Biotech and Design - Midterm Proposal Review

The midterm proposals of the “Biotech and Design” class are truly fascinating. They cover a diverse range of topics that all peak my interest, and, most importantly, it seems that all of them are seeking to do something to better society and the planet. It was difficult to narrow down this blog to a mere three proposals, but, alas, the assignment description has required me to do just that. (Resources that might be helpful for the discussed proposals can be found clearly labeled at the end of this blog post).

Brian Bowman’s “ICHOR”:

Brian’s “blood book” is very interesting, and hearing him explain why he was drawn to this topic only intensified this characteristic of his proposal. Having Brian “sell” his proposal was a big part of what made it so intriguing; many of us talked about it while we waited for Dillon’s performance last Thursday. Although Brian explained that this will not be the first time he has worked with this medium (blood), I do think there are some potential issues/concerns that have to be addressed prior to the project’s execution (initially, I was concerned about the blood extraction; however, Brian explained that he works with a registered nurse to ensure this is safely done.)

Blood as a Medium

Naturally, Brian’s choice of human blood as ink brings with it several concerns and possible logistical issues that warrant addressing. A major question is how much blood is actually needed to re-print the approximately 380-page Stranger in a Strange Land book? Additionally, if Brian’s blood is going to be dehydrated, how diluted will the ink be once re-hydrated - how much blood will be necessary to achieve the pigment quality required for the book to be legible? Furthermore, if a standard printer is going to be used with this “blood toner,” are there any consistency differences in blood (versus printer ink) that may impact the printer’s performance (such has clumping when re-hydrated)? Since blood is considered a biohazard, how is this art piece going to be made accessible and preserved (“Dry Blood Biohazard”)? I did my best to find answers to these questions, but, surprisingly, there is not a lot of information about dehydrated blood/blood ink (or, rather, information on this topic is not widely accessible to the general public). I did find a very interesting art piece by Ted Lawson, in which he had a robot use his blood (directly from him, never undergoing dehydration) to print a self portrait of him (Stinson). I think Lawson’s work may be helpful to Brian, and, if dehydrating blood does not prove possible, some of Lawson’s techniques may be an option (Lawson also took into account ways to preserve his art piece).

ROBOT BLOOD SELF PORTRAIT VIDEO

Additionally, a Big Think article discusses a new approach to blood dehydration, which may be helpful to Brian (Jones).

Ownership Rights

Brian mentioned something in his presentation that I wanted to follow up on: who owns the rights to blood/body tissue once it has left our bodies? Brian stated that no matter who is in possession of his blood book, he will always own it because it is printed in his blood. In a spiritual sense, this may be true. However, legally, this is not the case. Sources discussing this issue are numerous. The Columbia Science and Technology Law Review states, “The current regime is one where tissue or cell samples removed from a person’s body are tissues or cell samples in which that person has no property rights” (Devine). Henrietta Lacks is one of the most well-known cases of this. Her cells (HeLa cells) were/are used for some of the greatest (and most profitable) medical discoveries, including the polio vaccine, yet her family received none of the profits and remained in horrific poverty. I encourage everyone to read the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - you won’t regret it. I think Brian could make an even larger statement with his work if he incorporates this “ownership” into it - who really owns his book when it is literally made from his blood, sweat, and tears?

Figure 1: Who Owns You? from: “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” Amazon.com, https://www.amazon.com/Immortal-Life-Henrietta-Lacks/dp/1400052181. Accessed 6 May 2019.

Another issue is the copyright status of Stranger in a Strange Land (“Public Domain” and “Murnane”). I understand that this book was chosen because of the message Brian’s art piece will be sending; however, he may need to choose a book that is part of the public domain in order to legally complete the project. In any case, I am truly excited to see Brian’s finished product. The amount of writing I am doing on it is a testament to how thought-provoking it is!

Yuna Park’s “Chemical-Free Cosmetics”:

There is a prime market for Yuna’s proposed app, and I most certainly will be a user of it when she completes it! As a college student, it feels impossible to find “clean” products that are less expensive than my tuition (Target stores only just recently created products to address this issue (Pena)). I know absolutely nothing about the back-end creation of an app; however, I do have some insight as an anthropology major regarding how to make a product marketable to people, so that will be the focus of this segment of my blog.

Target Audience and Sephora

I think a big part of this project will be deciding who the target audience/consumer is. Is the consumer already health-conscious, or is the app supposed to make them that way? Additionally, is the app going to primarily focus on makeup products, or will it also include information beyond this (such as shampoo, body wash/soap, lotion, etc.)? Because there are so many products in the world, I understand why it is important to limit the scope of the app to Sephora in the proposal. However, labeling it as a “Sephora” app will limit the audience that will download it. Sephora sells many beauty products that are also sold elsewhere, meaning the app would be beneficial to non-Sephora shoppers too. I think using Sephora to help decide what is included in the app is great, but that can just be a “label” for development - it doesn’t need to be a definer of the app.

User Experience

Since this is not an entirely new idea, but, rather, a improvement and expansion upon what has already been done, I think it would be very helpful for Yuna to do some user experience work to determine what people really struggle with on the other apps - what do they wish was different about them? Bustle published a list of 5 free apps similar to Yuna’s that may be a helpful launching pad (Sciarretto). Two other apps that I am personally familiar with are SkinSafe (an allergy database) and the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG’s) Skin Deep.

Figure 2 (left): Skin Safe Dashboard from: “SkinSafe Products,” SkinSafe,  https://www.skinsafeproducts.com/Accessed 6 May 2019.   

Figure 3 (right): Skin Deep from:  “EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.” https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/EWG - Skin Deep, Accessed 6 May 2019.                     

Since this is a class project, this user experience testing can easily be done by creating a quick, informal focus group of people that fall within Yuna’s target audience. They can play around with the different apps, and then provide information on what they prefer and dislike. This information can then be used to create a “Frankenstein” app with all the best components of what is already on the market!

Arden Li’s “Turn Microplastics into Fabric”:

Arden’s proposal immediately caught my eye because its “repurposing” theme is actually something I have always thought about trying to tackle. Due to this, I am interested in further delving into the topic outside of this blog (NOTE: I am also very interested in Radha Shah’s “Sustainable Packaging” proposal, but, due to this blog length, I am focusing on Arden’s). I have compiled some of my thoughts regarding this very interesting project below:

Larger Message - Repurposing

Arden’s message is very clear in this proposal, but I think it would be wonderful to make this larger than just a single art piece meant to spread a message. Rather, I think this could actually showcase how microplastic and fashion waste can be repurposed for functional use. Dryer lint is one of the most tangible and mundane examples of pollution that we experience everyday (Resnick), so why not use it as a PSA and make a difference? For example, Shelly Simcha took dryer lint and made it into fabric. Simcha explains, “Each shirt has the potential of creating another shirt without canceling out its own existence” (Lanks). If society knew there was an alternative to throwing this “waste” away, I think it is very possible that society would take it.

Figure 4: Repurposed Lint Vest from: “Believe It: Fabric Made from Sheets of Dryer Lint.” Fast Company, https://www.fastcompany.com/1670267/believe-it-fabric-made-from-sheets-of-dryer-lint. Accessed 6 May 2019.

Shelly Simcha Lint Project Video

Although Simcha’s work is great, I think Arden’s project can go even further. It can show how other mediums can also be repurposed for fashion use. For instance, pet hair (e.g., from grooming your cat) could be repurposed to be fabric (it can also be combined with the dryer lint). People have actually spun pet hair into yarn (Martineau) and felt (Harwin) for clothing material. By combining the biodegradable and the non-biodegradable, Arden would be creating a fantastic commentary on what society is currently experiencing - we are stuck between the artificial and natural. In my opinion, Arden’s proposal could easily be just as influential as the repurposing of water bottles to create houses; it spreads awareness of an issue while also proposing a solution. With this in mind, I think Arden and Madux have projects with a lot of overlap, and it is possible they could share quite a few resources!

Figure 5: Plastic Bottle Home from: Aminu Abubakar, “Plastic-Bottle Homes are Popping Up Around the World.” TakePart, http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/12/10/plastic-bottle-homes. Accessed 6 May 2019.

Additional Items

I do have a clarification question that I hope Arden can answer for me: are the additional items (the dust bag, caring handbook, and gift box) also going to be made from sustainable materials? Additionally, I think the “dust bag” could actually be replaced with a “microplastic-catching bag” to wash the tank top in (and other items someone may own). This would make the product even more functional and relevant to Arden’s overall message.

Durability

One of my concerns with Arden’s “microplastic” fabric is how to ensure the microplastic is not just having its life extended before it is washed into the ocean. This may just mean that the “wash bag” included in the care kit collects the microplastics, and the “care book” explains how the tank top will lose integrity as it is washed. The “care book” could then outline how to send the tank top’s collected microplastics to the manufacturer for further repurposing - this would create a functional and healthy feedback loop. The practicality of this “repurposed” fashion lies within making the consumer a part of the process without making it too much work for him/her/them (people love to feel like they are doing good without doing much work)! Two weeks ago, I asked Dr. Gimzewski what we can do with the plastic pollution we already have. His response? Live with it. This pollution is with us for the worse and worst, so we might as well find a way to make it more useful for all of us - Arden’s proposal does just that!


Works Cited

Brian Bowman’s Proposal:

Devine, Claire. “Tissue Rights and Ownership: Is a Cell Line a Research Tool or a Person?” The Columbia Science and Technology Review,

http://stlr.org/2010/03/09/tissue-rights-and-ownership-is-a-cell-line-a-research-tool-or-a-person/. Accessed 6 May 2019.

Jones, Orion. “Dehydrating Blood and Vaccine Samples Could Transform Global Health.” BigThink,  https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/dehydrating-blood-vaccine-supplies-could-transform-global-health. Accessed 6 May 2019.

Murnane, Kevin. “Robert Heinlein’s ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ is in Development for the SyFy Channel.” Forbes,

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinmurnane/2016/11/16/robert-heinleins-stranger-in-a-strange-land-is-in-production-for-the-syfy-channel/#39c4bb66449d. Accessed 6 May 2019.

Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks. New York, Crown Publishers, 2010.

Stinson, Liz. “This Artist Had a Robot Print His Selfie with Ink Made from His Blood.” Wired, https://www.wired.com/2014/09/this-artist-had-a-robot-print-his-selfie-with-ink-made-from-his-blood/. Accessed 6 May 2019.

“What Could Have Entered the Public Domain on January 1, 2018?” Duke Law: Center for the Study of Public Domain,

https://law.duke.edu/cspd/publicdomainday/2018/pre-1976/. Accessed 6 May 2019.

“Why is Dry Blood a Biohazard.” EcoBear, https://ecobear.com/biohazard-cleaning/why-is-dry-blood-a-biohazard/. Accessed 6 May 2019.

Yuna Park’s Proposal:

“EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.” EWG.org, https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/. Access 6 May 2019.

Pena, Amanda. “Target’s Natural Beauty Line Brings Beauty to the Masses.” Huffington Post, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/natural-beauty-products-you-can-get-at-target_n_5a8ef04de4b005bb0fef41b4. Accessed 6 May 2019.

Sciarretto, Amy. “5 Apps That Tell You What’s in Beauty Products Because Knowledge is Power.” Bustle,  https://www.bustle.com/p/5-apps-that-tell-you-whats-in-beauty-products-because-knowledge-is-power-11997650. Accessed 6 May 2019.

“SkinSafe Products.” SkinSafe,  https://www.skinsafeproducts.com/. Accessed 6 May 2019.

Arden Li’s Proposal:

Harwin, Stephanie. “Seven Creative, Crafty Used for Cat Hair.” Catster, https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/seven-creative-crafty-uses-for-cat-hair. Accessed 6 May 2019.

Lanks, Belinda. “Believe It: Fabric Made from Sheets of Dryer Lint.” Fast Company, https://www.fastcompany.com/1670267/believe-it-fabric-made-from-sheets-of-dryer-lint. Accessed 6 May 2019.

Martineau, Ashley. “Turn Your Pet’s Fur into a Forever Keepsake: Tips for Prepping and Spinning Fur into Yarn.” Bluprint, https://www.mybluprint.com/article/tips-for-prepping-and-spinning-fur-into-yarn. Accessed 6 May 2019.

McNair, David. “Plastic-Bottle Homes are Popping Up Around the World.” TakePart, http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/12/10/plastic-bottle-homes/. Accessed 6 May 2019.

Resick, Brian. “More Than Ever, Our Clothes are Made of Plastic. Just Washing Them Can Pollute the Oceans.” Vox,  https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/9/19/17800654/clothes-plastic-pollution-polyester-washing-machine. Accessed 6 May 2019.