An Interactive Guide to Learning Quanabeh


Mala Kumar and I are collaborating on creating a guide to learning a new constructed universal language, that replaces Esperanto. The purpose of this is to make language a means of bridging the communication gap between cultures rather than enforcing a dominant power structure. The aim is not necessarily learn the language, but rather, to recognize that “universal” languages are imposed to enforce power structures of the colonizer and counterpart. Below is the constructed alphabet we created for this language.



A web platform for a physical book with an embedded electrical circuit, that acts as a tangible interface, outputting data to the web. This will serve as an educational tool that bridges the gap between the physical and digital medium to create an immersive experience for the user.

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User Flow

1- The user opens the books and flips through the pages.

2- Each page will contain conductive ink that will act as a “switch” triggering a response on screen specific to every page and even individual elements on the page.

3- The screen will contain different audio and visual media specific to the content on every page, as the user flips through the pages. For example, as the user touches each letter, an audio pronunciation of the that letter is heard on screen.

4- The Website will be a parallax, with horizontal scrolling to mimic the flipping of the pages, making the digital interface look as organically flowing as possible.

Below is the link to the complementary website of the interactive guide:



 First prototype for the interactive guide:

Note: The audio pronunciations are outputting from the screen, which is not the best quality.


An Interactive Guide to Learning a Universal Language from Nour Chamoun on Vimeo.

Final Project

For my final, I decided to make the occupation focused in one city, as opposed to the whole country. This way, the situation becomes even more relatable for someone to see that they can’t reach their relatives in the same city, or they need a permit to go to work everyday, on the other side of the wall. I mapped the various architectural elements of the Israeli occupation, such as the separation wall, the settlements, the checkpoints, the settler-only roads, and isolated Palestinian communities onto the map of Manhattan, in order to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more relatable to the American audience, and envision a life under occupation and confinement.


I did a comparative spatial analysis of Manhattan with Jerusalem, a city in Palestine that contains all these elements. Of these elements, I chose to map the 8 Israeli settlements found in Jerusalem proportionally onto Manhattan. Jerusalem is a heavily contested urban center, for its religious and historical significance, thus, consequences of colonization are especially prevalent in it, such as Israeli settlements surrounding Palestinian communities, resident house evictions, restriction of movement in the city, manifested through military checkpoints and separation barriers, among others. I chose Manhattan to be the city in which I will visualize those elements, envisioning what a reality of occupation would look like.

Manhattan is almost half the size of Jerusalem, so I got the data of each settlement and split the area in half to find out the hypothetical area in Manhattan.


Jerusalem Area: 125.1 km squared

Manhattan Area: 59 km squared


I used several mapping software programs, such as QGIS to measure the areas and draw polygons, MAPublisher to draw and geo-reference graphics like the checkpoints and the wall on the map of Manhattan, and finally, Mapbox, to create the base map and make the various elements in it interactive.


For the map, I chose to take the architecture of occupation in Jerusalem and put it in a fictional context in Manhattan, using actual qualitative and quantitative data, for mapping the settlements onto Manhattan (quantitative), and providing a description (qualitative) about each element on the map when the user interacts with it. The final outcome consists of two parts:


1- A parallax narrative as a historical overview of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with an introduction of the 4 main architectural elements of the occupation. 


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2- A website with the interactive map of Manhattan in an imagined scenario of an occupation on the island, with the various architectural elements imposed on the local inhabitants of New York.



User Scenario & Persona

My target audience is generally the American public and specifically people who might not be informed or even misinformed about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The US is Israel’s biggest ally and sends $3.1 billion in military aid to Israel every year, making Israel the largest recipient of US foreign aid (Madar). In addition, there is also a very powerful pro-Israeli lobby that plays a pivotal role in American politics, influencing America’s foreign policies towards the Israeli occupation, often vetoing sanctions that the international community brings forth against Israeli violations of international law through daily practices. As a result of this heavy political influence, it is less likely for large US media outlets to portray the occupation and current conflict impartially, influencing American public opinion.

User Persona

Tom is a 25 year-old investment banker who works in the financial district in Manhattan. Like many other young Americans, he immigrated to New York to start a successful career. He likes to keep up with the latest news occurring domestically and internationally. He has a few news apps on his smart phone in order to gain different perspectives of the same story. Although he has superficial knowledge of world history and politics, he never studied a specific region in depth, so he is aware of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but not the details of it. He is worlds apart and cannot relate to anything happening in the region, culturally, politically, or geographically. This interactive narrative is for people like him, to make it easier to relate to the conflict, but putting it in an American social and geographical context. 

Below is a link to user scenario video I made for my second prototype user testing.

Second Prototype

For my second prototype, I designed a visual from the data I collected on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, as well as the surface area of the enclosed space and mapped the information spatially on the geography of the United States.

I was able to retrieve the settlement data from the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP), an organization that compiles reports and data on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and B’tselem, an Israeli human rights NGO that collects data on settlements. Below is a screen shot of the settlement information compiled in a chart by FMEP.


My goal is to visualize the elements of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and violations of international law, like the separation wall, Israeli settlements, and checkpoints, take them out of the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and map them spatially on the United States. I started with a rough sketch below and in the process of building a fictional narrative behind it to create a dystopia that the American audience can relate to, alluding to the laws violated by the Israeli government.





First Prototype

The first prototype for my Mini Thesis is a map of the world with a collage of cut-up arrows originating from historic Palestine, pointing to other countries on the map. This mock-up is meant to represent the of the dispersed refugee population in across the globe, as a consequence of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that started in 1948. This could eventually be turned into a web platform where Palestinians in diaspora can input the current city they live in and where they are originally from in Palestine, and the system can generate an arrow based on the geographical data.



Design Brief

Design Brief

Data visualization on social justice issues, particularly in Israel and the West Bank, is a domain I’m deeply interested in researching and creating a project that could reach the widest audience possible. Most of the projects I’ve seen around this issue address the problem as a local one, without relating it to the target audience. My interest, however, lies in relating the current social and political situation in Apartheid Israel, and applying the segregation laws to The United States’ current policies.

I want to shock people, and create a situation that is outrageously discriminatory, and seem unrealistic in the context of the US but the reality in Occupied Palestine. This concept, for sure will make my project controversial, which could defeat the purpose of informing people of the situation. The funny thing is, when I was thinking of how all the existing racist policies that exist in Israel how apply to the US, I realized most of these policies, or at least similar ones, exist or did exist at some point in America.

Essentially, I want to create a site with interactive visuals that users can engage with and click on to lead them to information about particular topics of interest.


An online initiative that continuously inspires me is the Visualizing Palestine. They do data visualization projects for social justice, often dealing with issues of injustice in Israel and the West Bank. They target audience, similar to mine, is a Western audience, so what’s interesting about a lot of their projects, is that they are relatable to people who are continents away from the conflict. They use references such as Central Park and the Annual rainfall in London to map human tragedies in a more relatable way. They also cite their data sources, which could be useful for me. More of their work can be found here.



Another person’s work that I feel relates to my idea in many ways is Navit Keren, an Israeli student who graduated last year from the D+T program. Many of her projects revolved around visualizing the Israel-Palestine conflict through info graphics and data visualizations. More information about the project can be found on her website.

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Data visualization is a powerful new medium that takes information and maps it in a way that simplified and more easily understood by the masses. It is up to the designer to create his/her own narrative around the data. I would like to use this medium to display quantitative data that is shocking, compelling, and tells a story.

What do People Want to Hear?

We were given an hour to answer one of the 40 questions we ask ourselves daily, concerning what we want to do with our projects, and general things we think about. In this hour, we had to create an object, physical or digital, that embodies, or answers that question.


The question that I chose was “What do people want to hear?”

It a question that addresses the idea of the “truth” or what is believed to be “true”. The majority of people would prefer to hear or see what they believe is the truth. Mainstream media outlets cater to that general preference, so often choose to communicate to the public what the latter would like to hear, rather than the whole reality of a situation or conflict.

For this reason, I created a madlib in Javascript that generates possible answers to that question. Below are some random responses you get every time the “Refresh” button is clicked. It creates generic responses in an alternate universe where everyone is carefree and happy. For example, when one is walking down the street, they’d rather hear birds chirping and children laughing, rather than deafening construction work or the annoying honking of cars in traffic.


“From Waste to Wealth”

 The work, Shop Class As Soulcraft, by Matthew Crawford, is about the satisfaction of doing manual labor. He emphasizes that we must incorporate craft in technology and not simply take it for granted. Crawford states that a lot of the emerging jobs in the market “steer young people toward the most ghostly kinds of work.” and that we’ve been assured for years that we’re entering a post-industrial economy, one that prepares people for the high-tech future. He refutes the growing discretization of manual labor and the claim that it is not “viable anymore as a livelihood.”

“What ordinary people once made, they buy; and what they once fixed for themselves, they replace entirely or hire an expert to repair.” Craftsmanship poses a challenge to the ethic of consumerism, as the sociologist Richard Sennett argues in the excerpt. “The craftsman is proud of what he has made, and cherishes it, while the consumer discards things that are perfectly serviceable in his restless pursuit of the new.”

The global capitalist system has created a dependency on buying commodities, adhering to a consumerist culture. There is, however, a newly emerging trend being employed by many professionals and hobbyists that want to create rather than simply consume. The “Do It Yourself” culture is posing a significant social transformation in the way people think about design as a medium for freeing themselves from the vicious cycle of consumerism.

The system of finding a place in the labor market to sustain oneself and afford a decent standard of living is a Capitalist creation to limit the working class to work for the elite few who own the modes of production. This system, in its essence, limits a whole class of people from owning their own modes of production and becoming economically autonomous. Having the power to create is a skill we must obtain, in order to gan autonomy over our products. Crowd funding websites, like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, are allowing DIY objects, previously regarded as craft or low art, to become profitable, giving the maker agency over what they create and how they choose to market it. One will never experience that freedom unless they learn how to build things.

I believe in the importance of the DIY culture and idea of recycling found objects and repurposing their use. With this philosophy in mind, I took an old bicycle wheel I found on the street and turned it into a rotatable clothes hanger that can be suspended from the ceiling. This new object also serves as an economical use of space. This is part of a trend called circular production, which is essentially, the recycling or reusing of old parts of an object to repurpose them for something new. The idea of switching from a linear to circular production is a concept that is gaining popularity even among corporate companies, because, not only is it better for the environment, but is also generates more profit, because of less materials used. What I find interesting about the new object I created, is that it solves a design problem of insufficient space in my apartment, as well as reduce waste, rather than add to it.

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1. Crawford, Matthew B.. Shop class as soulcraft: an inquiry into the value of work. New York: Penguin Press, 2009.

2. Rushkoff, Douglas, and Leland Purvis. “Preface.” In Program or be programmed: ten commands for a digital age. Berkeley, CA: Soft Skull Press, 2011. 9.

3. Kojève, Alexandre, and Raymond Queneau. “In Place of an Introduction.” In Introduction to the reading of Hegel: lectures on the phenomenology of spirit. New York: Basic Books, 1969. 25.