Implications of Communication and Media Studies

Victor ThongCommunications are a fundamental backbone of the 21st century. Social, economic and political trends are shaped by communication practices that connect every fraction of this globalised world. Ideas are transmitted and discourses are presented via mass media, social media, e-commerce and digital media. Victor Thong Weng Hong, a School of Arts and Social Sciences alumnus at Monash University Malaysia provides more insights.

I’ve always had a thirst for solving problems and meeting people. Fascinated by how the media affects and influences their audiences’ thought processes and actions, I was eager to understand how this was done and the way in which it takes place. This, alongside a dream to pursue a career in advertising or public relations, naturally led me to enrol in the Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies at Monash Malaysia.

Adopting a more theoretical approach to addressing contemporary issues and discourses, the course has 24 units ranging from communication studies to creative writing. It integrates theory and practice in a consolidated syllabus, touching on the practical side of media with subjects such as creative writing. Major units such as Authorship and Writing help students develop their creative, writing and critical thinking skills, further enhancing their existing aptitudes.

During my course of study, I realised that when we study communications, the subject of study is often, as you might have guessed: people.

We study people, write about people, interview people, and meet people to retrieve their interpretations and perspectives of how things subjectively make sense. The ‘Youth and Mobile Media unit’ explored how vital social and mobile media is to retrieving information on the latest news and trends that inherently shape and reinforce significant values  that develop personal identities. This helps to build a collective yet diverse worldview where people explore different ideas. Through studying people and communications, we also explore the various ways in which the media attempts to ‘inject’ values and ideas (the most obvious being advertising) – into the minds of their targeted audience – or how commercialised ideals directly affect people’s behaviours. The reality, however, is more complex as there are both passive and active audiences, with the former being more prone to accepting messages ‘fed’ to them on a persuasive platter; whereas the latter would decipher, challenge, and debate messages that did not seem to fit.

In my second year, to supplement my classroom experience, I landed an internship opportunity in a global PR firm (Hill + Knowlton Strategies) to see if what I learned could really be applied to real-time corporate scenarios and conundrums. Instinctively, things made a lot more sense and the classroom theories learned reinforced my understanding of what I saw.  

During my three-month stint, I saw how communications concepts learned from the ‘Freedom and Control in Media’ unit focused on communication policy and helped me to understand why certain issues arise and their solutions. One example is censorship in Malaysia. While drafting our press releases, I was reminded by my supervisor to take into consideration my choice of words and tone so as not to induce any negative sentiments in the readers nor to convey racial innuendos because racism is a trigger issue in the nation. Messages are often censored or reworked to avoid conflicts. Learning about censorship and how certain communications policies are implemented to avoid misinterpretations, helped me to comprehend how messages worded in suggestive approaches can stir up unwanted social problems. It is highly important that we are mindful and considerate on the messages we intend to disseminate, especially on a national or global scale. My experience in learning communication definitely guided me in addressing practical, real-world problems.  

Upon graduation I pursued a career in content marketing and digital advertising, starting as an account executive. This role requires one to be organised, possess creative and critical thinking, clear communication skills, have strong research/analytical skills, and people management skills as well as a flair for writing. The communication degree equipped me with these necessary skills through its tight deadlines, team projects, proposals and research assignments. The curriculum prepared us to undertake various challenges and obstacles in our workplace.

My former varsity peers, now in different job sectors, are doing exceptionally well and are, to me, some of the most creative and versatile individuals in the job market. Most of us have found employment in related industries such as corporate communications, journalism, diplomacy and foreign affairs, broadcasting as well as production. We still keep in touch and exchange different industrial experiences. The consensus is that social media has become an integral tool for marketing, branding and corporate identity. Business organisations widely utilise social media to increase their customer reach and engagement and to gather market intelligence.

All in all, the course taught me to always strive to continually improve and learn. To always question, challenge and engage, integrating what I’ve been taught with my experiences with work in the future. Ancora Imparo, Monash.

For more information on the programs offered in the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Monash University Malaysia, please refer to the following courses: