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AI Tech Art Tech

How Technology can help India’s Traditional Craftspeople

Written by : Suki Iyer on  Digilah (Tech Thought Leadership)

A recent conversation with a friend got me thinking of the intersection between technology, design, the preservation and flourishing of traditional handicrafts, and communities. 

The Indian handicraft industry is a highly labor intensive one, with more than 7 million artisans, a majority of whom are women and largely underprivileged.

This industry, which is traditionally a major source of revenue generation in rural India, has been in decline (though there have been several efforts to support it), and has been hit hard by the pandemic as well. 

What are the glaring gaps in the market for traditional craft? (specific to India, but this could apply to the world as well). To my mind the key gaps are in design, and in business building capacities

Local artisans lack the ability to meet the needs of new markets and are forced to find low unskilled employment in urban industries. One of the major factors contributing to this is that artisans are not trained to contemporize their designs. 

In this article, I’d like to focus on design and the role technology can play in meeting the current gaps. 

While some work has been done on modernizing design, a lot of craft continues to center around traditional design, often not appealing to modern sensibilities, and thus not being able to build the foundation of a sustainable business. How can technology help? For example, AI techniques have been leveraged for emulating creativity and imagination – for image generation, style-transfer, image-to-image translation; for pattern generation, and color-transfer etc.  

An interesting study (Raviprakash et al., May 2019) describes how AI techniques can be used to contemporize design, while keeping the underlying technique unchanged. It generated colored motifs and patterns that can be manufactured into physical products. This study experimented with using AI on the popular IKAT weave. Unlike other dyeing techniques, in IKAT the yarn is dyed BEFORE it is woven. This is what gives it its unique shading effect. This property was harnessed by the researchers to create a contemporary design. 

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The researchers first used a black motif using an AI technique trained on a set of 1000 paintings from a famous European painter, Piet Mondrian, and their gray-scale counterparts. The simplicity of these paintings along with the use of only primitive colors made them an ideal choice for our approach, since the model is able to learn primitive colorization of a motif from a relatively small training dataset. 

The model used a generator which colorizes the input and a discriminator that learns to distinguish between the real paintings and the colorized images. The discriminator’s output determines the loss of the generator, which the generator tries to minimize, effectively colorizing images to make them indistinguishable from real paintings. 

These motifs were re-colored with colors of an inspiration image using a statistical approach of global color transformation, and the design was post-processed to a grid that could be readily used for dyeing, as each cell is of a single color. 

Products manufactured with designs generated using the above approach are found to be much more visually appealing than their traditional counterparts in the present market. Local artisans used these designs to manufacture and sell products successfully. A person painting a picture Description automatically generated with medium confidence

There are several such examples of how technology can modernize craft without compromising on the underlying uniqueness of a particular craft technique. 

Investments need to be made in building such design capacity amongst artisans so they can once again take their place as valued centers of their communities. 

Suki Iyer

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Web 3.0 Tech Art Tech

How Web3 could help Local Artisans retain the heritage of their Art  

Written by : Ajit Padmanabh on Digilah (Tech Thought Leadership)

Introduction

There is a palpable sense of skepticism in many with regards to the promise of inclusivity in Web3. Many believe that all talk of decentralization is a mere hype and is not implementable.

When one looks at the Metaverse players across various layers and that the metaverse market is projected to be worth $12Tn by 2030, the values of pay-parity, equity and inclusivity need to be lived in and by the Metaverse players. 

Are there companies working on inclusivity and equity in places like Africa and economically backward countries?

Are there real possibilities to generate revenue and employment for the deprived or underprivileged classes of our society, with Web3 technologies? 

The internet had made similar promises in the beginning and the utopian dream died within years of its inception. If we look at the internet today, there are pockets of improvement in revenue generation in rural and tribal populations but largely, it has skewed more, making the privileged a little more privileged.

 Hence, considering the promise of Web3 in decentralization and self-sufficiency in revenues, this article attempts to provide scenarios across various layers of Metaverse as depicted below, to make this utopian ideal a reality. 

The Artisan Community and Indian Craft

As an ancient civilization that has birthed many cultures and has seen numerous migrations and invasions, India has a rich heritage in the field of arts.

Craft as a term was historically limited to “goods worked by hand” but now includes a broader canvas – all things art, like Music, Dance, Painting, Sculptures, Textiles etc. Even if we limit Indian craft to “Handicrafts” across states, the variety in art form and media is unparalleled. 

The Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) is a nodal agency for promoting exports of handicrafts from India to various destinations of the world and projecting India’s image abroad as a reliable supplier of high-quality handicrafts goods & services. 

The Handicrafts exports during the year 2021-22 was Rs.33253.00 Crores (US$4459.76 Million) registering a growth of 29.49% in rupee terms & 28.90% in dollar terms over previous year1. While the growth is promising especially from a tourism perspective, this may have a miniscule impact on the overall rating of India as the Vishwaguru

Revenue Generation for Artisans, while preserving the Art Heritage 

The fast-paced Digital Age is only going to get faster with Industry 4.0. With technologies like VR/AR, 3D-Scanning and 3D-Modeling, 3D-Printing as well as Web 3.0 constructs (and buzzwords) like the NFT, Metaverse and Blockchain, the craft Industry has all the components aligned for that leapfrog moment. 

A lot of artisan communities and tribal art communities in India are now extinct and some on the verge of extinction – this is a challenge that uniquely presents itself to us as an opportunity if we leverage the technologies mentioned above. 

Industry 4.0 terms Technology as a driver of change, and not merely an enabler. We should look to harness this driver for Indian Craft and the numerous communities associated with it.

There is a need to look at Indian Craft holistically, including all forms of fine art and performing arts, compounded by technology and tourism. We Illustrate these possibilities by taking the famous Channapatna Toys from Karnataka, as an example. They are protected as a Geographical Indication (GI) under the World Trade Organisation administered by the Government of Karnataka. 

Channapatna Toys could be put up on an artisan marketplace in the Metaverse. The artisan would be able to directly engage in selling goods in 3D and voice-interact with consumers worldwide. With technologies like 3D-scanning and 3D-printing, consumers worldwide would be able to see, touch and feel these products via Haptic technologies and also view the story of the artisan behind it.

Such multi-sensory experiences are disruptive and could help consumers in accelerating their buying decisions, something the Internet has not been able to achieve. 

Consumers will not only get to pick up local artisans’ produce but also engage with them and know more about our culture, traditions and heritage from their standpoint. The same product, once digitized, could be converted to limited edition NFTs during special seasons. The underlying financial technology could be powered by Digital Ledger Technology (DLT) or Blockchain, keeping the transaction decentralized, bereft of middle-men. 

Imagine the access for the artisans to the entire Indian Diaspora across the world and imagine the ease of access and purchase for the consumers, at large. This will also help the Artisans transfer knowledge to the next generation, a large number of who are looking for better economic opportunities in cities. 

As mentioned earlier, this is the main reason why India has lost a lot of tribal and native art. With metaverse and ancillary technologies, the hope is that we will be able to reverse this trend and preserve art heritage for posterity while making it economically viable for the artisans at scale, something that is unknown and unprecedented in today’s times.

Early traction in such technology-driven soft power can certainly propel India onto the world stage and make traditional Indian artisans global celebrities, giving them the much needed recognition and respect.    

Conclusion 

Indian Heritage and Culture is multi-layered, with each layer having the capability to catapult India’s soft-power quotient. One could experience it through ancient monuments, scriptures, textiles, crafts, music, dance, food, sports, folktales and many more. 

There is a need to look at each of these layers from a Technology and Tourism standpoint, the intent being to preserve and propagate Heritage and Cultures of the world, including the most backward communities.

If deployed across other art-forms like paintings, pottery, sculptures, textiles, and even artists like musicians and dancers, Artisans worldwide have tremendous potential to earn from a global market without boundaries. 

References:

  1. https://indiaeducationdiary.in/piyush-goyal-union-minister-of-commerce-industry-consumer-affairs-food-public-distribution-and-textiles-govt-of-india-graces-handicrafts-export-award-function-as-chief-guest-and-gives-away/ 

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Art Tech Web 3.0 Tech

NFT Can Be A Force For Positive Social Impact

Witten by Darren Tan on Digilah (Tech Thought Leadership)

With all the ongoing debate about the inherent value of NFT, for myself, as the founder of Digital Arts For Social Impact (DASI) , I believe that NFT can be an effective channel for positive social impact. 

NFT started in the year of 2012, backed by the basis of bitcoin then, since Etherium hadn’t started before then – and since that point, there have been many ongoing conversations as well as trades that have happened on the digital space.

Some see it as an opportunity to get rich quick, given the number of rug pulls that has happened due to insider traders making a quick run after a successful fund raise, while others see it as an opportunity to express their art – and letting keen buyers own an original authentic piece of their work without any potential risk of inauthentic duplication

NFT Art-tech

For myself, my exposure to NFT, blockchain as well as Web 3.0 definitely changed the way he viewed work as well as the digital space, and it definitely pivoted me from being a typical salaryman to someone who can also create positive social impact with the help of NFTs

Afterall, the basis behind the creation of an NFT can be condensed into 7 simple steps:

1) Create/pick your artwork/ unique creation

2) Choose your choice of blockchain tech

3) Setting up your digital wallet for          transaction

4) Shortlist & Select your NFT marketplace.

5) Upload your NFTs

6) Develop a robust sales & marketing plan for your NFTS

7) Fund-raising and channeling it to an effective cause

In fact, it was with this knowledge that I have also invested heavily into ethereum as well as developed a robust team made up of industry veterans as well as artists across the globe, to serve the impoverished community around the world – one of which being Cambodia.

For DASI’s very 1st upcoming project, Darren & his team made up of industry veterans as well as artists across the globe, they have ambitiously set their sights to help impoverished Cambodian kids to fund raise for their very own school – with hopes that this will be
a beacon for future NFT projects that will lead to support more social causes.

Most searched question

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