Struggles & Compromise in a Free World

‘Freedom of expression’ is a term one would normally associate with Americanisation or some, the spread of democracy across the world in this post-cold war era. With the influx of foreign media content – rich in western ideals – being consumed at an appalling rate on Singapore’s shores, it is no wonder that we now perceive ‘freedom of expression’ to be an individual’s right, or so we think it is. Herewith lays the power struggle.

From a young age, we are brought up with values that draw close links to Confucianism, stressing the importance of filial piety and a respect for authority. To go against an ‘elder’ or to even talk back would be a mini-abomination in itself.

So on one hand, we have present-day influences which tell us it is our right as human beings to be able to say and do what we want. Whereas on the other, we are brought up with values that are… total contradictory.

It seems in STOMP, we have the next closest thing to a utopian scenario of compromise – a public sphere where everyday people bridge the barriers of professional journalism to play it, only but from a citizen’s standpoint.

Talking about ‘uncritical populism’ (McGuigan:2005, p.11), McGuigan cites the absence of passivity and the power of choice among participants in public spheres. The key is convention. STOMPers engaged in active exchanges on STOMP – a form of public sphere – display their own unique rationale. Putting it in other words, the common man wisdom approach.

We need to note that although STOMP seems a ‘soft’ channel where heartfelt stories are showcased, there is still some form of regulation involved. Content deemed racially, religiously or politically controversial will never make it online – given the many sensitivities a multiracial nation like Singapore has to take into account in order to keep the peace.

That is the beauty of participatory culture in the context of this public sphere. While fellow STOMPers engage online with one another, forging bonds and identities, they do not realise that they are part of a bigger plan. A plan of ‘integration’ among the different ethnic groups in Singapore. Something the government has been rather adamant of enforcing following the racial riots in the 1960s, only that now, the initiative’s been taken to a whole new platform in Web 2.0.

‘Freedom of expression’ can actually work to the greater good of the public in an Asian context if we look at what is happening with STOMP at present. It is more than a tool to voice out, it is a nation building one as well.

References:

McGuigan, Jim (2005) The Cultural Public Sphere, London, Sage Publications, pp. 11

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About slideyes

Let's just say I can't spell "slit" for nuts.
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5 Responses to Struggles & Compromise in a Free World

  1. Kenneth Goh says:

    Since you talked about freedom of expression and participatory culture, I thought it might be interesting to evaluate Stomp and see if a “true” participatory culture among Singaporeans who are often accused of being politically and socially apathetic and ignorant by others.
    Using Henry Jenkins’ standard characteristics of popular culture.
    1. With relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement
    Any topic ranging from societal (teens making out in full view of public) to the inane (recent video of a girl crushing a bunny by sitting on it) has been discussed. There is very little barriers set even though it is still very much regulated.
    2. With strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations with others
    Support comes in comments , both positive and negative criticisms. By providing comments, the readers or prosumers are creating more highlight for the post and thus increase its profile.
    3. With some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices
    I see less of this in Stomp because there seems to be hardly any evidence of regular interaction and passing of experience to novices.
    4. Where members believe that their contributions matter.
    There are a number of readers who post regularly believing their views will be heard and shared with the rest.
    5. Where members feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created).
    This is something that I feel Stomp lacks despite it being labelled as a citizen journalism portal. There is hardly any regular interaction and connection and it is evident the website more closely remembers a news site with the difference being the creators of the material are usually the readers themselves.

    Just my two cents worth! 🙂

    • slideyes says:

      Hi Kenneth, thanks for taking the effort to pen down those thoughts 🙂 It’s much appreciated. Like you, my perception of STOMP was that of an online tabloid-like news site before I engaged in this line of study. It’s more than that actually – following some comprehensive site browsing.

      When you mentioned the lack of “interaction” and “mentorship”, dohave a second look at some of the tabs like “Just Talk Lah”, “Talkback” and “Star Blog”. Perhaps it might make some minor alterations to your current perception.

      Nevertheless, great job on the comment 🙂 It’s like an entire blog entry in itself.

  2. Sandee Goh says:

    You brought up a very interesting notion towards the end of you post about Stomp serving as a nation building tool.

    Like you mentioned, STOMP is perceived as a channel for citizens to voice their (sometimes petty) grievances. The gamut of user contributed content, which essentially is meant to be divisive – where one party is unhappy about the actions of another person, therefore the picture gets posted the site, is having the opposite effect. For example, online citizens will rally behind the author to chastise the unfortunate couple who was caught making out in public on camera. Without a shadow of doubt, there are plenty of common bonds shared by these netizens.

    The Internet has made the environment ‘fertile’ for such participatory culture to take place. People are more comfortable voicing out what they really think online. So in a sense, we’re building a (virtual) nation.

    • slideyes says:

      Hi Sandee,

      Looks like we’re on the same train of thought. Well, I would think the reason why the ‘virtual’ alternative has taken off is mainly because Singaporeans are passive in general. I mean when Brian poses a question to us in class, there is usually this awkward silence that fills the air. That’s just us by nature. STOMP lets us hide behind a cyber veil which provides the optimal conditions to let “loose”. 🙂

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