Close to Culture, Close to Creativity, Spot on Asia.

Articles from the “Opinion” Category

Reflections on Scandinavia

Posted on August 21, 2013

Cultural production, cultural policy and the free market economy are largely intertwined, where some may view the partnership of production and policy as a more democratic process and others, freedom as what begins only after the basic right to the arts is established by the state. Before plunging into the discussion of the dynamic and praxis, let us begin by establishing the relationship between the 2 forces and how it has developed to give us what we have today.

Part 1 of this essay will examine the reasons for the existence of cultural policy; while part 2 explores the realization of these policies across the Scandinavian region, in particular Sweden and Finland.


The initial freedom of the free market

In his essay ‘Designing A Cultural Policy’, Professor of Communications and Media Studies Dr. Justin Lewis states,

“there are moments in the lives of the cultural industries when the free market may give birth to a dynamic range of cultural forms and expressions”.

These moments are exceptionally apparent in times such as the Industrial Revolution, where abundance in machinery, technology, and labor come together to provide a large range of goods and services that the community can tap into. As we look into the significance of such a time in the larger scheme, we come to realize that often, such moments are precisely those that signify the birth of an economy. An example that embodies this is the amalgamation of the 1960s baby boomers: technological advancement and growth coupled with general economic prosperity that engendered the pop culture and music movements in the global Northwest, in where we saw the birth of The Beatles and the likes. The large base of youths allowed for an experiment-friendly environment for art and cultural production; where novelty met curiosity, and curiosity met novelty, and the free market was as free as one could imagine. Under such circumstances, it may seem as though the free market forces are paired strongly with arts and cultural production to give rise to a wholly efficient society.


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A Third Kind of Human

Posted on July 24, 2013

What comes to mind when someone utters the phrase “third kind of human”?

A 10-foot tall blue-skinned humanoid? How about a pale-skinned mind-reading vampire? On a recent trip to Shanghai, I learned that many Chinese believe there are three kinds of humans: men, women, and women with PhDs.

I was in Shanghai to participate in a 10-day program focused on higher education policy and planning. Participants came from highly ranked educational institutions from across the globe including Columbia in New York, Tsinghua in Beijing, and Nagoya in Japan. As a new Masters student, I was happy to learn from both my counterparts and seasoned PhD holders who challenged my biases and debated my thoughts. About two thirds of participants were female and I was encouraged that Asian educated and Western educated female students alike were unafraid to ask tough questions and be bold. Being surround by brilliant female minds was energizing; a scene like this is exactly what I like.

Imagine my surprise then, when an informal “get to know each other” session shone light on the elephant in the room: that some of our peers considered the female PhD students to be a third kind of human. At a later dinner in Shanghai, it was explained to me another way. It is also commonly believed in China that there are three types of women and they follow three distinct life paths: second class women marry first class men, first class women marry second class men, and third class women? They get PhDs. In a culture where many still judge a woman on her husband’s success, unmarried at 27 is practically considered a social disease. Parents become embarrassed if their daughters are “leftover” or “sheng nu”. If a woman is smart, and attractive enough to find a good husband, why would she waste her youth and prime child bearing years in school?

Source: Flickr, @USDAgov

Source: Flickr, @USDAgov

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Examining the Mental Blocks to pursuing a Creative Career

Posted on July 19, 2013

Within every deskbound Singaporean exists a creative soul.

When I look at Singapore, I see a nation of highly committed workers focused on growing their incomes, extending their exports, expanding services to generate incomes and build stores of wealth whether for a rainy day. Beneath these solicitors, accountants, and engineers, are dreams of being a musician, an artist, a dancer—all pushed aside to pursue ‘a proper job’.

There are reasons why these closeted creatives exist.


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The Science of Creativity: Intersections of Design x Music x Art

Posted on July 9, 2013


What feeds our imagination in the act of creation?


Some artists turn to music. Some turn to design and others turn to art movements, aiming to trigger that spark and burst of creation. This article looks at the influence of these 3 factors in the process of artistic creation and concludes that, oftentimes, it’s at the intersections and confluences of these stimuli where the stuff of magic happens.

The process of adaptation in creation is quite common, and pastiche as an act of imitation is a practice familiar to many ideas. However, when does borrowing border on plagiarism? As author Dean Inge spouts, “What is originality? Undetected plagiarism.” If we begin from this premise we can be more constructive in unpacking the influences (as the euphemism goes) of design, music, and art in one’s creative process.




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The Perils of Ignoring Humanities

Posted on July 4, 2013

One generation from now, parents and educators will reflect upon our era and wonder if we had ever bothered to consider the price for favouring technical academic subjects over the humanities.

In a recent piece on the New York Times, Verlyn Kinkenborg describes the dwindling interest for the humanities in higher education. Kinkenborg laments as an educator, “Each semester I hope, and fear, that I will have nothing to teach my students because they already know how to write. And each semester I discover, again, that they don’t.”

“Undergraduates will tell you that they’re under pressure — from their parents, from the burden of debt they incur, from society at large — to choose majors they believe will lead as directly as possible to good jobs. Too often, that means skipping the humanities.”

A Post-College Flowchart, Illustration by Jenna Brager

A Post-College Flowchart, Illustration by Jenna Brager


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