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ST News
Jan 07, 2014

Cultural heritage and its Net value

HOW precious is the Taj Mahal? And is Bukit Brown as important as what its advocates say?

A new software tool could soon tell you how valuable a building, site or structure's heritage is, by crunching data from the Internet. It can also assess other forms of heritage such as art, and intangibles like music, if they are described online.

While the tool simply supplements other research and work that go into heritage assessment, researchers at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) hope it will take some of the subjectivity out of assessing a piece of cultural heritage, by injecting some "science" into it.

Assistant Professor Andrea Nanetti of NTU's School of Art, Design and Media said the software can give policymakers more data to make decisions: "What we want to do is to support political decisions with science."

The tool is expected to mine the Internet for digitised books and newspaper articles, images of paintings and sculptures, computerised models of architecture as well as video and audio clips on any particular target.

It will gather comments and opinions about the primary sources, from social media for example, and assign a value to each piece of data, depending on the commenter's reliability and expertise.

Assistant Professor Cheong Siew Ann of NTU's School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences said the tool could measure people's feelings towards heritage icons. "If we wanted to know what Singaporeans in the 1980s valued most, for example, we could look at what were the most-photographed places then."

The researchers were speaking on the sidelines of NTU's inaugural two-day Singapore Heritage Science Conference, which started yesterday.

FENG ZENGKUN

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