Proud to announce my collaboration with Daniel Howe and Helen Nissenbaum: AdNauseam—a browser add-on that obfuscate data mining by also ‘clicking’ every blocked ad. Continue reading Adnauseam—Clicking Ads So You Don’t Have To
Conflict of Interface (eng) from Mushon Zer-Aviv Originally presented at The Politics of Interface and Obfuscation a special event at Eyebeam, NYC on March 11th, 2014, together with Helen Nissenbaum (NYU) and moderated by Michael Connor (Rhizome). The internet, once associated with openness and decentralization, is increasingly understood in terms of control exerted by government … Continue reading Slides for my “Conflict of Interface” talk at Eyebeam
Following my Disinformation Visualization workshop at the Info Activism Camp, the wonderful people at the Tactical Tech Collective have invited me to publish these ideas as an essay on their site. I am cross-posting the opening here and encourage you to read the whole thing on the Visualizing Advocacy site (and get their wonderful book … Continue reading Disinformation Visualization: How to lie with datavis (the essay)
Israel’s greatest political uprising in recent years is fighting to “not be political”. Why? And would that hurt it’s chances of social change? In the last week we’ve seen the rise of a popular revolt against the housing bubble. It started as a simple Facebook event in Tel Aviv but within days multiple tent cities … Continue reading Tel Aviv is on fire, what’s cooking?
It’s not a Twitter, Facebook or YouTube revolution. It’s a revolution of hungry oppressed people who had enough. They didn’t need Wikileaks to tell them how corrupt their government is. It was a burning man, burnt by his misery and oppression that got people out to the streets. Through the past three weeks the coverage … Continue reading We only care for Tunisians if they validate our techno-fetish
Format note: Written as a grant proposal.
Forks vs. Knives – Developing the code that governs us
Describe your project
Reaching consensus is never easy and when it gets really tough some reach for their knives. We say, drop the knives and pick up the forks.
Imagine a site – fvsk.org – where each community can store its social pact – be it legal, economic, ethical or religious code – and share it with its members and the world. Much like the social coding sites – Github and Bitbucket – the site will let each community member create her own version, a “fork”, and then share and discuss it with others. Forking becomes an opportunity to reflect, explore and innovate.
But we will not stop at that, communities need a way to agree on a mutual social pact. FvsK will support a well-defined enactment process for accepting forks and updating a pact. Using the power of distributed version control systems (DVCS) such as Git and Mercurial we will create a system that keeps the entire history of changes to the social pact and allows each member to propose changes. We will use the key processes of DVCS – forking and merging – to encourage free flow of ideas and to formulate agreement. On top of the DVCS system we will use tested organizational workflow solutions (such as BPM) to model the current process of pact revision approval and create simple tools to improve that process.
Our long-term vision is to create a system that can serve any size of community – from the manifest of a small ad-hoc activist group to a country’s statutory law – providing a way to keep their pact dynamic and encourage members’ participation.
This project will launch in Israel, one of the most challenging political environments today, where opposing communities are torn over national, religious, economic, racial and cultural differences. The future of our region is dependent on gaining the permission to read, write, and enact the codes that govern us, and to dare innovate, engage and affect them.
During the first year of this project we will build a system to serve two Kibbutz communities to be elected from the 256 “Kibbutzim” in Israel. Being a communal village of a few hundred people, the bylaws of the Kibbutz are critical to its members. The issues of private vs. communal property are hotly debated as kibbutzim adapt to economic changes and the evolving needs and wants of their members. Continue reading “Introducing Forks vs. Knives”
Ignoring my grandma… friending my enemies… WTF? Is it even reasonable to expect social media to reflect the depth of our social life? And when it fails, what do we stand to lose? (+ tips & hacks)
I have recently become more interested in the “It’s Complicated” option in Facebook’s relationship status. It has hit me that it might be the most honest aspect of the site’s interface. While every third internet user on earth holds a Facebook* profile, none of the site’s users are getting an adequate representation of their social life. This is not due to some broken code or an untested interaction design. No, it’s actually our fault.
*Facebook, is a great case-study for these questions, but they can be asked about many of the social media tools we use these days (Buzz is definitely also relevant, though we don’t use it).
Why should it be so, hmmm… “complicated”?
Why should it be so complicated? We are already busy defining our social life anyway, we are in fact putting relationships into boxes all the time. Some people we call friends, others we call family, others are our group members, others we might admire and define ourselves as their fans. Many of the people you would like to associate yourself with would probably fall somewhere along these lines. In that sense what’s so wrong about Facebook giving us a tool to manage and present this?
Sign here, here and here, now we’re friends.
The only relationship I have ever signed into an official contract, is the one with my wife, Galia. Many of our friends chose to skip marriage as they didn’t feel a need for a bureaucratic intervention into their personal relationship. Yet the same friends and even non-friends send me contracts every day requesting to officially confirm our relationship. Indeed getting a “friend request” is a very awkward thing. Continue reading “Relationship: It’s Complicated”
Originally written in April 2007. Minor edits: March 2010.
In the past 50 years the digital user-interface has become a major field of cultural production, since the innovations of Douglas Engelbart in the sixties (mouse/keyboard/video-screen) through the personal computer revolution in the eighties to the rise of the World Wide Web in the nineties and the wider trends for social web applications since the turn of the century. Producers of hardware and software systems have been attempting to develop interfaces that will direct the users to produce the interaction desired by the system they represent.
Discussions about interface design have been constantly revolving around the axis of experience and usability, presented sometimes in contradiction and sometimes as complimentary assets of ‘good interface design’. As a tool the success of interface is defined by its ability to generate the desired interaction on behalf of the user and have the user understand and act by the set of rules that the system defined.
It is important to mention though, interfaces have existed for a long time before the personal or the institutional (academy/military) computer. Actually, they have been around longer than culture or man-made tools have. Yet the rapid development and consumption of interfaces have made this an important and influential part of contemporary culture.
Interface is defined as a point of interconnection between two independent systems. This definition sheds a different light on the way we have learned to know the interfaces around us. If the sides interacting through the interface are to be two independent systems, then one would expect interface itself to maintain that balance and not favor one system over the other. This essay would address the question of control and agency embedded within interfaces and attempt to find where is interface situated within the map of power. It would also use several examples and attempt to propose tactical and strategic approaches to act within this conflict.
Continue reading “Interface as a Conflict of Ideologies”
Radars & Fences III
On Friday March 12th 2010 I will be participating at NYU’s Media Culture & Communications’ Radars & Fences III: Borders, Affect, Space (please RSVP and come). My friend Laila El-Haddad and I will present You Are Not Here – A Tour of Gaza Through the Streets of Tel Aviv, and we’ll discuss the way geography and the concept of the border is shaping the mediated experience of the conflict. We will also discuss some of our recent initiatives to disrupt the theater of conflict resolution.
I am posting an essay Laila and I wrote for the catalog of the Unrecorded exhibition in Istanbul, March 2008, curated by Basak Senova. At the end of the essay I embedded the videos of Laila & Saeed’s Al Jazeera documentary Tunnel Trade that have inspired this text.
The Gaza Tunnel Trade: Interpretations of Occupied Space
by Laila El-Haddad and Mushon Zer-Aviv
When Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula in 1982, the city of Rafah was suddenly split between Egypt and Gaza by an Israeli wall. Families found themselves divided by a high-security international border, though their houses often lay less than 100m apart. Before long, influential families who once controlled trade through Rafah moved their business underground through dozens of secret tunnels burrowed below the border, connecting family houses on either side.
With Israel’s military withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, the number of tunnels mushroomed. The Israeli military used the tunnels as a pretext for stepping up demolitions of houses to make way for a buffer zone along the border. Israel’s main concern is the smuggling of weapons to armed Palestinian groups. But for the smugglers themselves there is far more to the tunnel trade than politics and arms smuggling. Everything moves through Rafah’s tunnels: from cigarettes and drugs to cash and people. It is a vast enterprise, and pays five times an average annual Gaza salary in one month. It is a family business, passed on from father to son and always – for reasons of security as well as economics – kept in the family. Continue reading “Radars & Fences / You Are Not Here / The Gaza Tunnel Trade”
This video is taken from a public debate between Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Dr. Israel Eldad and Dr. Menachem Brinker in 1980.
In the 50:40 minute an Israeli farmer asking what should he tell the Ismaili (apparently referring to the Biblical term used in the debate by members from the right portraying the Palestinians as the arch-enemies of the Jews in Biblical Israel/Palestine friend), who works in his farm and asks him:
“This land that you’re working, I sat in just 30 years ago… In a friendly manner he says that… How can you explain the fact you are working it now? And sometimes, with my labor… You hire me and my friends, to work for you on the land that belongs to me.”
The Israeli farmer continues…
“What will I explain to that Arab, which I want to live with in peace, that I want to reach the day in which he will think of me as a friend and will not think bad thoughts about me.”