Dr Ivan Liu
Mr Jervais Choo
Deputy Director, Organisation Design and Innovation Division
National Heritage Board, Singapore

Jervais Choo is the Programme Director for the DigiMuse project which aims to advance digital innovation within the culture sector. Over the past decade, he has helmed various portfolios at the National Heritage Board of Singapore, where he headed the Festivals and Precinct Development division responsible for Place-making for the Bras Basah-Bugis Arts and Heritage District, and was also the Deputy Director for the National Museum of Singapore. Jervais currently leads the public sector transformation and innovation design efforts for the National Heritage Board and has a keen interest in bringing together new methods of bridging experience and understanding through contextual layering and digital interventions.

Track 2 Discussion: 
Technology and the Digital Medium

An Opportunity for Change and Inclusion

As ‘living’ heritage, the survivability and transmissibility of Intangible Cultural Heritage traditions, practices and skills is intrinsically linked to how it adapts to changes brought about in society at large. Expressions of culture would necessarily need to adjust to technology and digitalisation, and in making sometimes difficult choices to stay relevant, opens the door to new modes of transmission. What the digital revolution has fundamentally altered is communication-at-scale and brought with it an audience without borders. This represents a lifeline for ICH which essentially thrives on practice and is most suited to build upon the new waves of opportunities that digitalisation brings.

Understanding and leveraging network effects, interpreting big data, and harnessing the potential of Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC) as enabled by emerging 5G mobile networks changes both the medium as well as the mode of transmission, research and documentation of ICH. While the digital channels and tools continue to mature and evolve, for ICH to effectively ride on this generational and societal transformation requires a clear strategy for adaptation and growth in tandem with that change. People as well as processes need to be prioritised, and stakeholders identified and engaged to ensure a sustainable ecosystem that supports the transition.

As societal trends and technology developments evolve rapidly, arguably the greatest challenge to ICH is not in the ‘how’, but rather in the ‘why’. Specifically, why are cultural traditions and practices relevant to a new generation growing up in a world without borders and where the lines between ethnicities and cultures become increasingly blurred. As the historical and contemporary occupy the same digital and psychological space, herein lies the opportunity for inclusion, where the youth of today can be inspired by the knowledge and skills rooted in traditions and practices, as we work towards new interpretations and expressions of cultural identities. Involvement and engagement with not just technology or technologists, but the users of such are at the crux of how we can navigate this brave new world to draw new relevance to practices that fall at the periphery of societal consciousness and are at risk of being lost to nostalgia. In trying to give new voice to traditions of old, we must find new orators, and this can only be found in our youths. Increasingly, the language that conveys the message is digital.

This presentation aims to share and discuss considerations on how digital transformation is not a technical challenge, but primarily one of culture change and inclusion. It suggests that inclusion extends not just to enabling access to ICH, but to the process of design and interpretation of cultural heritage and traditions. Finally, the presentation would discuss the modality and medium of digital technologies and how it has created new opportunities for us to reimagine what successful transmission of ICH would look like in a world without borders.
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