project was independently extended and expanded with several industry partners in Southeast Asia and is still ongoing as a longitudinal study of the blogshop industry in this region.

Project page to be updated>>


This page is under construction.

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