[iDC] Introduction

Mushon Zer-Aviv mushon at shual.com
Mon Jun 30 12:08:02 UTC 2014

We will run a workshop for prototyping (interface) interventions into (digital) workspaces.

Hi there,
Sorry for postponing my introduction until now, as my contribution to the conference is still a work in progress.
My name is Mushon Zer-Aviv, I’m a designer, an educator and a media activist based in Tel Aviv and previously in New York where I know some of you guys from. Currently I’m teaching digital media at Shenkar School for Design and Engineering and am doing some work on budget transparency in Israel (but enough about me). I have attended the first Digital Labor conference at the New School in 2009 and wrote a paper for Mobility Shifts in 2011.

My design work often attempts to re-politicize interface both as a control mechanism and as an opportunity for agency. I'm researching, writing and designing tools and platforms that attempt to go beyond “User Generated Content” and suggest a more critical approach that could be thought of as “User Generated Interfaces”. For example I am currently collaborating with Helen Nissenbaum (NYU) and media artist Daniel Howe on a new browser plugin called AdNauseam that fights back against ad networks profiling and targeting. AdNauseam works together with AdBlockPlus. Every ad blocked by ABP is silently “clicked” by AdNauseam, obfuscating the profiles gathered by ad networks as a form of protection, resistance and protest. AdNauseam is due to launch in the coming few months.

Back in 2009, Lilly Irani presented Turkopticon, a great example of user generated interface, where software is used as an opportunity to imagine and practice different working conditions. Inspired by these types of interventions (and by the delicious dinner that Trebor cooked back in March) we wanted to offer a hands on experience in prototyping critical interfaces. We see this as another form of critical research and also as an opportunity to question the potential and scope of such an approach. Can browser plugins meaningfully transform the workspace? Or are they just a placebo for worker agency? Would these interface interventions help politicize the working conditions or would they just further legitimize them? What other types of interventions can we think of to politicize the online workspace and to extend worker agency and solidarity?

We are still working on the details, but ideally we would love to get workers, academics, designers and developers in groups examining specific online work spaces and manipulating them. Potentially, if framed right, such a seemingly “proactive” approach could also help get the corporations behind these platforms involved in the discussion.

I would love to get your thoughts and ideas on this initiative and can definitely see the discussion we have here helping to shape what will happen in the workshop itself.

Mushon Zer-Aviv
Mushon.com | Shual.com | @mushon
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