Culture Hack

When I checked Vanessa Miemis, emergent by design, blog roll on culture hacking I read that a culture hacking conference will be held in the US this year. Dubbed as the Agile Culture Conference 2012 the convention explores the promise of culture analysis, culture design and culture implementation in society and the workplace. The conference aims to discuss how culture is fast becoming a “gating” factor to satisfaction, productivity and learning. Culture hacking was defined by Agile as the art or science of “modifying a culture for personal betterment and the betterment of others.” Inspired by hacker ethos and software re-engineering paradigms, culture hack is the process of taking things apart (deconstruction) to create new things, ideas, systems and worldviews.

When I received the invitation from networks to submit an abstract for the conference I emailed some friends in the World Futures Studies Federation to catch up with the idea and pick some of their “out of the radar” ideas on culture hacking. A colleague told me that culture hacking was “darn effective” and I thought that this may be a good framework to create alternative social concepts and governance design. I assume that culture hacking can improve our understanding of community engagement, policy making and futures thinking in the Philippines.

And so I followed the sites they recommended and found out that some were really interesting. A couple were visually attractive and practical. Dave Logan’s book called Tribal Leadership is a must read. Michelle McCarthy’s “Software for Your Head” and Tobias Mayer, a consummate “culture hacker”, anarchist and social reformer appears to be the leading voices of culture hacking in the US.

Big Ideas for a Better Future

The success of the Banksy, Anonymous, Kony 2012, the Barefoot College, the Invisible Community, the Multiworld India Project, Social Media, Sociocracy, the Occupy Wall Street, Futures Studies, Neohumanism and PROUT may have inspired cultural creatives, social workers and development managers to invent the concept of culture hacking. I learned that there were notable projects that used culture hacking to create alternative realities. The Wish for the Future project worked with kids to create a prototype of new ideas. The kids built physical representations of their ideas with play-dohs. Their ideas resulted in the creation of a network model for remote medical care technologies. The project called Reboot stories would have a series of Rage online comics sharing humorous stories to internet users for inspiration. They would post dozen of common face templates to convey a number of emotions from joy to embarrassment to rage. An English teacher would find this and saw an opportunity to use these comics to teach English to his Japanese speaking students. In Taiwan, a Taiwanese futurist learned that “Gaming English” was the best way to teach English to young Taiwanese students.

The Journal of Futures Studies featured the concept and I see that Gaming English is a plausible alternative. The blog called believes that many have consciously aligned their actions, arts, projects, business and policy agenda with a cultural perspective. A presenter would define culture (especially when seen from an urban perspective) as something like similar to a social operating system that can be modified. Culture is improvable they say.

Yes, culture is modifiable or improvable but the process and impact of culture hacking must be varied when applied or shared to different contexts (cultural; spiritual; political; economic; corporate; cooperatives) and environments (digital; virtual; urban; rural; villages; government; non-government; business). The meaning and result of culture hacking will vary. I assume that people, communities and organizations have their own aesthetics, tastes and preferences and this will certainly affect how culture hacking will be applied or accepted. The “artisinal quality” of “big and bright ideas” depending on how you interpret “culture” will change. The color, the hue, the experience and impact of its “creator” will vary.

Words are my Reality

To Vanessa Miemis culture is a product of the language people use and the behaviors that accompany those words. She writes “the words we use to describe ourselves, our work and others, creates the world we live in.” So when we upgrade the words that we use to describe our reality words can “unstuck” people from unhelpful languages and behaviors she added. Culture hacking in this context is transformed into a social tech. Upgraded words or cultures can make stressful environments less stressful. Culture enables workplaces and people to achieve more fun states of Being (Miemis, 2012).

When applied to policy analysis, the “real”, the “cultural”, the “emotive dimensions”, the “myth” of a particular policy like computer software are “hackable.” Hacking (decrypting) the words and images used by governments exposes the hidden messages, subliminal values, ideological interests, personal realities and social perspectives.

So when you apply culture hacking for example to decipher the words “puregold”, “hyper market”, “savemore”, “kinni-kinni”, “johnny moon”, “sirib mile”, “heroes hall”, “red cross”, “museo ilocos”, “cultural center”, “Ferdinand Marcos sports stadium”, “Laoag Central Elementary School”, “large scale mining”, “ecological tourism”, “cultural center”, “Capitol”, “capital”, “It’s more fun in the Philippines”, “rule of law” the process will reveal specific and/or sporadic mental images (visuals) and meanings (factual and imagined) not usually talked about. The hacking process can unlock “undisclosed realities”, the “underworlds” that are not talked about in ordinary press conferences, executive sessions, interviews and other journalistic reports. The values and interests that hides behind the panorama become evident in culture hacking.

The Root Strikers, a culture hack movement in the US applies culture hacking to root out corruption in US politics. They are, the movement I mean, according to a culture hacker, is the next big social movement. The group believe that we or us, you and I can make a difference by working in the open with others.

The question is, is culture hacking the new social cool? A new toolbar for good governance? I see a full-blown graphic image of change emerging in the horizon.


Adam Feuer, 2011. Culture Hacking. Available at: Accessed July 2012.

Vanessa Miemis. 2012. Agile Culture Conference 2012. Available at: Accessed July 2012

Tzu Wing Yu. 2012. Learning English in Taiwan’s Elementary School. Available at: Accessed July 2012

David Logan. 2012. Tribal Leadership. Available at: Accessed July 2012

New Technology Solutions. 2012. Culture Hacking. Available at: Accessed July 2012.

Agile Boston. 2012. The Agile Culture Conference: Managing in the 21st Century. Available at: Accessed July 2012.

Haley Moore. 2012. Wish for the Future Project. Available at: Accessed July 2012.

Rebootstories, 2011. Rage Stories Teach English. Available at: Accessed July 2012.

Rootstrikers. 2012. About. Available at:

Accessed July 2012
Article appeared in Ilocos Times circulation dated August 6-12, 2012. Volume 55 No. 42

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