Hacking the City

Hacktivism is at the intersection of ideology and activism of computer hacking. It comes from a word formulated in 1996 by members of the hacker group Cult of the Dead Cow. The basic idea was to hack computer networks and resources in order to broadcast a political position and ideology. But here we are talking about computer activism and hacktivism in the context of the urban environment, based on the principles of computer hacking. This approach involves the analysis of the urban environment, the identification of "weak points" and focusing public attention on them in often absurd ways. Hacktivists are interested in the so-called 'improvement' of the urban environment—but, they use humor in the street as a form of media.


F.A.T. Lab: Fuck Google Week Wrap Up.


The first urban hack I heard of was based on the concept of Walking Systems Research, by American media artist Evan Roth, who took an active interest in graffiti and its uses as a tool to 'break' urban systems. In his experiments, Evan relies on computer technology and recognizes that a hacker has many friends, from which to get inspiration to realize ideas of urban hacking. Hacking aligns the street and the internet with the same degree of freedom in space. For the past two years Evan has run a course at Parsons The New School for Design in New York, translating and disseminating his ideas. The course usually lasts a semester and is called Urban Hacking (original name: Geek Graffiti). Its basic idea is to learn to look at the city in the way hackers look at code. The first step—defining systems and structures that can be hacked, and the second—an intervention, which changes the usual state of affairs.

Evan's main ideology is how to identify bugs in a city with a view of eliminating them. Hacking is quite an aggressive concept, which, in general, does not bear the character of sabotage, and often is contrary, with its focus on improving, but indirectly, leading to the absurd processes taking place in the city and in society.


Florian Rivière, Urban Wild Furnitures.


Another example of a typical hacker "improver" lies in the interventions by our good friend Florian Rivière, one of the most prominent and active hackers, due to which the wording Urban Hacktivism became increasingly entrenched and visible.

Florian is one of the most interesting activists because of his ideas and we admire his resourcefulness and that he is often one step ahead of us. We have repeatedly faced the fact that many of our unrealized ideas were suddenly reflected in works by Florian. His ironic, sometimes seeming seemingly silly and meaningless interventions (like with with pigeons) affect not only the ease with which they are made, but also allow for philosophical interpretation.


Fabrique Hacktion, Fifty cents.


"Fabrique Hacktion" is a project that consists of a group of designers. And their approach is very pedantic; everything is calculated to further develop the project on an industrial scale, with its subsequent certification and standardization. Still, through irony, the usefulness of their "improvements" is enjoyable and still appreciated as being very real in comparison with Evan and Florian.

The boys approach matters very seriously and literally by making ​​visual instructions on-site with examples of how to improve the existing urban facilities. I do not know whether their drafts are used by any official organization, but their example is inspiring. In general, the concept of hacktiv-ism is increasing on the website, whose main themes were urban interventions, street art and graffiti. And although they refer to and identify themselves in this direction, they can be included among countless projects like unauthorized swings, benches and other bizarre illegal symbolic "dis-improvements" and efforts to domesticate the city. In general, everything we do and who we are.


Kamila Szejnoch, SWING, installation, Memorial to the Berling Army Soldiers, Warsaw, 2008.


While formulating the idea of Partizaning, we always find these latent concepts somehow comparable to our notions of "improvement" of the city. And, I think that once again this means an informal community of artists, designers and architects, who have their own thinking about improving the quality of life in the city.