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The Tridea Project: Designing Conditions to Foster Culturally Diverse Co-Creation in a Virtual Space

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Abstract and Figures

Contemporary design practitioners must adapt to the challenges of creative problem solving in an increasingly dynamic and transient commercial sphere. Accordingly, it is necessary for design (and designers) to address the need for new and innovative methods, which cogently respond to the complex and evolving sociocultural needs of present-day society. Therefore, this paper discusses the development of The Tridea Project, an ongoing, multifaceted creative project which provides a platform for virtual co-creation as a means to reposition creative practice towards inclusion and diversity. Through the pluralistic lenses of cultural diversity and co-creation, several methods to encourage a more egalitarian approach to creative practice in virtual spaces are discussed. Initial interpretations suggest that the Tridea Project may serve as a workable example of what virtual, ethical co-creation might encompass; alongside contributing to the discussion about re-thinking inclusivity in design by creating optimum conditions to encourage cultural diversity.
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Design as Common Good
Online Conference | 25-26 March 2021
The Tridea Project: Designing Conditions to Foster
Culturally Diverse Co-Creation in a Virtual Space.
Lisa Winstanleya
aSchool of Art, Design & Media, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
*lwinstanley@ntu.edu.sg
Abstract | Contemporary design practitioners must adapt to the challenges of creative
problem solving in an increasingly dynamic and transient commercial sphere. Accordingly, it
is necessary for design (and designers) to address the need for new and innovative methods,
which cogently respond to the complex and evolving sociocultural needs of present-day
society. Therefore, this paper discusses the development of The Tridea Project, an ongoing,
multifaceted creative project which provides a platform for virtual co-creation as a means to
reposition creative practice towards inclusion and diversity. Through the pluralistic lenses of
cultural diversity and co-creation, several methods to encourage a more egalitarian approach
to creative practice in virtual spaces are discussed. Initial interpretations suggest that the
Tridea Project may serve as a workable example of what virtual, ethical co-creation might
encompass; alongside contributing to the discussion about re-thinking inclusivity in design by
creating optimum conditions to encourage cultural diversity.
Keywords: Co-Creation, Diversity, Virtual Space, User Interface, Branding
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1. Introduction
Contemporary design practitioners must adapt to the challenges of creative problem-solving
in an increasingly dynamic and transient commercial sphere. Accordingly, it is necessary for
design (and designers) to address the need for new and innovative tools and methods, which
cogently respond to, or build upon, the complex and evolving socio-cultural needs of
present-day society. Accordingly, this paper unpacks several challenges that we, as
designers, are currently facing and their relevance to design as common good. Through the
pluralistic lenses of cultural diversity and co-creation this paper proposes several methods to
encourage a more egalitarian approach to creative practice.
In recent times, emphasis has been placed upon empathetic design (see Callahan, 2018;
Köppen & Meinel, 2014; Liedtka & Ogilvie, 2011) as a means to address societal needs,
however, this paper proposes that empathy should be considered as merely the beginning of
a much wider conversation. And whilst ethical considerations should be fundamental to how
designers engage with society; it is also the amelioration of shared spaces and the resultant
production and consumption of communal creative content that can reconfigure the role of
design away from mere consumerism and towards that of the common good.
Accordingly, this paper introduces The Tridea Project, an ongoing, multifaceted creative
project which provides a platform for virtual co-creation as a means to reposition creative
practice towards inclusion and diversity. The Tridea Project (Winstanley, 2019b) invites
participants to engage in an online adaptation of the Surrealist parlour game, Cadavre
Exquis, or The Exquisite Corpse; whereby, consecutive images created by several participants
are seamlessly combined into one co-created composition. Within the Tridea online
platform, a purpose-built algorithm assigns users to virtual teams consisting of 3
participants. The allocation of these teams is determined by a combination of two factors:
the heterogeneity of geographic location and the ethnic diversity of participants. Thereafter,
a second algorithm automates the aggregation of the 3 individual participant contributions
into one co-created artefact; subsequently displaying the outcome in an online gallery,
which serves as a digital repository of pluralistic creative practice. The resultant artefacts are
then made available for purchase as high-resolution downloads, with all proceeds from sales
being donated to Tridea’s partnering charity, Transient Workers Count Too, (TWC2): An
organisation who advocate for the fair treatment of migrant workers in Singapore.
The main focus of this paper is to present the Tridea Project and its co-creation methods,
designed to foster cultural diversity, with the aim of instigating a wider conversation on how
to navigate design towards that of the common good. The following section of this paper
unpacks the motivations behind this research and positions the Tridea Project as a catalyst
for diverse co-creation.
The Tridea Project: Designing Conditions to Foster Diverse Co-Creation in a Virtual Space.
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2. Background
The motivation behind this research project is intently personal and its inception stems from
the desire to demonstrate to my mixed-race daughter that there are equal opportunities for
non-white, female designers and perhaps more importantly, equal opportunities to gain
recognition for creative expression. Yet, research into the current state of design,
particularly in a Western context, suggests that (Ross, 2012) the design sector is heavily
dominated by white designers. Ico-D, the International Council of Design, also report that,
“in the UK, 88% of design managers are white” ("ico-D | Explorations in ethical design |
meditations on diversity", 2020). From the reading lists of top-ranking design schools
through to the documentation of graphic design history, pervasively the best designers are
showcased as Western, white males. This perceivable inequality has been institutionalised. A
notable example being told in Drenttel’s, (2008) Design Observer article titled whose flag?
which details a competition run by Adbusters, (an organisation with a reputation for
inclusivity) to design a flag for global citizenship. The jury for this competition initially
comprised of 7 white, Western male jurors. The irony here is not lost on the author and it is
multiple incidents such as this, which, according to Akama & Barnes, (2009) demonstrate the
need for cultural diversity to supplant the whitewashed, male dominated field of design. This
inequity underpins the overarching premise of this research, which is to explore how virtual
spaces can extend collaborative opportunities in creative practice and encourage
participation from culturally diverse creative communities. Thereby, creating co-designed
artefacts which are more fitting representations of our culturally diverse, global society.
2.1 Design as a catalyst for diverse co-creation
Critical design practices, such as collaboration and co-creation are increasingly prevalent
issues, specifically in 2020 with the current pandemic situation challenging our ability to
effectively collaborate. As such, (Chao, 2020) designers have needed to innovate and adapt
their traditional workflows. Alongside these issues, the rise in movements such as, Black
Lives Matter, have ensured that diversity and inclusion have also been (rightly) forced to the
forefront of design conversations (“Designing for diversity”, 2020; Biesboer, 2020). The
Tridea project has been ongoing since 2018 and has not jumped on the bandwagon of 2020
trends, but rather, is already engaged in much needed conversations to drive solutions for
equitable design. Walker, (2016); Akama & Barnes, (2009) both express the need for the
design industry to actively disrupt the lack of diversity, with Akama & Barnes, (2009) going as
far to suggest that “a lack of diversity perpetuates a lack of diversity” (p. 33). The Tridea
Project therefore, positions itself as an intervention, (see Winstanley, 2019b) to provide a
disruption to the status quo by providing innovative methods for co-creation and an
inclusive virtual platform to foster cultural diversity in design practice.
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There are 2 aspects of the Tridea project design which in order to explore this paper’s
aforementioned aim of, instigating a wider conversation on how to navigate design towards
that of the common good, must be explored separately (although there are overlapping
elements). Firstly, the design of the Tridea platform itself, both as a brand identity and
functioning user interface aimed at an international audience. Secondly, the design of the
Tridea experience. How and why does one move through the space and how this can foster
culturally diverse co-creation? To begin this exploration, we must first have an
understanding of what is meant by cultural diversity, why this is important in 2020 and what
is meant by co-creation. Accordingly, the following 2 sections of this paper will now aim to
briefly discuss these terms.
3. Cultural Diversity
Diversity is a common buzzword in design however, its ubiquity seems to have somewhat
diluted its importance. Even as far back as 2015, the New York Times (Holmes, 2015)
reported that the term diversity, once seen as optimal, had morphed into something
contemptuous, through continual hyperbole, misuse and apathy. Yet increasingly, and
specifically in 2020, fostering diversity in design is imperative if we are to engender
interconnectedness and an equitable practice that is representative of our entire society
rather than just the dominant culture of that society.
Recent research conducted by Lloyds Bank on the current state of advertising in the UK,
(Lloyds Banking Group | Reflecting Modern Britain? A study into inclusion and diversity in
advertising., n.d.) discovered that minority communities were rarely represented in British
advertising despite forming a significant part of British society. When minority groups were
represented, they were portrayed one-dimensionally, lacking diverse aspects of language,
authentic clothing, ritual practices or cuisine. The 2020 Christmas advertising campaign for
Sainsbury’s supermarket in the UK, featured a black British family and has, according to
Flood, (2020) subsequently faced a racist online backlash, labelling the campaign as virtue
signalling. So, whilst there are improvements being made in the industry, there is still a lot of
work to be done to encourage both diverse representation and societal acceptance.
Diversity work has also been instigated by industry bodies; Ico-D | Explorations in ethical
design | meditations on diversity (2020), for example, discuss how as designers we are
gatekeepers. That our work governs who has ingress to spaces, assets or knowledge and
how subsequently, designers must provide equilibrium to both the needs of the individual
and those of the wider community. AIGA, the Professional Association for Design, has also
set up a diversity task force, their mission communicated as, “Encouraging diversity in design
education, discourse, and practice to strengthen and expand the relevance of design in all
areas of society.” (“AIGA | Diversity, Equity, Inclusion”, 2020) The AIGA website also
provides a list of resources to encourage diversity in creative practice and in the classroom,
which is most certainly a step in the right direction.
The Tridea Project: Designing Conditions to Foster Diverse Co-Creation in a Virtual Space.
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There are also other academic projects which explore how diversity can be increased within
design. Of interest to this paper is the work of Nilsson & Ottsen Hansen, (2018) who
investigate methods of increasing diversity in museum co-archiving practices, in order to
better document the lived experiences of refuges. Their project introduces a co-archiving
toolbox which is subsequently tested in the field. Once again, this project an excellent step
forward for inclusivity and diversity in practise yet, the scope of this research does not aim
to tackle spaces for culturally diverse production or consumption of design, nor the
recognition of diverse design talents and this is where Tridea differentiates itself.
A second project of note is, Project Inkblot, described as “a team of designers and futurists
who partner with companies to build equitable products, services and content using Design
for Diversity™(D4D)” (“Project Inkblot”, n.d.). The D4D™ framework provides a series of 6
core questions to consider throughout the design process, including, “What’s the worst-case
scenario of what you are creating? Who might you be excluding? And what is your plan
ensuring that your work co-designing with The Source is not just a one-off, but instead, a
continuous relationship?” (“How to begin designing for diversity”, 2020) The D4D
framework has been integral to developing the Tridea Project experience and the questions
helped to highlight not only the intention behind the work but also the impact that the
project may have on misrepresented communities. The Tridea project is therefore clear in its
intent to first and foremost, focus on designing conditions for increased cultural diversity
with a view to expand into other visible differences, such as gender and then non-visible
differences, such as the LGBTQ community and finally, diversity of mindsets, delineated by
Bhowmick, (2017) as different ideals, viewpoints and circumstances, as the project expands.
This paper will now move on to introduce the topic of co-creation in the production and
consumption of design.
4. Co-Creation
There is a considerable body of research which explores co-creation best practices, in a
design context (see Chao, 2020; Kohler et al., 2011; Rill & Hämäläinen, 2018) however, much
of the existing research is focussed on designing situations which foster team-based
collaboration to solve a creative problem, almost as an extension of the design thinking
process. Rill & Hämäläinen, (2018) describe co-creation as “a creative process that taps into
the collective potential of groups to generate insights and innovation.” (p. 22) Whilst co-
creation is integral to Tridea, the exquisite corpse game which the platform is built around,
relies on individual self-expression being subsumed as part of the communal; a symbolic and
dynamic exchange of chance and ultimately trust in the unknown. Namely the unknown
players in the co-creation vehicle. There are, of course, parallels to established co-creation
frameworks, which have inevitably influenced aspects of Tridea’s virtual space, and this
paper also acknowledges Tridea’s inception from its Surrealist parlour game roots. Tridea is
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therefore, not proposed as being a new idea but rather advancement of a more egalitarian
space to expand upon existing ideas.
In the context of the Tridea project, I see myself as an experience designer, facilitating
conditions conducive for diverse co-creation. Accordingly, I have designed the process
architecture of Tridea’s platform in order to reframe spaces for effective, collaborative
creativity and as such, have considered 3 key aspects for diverse co-creation as proffered by
Rill & Hämäläinen, (2018) in their, “Space Between Model” (p. 25). Firstly, the people who
will participate, secondly, the environment within which they will participate and thirdly, the
process of participation itself. Each of these aspects has required significant consideration in
order to cohesively develop a co-creation experience which cultivates cultural diversity in
creative practice and advances altruistic collective outcomes.
The next section of this paper will summarise Tridea’s research methods and explore the 3
aforementioned key aspects of people, environment and process, as conditions to facilitate
diverse co-creation from both viewpoints of Tridea as a brand identity and as an experiential
platform.
5. Designing Conditions for Culturally Diverse Co-creation
The Tridea Project’s research approach is experimental and pragmatic, adopting a design
thinking strategy for creation and iteration of the Tridea brand identity, online platform and
social media pages. From the offset, the challenge was to speculate alternate eventualities
for co-creation and to establish spaces which directly involved participants in the co-design
process. Accordingly, whilst the Tridea brand Identity and the UI/UX for the Tridea Website
have been specifically designed for international participants, the end goal has always been
to facilitate co-design practices with participants. Thus, challenging user assumptions and
stereotypes by cultivating a narrative journey of learning, acceptance and trust in others.
Design thinking and specifically Winstanley’s (2019a) method, “See, Sort, Synthesise &
Solutions” (p. 4), has provided a user centric framework, whereby an analogue workshop,
cognitive walk through testing and formal user testing have helped shape design directions
towards democratic solutions for the common good.
The project set out with 3 initial design goals.
1. Design conditions for effective co-creation
(Tridea as a brand identity and user Interface design)
2. Design conditions for cultural diversity in creative practice
(Tridea as an experiential platform)
3. Design conditions where diverse co-creation is celebrated, promoted and
recognised
(Tridea as a promotional tool for culturally diverse creative practice)
The Tridea Project: Designing Conditions to Foster Diverse Co-Creation in a Virtual Space.
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The following section elaborates how this project has aimed to achieve these design goals by
considering the people, environment and processes required to achieve them.
5.1 People, Environment and Process
The Tridea project was developed with the notion that designer and stakeholder both have
responsibility for production and consumption of creative outcomes. However, this paper
proposes that this responsibility is divergent, and with that, authorship is on a fluid
spectrum. The knowledge production occurring with Tridea stakeholders, therefore, results
in shared authorship and accordingly, by evaluating who potential users might be, what they
wish to accomplish using the site and what support they need to complete these tasks, will
position Tridea towards an understanding of equitable shared authorship, or co-creation.
As aforementioned, the D4DÔ framework was a key tool in determining who Tridea
stakeholders might be and, perhaps more importantly, for establishing who may have been
inadvertently excluded. The core, D4DÔ questions (“How to begin designing for diversity”,
2020) considered how the composition of Tridea design team itself impacted upon design
decisions; how our identities may impact creative choices and how our lived experiences
may not correlate with those we are trying to engage. Self-reflection, acknowledgement of
positions of privilege and the fact that the scope of the project inevitably meant limitations
in the diversity of team members, led to seeking feedback from multifarious sources and
rethinking what the culture of Tridea might represent from diverse standpoints. From this
analysis it was determined that the Tridea user-interface would feature limited imagery, so
as to allow the shared authorship of participants to become the visual culture of Tridea,
rather than pre-determined, prescribed visual values. Rill & Hämäläinen, (2018) describe
facilitating co-creation using an analogy of being a midwife. Applying this analogy to Tridea
provides insight that the platform facilitates the creative process of others. It is not my
process or my team’s process and we are not in control. For me, this is the beauty of Tridea;
I have no idea who the team participants will be, in what cultural configuration teams will be
allocated or what the collective outcomes will look like, and I trust that that is a good thing,
as Tridea has been conceived with the needs of others in mind as oppose to my own.
A review of existing literature revealed minimal information relating to team allocation
algorithms in this context, however, an examination of team creation strategy revealed
(Chapman et al., 2006) how self-selection of teams can lead to “cronyism” (p. 560), less
diverse teams and even omission of certain participants. It was with this in mind that the
team allocation algorithm was introduced to the project. Whilst the development of the
algorithm is outside the scope of this paper and indeed the expertise of the author, its
inception was integral to Tridea’s ability to achieve the 3 design goals and as such, facilitates
diversity by default. Self-selection of teams was initially considered as a method for co-
creation, however, as in a creative workspace or classroom environment, where groups
would be typically be assigned, Tridea saw the algorithm as an approach, not only to foster
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diversity, but to also remain connected to the exquisite corpse game, where chance and
trust are key signifiers of the process and ultimately the outcome.
Once the team’s shortcomings and the possibilities for automated team selection had been
established and addressed, we began to evaluate how to equitably engage an international
audience. Initially, it was conceptualised that this could be done by adopting Hofstede’s
Cultural Dimensions Theory (Hofstede & Hofstede, n.d.) a framework proposed to gain
insight into cultural differences and variants comprising of 6 value systems. This theory has
subsequently been adopted by scholars such as Marcus & Gould, (2000) and Callahan, (2005)
as a basis to understand how cultural values might shape visual communication. However, it
was determined that focusing on the cultural differences in value systems could direct the
visual language of Tridea towards fixed stereotypes and subsequently work in opposition to
an intercultural user interface. Instead, determining a visual language for an international
audience was done through stakeholder mapping and journey mapping, to establish best-
and worst-case scenarios for key stakeholders. This subsequently led to development of a
visual language aimed at inclusivity and a more emotive textual dialogue to build
connectedness.
The tag line; Create, Collaborate, Donate, was developed to appeal to 3 types of participants;
firstly, Create, for those who wish to contribute to the production of the Tridea culture.
Secondly, Collaborate, for those who wish to make meaningful connections within the Tridea
culture and finally, Donate, for those who wish to consume artefacts derived from the Tridea
culture. There was also initially a fourth element to the tag line, Celebrate. However, this
was removed and instead the Tridea of the month (TotM) concept was developed to be an
accentuated aspect of the Tridea offering (See Figure 1). TotM selects one of the co-created
Trideas and provides recognition for creativity by highlighting the artefact and the artists in
the online gallery, across social media and by providing the 3 co-creators with a digital TotM
certificate. Currently, ways to ensure that the TotM selection is fair and inclusive are being
discussed and it has been proposed to allow previous winners to make the selection, thus
further promoting cyclic community participation. At the date of writing this discission is still
ongoing, however, identifying these entry points has helped to situate the experience from
the frame of reference of the participants and thus determine the environment in which
they could participate creating conditions to encourage cultural diversity.
The Tridea Project: Designing Conditions to Foster Diverse Co-Creation in a Virtual Space.
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Figure 1. Tridea User Interface Design. iMac shows the Tridea of the Month as a means of
promoting and recognising diverse co-creation in practice. (Exquisite corpse for illustrative
purposes only) Laptop shows the Tridea Project website home page and tablet shows Tridea
menu page design.
Tridea’s environment is predominantly virtual and accordingly, this brief analysis focusses on
the semiotic rather than the physical, in an attempt to understand the intangible elements
that define the energy and tone-of-voice of the Tridea brand. Referring again to the 3 design
goals set out, the development of the Tridea environment considered how it might foster
culturally diverse, co-creation, celebrate and recognise the stakeholders in that process and
consider alternative ways to more ethically consume the resultant artefacts. Decidedly, the
Tridea brand has therefore, sought to remain somewhat culturally homogenous. In doing so
the colour palette, typeface choices, visual and textual language have all been considered so
as to provide a backdrop for the main event, rather than take centre stage.
Aside from the brand positioning, several other aspects of the Tridea environment are
intended to provide stakeholders with visual signage as to how and why to participate, such
as an animated, instructional explainer video and interactive like, comment and share
features on gallery images. Yet, as the site is aimed at an intercultural audience this paper
positions these elements within the Tridea environment as mediating tools. According to
Winstanley, (2019b) mediating tools are “an agent for social actors to communicate in a
common language thus, providing a clear system of communication within a heterogeneous
design ecology.” (p. 12). It is therefore, proposed that the use of mediating tools, could aid
in creating conditions conducive for diverse co-creation and accordingly meet the 3 design
goals.
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Further mediating tools have been utilised in construction of the Tridea process architecture
and sensemaking of that process has been identified as key to engendering successful
participation; particularly, sensemaking for culturally divergent audiences. One way in which
Tridea has attempted to mediate comprehension of its process is through the use of
analogy. As the analogy of midwifery was beneficial to the Tridea design team in
comprehending the scope of their decisions, it is proposed that the analogy of a relay race
will be beneficial to participants in comprehending the Tridea process of co-creation. As with
a relay race, Tridea’s creative baton is metaphorically passed from player to player to
advance the creative process. This simple metaphor provides a concept which most people
will be familiar with however, graphics have also been designed to emphasise its meaning to
communities who may not recognize the terminology. The relay race analogy was specifically
chosen due to its relationship with the Olympic Games Torch Relay, which in itself is
representative of diversity and inclusion; the flame symbolizing the light of spirit, knowledge
and life. Decidedly, setting clear expectations for trusting and engaged participation within
the Tridea virtual space.
This paper has outlined some of the methods and strategy undertaken to reconfigure design
towards that of the common good. It is anticipated that the project will develop and
reconfigure even further as the site goes live and accordingly, further research is proposed
to fully understand the reverberations in the field of design for common good.
5.2 Limitations
Originating from a Caucasian female, The Tridea Project could be perceived as paying lip
service to current trends in cultural diversity and inclusion. Merely, virtue signalling or a box
ticking exercise. However, my intent has always been to allow the brand and the UI to take
second stage to the co-created artefacts produced on the Tridea platform itself. Thus, my
individual contribution inherently becomes less important than the collective outcome and
Tridea becomes a starting point from where a more integrated, textured level of creative
practice can immerge. It is also important to note that, in its current state, Tridea focusses
on cultural divergence and there are distinct gaps to be filled for the inclusion of other
misrepresented communities. This is an ongoing research project and there are plans to
expand the project with a view to broadening the inclusivity of the platform, nevertheless, it
is acknowledged that there is much work still to be done.
6. Conclusion
"Explorations in ethical design | meditations on equality | ico-D", (2020) assert that
“Designers have the tools to implement systemic change: Re-thinking production and
consumption models, dematerialising processes and impacting social habits.” This project is
an attempt to bring alternative diverse design practice into the forefront of conversations
around design. To educate and provide a platform for creative communities to dictate what
The Tridea Project: Designing Conditions to Foster Diverse Co-Creation in a Virtual Space.
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diverse, co-creation means. However, given that Tridea is still in the testing phase, its
potential for design as common good is too early to evaluate. Initial reactions to the
platform as a methodological approach to develop conditions conducive for diverse, co-
creation are promising. What can be propounded is that the Tridea platform can be used as
a workable example of what virtual, ethical co-creation might encompass; alongside the
potential to contribute to the discussion about re-thinking the inclusivity of design by
creating optimum conditions to encourage cultural diversity.
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Lisa Winstanley is an Assistant Professor of visual communication at Nanyang
Technological University in Singapore. Lisa's current research explores the
intersection between design and trust, focussing on two concomitant areas:
ethical design practice and collaborative design practice.
Acknowledgements: Research for this paper was made possible by a Start Up
Grant (SUG): M4082219.090 from the Ministry of Education, Singapore.
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Special thanks to Associate professor Jesvin Yeo for her continued guidance
and support and to Research Assistant, Wu You for hard work, dedication and
support.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
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