Interaction Design WikiInterdisciplinary Modules

Hacking Values 2019

Interdisciplinary IAD Module Fall 2019 in cooperation with Stage Design


Joëlle Bitton

Manuel Fabritz

Guest lecturers:
Yatin Lin (Associate Professor, Dance Department, TNUA)
Andreas Kohli (DKV)

The module takes place over 3 weeks, from 03.12.2018 to 20.12.2018, from Tuesday to Friday, 9.30-17.00 (unless noted otherwise) in room 3.C06 Inszenatorikraum - see timetable below for detailed hours. 

Overview and Objectives: Hacking Values

The course is an interdisciplinary collaboration between Interaction Design, Stage Design, Art and Art Education.
Within the topic “ecologies”, we discuss our environment and the ways we engage with powers and systems that surround us.
We propose to frame that with the term of “hacking”.


With “Hacking”, we do not (only) mean the popular meaning of "hacking into computer systems".
The term also means messing about with something in a positive sense, that is, using playful cleverness to achieve a goal.
Hacking can also manipulates or alienates a system, an object, etc. for specific purposes.
Thus "Hacking values" can be understood as a method to recognize and understand systems and structures of power, but also possibly to challenge their authority.

From "life hacks", necessity-based "bricolage", such as Jugaad in India (see other terms in different countries*) to art-based and political-based targeted disruptions, "hacking" could be considered as a form of activism, akin to notions of resistance, disobedience, and subversion, especially as we refer here to "values". 
As such, finding affordable or personal solutions, going around established systems, repairing or subverting an object's use could be ways of gaining or regaining autonomy, gaining or regaining meaning, etc. The hacks themselves often have a playful quality to them that underlines that those forms of resistance are mostly physically non-confrontational and non-violent. 
Forms of hacking can also include statements of living and thriving within subcultures, forms of art and performance (ie. drag culture), taking counter hetero-normative and counter patriarchical actions (such as not being referred to with a gender-based pronoun).  
Finally, adopting and embracing failure, cracks, oddness and uncanniness could constitute again other forms of hacking, and be notably expressed with art, design and craft (see Kintsugi art for instance). 

This course will encourage students to take on roles of hackers of systems they would like to address, and demonstrate how they can learn from their environment and challenge their assumptions and ours. We will ask you to start the first couple of days with hacking yourself, your own values, your own personal space. We will discuss together in the class possible systems to 'hack' such as medicine, urban space/environment, surveillance, etc but each student or group of students would pick their own. 

*"Jugaad roughly corresponds to do-it-yourself (DIY) in the US, hacking in the UK, tapullo in Italy, zìzhǔ chuàngxīn (自主创新) in China, Trick 17 in Germany, gambiarra in Brazil, système D. in France,
or jua kali in Kenya; in addition, equivalent words within South Africa are ’n boer maak ’n plan in Afrikaans, izenzele in Zulu, iketsetse in Sotho and itirele in Tswana.[6]" [Wikipedia, Jugaad article, accessed 10.09.2018].


The course is structured with lectures, discussions, mentoring sessions, independent study blocks, as well as exercises showcasing methods from various disciplines (interaction design, art, art education & theatre). 

Objectives of the course


Through a set of lectures and exercises, we will look at hacking values of the political space, of the material environment, of the personal space, and of the body.
Here are some of the possible methods we'll use, from a range of different disciplines:

You take a walk through the city of Zurich and develop our personal observation. On the base of the Swiss design theorist Lucius Burckhardt, who developed a technique of observing cultural landscapes (promenadology), we create our attitude to perception and action to what might reality be. This is an opportunity for a deeper understanding of urban space, its infrastructure, its dynamics, its leakings and interactions and thus the basis for a human or social-centered Design.
link: 04_Burckhardt_Lucius_1981_2012_Design_is_Invisible.pdf

Prototyping/Learning by doing
Also reverse engineering as a prototyping method can be a useful method in this course. Taking objects as physical constructions that are structuring our every-day rhythms, we aim to think through the design of an object about the running systems behind. Referential objects here could be, like Burckhardt mentioned, traffic lights, ticket machines, street lightning, entrance doors amongst many others.

Materials as Mediators
Materials surround us all the time, even if we tend to ignore it through our everyday habits, like on our digital journeys around the globe, we are still constantly immersed in it. What about their certain properties, conditions and transformations constituting the space around us? Like the air and atmosphere as a phenomena, we inspire (from latin breathing in) and respirate, we speak through, we form our intimate atmospheres, we can observe this medium on various scales, might it be observing pollutants in the sky down to our microbial clouds surrounding us all the time. By manipulating and co-creating with these material conditions, we learn to play with underlying systems.

Social Experiments:
Like in Herbert Garfinkel´s «Krisenexperimente» in the 70s, we would like to emphasise on our everyday routines within social interactions, might it be a daily shopping in the supermarket, where we take out goods from other´s people baskets without asking, not cueing at the check out, being very polite to our best friends, sitting next to the only person in the train and so on. We would like to emphasize in implicit rules, which are inscribed in our social behaviour, making up a certain cultural context we live in. Through this method we might become foreigners in our own culture for a certain action.

Dancing Exercise
In this method, we see performance as an anchor point in hacking values. Like William Forsythe, who's basic idea is taking ballet as a language with its own vocabulary and rules, to break it and bend it, we will take geometries like of classic dance to be twisted, tilt or pulled out of a line. We would like to mess with social conventions. We do not act "properly", like dancing in a discussion or talking in a dancing piece. Dancing becomes a method of investigation like Forsythe was remarking "I think by dancing I was able to understand a lot of things. I was able to intuit things about mathematics and philosophy … "(BBC Radio 3 2003, interview with John Tusa) So how do we understand the patterns of social dynamics around us and how do we stretch and break it apart to gain a better understanding?


Bodystorming is an improvisational brainstorm based on interaction and movement with the body. To remind participants that interactions are human and physical, to teach stakeholders empathy for users, and to get away from our computers. "Bodystorming is useful when you are designing devices or interior or exterior spaces. For example, you might use bodystorming to understand how users of different heights and ages would experience different versions of aircraft cabins (for example, what are the problems with lifting luggage in crowded planes from the floor to the overhead bins), or the layout of modern train cars. Bodystorming can be quite useful in understanding the experience of teams who work in close quarters like doctors and nurses in an operating room or the cooking staff in a restaurant. Bodystorming is a way to envision how people will interact with ubiquitous computing systems like smart homes and virtual meeting spaces." (Design Research at Autodesk)
Bodystorming as embodied Designing (ACM)


Exercice 03 - Strollology - Methods for the photographic excursion (proposed by Andreas Kohli)

Street as a museum

The smallest possible intervention

Photograph with a specific perspective

Expectations and Gradings

Grades will be based on group presentations and exercises, class participation, documentation (journal) and final work. 
Contributing to constructive group feedback is an essential aspect of class participation. 
Regular attendance is required. Two or more unexcused absences will affect the final grade. Arriving late on more than one occasion will also affect the grade.

Final work 50% 

Journal Documentation 20% 

Exercises/presentations 20% 

Class participation 10% 

Any assignment that remains unfulfilled receives a failing grade.  


  1. Final Work: The format of the final outcome is up to the students. It could be: a performance, a prototype, a movie, an installation, a graphic work, an intervention, etc. It needs to be in adequation with the intention and the process.
  2. On-going online documentation in the form of a journal containing photos, recordings, text of the process (choice of online format is free).
  3. A final documentation package should include a 1mn video, 5-7 high quality photos and a short text.


Name of Lecturers in brackets {} jb: Joëlle Bitton, mf: Manuel Fabritz, ak: Andreas Kohli, yl: Yatin Lin

Week 1 - ValuesTu. 3.12

We 4.12

Th. 5.12

Fr. 6.12

(starting 9:30 unless noted otherwise)

Intro session
{jb, mf}

  • Welcome and Intro 
  • Syllabus presentation 
  • Input on the word "hacking" and various meanings {jb}

Exercise 01

  • Hacking Values
    Noticing your own personal values:
    - what are your boundaries? (physical and moral)
    - where can you change? what is negotiable / non-negotiable?
    - where power structure do you want to challenge? at what scale?  

09.00 Input 

  • Lecture:
    public/private space and appropriations
  • Discussion on topics that students want to pursue in their projects - what do you want to hack? (making groups)
    {jb, mf}

    • In preparation of the following week, prepare a quick prototype of your idea
      (how to quickly prototype)
Independent studyIndependent study

(starting 13:00 unless noted otherwise)

13.00 - 14.00
Exercise 01
- continued.

14.00 - 16.00

Input+Exercise 02

  • Hacking Space
    Measuring & creating space at body scale

Exercise 03

  • Hacking Systems & Infrastructures
    Strollology in a particular place and Interventions
    (Camera, Pencil, Paper, Voice Recorder and other artefacts) 
  • Quick round presentation of assignment and discussion
    {jb, mf}

Exercise 04
{jb, mf}

  • Hacking Material Conditions 


  • Reiterate prototype based on feedback
Week 2 - Actions

Tu. 10.12

We. 11.12

Th. 12.12Fr. 13.12 
  • Quick presentation of assignments - and discussion
    {jb, mf}


  • Lecture by Yatin Lin - "Bodies & Protests"
    {yl} (see readings)
  • Assignment/Exercise 'Bodily techniques and tactics for protests' 
  • Performance of assignments and discussion
    {jb, mf, yl}

Mentoring - Advanced Prototype - mentoring takes place in working stations
{jb, mf, yl}

Independent study


Exercise 05

  • Discovering Movement &Space in an outdoor space

Independent study

Independent study

Mid-Presentation - Advanced Prototypes
{jb, mf, yl}

Week 3 - Restitution

Tu. 17.12

We. 18.12

Th. 19.12Fr. 20.12

Mo. 17.12

09.00 - 12.00
Mentoring - Advanced Prototype - mentoring takes place in working stations
{jb, mf}

Independent study

Final Documentation 
Delivered by 16.00 (email)

Independent study

14.00 - 16.00
Final Presentation on locations
{jb, mf}

+Course Feedback discussion