I’m often invited to give talks both directly and indirectly related to my creative work. In the past decade I found myself speaking in conferences, festivals, universities, museums, art galleries, offices, hacker spaces… you name it. I am always happy to consider new speaking gigs and workshops so if you’re interested, let me know (mushon(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)shual.com).
I gathered a few video documentations and descriptions from different talks I’ve been giving over the last couple of years:
Your GPS app directs you, turn-by-turn, on the quickest route from A to B. At the same time, it also defines time as the single, non-exchangeable currency for evaluating the cost of the journey. To do so, the app flattens the multi-dimensional complexities of the world into a 2-dimensional map, and then further condenses them into a 1-dimensional route, optimized for the ultimate elimination of time and space down to 0-dimensions – effectively, teleportation. The talk highlights teleportation’s depiction in an 80’s horror classic, its echoes in the current rush towards automation, and its role in the untimely death of the Waze Carpool service. As an early designer of Waze maps, the speaker argues that user-centered-design has segmented us into isolated, self-driving boxes going nowhere fast. The answer, he posits, may be found in a return to mapping, not as a replacement for the territory, but as an ongoing collaborative process for sensing our paths forward and navigating our every turn-by-turn towards better futures. This is another talk on the main themes of my research towards a book titled “FRICTION & FLOW — a Design Theory of Change”.
Friction & Flow
The term “friction” is used daily by interaction designers as a disruption, a nuisance in the interaction flow. Therefore we mostly work to identify and eliminate the friction and to optimize the flow. It seems we’ve come to define progress in similar terms. We want everything to be faster, simpler, cheaper, less emotionally demanding, more automatic, more predictable…frictionless. Ironically more optimization brings further complexity. In recent years, our bigger problems are not due to too much friction, but due to not enough of it. Our optimized frictionless flows have resulted in inequality, political polarization, racism, mistrust, addiction, despair and environmental collapse. We seem to have lubricated the planet so much that it’s slipping through our fingers. The pandemic is arguably one of the most global friction events in history. While the pandemic amplified much of society’s “preexisting conditions” like inequality, polarization and mistrust, it may also provide some lessons for our slow and insufficient response to climate change. The talk touches on the central themes of my research towards a book titled “FRICTION & FLOW — a Design Theory of Change”.
Where Are We? On Designing the Map of Israel
Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality commissioned me to make a map of Israel for every class in the city. The Israeli Ministry of Education didn’t like it. For a few weeks, everybody talked about it. Finally, the flames moved elsewhere. In this talk I go through the motivation for the project; on designing a printed map for kids with smartphones; on Israel’s history of shifting borders; and how what really draws the map are language, demographics and the climate.
The Political Tragedy of Data-Driven-Determinism
Video documentation from Re:publica 2018
Polls and predictions could not foresee the wide appeal of voting for Brexit, for Trump, against the predictions, against the future that was set in the numbers. As worrisome as these phenomenons may be, we can see some hope in this turn against data-driven-determinism. How could we seize this call to action to reignite our political imagination and reclaim the future?
- Panel on the subject at Re:publica 2018
DataViz, the UnEmpathetic Art
Video documentation from ISVIS 2018, Shenkar College
“If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”
Can dataviz evoke empathy? Should it even? And if so how? And would all these feelings lead to action? While public policy should be rooted in data, should advocacy do the same? And how can we account for the psychological phenomenons of statistical numbing and compassion fatigue that often lead us to disengage from human suffering when it is presented to us in large numbers? This talk would explore these contradictions and attempt to suggest possible ways for addressing them.
- The essay the talk is based on at ResponsibleData.io
- Interview/discussion on the subject with Kim Rees, Jon Schwabish and myself
The Normalizing Machine
What do “normal” people look like? Since its infancy, photography has been used as a scientific technology for racial profiling and social normalization. Physiognomy and Eugenics were widely embraced in the West before being discarded as pseudoscience following WW2 and the atrocities it entailed. In recent years, Machine Learning and face recognition algorithms have been used for the same purpose. Normalizi.ng is an on-line experiment that highlights our role in training discriminatory systems. This conversation, led by Mushon Zer-Aviv, the creator of Normalizi.ng, will explore the history behind the work, the creative process, and the discourse around photography, identity and algorithmic bias, followed by an open conversation with the session participants.
- Normalizi.ng (the online piece)
- What do normal people look like? (article about the piece)
- The Normalizing Machine webpage (earlier version of the work)
AudioSpatial Storytelling & Speculative Tourism
Video documentation from Re:connecting Europe, Dublin 2017
Can we walk one city through the streets of another? Can we become tourists of our future cities by walking in them today? We’ve been looking for Augmented Reality in the wrong places. Actually maybe we shouldn’t be looking for it at all, maybe we should instead listen. This talk would suggest AudioSpatial Storytelling through two walking projects and would encourage us to explore our futures beyond data-driven-predictions while using two ancient human features: our imagination and our legs.
- Introducing: Speculative Tourism
- Early version of the talk (in Hebrew)
- Audio-Spatial Stroytelling article
If Everything is a Network, Nothing is a Network
Video documentation from Re:publica 2016
Trapped in an imaginary web of NODES and EDGES we have come to visualize much of our lives and relationships in terms of the simplistic network diagram. Networks aren’t bad, they are just drawn that way. Yet their iconic visual representation and its gross misinterpretation have contributed much to our eroding privacy and political agency under the myth of Big Data and all knowing algorithms. It is time for us to challenge the network and its PROTOCOLS rather than blindly go with the FLOW.
- Video from ISVIS2016 (in Hebrew)
- The talk is based on an article commissioned by Tactical Tech for their Exposing The Invisible Guidebook.
The Ideas Lying Around
Video documentation from Attending to Futures, Koln, 2021
COVID-19 is arguably one of the most global friction event. While it amplifies much of society’s “preexisting conditions” like inequality, polarization and mistrust, it may also provide some lessons for our slow and insufficient response to climate change. The talk will offer a design-based framework of mapping friction and flow as a way to address invisible looming changes that are either too small (virus scale) too large (planetary scale) for us to grasp. The framework presented is currently developed as a book on Friction and Flow – a design theory of change.
The Big Picture
Throughout most of human history, mapping the world was a failure-ridden poetic pursuit—an attempt to visualize that which is just too close to see. Cartographers collected discrete signals and attempted to put them together into “the big picture”. What does the history of picturing the world tell us about the cultural origins of data, its representation and the myth of big data.
- The Big Picture at The Technosphere Now conference, October 2015 HKW, Berlin
AdNauseam – Obfuscation as a Privacy Counter-Measure
As online advertising is becoming more automatic, universal and unsanctioned, AdNauseam works to complete the cycle by automating all ad-clicks universally and blindly on behalf of the target audience. Working in coordination with your ad blocker, AdNauseam quietly clicks every blocked ad, registering a visit on the ad networks databases. As the data gathered shows an omnivorous click-stream, user profiling, targeting and surveillance becomes futile. AdNauseam is a browser extension designed to obfuscate browsing data and protect users from surveillance and tracking by advertising networks. Simultaneously, AdNauseam serves as a means of amplifying users’ discontent with advertising networks that disregard privacy and facilitate bulk surveillance agendas. The talk covers both the background to the project and reviews various practices of data obfuscation.
- Follow-Up Discussion at Transmediale Becoming Fog panel
- AdNauseam at C-Base Berlin
- AdNauseam at Mobi / Speculation and Counter-Speculation
- Video of Hebrew version: ביג דטה – המחצב החדש של האינטרנט
- Video of Hebrew version: Obfuscation vs. Big Data at the Digital Art Lab
- AdNauseam Video Trailer
How Interfaces Demand Obedience
Talk Documentation: MIT Media Lab – Civic Media group
The internet, once associated with openness and decentralization, is increasingly understood in terms of the control exerted by government agencies (like the NSA) and advertising (targeted ads). What is less commonly discussed is how this subliminal control is embedded in interface design. In this talk I argue that web interfaces demand our silent obedience with every page load and I try to offer tactics and strategies for challenging the politics of the interface.
Designers, statisticians, journalists, researchers and technologists often apply visualization techniques in an attempt to get the big picture out of large quantities of data. In this rush towards informational imagery both creators and viewers are often taken by the lure of what Edward Tufte defines as “beautiful evidence”. But is information visualization indeed just another type of evidence, or is it a form of visual argument? This work was also published as an essay on Visualizing Advocacy.
Getting Intimate with Invisible Audiences
Invisible audiences drive the success and failures of mediated social life. Before we rush to further network our private and public spaces we should consider this radical cultural shift. Some lessons can be learned from a recent ambiguous website (Chat Roulette) and an old ambiguous book (the Bible).
- Video of Hebrew Version: לדעת קהלים נסתרים
- At Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej in Warsaw / (or version with dubbing in Polish)
Wikipedia Illustrated (with Galia Offri)
While we celebrate the explosion of open source software and collaborative projects like Wikipedia, visual art has not enjoyed similar levels of passionate and generous online contribution. Open culture has developed inspiring text-based collaborative models, but has yet to develop successful models for open collaboration on visual culture. Wikipedia Illustrated seeks to develop such models. Through 26 illustrated articles, a blog that follows the production and a set of workshops we hope to develop a methodology for contributing creative-commons licensed illustrations to Wikipedia.
The talk will address the questions at the heart of this project. Is the visual aspect of Wikipedia so lacking and dated because it could only use freely licensed images? Or is it that images have to become “historical” to become removed, objective, factual, and therefore applicable to the Wikipedia guidelines? Is the Wikipedia project really inviting visual artists to contribute their work to the commons? Or is visual work inherently less collaborative? As the project evolves it exposes the myths and biases behind these questions and reveals the surprising and complicated dynamics of open culture.
Can Design By Committee Work?
the case for open source design
My talk starts about half an hour in.
Free but not Completely Alone
חופשי ולא לגמרי לבד – This one was a very intimate one-off presentation (about collaborative work in my career) for The NuSchool’s designers event (in Hebrew).