Does the digitisation of ‪Angkor‬ make it ‘vulgar’?

I like that Angkor on Google Street View has made the monuments more accessible, but have they made the sacred profane? This opinion piece in the Khaleej Times seems to think so.

Angkor Wat, reflected

Vulgarising Angkor
The Khaleej Times, 12 April 2014

For a company in the internet business, Google has become adept at misrepresenting its interpretation of the world by invoking what are presented as demands of the users of Google’s services. The company has said: “We want to make sure that we have the ability to share all these places with users all over the world.”

The company Google may have the ability, but who has asked for this invasion of a cultural space, and on whose terms? The Angkor ‘park’, or core area, is widely acknowledged as being the heritage not only of Cambodia and South-East Asia but also of the world. For at least some portion of the thousands of visitors and tourists who visit the site every week, the act of setting foot in those ancient places and examining, with the naked eye and curious mind, the stones and reliefs, long galleries and lofty towers, fulfils a kind of pilgrimage.

But, in the name of facilitating ‘access’, in the name of ‘sharing’ and ‘exploring’ Google has been permitted to vulgarise the sacred that is Angkor. It has been allowed to rent for rank commercial advantage part of the shared memory of a site that is the heritage of humankind. Google is a company, like tens of thousands of others, and will choose a strategy to further its advantage. But for the government of the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Apsara authority to have permitted a commercial entity to do so is a grave error. There are some actions never to be entertained for the sake of short-term rent and the digitisation of Angkor by Google is undoubtedly one of them.

Full story here.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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