Exploring Asian Popular Culture


























Yangon, 2016


Institution code: COMM2497, COMM2345, COMM2444 (RMIT University) 

Teaching period: Trimester 1/2017 (Vietnam), Semester 2/2018 (Melbourne), Summer 2019 (Singapore)

Role: Course Coordinator & Lecturer

Curriculum innovation: (for COMM2497)

This course is where I was most experimental in my curriculum design experience during my time at RMIT University Vietnam. Some background information is necessary to understand this experimentality:

1. This course is the final in a series of 5 contextual studies courses in the Bachelor of Communication program, pitched at the third-year level. By this stage, students should already be familiar with a wide range of theoretical content in media & communication. Students should also have completed a diverse range of assessments from other courses within the program, including some project-based, industry-driven courses.

2. The mandated course learning objectives allow students to be independent and self-directed for the purpose of understanding, interpreting, and participating in pop culture in Asia.

3. There is a push towards implementing negotiated assessment as part of the university’s wider strategy to help make higher education more inclusive and accessible. I strongly identify with this pedagogy philosophy, and was eager to see how far I can push this principle in reality.

​Against this background, I taught and completely rewrote this course from scratch. Particularly, I turned this course into the first, and still only, project-based course whose assessment is fully negotiated within the School of Communication & Design. Information on how this is planned and implemented can be found below.

Assessment plan:

Assessment 1: Academic Portfolio (25%) - Week 5

Students are required to submit a 1000 word portfolio report of their academic career thus far, outlining (1) modes and subject matters of their academic outputs within the contextual studies strand til this point (2) areas of contextual studies they identify as gaps/wish to explore in depth (3) proposal for the mode AND area of popular culture they wish to explore for their project in this course, with clear justification.

Assessment 2: Project Progress Seminar (25%) - Week 9

Students are required to deliver a 15-minute screen-based presentation on the progress of their projects in class. Feedback will be solicited from both the instructor and peers. Students will be assessed on (1) how well-delineated the conceptualisation of their topics are, (2) quality of the research they have done on their projects, and (3) evidence of critical thinking.

Assessment 3: Asian Popular Culture Project (50%) - Week 12

This assessment is negotiated. Students are not allowed to change the mode of their assessment after submission of their Assessment 1 in Week 5. Parameters around equivalence of this assessment is as follows:

● Text-based assessments

○ Research essay (3500 words)

○ Blog (3500 words)

○ Journalistic features (3500 words)

○ Fiction (2500 words + 1000 words rationale)

● Sound-based assessments

○ Radio (30 minutes)

○ Podcast (30 minutes)

● Image-based assessments

○ Photo exhibition (10 photos + 300 words annotation each)

○ Video essay (30 minutes)

○ Vlog (30 minutes)

○ Short movie (15 minutes + 1000 words rationale)

● Oral assessments

○ Workshop (1 hour)

○ Conference presentation (25 minutes + 20 minutes Q&A)

○ Public talk (30 minutes + 15 minutes Q&A)

Students are required to work closely with their instructor to form a topic in which they are interested, and that which addresses the learning outcomes of this course. Students are required to form their topic based on the three key research areas covered in this class, and are encouraged to consult the Project areas list for this task.

Project areas


1. Celebrity studies

● Celebrity and politics in Asia

● The celebrity industry in Asia

● The production of celebrity in Asia

● Who consumes celebrity in Asia?

2. Popular v. Legitimised cultures

● History of popular culture in Asia

● Politics of taste in Asia

● Art, culture, and class in Asia

● The middlebrow in Asia

● Digital technologies and the changing nature of popular culture in Asia

3. Subversive popular culture: cultural expressions from the peripheries

● Subversive culture & Fashion in Asia

● Subversive culture & Film in Asia

● Subversive culture & Music in Asia

● Subversive culture & Print in Asia

● Subversive culture & Technology in Asia

● Subversive culture & Identity politics in Asia 



Week 1: Introduction to popular culture in Asia - course demands & overview

Week 2: Imagining popular culture in Asia

Week 3: Representations of popular culture in Asia: the celebrity

Week 4: Cultures from the peripheries: Subversive popular culture

Week 5: Workshop: Research for an academic project (1)

This workshop walks you through the basic and advanced techniques of conducting secondary academic research, with a focus on utilising RMIT resources. It will also familiarise you with the hierarchy and politics of academic literature search, as well as giving tips on how to be organised with your literature review. Practical research exercises are provided in this session. This session will be conducted in a lab. By the end of this session, you will have the necessary skills to kick-start your projects.

Week 6: Workshop: Research for an academic project (2)

This workshop walks you through the basics of conducting primary academic research. This session will be conducted in a lab. This session will cover the basic processes for collecting primary data for academic projects, focusing on the following objectives:

Finding the right methodology for the right research question

Data collection reliability and validity

Detecting biases – and how to deal with them

Week 7: Concept Mapping for Literature Review

There is no formal lecture for this week. Students are instructed to produce a concept map for their individual projects during this week, drawing from the literature review they have conducted in weeks 5 & 6, and present it in class in week 8. Students will also be introduced to a range of concept mapping softwares available via the RMIT database for the purpose of this exercise.

Week 8: Project checkpoint (1)

This is the first checkpoint in your project plan for this course. You are required to come to this session with your completed concept map, and deliver a 5-minute presentation of your concept map. Your instructor and peers will give you actionable feedback on the conceptualisation of your topic, and quality of your research, in preparation for the Project Progress Seminar the following week.

Week 9: Project Progress Seminar

This assessment gives you an opportunity to critically reflect on your progress in this course thus far, and is a vital milestone to the completion of your individual project for this course. Therefore, by this stage, you should have had a solid understanding of the topic chosen for your project, and have made effective attempts at incorporating the theories and concepts discussed in this course in your project.

Please refer to the assessment brief & assessment rubric available on Blackboard for this assessment task.

Week 10: Reviewing for academic rigour: Peer review & project revision

This session covers the basics of the peer-review process as the quality control mechanism in academia. This session is built to help you understand the importance of rigour in an academic project, as well as how to ensure rigour for your own. This session is also an opportunity for think about and take action on any possible revisions of your project.

Week 11: Project checkpoint (2)

This session is conducted on a consultation basis. Students exploring similar topic areas (inclusive of different modes) will work in groups to discuss their project progress with guidance and supervision from the instructor. Feedback is solicited from both peers and instructor. This is your last opportunity to revise and improve your project prior to the showcase the following week – and is also a good opportunity to expand your understanding of (1) your particular topic area, (2) different approaches framed by different assessment modes on the same broad topic area, and (3) different interests and perspectives within the same broad topic area.

Week 12: Project showcase

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© 2020 by Dang Nguyen