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