Drawing game where players interpret terms related to data and algorithms while avoiding pictures of clouds and robots.

Game board for Iconoclasm!

Iconoclasm! is a multiplayer game that challenges the accepted imagery around big tech. Each player draws a card describing a technical term related to one of four categories: data and algorithms, privacy and surveillance, infrastructure, or people and networks. The rules are similar to Pictionaryand each player has two minutes to draw the term for their teammates to guess with one additional constraint: no player may draw clouds, robots, or 1’s and 0’s.  

Presently, puffy clouds visually represent file storage and boxy 80’s robots are interchangeable with Twitter bots. These images obfuscate rather than increase awareness of what these terms mean. For example, the following clip art samples illustrate the tendency to describe data as something in the atmosphere.

As Tim Hwang and Karen Levy describe in their essay The Cloud and Other Dangerous Metaphors, the metaphors we use matter because metaphors have baggage. Iconoclasm! helps players unpack icons that rely on misleading metaphors and propose illustrations that illuminate the ways data is collected, used, and manipulated. 

By challenging data’s accepted visual clichés, the game facilitates discussion around data and privacy as well as the physical space and labor resources that are required to run data-driven technologies. Players come away with a better understanding of these terms and an appreciation for how images can better illuminate these abstractions.

The game can be played with a gameboard or with multiple teams in a workshop format. Iconoclasm!was first presented in collaboration with with Karen Levy at Data & Society Research Institute. 

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