The words ‘digital’ and ‘traditional’ seem to be on the opposite ends of the spectrum, with one constantly evolving to shape the future, and the other striving to remain the same as a preserved reminisce of the past.
On the surface, it may seem that digital evolution plays a role in the erosion of traditional arts. However, the rise of the digital age may actually be able to play a part in upkeeping the traditional heritage in Cambodia.
For instances, in 2016, TOSFund, a crowdfunding platform, was a significant help to Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS), a NPO that provides art trainings to less privileged families vulnerable to domestic violence, drug abuse and human trafficking.
Trainings in their art school include traditional dance classes and music classes that teach students how to play traditional Cambodian music. Additionally, Phare, The Cambodian Circus, runs under this large organisation. The circus organises nightly performances in Siem Reap that incorporates Cambodian folklore.
With a drop in budgets for civic projects, Phare decided to utilize TOSfund to campaign for funds to provide their most vulnerable students with nutritious meals. This Cambodia-specific, digital platform allowed them to raise over $9,000 in 30 days, and they attributed the success to 2 things – the Khmer language functionality and their push for donations made through TOSFund on social media.
Another instance of a digital platform aiding the preservation of traditional arts in Cambodia was the recent collaboration between The Royal Ballet of Cambodia and Last2Ticket Asia. This partnership sees The Royal Ballet of Cambodia having digital tickets for their first public season performances on the 15th, 16th, and 17th December this year. Last2Ticket will also be spreading information about these public performances online, such as through social media.
Such a move is slated to make a change for one of the oldest cultural events in Cambodia, which is a classical dance that has been closely associated with the Khmer court and royal ceremonies for over a thousand of years. The goal behind this collab is to help the cultural institution gain a wider audience and secure long term sustainability.
So how exactly did these digital tools manage to help in the preservation of traditional arts?
Aside from monetary benefits that PPS will receive from its donations, and The Royal Ballet of Cambodia from its e-ticket sales, going online also helps provide these traditional artforms exposure.
In 2016, there were 3.4 Million Facebook users in Cambodia, which was already a sizable figure. However, numbers only rose from there, peaking at 4.6 Million Facebook users and 4.9 Million active social media users in 2017. This highlights the growing influence of social media in the Kingdom, and the potential it has to reach out to audiences and trigger their interest. For PPS, the use of social media on their part enabled them to receive greater success for their crowdfunding on TOSFund and for The Royal Ballet of Cambodia, it can be a useful tool to aid in driving ticket sales.
Soreasmey Ke Bin, Managing Partner at Last2Ticket Asia, puts it aptly that “Preserving the arts goes both ways. You need to protect and record the past, and at the same time ensure its continuity through modern technology. To do the latter you need to get new generations of artists to take over and also to nurture the public’s interest, as I doubt any form of arts and culture can subsist without its support. Both approaches require human and financial means, and new technologies can help a lot too.”
Indeed, it is important to capture the attention of the new generation, who are the ones with the ability to carry on the tradition and ensure its continuity. And what better way to do so than to reach out to them through the platform they are most active on? In fact, in 2017, 55% of Facebook users were youths to young adults aged 13 to 24 years old.
For both PPS and The Royal Ballet of Cambodia, social media can act as the link to attract passionate youths to practice the art or to cultivate their appreciation for it to sustain its existence in the future of Cambodia’s culture.
Now, zooming into the specifics of the two platforms used by these organisations – TOSFund and Last2Ticket.
For online fundraising platforms like TOSFund, its role in the preservation of tradition comes from its ability to cross the barrier of distance. With various payment methods from credit cards to bank transfers, and having content in both Khmer and English, it enables most to support the culture from virtually anywhere. One does not have to be physically at the location of the organisation or event to help out.
This is especially useful for PPS and The Royal Ballet of Cambodia as it allows them to receive financial support both within and out of where they are based in such as from locals across Cambodia or even foreigners. Similarly, e-ticketing tools like Last2Ticket also minimise the issue of distance, in which tickets can be purchased from anywhere, allowing for traditional performing arts to gain a larger audience.
Ms Monita To, Last2Ticket Asia’s PR and Sales coordinator, explains it as such: “It’s much more convenient because you don’t have to go anywhere to purchase your ticket, and you save time queuing at the entrance. As for the hosts, it allows them to see further: sell tickets in advance in order to stimulate cash flow but also to coordinate more accurately the event. Eventually, selling tickets online enables the company to have access to all members of the audience’s contact details for future shows.”
Not only does this process help in the logistics and maximising profits from shows, it can also help them to expand their audience reach. The fact that e-ticketing can be used to record the contact details of ticket holders would help The Royal Ballet of Cambodia, or even PPS for it’s Phare Circus shows, directly reach out to audiences with updates or future shows.
“Culture is a very special market. In most countries, it will only survive through public and private financial support by authorities or philanthropic institutions. In Cambodia, we know that only a handful companies are supporting culture, mainly from the tourism sector, but they can’t finance it entirely by themselves. We need to trigger an interest in the general public and gain their support,” says Mr Soreasmey.
Indeed, we agree with Mr Soreasmey and believe that if done right, there are many aspects that digital tools can be a solution rather than a problem to the preservation of culture and traditional arts. In fact, as demonstrated by both PPS and The Royal Ballet of Cambodia, a combination of different digital tools and social media has the ability to yield positive results. Social media would act as the first step to trigger interest, and after, e-ticketing and crowdfunding platforms can follow up on this interest to help sustain the traditional art form.
And certainly, that is not the only combination that has the potential to. Here at Geeks in Cambodia, we believe that the prospects of technology are limitless; there are endless possibilities that tech can be used to aid the sustainability of the rich, historical culture in the Kingdom. Today, we discussed how two online platforms have helped in this sustainability, but we definitely do hope to see more digital tools being engaged to further help in this preservation.
As digital and tech users, you can also play a part in driving this preservation, and show your support by sharing information on such cultural arts on your own social media or digital platforms.
If PPS’ art trainings or The Royal Ballet of Cambodia is under the category of arts you would be interested in, then be sure to follow them on their social media platforms here:
Phare Ponleu Selpak
The Royal Ballet of Cambodia