Data-Driven Interventions

As the Playwork Lab formed, its participating researchers were exploring the potential for artistic and activist interventions in data-driven environments. Some of these interventions targeted user’s browser windows; another used a mobile app as a point-of-need hub for data translation; still others were playful occupations of virtual spaces. Different projects took on different tones – some were serious and direct, while others were playful and comedic. All of the projects described below attempted to change user’s perspectives by changing their views of data.

“Tenants in Action” (Dietrich, Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz, Gonzalez, Bara, Abood, Rowe) is a mobile app designed to translate between the languages and technologies of citizens, and those of governmental agencies. Residents using the app are first presented with a checklist of board, potentially overlapping categories, in either English or Spanish. While these categories reflect the structure of city codes, they do not impose this structure on the user; neither do they use the dense technical language of those codes. This allows residents to quickly outline problems without immediately committing to concrete descriptions and legalese. The app then generates a list of more specific complaints, based on the user’s chosen categories, that restate the legalese of government agencies into more accessible language. Users can review and supplement the language of their complaint prior to its submission. After submissions, partnering agencies (as well as the user) can receive confirmation of a submission, and agencies like the LAHD can receive app-generated submissions in the same format and language they would from their own website submission form. This process requires neither changes to any agencies’ websites, nor access to their private data. In this way, the TIA Mobile App could potentially function as a bridge between broad community problems and specific government actions.

In contrast to the seriousness and practicality of Tenants in Action, “The Lt. John Pike Memeorial Browser Extension” (Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz, Miller) aimed to engage users in a playful and darkly comedic way. If the extension is installed and activated, the user’s web browsing experience will occasionally be interrupted by Lt. John Pike, who will walk into the user’s browser window, shake his bottle of military-grade pepper spray, and temporarily blind the user (i.e. black out their current webpage). In this way, the Pike Memeorial transforms the user’s browser into a memorial site for both the 2011 UC Davis Pepper Spray Incident and the subsequent Casually Pepper Spray Everything Cop meme.

“Mark Ditto Mark” (Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz, Miller) focused more on the artistic potential for data-driven interventions into web browsers. When installed and activated, the extension will alter any names of people which appear on the currently displayed Internet page: first names are changed to “Mark,” and last names are changed to “Ditto.” In this way, Mark Ditto Mark transforms the Internet into a gigantic, sprawling novel about someone named “Mark Ditto.” It was inspired by the story behind Samuel Clemens’s pseudonym, “Mark Twain”, as being a measure of depth used on the Mississippi River. “Mark Ditto” is an inversion of the “ditto mark”, a measure of depth in reference and repetition – the murky fluids that flow through the Internets’ tubes.

Finally, “Minecraft Memorials” (Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz, Noonan, Miller) was a series of virtual artistic interventions, in which the members of RUST LTD. installed memorials to real-life coal mining accidents on multiplayer Minecraft servers. These virtual memorials were built in real time using in-game resources – sometimes the building process was viewed by audiences as it happened, as was the case in CTCS 505 at the University of Southern California, where students were invited to document and participate in the construction of the memorial. Other times, the RUST LTD. team would arrive unannounced on a public server and simply start constructing a monument; players’ reactions ranged from curiosity and excitement, to trolling and open hostility. Some memorials were maintained by the server’s community for a long time, while others were destroyed by players almost immediately. To our knowledge, none of the memorials remain.

Participating Researchers

Adam Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz (RUST LTD. and USC); Paulina Gonzalez, Jyotswaroop Bawa, Maya Abood (Strategic Actions for a Just Economy); Craig Dietrich (Center for Digital Liberal Arts, Occidental College); Lucas Miller, Luke Noonan (RUST LTD.); Christopher Rowe (USC Student)


  • Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz, Adam. “A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz: Statement and Artwork”. Leonardo Electronic Almanac, 19.2 (April 2013). Print and web.
  • Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz, Adam. “Designing for Social Justice: Tenants in Action”. In Media Res (April 2013). Web.
  • Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz, Adam. “Tenants in Action”. International Journal of Learning and Media, 3.3 (Summer 2011). Web.

Public Talks and Presentations

  • Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz, Adam. “Data-Driven Literary Practices: Artistic Browser Extensions”. &Now: A Conference of Innovative Writing and the Literary Arts, CalArts, Valencia, CA, 26 March 2015.
  • Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz, Adam. “West Coast Perspectives: A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz”. In Visible Crisis Conference, New York University, New York, NY, 8 February 2013.
  • Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz, Adam. “Occupy Your Browser”. Historical Materialism 2012 Conference, York Univ., Toronto, ON, Canada, 11 May 2012.
  • Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz, Adam. “Minecraft Memorials: Deconstructing Virtual Worlds Through Artistic Interventions”. 2012 Visual Studies Conference, Univeristy of California-Irvine, Irvine, CA, 6 April 2012.
  • Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz, Adam. “Tenants in Action: Practice-Based Design Research”. GSG Research Symposium, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 4 April 2012.
  • Abood, Maya, Craig Dietrich, Adam Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz, and Christopher Rowe. “Community-Led Design: Tenants in Action”. Participation/Exploitation Conference, University of California-Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, 16 March 2012.

Artistic Output

  • Dietrich, Craig, Adam Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz, Paulina Gonzalez, Jyotswaroop Bawa, Maya Abood, and Christopher Rowe. “Tenants in Action” (Mobile App). Web. View the project here.
  • Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz, Adam, and Lucas Miller. “Mark Ditto Mark” (Browser Extension). Seneca Review (Fall/Spring 2013-14). Web.
  • Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz, Adam, and Lucas Miller. “The Lt. John Pike Memeorial Browser Extension”. Web.
  • Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz, Adam, and Lucas Miller. “The Internet is Kittens”. Web.

Awards and Recognition

  • Award for Socially Responsive Communication/Design/Art (Visual Communication Practice: Web/Interactive Category), Memefest 2014, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia, November 2014. Awarded to “The Lt. Pike Memeorial Browser Extension”. View the award information here.


  • Bernstein, Joseph. “The Browser Extension That Turns The Internet Into A Terrifying And Hilarious Novel”. Buzzfeed, 01 April 2014. Web.

Photo Credit

  • The above image is a screenshot of the “Lt. John Pike Memeorial Browser Extension” at work. It was taken by Adam Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz while visiting the CNN website on 18 Nov. 2012, the one year anniversary of the UC Davis Pepper Spray Incident.


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