Heritage Science as a Complex System

Date: 6 – 7 January 2014

Venue: Nanyang Technological University – School of Art Design and Media, Level 2, ADM Auditorium

Address: 81 Nanyang Drive, Singapore 637458



This international conference focuses on the combined use of Heritage and Complexity sciences.

From a 21st century global perspective, new insights in the meaning and importance of heritage can help guide strategic policy choices. Indeed, heritage policies deeply impact the development of local identities of cities and countries. Given its short history and limited number of data (relative to e.g. China and Europe, where an overwhelming amount of data interferes with the feasibility of complex case studies), Singapore may be an ideal place to develop the management tools to do this and thus serve as a global case study. These tools may be tested and applied first in Singapore, and then exported to other countries.

In our conference, we propose to observe heritage through the lens of complexity science, which studies emergent properties in systems with many strongly interacting players. In particular, we realize that heritage is shaped by complex interactions between the present and the past, giving rise to different regimes separated by tipping points. To decide whether we wish to remain in a regime or to make a transition to a different one, we need to measure how close we are to the various tipping points. Complexity theory offers the tools to detect this. In particular it helps us to understand the nature of regime shifts in terms of ‘who’ (key players), ‘what’ (key heritage elements), ‘when’ (key timings), ‘where’ (key locales), ‘why’ (key drivers for the change), and ‘how’ (key mechanisms). Once we understand the regime shifts, we can then offer suggestions on data-driven procedures to engineer a desired regime, move towards it or stay within a given regime.

In the conference we intend to answer the questions:

What does Heritage mean for the future of Singapore?
How can complexity science help Singapore to make the best possible decisions with regard to its heritage and the way it may help Singapore to face the challenges of the 21st century?

Singapore intends to pioneer the combination of these two sciences, Heritage and Complexity.

We warmly invite you to participate in what promises to be an exciting conference.




Videos & Presentation Slides

Welcome address by Bertil Andersson
President, Nanyang Technological University


Opening address by Vibeke Sorensen (Chair of School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University)
and Jan Vasbinder (Director, Complexity Institute, Nanyang Technological University)


Speech by Keynote Chair, Andrew Tan
Chief Executive, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA)


Keynote Speaker: Helga Nowotny
Past President, European Research Council and Professor Emerita of Social Studies of Science, ETH Zurich
Biography & AbstractPresentation


Panel 1: Complexity & Heritage Sciences

Chair: Helga Nowotny
Past President, European Research Council and Professor Emerita of Social Studies of Science, ETH Zurich

Speaker: Roland Fletcher
Professor of Theoretical and World Archaeology, School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, University of Sydney
Biography & Abstract │ Presentation

Speaker: John Stephen Lansing
Visiting Professor, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University
Biography & Abstract

Video for Panel 1


Panel 2: Emerging Challengers in Heritage Science

Chair: Khoo Teng Chye
Executive Director, Centre for Liveable Cities

Speaker: Michael Walsh (Associate Chair, School of Art, Design and Media, NTU) for Lisa Ackerman
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, World Monuments Fund
Biography & AbstractPresentation

Speaker: Stefano Bertocci
Professor of the Faculty of Architecture, University of Florence
Biography & Abstract

Speaker: Alessio Re
Programme specialist in Heritage Management and World Heritage Studies, UNESCO-ITRECH and SiTI
Biography & Abstract │ Presentation


Video for Panel 2


Panel 3: The Future of Heritage Science: Primary, Secondary & Higher Education in Singapore

Chair: Gül İnanc
Lecturer, School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University

Speaker: Chua Ai Lin
Assistant Professor, Department of History, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, National University of Singapore
Biography & AbstractPresentation

Speaker: Ivy Maria Lim
Assistant Professor, Humanities and Social Studies Education, National Institute for Education
Biography & AbstractPresentation

Speaker: Teo Hui Lin Lena
Curriculum and Assessment Specialist, Nanyang Girls’ High School (Former Senior Curriculum Specialist, History Unit, Ministry of Education)
Biography & AbstractPresentation

Video for Panel 3


Opera: “D’amor sull’ali rosee” Italian Opera Arias – Supported by the Embassy of Italy and Italian Cultural Institute in Singapore, and Yamaha Music (Asia) Pte Ltd Singapore

Akiko Otao – soprano

Francesco Frudua – pianist

Welcome remarks by Dr. Gianluca Rubagotti, Deputy Head of Mission, on behalf of HE Dr. Paolo Crudele, Ambassador of the Republic of Italy


Panel 4: Architectural Heritage

Chair: Michael Walsh
Associate Chair, School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University

Speaker: Cao Yongkang
Director, Shanghai JiaoTong University International Research Centre for Architectural Heritage Conservation
Biography & Abstract │ Presentation

Speaker: Yeo Kang Shua
Assistant Professor, Singapore University of Technology and Design
Biography & Abstract │ Presentation

Speaker: Jean Wee
Director, Preservation of Sites & Monuments, National Heritage Board
Biography & Abstract

Speaker: Julia Watson
Assistant Professor, The Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University
Biography & Abstract | Presentation

Video for Panel 4


Panel 5: Intangible Cultural Heritage

Chair: Elaine Ng
Chief Executive Officer, National Library Board

Speaker: Wan Wee Pin
Deputy Director, Engagement Division, National Library Board
Biography & AbstractPresentation

Speaker: Liew Kai Khiun
Assistant Professor, Division of Broadcast & Cinema Studies, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University
Biography & Abstract Presentation

Speaker: Julia Chee
Deputy Director, Oral History Centre, National Library Board
Biography & AbstractPresentation

Speaker: Ng Bee Chin
Associate Professor, Nanyang Technological University
Biography & Abstract Presentation

Video for Panel 5


Closing remarks by conference chairs Andrea Nanetti and Cheong Siew Ann