TACTAG® - Biological Intimate Memory

TACTAG® speculates on the possibility of DNA-digital data storage on human skin, which inquiries an alternative relationship between the human body and data storage. It imagines that due to the data overload in the year 2040, hardware-based storage is not able to support striking data growth. Therefore, people start to archive data on the skin by taking advantage of the outstanding capacity and longevity of DNA-strands. It aims to open discussion on how fast developing DNA-editing technology such as CRISPR could make an impact on our daily routine and potentially shape new social norms.

According to a report from IBM, 90% of the world’s data had been created in the previous 2 years. And data growth continues to explode. By 2020, it is estimated that 1.7MB of data will be produced every second for each person on earth, which is 146.88GB per day per person. However, our current infrastructure can handle only a fraction of the coming data explosion, which is expected to consume all the world's microchip-grade silicon by 2040. Then the question is how can we store all of our data after 2040?

We imagine that by the year 2040, each person will have limited Cloud storage while other traditional methods are no longer popular due to the short lifespan and limited capacity. For an average of 30 days, people need to download and archive their data from the cloud to their body and free up space from the cloud storage for the next month. A device is created as a converter for people loading data to their skin. The antenna attached to the device has a wireless connection to the cloud and therefore is able to download digital data. Tubes in the center contain necessary chemical materials for synthesizing DNA strands while the outer circle on the device is divided into several sections in response to different skin areas on the body. A tube is extended from the device, allowing the user to plug into the implant easily.

Inviting audiences to better immerse in the experience, several design pieces are composed together to depict this speculative future:

MemoryTag: a generic-engineered synthetic skin tissue being transplanted into human body. It functions as a connector that pairs with the plug-in from the TACTAG® machine. There can be multiple MemoryTags indicating different data storages on the body. It invites audiences to reflect on possible modification required to adapt to this unique human-computer interaction.

TTACTAG® machine: a device that functions as a converter that loads digital data into the human body through transplanted MemoryTags. It transfers binary codes into DNA strands by matching the sequence of code (00, 01, 10, 11) with  A(Adenine), C (Cytosine), G (Guanine) and T (Thymine) and operates similar to DNA synthesizer to produce a DNA strand, which then being compounded into gel form and applied on the skin. With the help of DNA-editing technology like CRISPR, the DNA strand will be added in the skin cell. The overall user experience is as simple as using an ordinary skincare product. 

The antenna attached to the device has a wireless connection to the cloud and therefore is able to download digital data. Tubes in the center contain necessary chemical materials for synthesizing DNA strands while the outer circle on the device is divided into several sections in response to different skin areas on the body. A tube is extended from the device, allowing the user to plug into the implant easily.

Embody: a monologue short film showcasing the experience of Ashley, an imaginary TACTAG® user who uploads her memory on her body while sleeping but ends up with unforeseen issues. It not only conveys our product concept design but also intrigues audiences’ attention on intricacy and risks behind using nucleic acid as a data storage medium.

TACTAG® manual: a brochure functions as an instructional manual demonstrating the mechanism, how to use the device, a body map as well as side effects that may occur. It aims to evoke audiences’ awareness of safety and ethics issues resulting from DNA-editing applications.

AR experience: an interactive installation based on image-marker augment reality that allows audiences to explore distinct aspects of likely future life in regard to using DNA as the data storage. The purpose is to take advantage of AR to bring interactive experiences to engage audiences and drive discussion of future scenarios.

TACTAG® is created in order to open discussion on how fast developing DNA-editing technology may make an impact on our daily routine and shape the new social norm. As a speculative design, it is both realistic and fictional. It aims to bring forth the realization of the influence of DNA manipulation in our daily life as well as an alternative perception about the human body. As a creative way to test and examine the hypothesis produced by emerging technology, this design facilitates ways to look forward to helping people better prepared for potential challenges.


In collaboration with

Bo Fone (Film Director)

Yangyifan Dong (Graphic Designer)

Ashley Pittson (Actress)

Dana Foss (DNA Technical Advisor)

Exhibited at Gray Area Artist Showcase, San Francisco (June 19-20, 2019)

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