Digital technology a 'teaser' to real thing

(From left) Professor Sarah Kenderdine, Mr Michael Naimark, Ms Debbie Ding, Mr Warren Fernandez, Ms Yvonne Tham and Mr Yeo Kirk Siang at a conference by NHB's Culture Academy Singapore, The Digital in Cultural Spaces. The conference was attended by a
(From left) Professor Sarah Kenderdine, Mr Michael Naimark, Ms Debbie Ding, Mr Warren Fernandez, Ms Yvonne Tham and Mr Yeo Kirk Siang at a conference by NHB's Culture Academy Singapore, The Digital in Cultural Spaces. The conference was attended by arts and heritage professionals and members of the public.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Panellists at NHB conference discuss role of digital technology in the arts

There will always be people who want to see museums and heritage sites for themselves rather than view them online.

So believes Mr Yeo Kirk Siang, the director of heritage research and assessment at the National Heritage Board (NHB), who shared this view as one of five panellists discussing the future of cultural institutions yesterday.

Mr Yeo said: "Rather than viewing digital (technology) as competition, it can serve as a trailer or teaser to encourage people to see the real thing and enjoy culture and heritage."

He cited his experience visiting India's Taj Mahal. Although he had seen many images of it on TV and the Internet, he said it could not beat actually stepping foot into the Unesco World Heritage site.

He said: "Because it's not just the building and its history but the full experience that you gain from looking at the site, the people around you, and the sense of space that you connect with."

The panel concluded a two-day conference by NHB's Culture Academy Singapore, The Digital in Cultural Spaces, which was attended by arts and heritage professionals and members of the public.

Mr Yeo's comments also come at a time when visitorship to museums and heritage institutions has reached an all-time high. About 3.8 million people visited the national museums and heritage institutions last year, up from three million in 2014, according to the latest Singapore Cultural Statistics released in November by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

Yesterday's panel was chaired by The Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez, who is also editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English, Malay and Tamil Media Group.

The other panellists were media artist and researcher Michael Naimark, Professor Sarah Kenderdine from the University of New South Wales Art and Design, visual artist and technologist Debbie Ding and Ms Yvonne Tham, assistant chief executive officer of The Esplanade.

The conference also grappled with topics such as the digital divide and the digitisation of archives.

The Esplanade's Ms Tham said despite the changes brought about by the digital wave, the role of cultural institutions continues to be about storytelling and connecting the performance, performer or content with the viewer and community.

She said: "The arts always brings us back to the point of the human experience. As an arts centre, we always go back to that.

"At the heart of it, as a cultural institution, our mission is to transform the lives of Singaporeans through the arts, have communities feel more proud of who they are, and understand their own heritage."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2016, with the headline 'Digital technology a 'teaser' to real thing'. Print Edition | Subscribe