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Hacking Tools as Artistic Research


Admission requirements

There are no admission requirements for this course.


This course will attend to tools and tool-making processes and the hacking of tools as means of artistic research. We will explore other ways of interacting with tools (digital or physical tools) that we use in most familiar to us within our practice, to unsettle common notions such as usability and efficiency. Hacking The meetings will comprise a series of lectures, exercises and workshops – which are relevant for all artistic disciplines. The emphasis will be on the process rather than results. No prior knowledge is required.

Each class starts with a lecture introducing the focal point of the session, followed by exercises, discussions, individual talks or workshops.
Each class will furthermore produce its own outcomes.
Preceding the classes the students will be asked to prepare materials, for instance short readings or to be prepared to share their process on their tool research project.
The tool research could be on an existing tool, a remake of a tool or a tool built from scratch.

The classes will be comprised of:
Lectures about different tooling aspects
Collective discussions, exercises and individual meetings.
Three hands-on workshops during which students will be introduced to different tool-making approaches in a hands-on manner. These workshops will include an introduction to simple electronic media and circuitry, as well as a brief introduction to the Arduino software for those who have not worked with it before. Arduino is an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software.

No prior technical knowledge is required to participate in the workshops. For the more tech-savvy there will be enough to explore too. It is up to the students themselves if they want to go for a low-tech, high-tech – or no-tech approach for their tool project.


Lecture: “Fooling & Tooling. Making Processes Strange.”
Defamiliarization and DCI (designer computer interaction): Toy hacking and capacitive sensing (introduction into Arduino, electronic circuitry)
Prepare reading: Peter Buwert, “Defamiliarisation, ‘Brecht and Criticality in Graphic Design” in: Modes of Criticism, 2016

Prepare reading: Karen Barad. “On Touching—The Inhuman That Therefore I Am” in: differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 2012.

Lecture: “ On the Importance of Documentation and Reproducibility in Open Source Practices.”
Look at Git as a model for “programmed collaboration”:

Presentation and reflection

Course objectives

(Self-)critical investigation of the tool ecologies that are specific to the group of participants.
Critical, practical as well as collaborative investigation of human computer interaction (HCI), more specifically designer computer interaction (DCI)
Project-based (rather than instruction-based) learning about electronic circuitry and the Arduino software and hardware.
Breaking and re-purposing (aka hacking) existing tools (soft- and hardware).
Developing a critical understanding of the implications of tools in daily design practices.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

3 EC (34 contact hours and 50 self study hours)

Assessment method

A tool, series of tools or remake of a tool, including a definition of the ‘toolness’ of the tool, that is – its characteristics, functions and malfunctions. It is up to the students themselves if they want to go for a low-tech, high-tech – or no-tech approach for their tool projects.
Every class will be used to further the tool research and will produce its own outcomes. Students are asked to bring their own work and/or work in progress to class to discuss in the context of the thematics of the course.
Assigned readings should be prepared before each session
Engaged participation in group discussions, exercises and the workshops
Documentation (medium free of choice) of the tool research





Reading list

Recommended reading:

Lev Manovich. The Language of New Media, Chapter 2: “The Interface”, 2001.

Peter Buwert, “Defamiliarisation, ‘Brecht and Criticality in Graphic Design” in: Modes of Criticism, 2016

Colm O’Neill, Adversarial Interfaces

Karen Barad. “On Touching—The Inhuman That Therefore I Am” in: differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 2012.

Adam Kleinman. “Intra-actions”, an interview with Karen Barad, Mousse 35, 2012

Shaowen Bardzell, "Feminist HCI. Taking Stock and Outlining an Agenda for Design"


There are no admission requirements for this elective course.

For KABK students: Register in OSIRIS before (date and time TBA).

For Leiden University students: register in uSis before (date and time TBA).

Max. 16 students can be admitted for the course.

Full attendance is obligatory in order to receive study points towards the Individual Study Trajectory (IST).

For questions Emily Huurdeman, coordinator of the lectorate, at

Leiden University students: Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


For questions about the courses in the Art Research Programme, please contact Emily Huurdeman, coordinator of the lectorate, at


About the lecturers
Anja Groten is a designer, educator and community organiser. In 2013 she co-founded the initiative Hackers & Designers, attempting to break down the barriers between the two fields by enforcing a common vocabulary through education, hacks and collaboration. Groten's design practice revolves around the cross-section of digital and physical media, design and art education and her involvement in different interdisciplinary collectives. Groten works on (self-)commissions and besides heads the design department at the Sandberg Instituut Amsterdam, Master of the Rietveld Academie.
Anja is a PhD candidate at PhD Arts, a practice-lead doctoral study at ACPA (Academy of Creative and Performing Arts) Leiden University, and works as an embedded researcher at the consortium Bridging Art, Design and Technology through Critical Making.

Heerko van der Kooij is a creative technologist and educator based in Amsterdam. He has taught at diverse Art schools in the Netherlands and abroad. Currently he is a tutor at the Graphic design department of the Utrecht University of Arts. His interests are diverse, ranging from electronics and augmented reality to woodworking and handcrafts. Heerko has been a member of Hackers & Designers since 2017