Integrated Human Practice
To us, the meaning of human practice is about comprehencing how our innovations interact and impact the world. Our product may influence the demands of an industry, and, in turn, the opinions of industry experts will also influence how our product is presented.
As the originators of proposing this new product, we should constantly seek stakeholders' opinions -- indicating our direction and improving the our product at all stages -- to ensure that the product can meet the market demand to the maximum extent.
In fact, human practice did make us aware of some critical points or potentials of the product, so that we could make timely improvement and packaging. Below is our detailed record of all of our integrated HP interactions.
Cause -- What made us focus on the counterfeiting of traditional culture？
In a society with highly developed information technology, fraud incidents occur increasingly often. The art industry is one of the hardest-hit areas of fraud cases. For example, in recent years, the art industry has experienced one of the most shocking fraud cases -- the Classical Masters (fig.1) -- which is said that up to 25% of classical master oil paintings are involved in this case .
In addition, according to the Beijing News report , since 2004, Wang counterfeited the works of several famous Masters of Chinese figurines -- Qi Baishi, Xu Beihong, etc. -- with a transaction value of over $90 million. Unfortunately, even these huge property losses were not the most appalling.
Since the chaos of painting and calligraphy has been emerging for a long time, fewer and fewer authentic works are in circulation on the market currently. Painting is the crystallization of the painter's wisdom and painstaking efforts, containing the author's deliberate thinking about human affairs. It's a reflection of their values and world view. People praise paintings not only because they are lifelike, but also because they are touched by the emotion, understanding and meaning behind them. However, in today's market, auction companies use the auction laws such as "no guarantee of authenticity" as shields selling fake paintings, making us bitterly disappointed . It seriously infringes on the copyright of painters, destroys market order and affects the reputation of Traditional Chinese calligraphy and painting around the world.
What saddens us more is not only the indifference of the industry, but the neglect and disrespect of Chinese traditional culture. Police seized 69 forged stamps of 22 famous figures including Xu Beihong and Qi Baishi in Wang's residence (Fig.2). It can be seen how significant the stamp is in China and even in the world.
Stamp is a traditional Chinese method of preventing counterfeiting in calligraphy and painting, in which a special pattern is carved on wood or stone, then coated with an ink pad and transferred to paper by pressing. In traditional Chinese paintings, all professional Chinese artists have their own personalized stamps on which their names are engraved to achieve the effect of signature and anti-counterfeiting. In the long history of China, the uses and forms of stamps were different. Originally used for decoration, it was later used as stationery to signify identification or signature on documents, giving it political significance. Stamp is one of the important contents in the Treasure house of Chinese cultural relics, and its collection, identification and research play an important role in the generation and development of Chinese characters .
In addition, in Western cultures, such as the United States, the use of stamp security systems is also very usual. In most states, the legal effect of the stamp is still recognized. Many banks still need an official stamp to connect to a public account. In this case, we can find out that no matter where in the world, stamp anti-counterfeiting system was once a very popular way of anti-counterfeiting. But it did not keep up with the rapid development of the era, but became particularly easy to copy, losing the value as anti-counterfeiting.
However, the "chapter" not only contains the information of the author, but also the tradition of Chinese traditional calligraphy and painting for thousands of years. It witnessed the changes of calligraphy and painting styles of one dynasty after another, inheriting the craftsman spirit of painters and artists from generation to generation. Therefore, we are thinking about how to inherit the ancient innovation: on the basis of inheriting the traditional Chinese calligraphy and painting stamp, make it look brand-new, give it the ability of anti-counterfeiting again, and enable it to compete with other modern anti-counterfeiting technology. This is why we are inspired to make ARTAG-Artificially Revolutionized Tracking Art Gadget.
Research before starting the project
Having an idea, we need more information to further understand this issue and the overall market situation. On the basis of online research, we have initially understood the seriousness of the counterfeiting problem and the urgency of anti-counterfeiting methods, but this is far from enough. We can't avoid that as time goes by, the market has changed a lot. And more importantly, we need to understand how the public feels about counterfeiting. And how can we solve these problems?
We believe that primary sources are more reliable in comparison with secondary research. Therefore, we designed a questionnaire to gain a basic comprehension of our product’s demand and market conditions. We designed and revised our questionnaire several times, and finally collected 800 responses in total through schools, social media etc.
The questionnaire was anonymous. We first asked the respondents for some personal information to see what kind of people are interested in art anti-counterfeiting. In this way, we can predict the characteristics of our potential customers so that we can improve our programs to address these characteristics.
65% of the respondents were female and 35% were males(fig.4A). This shows that regardless of gender, all people pay attention to the art market, but with more women in proportion. The majority of women also reflects that there may be more women in our potential customers. This may lead to higher requirements for the appearance and ease of use of the hardware.
Furthermore, according to Figure 2, 63% of the respondents were younger than 35 years old (Fig.4b). In other words, most of the attention to art is focused on young people. Corresponding to Figure 3, 59% of participants' monthly income is less than 5000 (Fig.4c). So it's safe to assume that most of these young people are students or just starting their jobs. They may not have high salaries or high purchasing power, so it may be difficult for them to afford expensive counterfeiting system. It indicated that we need to keep the cost of the product as low as possible and make it more avaliable.
Furthermore, through asking “Within how much would you accept that you bought a fake product and not hold the merchant responsible?” , we investigated the level of people's tolerance to fake products. The results showed that 11 percent of people were completely unreceptive to fake goods. Moreover, 85% of them will not pursue the liability of the merchant only when the commodity price is below 1000 (Fig.5). It shows that people rarely accept fake products.
To demonstrate this more directly, we investigate how people dislike fake products. We set a scale from 1 to 10 to allow participants to rate their distaste for counterfeit goods. The result shows that 54.75% of people express an extreme aversion to fake products and 91.86% of people score above 5(fig.6). The average score is 8.72 which directly indicates that people have a high degree of aversion to counterfeit goods. It also implicates that carrying out anti-counterfeiting measures is really necessary and urgent.
This is further evidenced by the next question. It is supposed that a person do not have enough money to buy an expensive product while the situation is urgent. And ask the respondents what they would do if they were that person. In all of the sample, 60% of people would rather buy a cheaper alternative than a counterfeit product and 35.01% choose to pay for genuine products with loans or installments. Only 4% of the respondents choose to buy counterfeit goods (fig.7).
Similarly, this is also shown by the 7th question -- If the price of item A is 3,000 CNY, but the actual cost is only 1,200 CNY, you will? When confronted with heavily premiumized goods, only 1% would still choose to buy counterfeit goods. 99% would choose another alternative (fig.8). It shows that people have a certain aversion to counterfeit goods, which verifies the urgent demand of consumers for the development of anti-counterfeit technology from the side.
We also looked at people's conceptions on the meaning of purchasing arts. More than half (about 57%) of people believe that the value of an artwork lies in the purchaser's own artistic pursuit (FIG.9). This verifies that consumers' purchase of artworks is to a large extent a spiritual yearning and pursuit, which also makes the meaning of paintings more extraordinary. Therefore, the anti-counterfeiting hardware also needs to conform to the connotation of the original painting to prevent it from losing the original charm.
So far, we have already known that people are negative about forgery. So what do they think about the extent of counterfeiting in the market? Again, on a scale of 1 to 10, participants were asked to rate their perception of the severity of forgery in the market. It turns out that the largest percentage of people chose 10. 86.43% of respondents scored above 5 (Fig.10). The average score was 7.7, indicating that most people think counterfeiting in the market is serious. It contributed to the fact that existing anti-counterfeiting technology has a certain degree of weakness so that the market is rife with fakes.
Last but not least, we use one more multiple choice question to ask their preference on the characteristics of anti-counterfeiting labels. We discovered that the most wanted feature is accuracy. This is followed by an uncomplicated detection process and a feature that does not affect the appearance of the products(fig.11). Both price and appearance were also chosen by many people, which proves the previous speculation that both factors would be considered by people to decide whether to buy.
In conclusion, according to the results of the questionnaire, the public has a low tolerance for forgery and believes that forgery is a severe problem. Meanwhile, the questionnaire also shows that our potential customers are mainly young people with low salaries. The majority of respondents indicated that the accuracy of anti-counterfeiting methods, the ease of detection methods and not affecting the appearance of products are the most important factors for them.
Investigation on existing solutions
After knowing what the public thinks about forgery and their needs and aspirations for anti-forgery, we asked some experts. This way, we can learn more about how art is preserved and their anticipation of ARTAG.
Cultural relics -- Museum Manager
We conducted online interviews with two experts from the Shanghai Museum and the Tianjin Museum respectively (fig.12). One of the professors, Xia Zhang, from the Painting and Calligraphy Department of the Tianjin Museum, is a professional and experienced curator and public writer who enjoys answering questions for traditional culture lovers .
For our incomplete comprehension on cultural relic industry, we might hold views on some market issues that differ from those of experts. Through interviews with experts, we have a deeper understanding of the cultural heritage industry and market demand. First of all, they mentioned that the preservation and transportation of cultural relics are very strict, reinforcing the importance of the protection and inheritance of artwork. Those relics are so valuable and unaffordable to take risk that it is difficult for the cultural heritage industry to accept more changes in cultural relics. Instead, they provided us with a lot of pertinent opinions and introduced to us some combination products of modern technology and traditional culture, enabling us to have more thoughts and reflections on the project. Therefore, we integrated the elements of traditional culture into the project and began to shift our focus to similar markets -- artworks, especially Traditional Chinese paintings, which may give us more opportunities.
After we focused on art heritage and innovation, we first sought advice online from experts Shen Cong and Zhang Wenzhi of the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) - one of the most representative and influential art academies in China (fig. 13). Cong Shen, is now engaged in biological art practice and theoretical research, and was the executive leader of CAFA IGEM Team, whose works have been exhibited in many places. Wenzhi Zhang is passionate about Asian mythology and the colonial history of China in the late Qing and early Ming dynasties, whose works are in the permanent collection of the Art Museum of the CAFA.
Two teachers gave their absolute approval on using biological materials in counterfeiting, for not only their considering it novel, but also using methods originally limited to specific professionals to solve a large number of requirements through mass production. At the same time, they also recommended us to go to art galleries and independent artists to learn more about the real and comprehensive needs of stakeholders and anti-counterfeiting treatment methods. Thus, we carried out the following offline human practice activities.
Based on existing ideas, we sought out potential users and conducted interviews to further understand the concerns of the stakeholders. This allows us to better identify the market in which the product is most popular, and we can also focus on optimizing our product based on their demands.
Interview with an art gallery manager
Moreover, we visited the local art gallery KennaXu, and interviewed the gallery founder Wen Xu (fig.14). KennaXu Gallery, an academic and experimental art institution, is dedicated to serving artists, collectors and art lovers as an international art exchange platform. Wen Xu, Kenna, founder of KennaXu Gallery,Wen Xu, Kenna, founder of KennaXu Gallery, is a young collector who has run art galleries and has extensive experience in opening exhibitions.
Always busy with art dealings and art identifying, the host of the gallery provided us with deliberate information on art trading as well as artists' attitudes on different counterfeiting methods.
Since we discovered that most of the works in the gallery are modern arts, we started by asking our first question concerning the decreasing popularity of traditional art.
He responded that we should not such a clear border between traditional and contemporary art. A lot of contemporary art comes from the country's traditions. However, in the market, there will be less and less traditional art, because most classic pieces have already been collected by museums. There aren't many important works left on the market.
When asking why people are less interested in the landscape paintings of the past, the host said that it's because our environment changed that we no longer have a connection to those pieces. When we look at such a piece, we can only see it as history, and it is difficult to feel connected with such pieces. Humanity is constantly changing, and new things will always appear.
We felt sorry for the declination of the traditional art in the market, especially after experiencing the diversity and important cultural value of them when interviewing Meng.
Inspired by the host, however, we found that our product could provide a solution. Besides serving the purpose of counterfeiting, it also serves as a tool, a vehicle carrying special information for the artist. Artists are able to add any specific information in the barcode, whether through stamps or even just spraying on the paintings. Traditional artists could utilize it to express the feelings they want to convey, and at the same time raise their awareness by combining it with new technology. Not only our spores could supplement a painting, but the products themselves are a kind of art form.
After ensuring the demands and anticipation of our crowds as well as gaining approvements of experts and stackholders, we started to take actions (see Proof of Concept for detailed information).
Brief Introduction of Project:
In response to these needs and visions, we have designed ARTAG - Artificially Revolutionized Tracking Art Gadget. It is an accurate, rapid, durable, invisible and cost-efficient spore detection system to verify the authenticity of items. We use homologous recombination to transfer a sequence with a special barcode into the genome of S.cerevisiae. Then the S.cerevisiae can produce spores containing the sequence. And the spores, have strong tolerance and adhesion, provide an ideal carrier for barcode sequences(fig.15).
In terms of detection, the Cas12a detection system was introduced, which refers to the methodology used in the HOLMES system of Li SY. et.al. Cas12a protein, a family of CRISPR family, is able to cleave the target sequence under the guidance of crRNA. This also stimulates its special property of cutting ssDNA arbitrarily in the environment. Based on this feature, probes were added to release signals which can be detected to observe the results（fig.16).
For the hardware, as shown in the Promotional Video, initially we envisioned a spore solution in a spray bottle and then sprayed it onto the painting. But later, we changed. At the suggestion of the artist Weiquan Meng, we incorporate the modified spores into the stamp, which will be attached to the painting with ink when it is stamped.
It is far from enough to only design projects. More experts or stakeholders are also needed to evaluate and improve our products. Therefore, after designing the project, we asked another painter to give feedback to our complete project directly. We also consulted the first author of our reference papers to make suggestions for our project.
Interview with artist - Weiquan Meng
We interviewed with Weiquan Meng, a famous Chinese painter in China (fig.17). Weiquan Meng, a member of 7 art associations, founder of "Hongmeng Academy". His works have participated in many provincial and national art exhibitions and are published in major newspapers and magazines and other professional publications. His works have also been collected by art museums and other professional institutions and famous people at home and abroad.
After doing basic research, we contacted local Chinese traditional painting artists – both to summarize local artists' perspectives and to find a better way to combine spores with Chinese stamps. The result was compelling, with Meng feeling excited and anticipated with our product.
Weiquan Meng is an artist who focuses on combining traditional Chinese art with modern techniques. To gain a further understanding of Chinese art and stamps, we conducted this interview with him.
Meng attended the 13th national artwork exhibition with his painting 《Forty years of the rise》. He depicted the developments and changes of the buildings in Shenzhen with both traditional methods and modern textures. His skills as well as his ideas exactly correspond to our project's meaning: use modern technology to renew traditional arts.
Since we are planning to combine the spore system with traditional stamps, we asked a few questions regarding the use and meaning of traditional stamps.
Meng said that stamps were originally designed for artists to make signatures. Thus, every stamp has its own texture to differentiate itself from others. Besides serving the purpose of signing and counterfeiting, stamps also make traditional drawing more complete. In Chinese traditional paintings, the composition of an artwork is extremely important. Stamps can help the paintings reach a sense of balance and symmetry. In the long history of the developments of Chinese traditional paintings, many of them were imitated and sold for millions. Therefore, as a necessity, every stamp is unique for each artist. It can also enhance the value of the paintings by adding a specific sign.
Taking his own stamps as examples, he showed us that although different stamps share different characteristics, they are still easy to imitate, causing huge economic loss.
Most importantly, when we discussed how spores can be applied into identifying paintings, he provided us with a new form of combining spores -- to insert spores into the ink of the stamps. It led us to change our hardware from watering cans into inkpads. The latter is not only more portable, but also more psychologically acceptable for the artist, as the spores will concentrate on the stamps rather than the whole painting.
Besides learning about the significance of Chinese stamps, we spent a lot of time learning the characteristics of Chinese paintings, for instance, the composition of different drawing papers and strokes. It laid a foundation for our later communication introducing to children, a process of converting what we have received to the teaching of others.
Then, we asked if Meng would like to accept our spores system and use it. He seemed very curious and excited about our project. He claimed that he would be willing to try because it will really make his paintings more innovative. He felt hopeful and excited about the prospect of this product.
Detection --Interview with Scientist
We had the honor to invite the first author of the literature referenced by the detection system, Dr.Shiyuan Li, for an interview (fig.18). Dr. Shiyuan Li, an expert in synthetic biology, microbiology and molecular biology. He is well versed in the current CRISPR technology and has developed several new CRISPR-related tools. He has published 17 articles in Cell Research etc., of which 12 are first or co-authors, with a cumulative impact factor of over 100 and cumulative citations of over 700. He has published 6 patents, designed and participated in 10+ iGEM projects, 15+ synthetic biology PBL courses and synthetic biology public website writing. He runs Tolobio independently which currently publishes more than 300 articles.
He made a lot of very useful suggestions for our project and was very supportive of our project. As the carrier of barcode information, spores have very strong resistance and patience, which may lead to reduced detection efficiency. We turned to Dr. Li for advice. He corresponded by saying that it merely affects detection efficiency, diffusing our concern. He suggested that we could try to boil spores for a longer time before testing. In addition, if we need to observe efficiency more intuitively or optimize our detection, the establishment of mathematical model can provide great help. Along with his suggestion, we later built a model to optimize the cas12a system.
At the same time, he gave some encouraging suggestions on our hardware-- testing papers. With low cost and convenient operation, strips are perfect tools. He taught us information about testing papers and encouraged us to let our customers to detect with testing papers themselves.
Besides focusing on our project, we also asked him some questions about operating our Wechat official account -- Dr. Li now independently runs a popular wechat account called Tolobio. He gave us some useful tips on running an official account and some fun ideas for writing articles.
After in-depth communication with experts and stakeholders, we selected and referred to their opinions and conducted a series of subsequent experiments (lab notes). After completing all the tests, we began the design and fabrication of the hardware. Through a series of market research and questionnaires, we found that most young people showed enthusiasm for products related to traditional cultural style. According to the survey, about 79.8 percent of respondents said they would give priority to supporting and buying products with Chinese elements at the same price. Coincidentally, it corresponds to our products' idea -- verifying and preventing counterfeiting for Chinese painting and calligraphy works. Therefore, after further market research and data search, we finally chose to produce a Hardware Kit inspired by traditional style dressing boxes (Fig.19a). This kit can contain all materials needed in the anti-counterfeiting process from sampling to detection. They will be arranged in compartments that are beautiful, simple and easy to use (FIG.19B) ( Hardware). We also have a complete plan for the future commercial planning of this kit ( entrepreneurship） .
We also participated in the Conference of China iGEMer Community (CCIC) Onilne Exchange Meeting, communicating with dozens of IGEM teams and presenting our projects to them (Fig.20a). We got affirmation and suggestions from the judges and students, which helped us improve and better present our whole project. In turn, the technology in our project has also helped other teams improve their projects, such as NDNF. We exchanged strains and communicated online several times. In our heated discussions, we tried to look at our project from the perspective of others, and improved the presentation of our project according to others' opinions, so as to help both sides to become better.
Additionally, our project has a lot of other potential. We believe that the strong viability and adhesion of the spores used in this project can be extended to many other applications. Not only confined to "objects", we can also help with food traceability, logistics tracking and so on. Furthermore, our project can also be used to replace some physical marks. Such as the anklet of a bird that is needed to study the traces of migratory birds, and a track-tracking watch worn by children in case they get lost (implementation). All in all, our project has infinite potential. Any application related to anti-counterfeiting or traceability can be further improved and built up through our project.
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