Culture Hacking Toolkit

The Rules have developed a method and toolkit to help social movements bring about narrative and structural change. We call it Culture Hacking.

Culture Hacking Method - Toolkit 1.0

The Culture Hack Method is 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, often revealing the systems of thought that support it; it can be a meme pointing out irony in a politicians speech, or a massive tag accusing the government of crimes against humanity, it can also be an article or a conference where an investigator declares that it is poverty which is manmade and not wealth. Culture hacking happens all the time and all around us, both in the left and right, and on both sides of the political division so called “global north/global south”; it’s essentially a way discourses evolve, and symbols are contested. Many communities and activists have done culture hacking throughout the history of resistance and no one owns one method of doing so.

Our work and the development of this method rests 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 has emerged from the need for a systematization of various narrative interventions that the /TR and allies have been part of throughout 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 it 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, so basically do with it what you will, hopefully, change the rules.

It’s for campaigns, interventions in discourse, symbol hacking, meme creation, etc.

The method can be applied for long term campaigns but also for more immediate interventions, the matter of scale must be decided by the group that engages with it in consideration with their own context.

It is composed by modules which can be followed by steps or as separate pieces.

The Culture Hack method is adaptable, it’s a series of principles, exercises, suggestions and hopefully “Ah ha!” moments that combined allow for a deep understanding of a narrative and how to dismantle or intervene it. Therefore, the method is flexible and aims to adapt to context, not one group in resistance needs the exact same formula in the exact same application. The method can be followed from the beginning to the end (and back) as a full curriculum and be applied in such manner, or it can be followed by modules or “steps” and be applied as it needs be.

It attempts to bring together both analog and digital technics.

There are examples of technologies that communities have been using 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 name “technological”.

The culture hack method proposes a series of principles that can be followed through 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 have made interventions but they don’t necessarily know how to map their performance, others might need to interrogate their collective motivations for the work, and 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 5 workbooks and some annexes that will follow through different stages of the process of Culture Hacking, they can be followed “in order” or you can pick through the module that feels more akin to the process you are taking on, and you can always go back and forth, culture is not linear and neither is it’s hacking.