Define Your Identity

How does one define their identity? Is it by the way they choose to portray themselves, their cultural associations or their personality?

There are various definitions of the term identity. In the case of a popular Internet guide, The Free Online Dictionary (, there are six. They are:

“1. The collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognizable or known

2. The set of behavioral or personal characteristics by which an individual is recognizable as a member of a group.

3. The quality or condition of being the same as something else.

4. The distinct personality of an individual regarded as a persisting entity; individuality.

5. Information, such as an identification number, used to establish or prove a person’s individuality, as in providing access to a credit account.

6. Mathematics

a. An equation that is satisfied by any number that replaces the letter for which the equation is defined.

b. Identity element.” 

In our project we will be looking at the first four points and how they are depicted by users based on their use of the popular social networking website, STOMP.

Amongst its numerous other features, the Singapore Seen feature, STOMP’s citizen journalism portal is the key text that we will be looking at.

STOMP’s Singapore Seen allows users to post their views, new stories and comments with the safety of an online persona. The user can choose whoever they want to be. This theory of the online persona has been discussed numerous times as trend that allows youths to express themselves.

Their contributions are also always valued, regardless of its newsworthiness or relevance as long as the editors do not see it as offensive. This gives the users a heightened sense of importance and therefore raises the need to be responsible for their posts.

The availability of a citizen journalism portal adds on to this as users feel that their contributions matter to the general public and they are carrying out a form of public service by posting news on STOMP. By tracking the response or comments to their news articles, users can judge how well accepted they are by the public.

And the beauty of this is that anyone can do it. There are no barriers to entry or requirements. It’s like a club for anyone and everyone and you can do anything you want.

This role in society that STOMP takes on is that of a public sphere, where one can express him/herself and feel a sense of belonging to a community that is as vast as the entire country. This is the perfect ground for one to try and establish who they are and whether their views matter to anyone else; a necessity for most youths today.

Youths are constantly looking to blend in with the ‘cool’ crowd (whatever their definition of cool may be) and at the same time create a spot for themselves in the world as an individual. They are often hampered by the fear of rejection and/or embarrassment. One would only have to view the auditions for Singapore or American Idol to prove this theory right.

STOMP is perfect because it allows the user to accomplish so much with the safety net of an online persona. In the world today, the internet is ‘King’ and STOMP has successfully used it to provide locals with something more than just a social networking site.


The Free Online Dictionary, 2010. Identity. The Free Online Dictionary, accessed 25 November 2010, available at

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Tabloid Central

What exactly is a tabloid?

The term tabloid was initially coined by a pharmaceutical company in London called Burroughs Wellcome & Co. They were manufacturing compressed tablets and therefore started calling them ‘tabloid pills’.

The term then led to the birth of the tabloid newspaper which was more or less a compressed newspaper that was simplified and easy to read.

“A tabloid is often a weekly or semi-weekly alternative newspaper that focuses on local interest stories and entertainment, sometimes distributed free of charge, or a newspaper that tends to emphasize sensational crime stories, gossip columns repeating scandalous innuendos about the personal lives of celebrities and sport stars, and other so-called “junk food news”.” (Chorazak, 2010)

Several theorists and experienced journalist have criticized tabloid news papers for sensationalizing stories and lowering the quality of news. This does not just apply to the traditional news paper but to all other mediums as well. There are various books written discussing the tabloid news culture and its effects on news readers.

Tabloid news is very popular. Everyone wants to hear about the latest scandal, conspiracy theory or ogle at paparazzi photos of famous people.

“As people always had been fascinated by death, adversity and tragedy, tabloid journalism has never stopped progressing. Sensationalism attracts an audience, and because media profits are based on large audiences, it has become a foundation of the commercial media: thrills build big profits.” (Chorazak, 2010)

Another point o view is that there is a “need to make distinctions between high and low culture has occupied for as long as we have recognized that phenomenon we call “culture”. Journalism is no exception to this rule.” (Sparks and Tulloch, 2000)

Let’s look at the local English newspapers. We have the Straits Times and the Business times, both traditional newspapers that are very credible. Then we have the Today paper, The New Paper and MyPaper. These 3 seem to follow the format of tabloid newspapers but the content does not necessarily correspond. Readers get a compressed and easier to read paper but they seldom get sensationalized or scandalous news unless it has already been confirmed. Whereas in the United States, readers are exposed to all sorts of tabloid newspapers that discuss anything and everything under the sun.

Local readers are not really exposed to the kind of tabloid news that is available in other countries. Could this be the reason for the saturation on trivial “junk food news” we see in STOMP? As a citizen journalism portal, users can post whatever they want or whatever they believe people will read. A rise of tabloid-like news could possibly mean that Singaporeans are to a certain extent deprived of tabloids. Or maybe the issue at hand is something else completely.


Chorazak E. (2010), A Brief History of Tabloid Journalism, Helium Inc, accessed 05 December 2010, available at

Sparks C. & Tulloch J. (2000), Tabloid Tales: Global Debates over Media Standard, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc.

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Reasons behind the success of STOMP

The award-winning STOMP is Asia’s leading citizen-journalism website with user-generated material fuelling its success. It is successful in its own unique way via social networking, enabling thousands to come together to interact and bond both online and offline in Singapore Seen. STOMP connects, engages and interacts with Singaporeans in a style, an approach that is different from conventional news websites. The strong growth reflects not only its popularity but its resonance with Singaporeans. The STOMP application empowers everyone, the citizen journalists on the go, and contributes stories, videos, photos and views with simply just a few clicks away.

1) High Accessibility STOMP brunches out its accessibility on iPHONE application, making it even easier and convenient for STOMPers to contribute, snap photos/ videos, read and comment. STOMPers can now post their comments or contribute photos/ videos instantly via this iPHONE application.








2) Wide Range of Contents/ Sections within STOMP Within Singapore Seen alone, there are thousands of news available to read and comment about. Be it news contributed by STOMPers or news reported by full-time STOMP journalists. Various sections are available within STOMP, for instance discussion forums like ‘Just Talk Lah’, ‘Talk Back’ and many others, attract all kinds of readers and will never be out of pages to read about.

3) Low Restrictions As long as the contents are within the usual legal perimeters (e.g. usage of vulgarities, sensitivity on political issues, racial issues and etc), STOMP values all sorts of contents and comments.

With the above mentioned qualities within STOMP, it allows us to understand further how STOMP and its today’s success came about. The strengths of STOMP has shaped itself in a uniquely ‘Singaporean’ way, which no other citizen journalism sites could easily be adapted.

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Civic Engagement on STOMP

After exploring how STOMP is shaping to be the new public sphere, perhaps even being the most successful platform in encouraging Singapore youths to express their opinions and ideas to date, let’s look at how STOMP has propelled civic engagement amongst the same group.

Civic Engagement can be understood to be “a process, not an event, that closely involves people in the economic, social, cultural and political processes that affect their lives.” (UNDP 1993; cited in Malik, Wagle 2002) The scope of this term is best understood on a continuum spanning information-sharing to empowerment. (Malik, Wagle 2002)

Humanistic psychologist, Abraham Maslow, believes that people are motivated by the urge to satisfy needs, from basic survival to self-fulfillment. In Amy Jo Kim’s Community Building on the Web, she uses Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs to illustrate the goals and needs of online community participants (Bowman & Willis, 2003).

  • Physiological: food, clothing, shelter, health (translate it to online communities = system access; the ability to own & maintain one’s identity while participating in a Web community)
  • Security & Safety: protection from crimes and war, the sense of living in a fair and just society (translate it to online communities = protection from hacking and personal attacks; the sense of having a “level playing field”; ability to maintain varying levels of privacy
  • Social: the ability to give and receive love; the feeling of belonging to a group (translate it to online communities = belonging to the community as a whole, and to subgroups within the community)
  • Self-Esteem: self-respect; the ability to earn the respect of others and contribute to society (translate it to online communities = the ability to contribute to the community, and be recognized for those contributions)
  • Self-Actualization: the ability to develop skills and fulfill one’s potential (translate it to online communities = the ability to take on a community role that develops skills and opens up new opportunities)

STOMP seems to be able to motivate STOMPers to participate actively with the potential of fulfilling most of the needs in the checklist above. Interestingly, it is STOMPers’ need for self-esteem that propels them to promulgate their ability to contribute to the STOMP community in a bid to gain respect and recognition for their efforts (Bowman & Willis, 2003).

News headlines shouting out tabloid-worthy attention such as Couple behaves intimately on MRT: Guy even licks GF’s hand, Road rage: Aggressive tattooed man threatens driver with bat are attention seeking stories that always manage to generate ‘heated’/emotional thoughts, seen through the number of views and comments left behind by other passive or active STOMPers alike.

Again this brings us back the debate of “quality”. In this instance, “quality” of civic discussion content. Like most concepts, the concept of what civic engagement should be about, should lead to, began with works by ‘purist academics’. Hence the social issues in contention, observed in STOMP will once again draw disapproving looks from these critics.

After all, civic engagement is part of the construct of citizenship and the prevailing view of good citizenship holds that people should be actively involved in politics, they should be knowledgeable etc. (Theiss-Morse, Hibbing; 2005) Therefore in re-examining STOMP, it does not seem to display any of the identified, important values.

Rather it gives one the impression that these “trivial” matters seem to be of great national concern to its citizens as compared to information like the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) Index, inflation rate, latest political parties campaigning for the next general elections.

But civic engagement also encompasses the discussion of social issues. The social issues highlighted on STOMP cannot be simply ignored just because they don’t measure up to expectations. As i have been reiterating throughout most of my blog entries, instead of being fixated and quick to bring down the deemed ‘unworthy’, ‘not valuable’, look at them as a start to something good.

The fact that we are looking at a substantial level of participation, Singapore youths airing their opinions about ‘societal problems’ on STOMP goes to show that there is a potential for greater, better civic engagement in the near future.

STOMP deserves the credit/recognition in providing the communicative space that encourages civic engagement. Though the importance of topics in discussion are still highly debated, one must still recognise that STOMP was constructed to encourage participation, and has achieved that, no matter how ‘trivial’ such participation’s deemed to be.



Bowman, S., & Willis, C. (2003) We media. How audiences shape the future of news and information. Reston: The Media Center at the American Press Institute, [Accessed 19 November 2010],

Malik, Khalid. & Wagle, Swarnim. (2002) Civic Engagement and Development: Introducing The Issues, United Nations Development Programme

Thesis-Morse, Elizabeth., Hibbing, John R. (2005) Citizenship And Civic Engagement, Annual Review Political Science 2005.8:227-249, Universit

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Web 2.0 – A threat to the Internet?

It has been twenty years since the birth of the Internet in CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research) took the world by storm. Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Internet, then had the vision of a “single universal information space” when he first submitted his proposed “World Wide Web” back in 1989. On 25 December 1990, with the help of Robert Cailliau and a young student at CERN, they successfully implemented the first communication between hypertext and the Internet. From then on, there is no looking back.  

Today, the revolution in the Internet consumption is becoming a far cry from Sir Timothy’s vision. As cited in an article in, Berners-Lee expressed concern that the way social network sites encourage the compartmentalising of data across the internet in a series of “walled garden” environments. (, 2010) His beliefs hold true as we witness how these overzealous web application platforms such as Yahoo, Google, Facebook etc, operate in today’s Internet. They garner the users’ data and “owned” the rights to access to this information. Berners-Lee argued that this phenomenon will eventually lead to a fragmented web. In the same light, we can see that these applications are what we would identify as Web 2.0 application.

It is interesting to note that the Father of World Wide Web is frequently caught in the intertwining debates surrounding the term Web 2.0. With relation to my previous post, “Web 2.0 and STOMP”, we can see that when Tim O’Reilly first popularized term Web 2.0 in 2004, Berners-Lee was not very much convinced. But five years on, when he was interviewed in the Web 2.0 Summit 2009, he was convinced that Web 2.0 was indeed indifferent from Web 1.0. And recently in Nov 2010, it seemed that he had swayed back to the negative connotation of Web 2.0, in particularly when he expressed concerns over a social networking website (probably Facebook, I assumed) or one search engine (maybe Google in this case) gets too big that it become a monopoly. Berners-Lee believed that this can be an imminent threat to the usage of Internet in the future.

In our case, would it be of a concern that a Web 2.0 driven application, STOMP, that impressively achieved record breaking hit of 60.8million page views (refer to “STOMP Bonds and Teaches” blog post), be too big one day, that alter and changes the way our new generation Singaporean Youth’s usage of the Internet for information? Certainly not, I hope. But with the capabilities of Web 2.0, it is a possibility.



CERN (2008) Welcome to, CERN 2008 Web Communication, assessed 04 Dec 2010, available at

ST. Andrew M. (2010) The latest threat to the Internet?, Creamglobal, assessed 01 Dec 2010, available at

Berners-Lee T. (2010) Long Live the Web: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality, Scientific American, assessed 04 Dec 2010, available at

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STOMP: A Muse?

Close to two decades into the internet epoch, new media operations – blogs, news aggregators and alternative news media – have flourished. Americans have Drudge Report and Huffington Post, Britons collect insights from Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes, and our neighbours swear by their Malaysiakini.

Singapore, however, has nothing quite like them, up until four years and eight months ago.

In June 2006, STOMP was launched. According to some critics, it is an over-budgeted (SGD$2 million) web portal that prides itself on its journalistic pretensions. On its Singapore Seen page, where its journalism goes, visitors are told:

You generate the content. You write the reports. You take the photos. You shoot the videos.

It has been said that STOMP cedes journalistic responsibility to netizens. An amateur, untainted by professional prejudices, can try their hands at deciding what is or isn’t newsworthy, snapping shots to document the event and writing it into a short report. Some traditionalists have argued that these recreational sources do not become journalists because they skip middle man and broadcast their articles directly to the world. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I am not taking sides here. I am simply opening up a discussion here to share with you some of the on-going controversies, targetted at the platform that is said to promote “citizen journalism”.

It is true that STOMP lacks full autonomy over netizens’ journalistic work. STOMP editorial team still has the final say over every piece of information submitted. 

Academic and former Straits Times journalist Cherian George argues that this process then, is not absolute citizen journalism:

I don’t consider STOMP to be citizen journalism, because it puts the public on tap, not on top. It merely introduces greater interactivity to traditional journalism. Citizen journalism in the proper sense does its own agenda-setting. Citizen journalists decide what questions need to be asked and what topics to pursue. They don’t just answer questions decided by mainstream editors.

He went on to explain:

To me, it is not the source of facts or opinions that distinguishes citizen journalism from the mainstream – just because a story or picture comes from a reader does not make it a piece of citizen journalism. Instead, it boils down to who selects and decides what stories to pursue and publish. Editorial decision making is what separate journalism from gossip. STOMP, like the rest of ST (Straits Times), is edited by professional ST journalists, not ordinary citizens.

For a former Singapore Press Holdings employee to make a stand like this, it is almost like chopping off the hands that once fed him.

On the other hand, we cannot deny the fact that it only took STOMP four short years to rise to become one of Singapore’s top social networking sites, with over 60 million page views in a month!

Citizen journalism or not, activities within STOMP has definitely become a pop culture amongst youths in our local context.

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Web 2.0 and STOMP

In 2004, Tim O’Reilly and MediaLive International launched the Web 2.0 Conference (now known as Web 2.0 Summit) with the intent to restore confidence in an industry that lost its way after the dotcom bust. (O’Reilly & Battelle: 2009) The term, Web 2.0, is closely associated with the usage and function of many web applications in the Internet. This hotly debated term has been contested among many media scholars and theorists that O’Reilly has to define Web 2.0 twice.

In one of O’Reilly’s articles, What Is Web 2.0 ~ Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software (2005), he laid out several points that serve to define what is Web 2.0 and its core competencies. In the first attempt to give a compact definition of Web 2.0, he stated that:

Web 2.0 is the network as platform, spanning all connected devices; Web 2.0 applications are those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: delivering software as a continually-updated service that gets better the more people use it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users, while providing their own data and services in a form that allows remixing by others, creating network effects through an “architecture of participation,” and going beyond the page metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver rich user experiences.” (O’Reilly: 2005)

A mouthful of words as one would argue. Interestingly, that first attempt continued to receive several comments and suggestions (to better the definition) for the next three years. The term Web 2.0 had since been a fiercely scrutinized subject by many new media and Internet experts. Notably in July 2006, during a podcast interview with IBM, World Wide Web founder – Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, expressed his doubt over the hype of Web 2.0 and fault the term for lacking coherent meaning. He went on to explain why he felt that Web 2.0 is no different from Web 1.0. Coincidentally, in December 2006, O’Reilly attempted a second compact definition of Web 2.0:

“Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them. (This is what I’ve elsewhere called “harnessing collective intelligence.”)” (O’Reilly: 2006)

Alas, he nailed it. It seemed that O’Reilly’s second definition has pretty much silenced most critics or became more widely accepted – even Sir Tim Berners-Lee who went for the final interview in the Web 2.0 Summit 2009, had to concede that Web 2.0 is a useful term that has been proven over the last five years. Taking O’Reilly definition in perceptive, I believe our media text for the final research report, STOMP, is a good example of a Web 2.0 application. It is a business revolution by Singapore Press Holding to create a platform (STOMP) based on the set of rules (characteristics of a Web 2.0 application) that exploits social networking capabilities to harness collective intelligence.


Anderson N. (2006) Tim Berners-Lee on Web 2.0: “nobody even knows what it means”, Ars technical, assessed 01 Dec 2010, available at

O’Reilly T. (2005) What is Web 2.0 – Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software, O’Reilly, assessed 30 Nov 2010, available at

O’Reilly T. (2005) Web 2.0: Compact Definition, assessed 30 Nov 2010, available at

O’Reilly T. (2006) Web 2.0 Compact Definition: Trying Again, O’Reilly, assessed 30 Nov 2010, available at

O’Reilly T. and Battelle J. (2009) Web Squared: Web 2.0 Five Years On, Web 2.0 Summit, assessed 01 Dec 2010, available at

Web 2.0 Summit (2009) A Conversation with Tim Berners-Lee, Web 2.0 Summit, assessed 01 Dec 2010, available at

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