The Rules have developed a method and toolkit to help social movements bring about narrative and structural change. We call it Culture Hacking.
The Rules tried different tools and methods for creating cultural shift over the course of several years. In 2017 we facilitated a meeting between a group of activists from different parts of the world, to imagine what Culture Hacking could look like.
With Atenco and the communities around the ancient lake of Texcoco, we tested for the first time the methodology and tools at its full potential. Culture Hacking proved to be a very powerful set of tools for grassroots movements and activists in the fight to create narrative shift and sustainable change.
Together with young people from Guatemala, Culture Hacking took a second chance to demonstrate it’s power, creating a big narrative intervention in the middle of Guatemala’s electoral process, putting in the center of the conversation the defense of life and the voices of indigenous women who defend their territory.
Culture Hacking Method - Toolkit 1.0
The Culture Hack Method as a process in which we intervene dominant culture narratives from an anti capitalist, anti patriarchal, anticolonial stance through questioning, analysis (discourse analysis, network analysis, content analysis), de-codification, recodification, and creative intervention.
How Culture Hacking works?
Culture Hacking is the act of flipping a narrative on its side, revealing the systems of thought that support it, and intervening in those systems to allow new ones to emerge. Culture hacking happens all the time and all around us, both on the left and right, and on both sides of the political divide between the so called “global north and global south”. It’s essentially a way discourses evolve, and symbols are contested. Many communities and activists have hacked culture throughout the history of resistance. Nobody owns one method of doing so.
Our work on this method is founded on two core insights: power rests in the ability to control language, and humans make sense of their world through stories. The stories we tell shape the way we see the world and guide our responses to the problems we face. The best way to change the world is to change the stories at the heart of our cultures.
The Culture Hack method emerged from all the narrative interventions TR and our allies have been part of throughout our eight years of existence, in the context of a changing world that has seen recent uprisings and protests from Palestine to Standing Rock, to Wallmapu, to YoSoy132. The ways in which communities and activists have responded to crisis have mutated and adapted to new technologies, and new languages. Therefore, this method has seen many iterations and it will probably see more as it is evolving with the spaces that it serves and draws knowledge from: various disciplines, constant experimentation, and most importantly the communities that have engaged with it. It’s to them that we dedicate this work.
How to use these workbooks?
The Culture Hack method is open source and creative commons. Basically — do with it what you will, and hopefully, use it to change the rules.
It was created for use in planning and running existing campaigns, interventions in discourse, symbol hacking, meme creation, etc.
The method can be applied to large-scale campaigns but also to more immediate interventions. The contexts of each intervention and issue will determine which parts of the method are relevant, when, and how. We invite you to be creative in using the toolkit!
It is composed of modules which can be followed step-by-step or as discrete units.
The Culture Hacking toolkit is adaptable. It is a series of principles, exercises, suggestions and hopefully “A-ha!” moments. When combined, they foster deep understanding of a dominant cultural narrative and how to dismantle or intervene in it. The method is flexible and adaptable to your context. The method can be followed from start to finish (and back again) as a full curriculum. Each step or module can also stand on its own, depending on its utility.
It brings together analog and digital tools and techniques.
Some technologies have been used by communities of resistance for thousands of years, from braiding hair, to the nahuatl numeric system. The notion of technology as wires and screens is restrictive and deeply colonial. Different technologies have been developed throughout the history of the world and they look and feel extremely dissimilar to the digital space we have grown accustomed to.
The Culture Hack toolkit proposes a set of principles that can be applied with the technologies available and acknowledging the needs of different interventions. Narratives are created and promoted in all kinds of spaces, both digital and analog, and people hacking them don’t necessarily need to be experts in managing the latest technology.
How to engage
Some groups will find that they are great at creating interventions but they don’t necessarily know how to map their performance. Others might need to interrogate their collective motivations for the work. Yet others might be on the brink of producing something but not quite know how to shape it for their audiences. Here you will find five workbooks and some worksheets, one for each stage of the Culture Hacking process. They can be followed “in order” or you can mix-and-match the modules that feel closest to the process you are taking on. You can always go back and forth – culture is not linear and neither is the hacking of it!