Post-modernism (Barker:2003, p.61) has a way of blurring the lines between the micro-hierarchies sandwiched in an ever growing middle class in Singapore.
With economic growth hitting a record 18% high in the first half of the year, and expected to stay ‘double digit’ ‘til year end, the picture painted is simple. We are getting richer. Some might argue the income disparity between the rich and poor is widening – something we are all too familiar in countries like China and India which have experienced stellar economic growth in the past decade. If we draw parallels of that to Singapore, then yes, it is possible that disparity is present and ever growing. But how do we define the ‘poor’? There are hardly any homeless people around on our small island– maybe those who do nomadic camping at Changi Beach until the park rangers drive them away only for them to return again. People definitely aren’t dying of starvation here. The first decade of a kid’s education is mostly state subsidised too. Going by the tragedies we see elsewhere in the world, our not so rich people are actually quite well off.
We have a majority of Singaporeans who happen to fall in a category we’ll term as an ‘ambiguous middle class’ (AMC) with varying lifestyles, consumption habits and spending power.
“Paper” as termed in the title is just a semiotic form of journalistic representation.
Living in the age of Web 2.0, it is clear that citizen journalism is at an all time high. Chris Barker’s description of a postmodern era depicts a “transitional period of changing economic, social and cultural patterns” (Barker:2003, p.152) that creates an ideal breeding ground for “a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creation…” (Jenkins:2006, p.3) – participatory culture as cited by Henry Jenkins.
The online medium, STOMP, can be credited as a ‘space’ of passive yet active interaction. Its paradox lies in the medium’s popularity with netizens who pour out their inner grievances or enthusiasm in a safe closed door environment, something which allows them to express their views without having to answer for them in person.
STOMP, with its down-to-earth yet simple copy structure, transcends barriers of complex intuitive thought processes which make it accessible to a large majority of the AMC – assuming the majority have at least a primary school or equivalent level of education.
With such low barriers of entry, it is no wonder we have seen such a surge in trivial and sensational uploads by random members of the public. The point is to get one’s message across, to marvel not at the use of language but rather, the gist of its content. It is through these uploads that we get to discover the general interests of the AMC – knowing their true inner thoughts and personality traits that usually stays suppressed in actual life scenarios owing to a deep respect for the public’s undisturbed status quo.
Given the massive amount of content found on STOMP, it is safe to say that the site has a healthy saturate of patroness attached to it. Part of our identity involves the need to comment and criticise in a rather passive manner hidden behind the veil of an invisible cyber curtain. We want to be heard but no seen; to ‘slam’ but not bear the full brunt of an equal retaliatory response. Some might say it’s typically Singaporean. Perhaps it’s just a case of highly sensitive egos that need to be sheltered from the ‘needles’ of scrutiny.
Barker, Chris (2003) Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice, London , Sage Publications, pp.61 & 152
Jenkins, Henry (2006) Confronting The Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education For The 21st Century, Chicago, The MacArthur Foundation, pp.3