The Project

Picture this, looking busy or unreachable for the sake of it, picking up your phone without any explanation when talking to your friends, shifting your body uncomfortably as if undoubtedly what’s playing out on your phone is more important than the moment, mindlessly reacting to every prompt. ‘The bureau of push notifications’ is a Satirical reflection on our relationship with push notifications.

‘The Bureau of Push Notifications’ is a web-based interactive performance coupled with digital inquiries of the personal relationships between push notifications and people. The project attempts to re-think our infatuation with push notifications by humanizing them, showing how society conforms and builds them into our social cues. In the performance side of the experience, (the embodiment of) A push notification, the sole employee of the Bureau of push notifications, attempts to embody the “soul” of a push.

The performance can last up to 6 minutes. It begins by the push notification asking to have a quick talk. Sitting the audience down to talk about the past and future of the relationship they’ve had for over 18 years. Revealing the moments of happiness, frustrations and some accusations that were never aired. True to form, the push notification communicates simultaneously with real-time push notifications. Allowing the audience to interact with the video content. This work tries to emulate the ever-present tension of people wanting to be both connected and disconnected, pushing the phone away while longing for a new push.

The other side of the website are three digital inquiries: the first is a visual study of physical responses, creating a spectrum of motion to our reaction to push notifications. The second is A “Push language” translation proposal to the deterministic “aggressive” system-level vocabulary. Where terms like allow, deny, accept, mute, ignore are being replaced with what better describe our intentions when using push notifications. The third is about the trigger we're trained to look for, This is meant to resemble our longing for the next notification.

In reality, we choose our media hubs and it’s access to us, we can curate our own world, choose what content we want to satisfy our needs and who can communicate with us. Such external media cues like Push notifications have a powerful role in stimulating our consumption habits. Increasingly taking the place of in-person communications by filling the void and letting us feel wanted, desired and even understood. Tailored content targets us constantly, pulling us deeper into this habit, Not by choice but by design. Users, left to navigate their ‘operating system settings’ without a clear hierarchy of relevance, find all push notifications seem to have the same level of importance.

This world has become “safer” and even gives us ‘cover’ to recede into it when feeling threatened, trying to impress or look unapproachable. This crutch is increasingly becoming harder to penetrate as onlookers have little chance of knowing what is happening in our personal world.

By creating ‘the bureau of push notifications’, I am attempting to question the rise and minting of the social norm surrounding push notifications. Concluding a reflection on the state of the push notification cultural habits that are forming in our “always-on” society.

Growing up, I was one of those kids who would call up their friends the second I got home even though we split moments earlier. The continuity of my interactions was of most importance to me. Coupled with that, another powerful force of my youth, in Israel, was the civil-defense war-time siren. The siren, arguably the biggest push notification I've known, designed to pierce the everyday bubble with the truth of the matter, is here to announce what the reality is that people live under constant threat.
Throughout my research I saw my smartphone as both a siren and a facilitator, I tried to examine the power dynamics between us and the service of the push, the easy way out is to blame the technology and it’s makers but the truth is we bear the responsibility in our relationship with push notifications.

As a true ITPier, I began by conducting the weirdest experiments, shifting dominance between myself and my phone: I Trapped people in the uncomfortable state in which they watch their phone, I was dragging my phone after me all over the ITP floor for a few days, I created headgears to stick my phone right in front of my eyes, wondering how it would feel for me and for others and I Limited movement of subjects with concrete blocks to force reflection on their daily mobile habits while looking at their phone.

Moving forward, The first ideas started with physical installation and live performance of myself as the embodiment of push notifications. but as reality struck and that was impossible I re-imagined the idea and turned it into a web-based interactive experience. All under the roof of the fictional “bureau of push notifications”

To execute this project, I developed the code for this website. I was doing user testing from my front window due to COVID, I was the art director for both the interface and the video design. Using projection mapping and typography as my main tools. Wrote the script and even became the actor. And for the past month, I was obsessed with breaking through the limitations of zoom and understanding how to broadcast my project, using layers and animation over live video.

This thesis is part of my ongoing research in the area of interactive storytelling, art direction, graphic design and performance. Two classes that spurred me to re-imagine my voice as an interactive storyteller and critical thinker are “performing reality” by Andrew Schneider, that I attended Fall 2019 and “Critical object” by Pedro Galvao Cesar de Oliveira that I attended Spring 2019.

I would like to thank a lot of people who supported me Throughout this project:
Erez, my Love, my best friend, thank you for your never-ending support.
Mom, Dad and Amit, My insporation for life. Thank you for being my familly.

Gabriel Gracia-Colombo
Aidan Nelson
Chelsea Chen
My thesis Group

Nancy Hechinger
Danny Rozin
Tom Igoe
Andrew Schneider
Pedro Galavao cesar de Oliveira

Veronica Alfaro
Sukanya Aneja
Hadar Ben Tzur
Idit Barak
Shir David
Gilad Dor
Gil Givoni
Lydia Jessup
Tal Miller
Noa Paran
Michal Sahar
Ori Succary
Judith Pixie Ungar

And to all my ITP Family, Was a privillage to learn and work beside you.
I loved every minutes of it.
Thank you!