Conference: 3rd Singapore Heritage Science


The Treasure of Human Experiences

Date: 25 – 26 January 2016

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

Address: 81 Nanyang Drive, Singapore 637458


The Treasure of Human Experiences

“Heritage poses the challenge of innovation in a new way: How does the new integrate with the old?” This was the key question raised by Helga Nowotny (co-founder and former president of the European Research Council) in her keynote address at the 1st Singapore Heritage Science Conference on Heritage science as a complex system: The embarrassment of complexity: A phase of transition?

During the 2nd Singapore Heritage Conference “Heritage and the Creative Industry” held in January 2015, we further wrestled with the tensions between age-old practices and our modern digital lifestyles. In particular, there was a sense that we might be losing our humanity, as our lives become more and more digital. Hearing experts talked about their experiences reaching back into the past, and draw from it creative inspirations for the future, we realized that human qualities like ethics, empathy, identity, and spirituality are connective qualities that serve to bind people together. In short, to be human is to be connected to other humans, to our environments, and for some, to cosmic significance. In the NTU-ADM Online Symposium, on April 1, 2015, Steve Dixon uses the metaphor of existentialism to speak about commitment and engagement in contemporary networked practices.

Therefore, in the 3nd Singapore Heritage Science Conference, we will focus on intangible cultural heritage in its complex setting. UNESCO (and with it 153 countries), defines intangible cultural heritage as:

… the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, and skills––as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces associated therewith––that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity.
(UNESCO Charter for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, 2003, Art. 2)

Tangible heritage has received a lot of attention in its physical preservation and documentation. However, without the context of intangible heritage, tangible heritage loses most of its potential to inspire, because it lacks an experiential connection to people and society. According to the UNESCO charter, the preservation of intangible cultural heritage requires the active collaboration of the people or community within which the heritage resides. This in turn requires protection of the processes that allow traditions and shared knowledge to be passed on to future generations, along with arts, science, problem solving and invention. We believe that the preservation of intangible cultural heritage remains a great challenge still to be addressed. Meeting that challenge requires innovation and creativity so that we can cope with the continuous change of values and practices across time and space that is the very essence of human life. We need to understand that preservation and transformation are part of the same picture.

Intangible cultural heritage has always been transmitted to future generations through various traditional ways. However, some of these ways can no longer be practiced. We need to change the core practices of intangible heritage, and sometimes even its core values. How can this be done without destroying the living essence of that same heritage? In this conference, we will interpret the nature of changes in intangible heritage through the lens of complexity science. Despite the fact that the roles of innovation and creativity in shaping intangible cultural heritage of complex societies are not yet described in the literature, we believe that, in essence, these changes are voluntary human expressions of ingenuity.

To build up a complexity science toolkit for incorporating innovation and creativity into the core processes of a living heritage, we propose to look in this conference at creativity and innovation in the past. We will use intangible heritage areas like food, music, and oral literature as examples and explore contemporary art expressions that combine traditional methods, materials, and motifs. We want to identify and understand the mechanism by which successful fusions of different cultural traditions are created, so that we can apply them scientifically and systematically.

With so many heritage experts who document the human experiences of past generations and make this treasure available in the present digital era, we stand to add not only cultural and social wealth to local communities all over the world, but also monetary value to their creative industries. Here the creative industry includes “architecture, arts and antique markets, crafts, design (industrial, communication and fashion), publishing, film, video, and photography, radio and television, software, computer games and electronic publishing, advertising, music and the visual and performing arts”.

More importantly, we would like to take steps closer to our vision of a multidisciplinary heritage science anchored in complexity theory. We will invite prominent international and local complexity science experts to come together, to build the complexity-theoretic framework around which we can organize our heritage and our experiences of them, with the aim to develop a Sustainable Heritage Impact Factory Theory (SHIFT). This theory should inform us of the total tangible and intangible value of heritage components, their interactions and interdependences, and guide us to their conservation and use for a sustainable future.

We warmly invite you to join us to work towards a complexity theory of heritage capable of summarizing the totality of the treasures of human experiences.

Conference Co-Chairs,
Andrea NANETTI (School of Art, Design and Media)
Siew Ann CHEONG (School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences)


[Programme] [Photo Gallery]


Videos & Presentation Slides

Welcome speech by Vibeke Sorensen
Chair of School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University


Opening speech by Alan Chan
Dean, College of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University


Keynote address

Chair: Brenda Yeoh
Professor, Department of Geography, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore and NHB Chairperson for the Heritage Advisory Panel

Speaker: Wang Gungwu
National University of Singapore University Professor and Emeritus Professor of Australian National University
Biography & Abstract




Panel 1a: The Complexity of Intangible Heritage Appreciation

Chair: Helga Nowotny
Professor, Chair, ERA Council Forum Austria, Former President European Research Council

Speaker: Joseph Tainter
Professor of Sustainability in the Department of Environment and Society, Utah State University, United States
Biography & AbstractPresentation


Speaker: Susan Mcintyre-Tamwoy
Associate Director, Extent Heritage Pty Ltd and Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, James Cook University, Australia
Biography & AbstractPresentation


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




Panel 1b: The Complexity of Intangible Heritage Appreciation

Speaker: Sheila R. Ronis
Chair and Professor of the Department of Management and Director of the Center for Complex and Strategic Decisions, Walsh College, United States
Biography & Abstract


Speaker: Kevin Tan
President, International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), Singapore
Biography & Abstract


Speakers: Cheong Siew Ann and Andrea Nanetti
Conference Chairs
Biography & AbstractPresentation




Panel 2: Intangible Heritage: Policy, Participation and Planning

Chair: Michael J K Walsh
Associate Chair (Research), School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University

Speaker: Liu Tik-sang
Associate Professor, Division of Humanities and Director of South China Research Center, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Biography & AbstractPresentation


Speaker: Meridel Rubenstein
Visiting Associate Professor, School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University
Biography & Abstract │ Presentation


Speaker: Vivienne Wee
Anthropologist and Managing Director, Ethnographica Private Limited, Singapore
Biography & AbstractPresentation




Performance by Sri Warisan Som Said Performing Arts Company
My Heritage (Traditional Malay Dance Performance & Interactive Program)


Panel 3: Choreography: Legacy, Transmission, Transformation

Chair: Mei Qing
Professor, College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Department of Architecture, Tongji University, Shanghai & Consultant Expert, WHITRAP-UNESCO Shanghai, China

Speaker: Som Binte Mohamed Said
Artistic Director, Sri Warisan Som Said Performing Arts Ltd, Singapore
Biography & Abstract


Speaker: Janet Pillai
Founder, Arts-ED Penang and independent project consultant, Malaysia
Biography & AbstractPresentation


Speaker: Caren Cariño
Vice Dean/Principal Lecturer (Dance), Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore
Biography & AbstractPresentation


Speaker: Harold Thwaites
Professor and Advisor to the Faculty of Arts at Sunway University, Malaysia
Biography & AbstractPresentation


Speaker: Pedro Memelsdorff
Professor, Schola Cantorum Basel and University of Barcelona, Spain
Biography & AbstractPresentation


Speaker: Kalamandalam M.P.S. Namboodiri
Kathakali Actor
Biography & AbstractPresentation



Panel 4: Cuisine: Legacy, Transmission, Transformation

Zhou Min
Professor, Head, Sociology Division, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University

Speaker: Anna Juricic
Sociologist, Life Consultant, Mentor in Personal Development and Transformation, Italy
Biography & AbstractPresentation


Speaker: Andrea Nanetti for Dimitris Maniatakis
Conference Chair for Chairman of the Maniatakeion Foundation, Greece
Biography & AbstractPresentation


Speaker: Daniel Chia
President, Slow Food Singapore
Biography & AbstractPresentation


Leslie Tay
Doctor, Author, Blogger, Photographer and Speaker
Biography & Abstract




Closing remarks by Cheong Siew Ann and Andrea Nanetti
Conference Chairs