Southeast Asia Neighborhoods Network 2.0: Communities of Learning, Research and Teaching Collaborative (SEANNET Collective)

SEANNET Collective is a 5-year multi-disciplinary project that aims to develop collaborative research and pedagogical approaches on urban life in 11 city study sites in Southeast Asia. The study aims to advance inquiry on two issues:

  • The relationship between daily practices in the neighbourhood – including communities’ autonomy in making spaces – and the building of a “good city”, and
  • The ways in which bottom-up place-making in neighbourhoods — the process of creating quality places for people to live, work and play — affect the city at large.

To do so, SEANNET Collective over the next 5 years envisions to be:

  • a platform for conceptualisations of cities and urban life through community-engaged research;
  • a programme to develop capacities of academics and institutions of higher learning in collaborative research and pedagogical approaches; and
  • A dynamic and committed international community on research and teaching to build a multidisciplinary understanding of Southeast Asia’s societies.

Including Singapore, SEANNET Collective will cover sites in 10 other cities — Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei Darussalam; Surabaya and Jayapura in Indonesia; Seremban in Malaysia; Manila in the Philippines; Bangkok and Chiang Mai in Thailand; Dili in Timor-Leste; Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam; and Phnom Penh in Cambodia. At each research site, the researchers will investigate how neighbourhoods address the various challenges that cities often face, such as environmental problems, public health, commodification of space, migration, arts, heritage, and technologisation of cities. With the Covid-19 pandemic having expanded further the use of online spaces in our daily lives and educational activities, each team is expected to blend online and offline approaches to enhance collaboration between researchers, students, and communities across borders. SEANNET Collective will feature a series of workshops to exchange research findings and teaching approaches in each site, researchers’ mobility programmes and fellowships, and the establishment of the Southeast Asia Community and City Online Library.

Singapore topped the 2020 Smart City Index (SCI) which surveyed 109 cities across various dimensions of how citizens would consider their respective cities as becoming better cities by becoming smarter ones. It showed Singaporeans to have a high level of positiveness and support for the Smart Nation movement, such as their willingness to concede personal data to improve traffic congestion, are comfortable with the use of face recognition technologies to reduce crimes, support cashless financial transactions, and have an increased trust in the authorities that came with the availability of online information. For a city-state that has rapidly transformed itself from third world to first under the strong leadership of technocrats, its success to becoming a smart city seem undeterred.

The study on Singapore is keen to examine the technologization of its people as the city technologizes from philosophical and humanist perspectives. Singapore, having achieved success under the leadership of technocrats and with pragmatism embedded in the DNA of most Singaporeans, presents an interesting case for examining responses to technologization. Singapore’s smart nation movement is a national commitment to “technique” which suggests a centralised approach to finding “the one best way”, but this is also an impersonal approach will inevitably challenge the everyday human need for autonomy and spontaneity, human-to-human relatedness, and meaningful connectedness to their surroundings.

To this end, this study will examine 2 towns with different historical development and demographic make-ups – Punggol Northshore Smart Town and Bukit Merah public rental-flats. It will first examine the centrality of technology in the development plans of both towns, with close attention to the care taken to preserve and enhance the humanist aspects of everyday living in terms of personal autonomy and community place-making. Second, it will reveal the different outlook of “technique” of residents from both towns in relation to their understanding and importance of autonomy and place-making. It will ask questions related to how “techniques” bring new understandings to their lives and city-living. Finally, it will examine the gaps “technique” has created between centralised notions of city-life and everyday notions of city-living and conduct cross-city studies in the SEANNET Collective of the same theme.

CUC Faculties’ Involvement

SEANNET Collective Coordinator

A/P Rita Padawangi

Centre for University Core, SUSS



SEANNET Collective Co-Coordinator, Singapore Principal Investigator

A/P Jennifer Ang
Director, Centre for University Core, SUSS



Singapore Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Janice Kam
Centre for University Core, SUSS


Funding institution & duration

Henry Luce Foundation | 5 years (Jul 2021 – June 2026)

Project Link

Contact information

For those who want to know more about the project, please contact:

SEANNET Collective

Rita Padawangi

Singapore Case Study

Jennifer Ang and/or