The Normalizing Machine‭ / ‬Exposing the Black Box

Mushon Zer Aviv‭, ‬Shenkar College of Engineering‭, ‬Design and Art‭ (‬IL‭)‬

Abstract‭: ‬How does a‭ ‬“normal”‭ ‬person look like‭? ‬The history of photography is full of attempts to use the technology to determine a person’s mental state and deviation from the norm by analysing their photographed image‭. ‬Physiognomy‭, ‬the pseudoscience of discovering‭ ‬temperament and character from outward appearance‭, ‬was emboldened in the 19th Century by the advent of photography‭, ‬criminology‭ ‬and scientific racism‭. ‬It was later adopted by the Eugenics movement and then exploited by the Nazis in WW2‭. ‬In the second half‭ ‬of the 20th Century‭, ‬these theories and practices lost much of their legitimacy only to forcefully re-emerge in recent years through Machine Learning and face recognition algorithms‭. ‬It seems like every day we learn of yet another algorithm claiming to analyse a person’s level of intellect‭, ‬criminality‭, ‬sexual orientation or other mental otherness by simply analysing their photographed portrait‭.‬‭ ‬The Normalizing Machine is an interactive video installation‭ ‬designed to emphasize our active role in passively training these systems of discrimination and the politics of these seemingly‭ ‬opaque neutral machines‭. ‬The work aims to position these new technological practices in a wider social/scientific historical context‭. ‬The talk would explore the work’s historical background as well as the creative design process and the contemporary discourse around photography‭, ‬identity‭, ‬information design and algorithmic bias‭.‬
More at‭: ‬http‭://‬

Short CV‭: ‬Mushon Zer-Aviv‭ ‬is a designer‭, ‬an educator and a media activist based in Tel Aviv‭. ‬His love/hate relationship with data informs his design work‭, ‬art pieces‭, ‬activism‭, ‬research‭, ‬lectures‭, ‬workshops‭ ‬&‭ ‬city life‭. ‬Among Mushon’s collaborations‭, ‬he is the CO-founder of‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬a foxy design studio‭; ‬‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬a tour of Gaza through the streets of Tel Aviv‭; ‬Kriegspiel‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬a computer game version of the Situationist Game of War‭; ‬the Normalizing Machine‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬exploring algorithmic prejudice‭; ‬the AdNauseam extension‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬clicking ads so you don’t have to‭; ‬and multiple government transparency and civic participation initiatives with the Public Knowledge Workshop‭; ‬Mushon also designed the maps for and led the design of‭. ‬Mushon is an alumni of Eyebeam‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬an art and technology center in New York‭. ‬He teaches digital media as a senior faculty member at Shenkar School of Engineering and Design‭. ‬Previously he taught new media research at NYU and Open Source design at Parsons the New School of Design and in Bezalel Academy of Art‭ ‬&‭ ‬Design‭. ‬Read him at and follow him at‭ ‬@mushon‭.‬