Design Inspirations for the Hackjam


The room at the library is a double room. One side will have 30 computers (desktops and laptops), and one side will be for taking breaks and eating lunch. The room is spacious and well lit. Computers are set up two to a table, so there is plenty of room to walk around, but there is also opportunity for collaboration between participants.


Analogous Site: Bloominglabs
The hackerspace at Bloominglabs looked like a physical workshop with many people working on projects and getting ideas for new projects. It was messy and dirty, and you could tell that a lot of work goes on there. It is like they never know what projects will be finished and what ones will be started. There are tools and materials everywhere, but you don’t see everyone working at the same time. While work is done in this space, people talk to each other, socialize (and eat ice cream and cookies), and generally hang out in this space. So projects are stretched over long periods of time.

We learned that while the technical hours are Wednesday from 7:00-10:00 p.m., some people stay until 1:00 a.m. working and hanging out. They types of work range from mechanical to electric to woodworking, to computer projects. There is a space where people work with their computers and generally socialize, and then there are separate rooms for working with electronics, radios, and with mechanical tools.






Interviews: Experts: Jess Klein

What has been the general response to Hackjams that you have seen put on by teens? By schools? By parents?

“Usually the teens in these scenarios are self selecting and often already identify as hackers, techies, geeks, nerds, digital artists, and occasionally designers”

“…however teens tend to appreciate the subversive nature of the word ‘hack’ and own it. Schools and parents I would say are hit or miss. Often when people run the events there is the glance or look of – what are you talking about? HACKING?! But after the initial shock factor wears off, these events are often quite supported by schools and parents. Schools love that youth are taking ownership and forming  identities around technology and media, while parents are appreciate the innovative programming that their children are engaged in.”

In Hackjams for teens, have you seen any practices that work well across contexts? In other words, are there specific practices that you have seen in multiple Hackjams?

We need to find an analogous entity to introduce hacking and what it means to hack. We are thinking of using Impromptu to hack a song.

We are thinking of ways to engage older teens in the Hackjam without leaving the younger ones behind. We are thinking of having the young hackers contribute to a forum where they can post how to perform different actions as they hack, and to a troubleshooting forum throughout the day. Have you seen other Hackjams do this? If so, how did it work out?

Jess suggests peer mentorship as a way to engage everyone and help each student learn more throughout the day.

We created a wiki on for last year’s Hackjam where the hackers’ reflections and work live. Are there other such sites that we should/could look at?

“That’s fantastic. I have seen tons of other blogs and wikis. You might want to check out the recently launched Webmaker Teach: where Mozilla has compiled a ton of these kinds of resources.”

Interview: Users: Students

We sent a survey out to students who attended last year’s hackjam, and while responses are still coming in, initial responses are very helpful. It seems like they liked creating a webpage and using the knowledge they gained from hacking in a different context. This is good to know, since we weren’t planning on having them make a webpage this year. Now we are rethinking this.

The students also reported that toward the end they ran out of ideas for their hacks, and one student reported that she did not like writing reflectively throughout the day. Something for us to think about is that one student was disappointed that hacking was not something more scandalous than appropriating news stories. We don’t want to have them do anything illegal, but we should capitalize on the connotations of “hacking.”

Interview: Non Users: Phil Carspecken

Phil was also disappointed that he couldn’t learn how to hack his bank account, but he liked our project and the direction it is going.

He suggested some ideas for research: try to capture how children learn about the relationship between mean and form, for instance, in hacking advertising.

He also suggested that we frame this workshop from the perspective of critical pedagogy. This means having kids hack advertisements or newspaper articles, and then reflect on how the changes they made affect the original intent of the advertisement. Literally, we want the hackers to understand the meaning of the layout and how that affects what is communicated.


By interviewing different types of people and visiting an analogous space we have a better sense of how we want to design the Hackjam so that the young hackers get the most out of the day. We will take all of this information into consideration as we proceed. Likely, we will include a frame for the workshop and activities that continually ask hackers to come up with new ideas in new ways.

Our understanding of the terms “hack,” “hacker,” and “hacking” are developing as we go through this process. The activity of hacking is not new, but the appropriation of the term is. We are learning that to hack in the broader sense is to transform and tinker.


2 Responses to “Design Inspirations for the Hackjam”

  1. 1 amstrack April 1, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    Looks like the Bloominglabs was a great inspiration site! I had no idea this place existed…how did you two find out about it? Also I am curious what specifically you took away from this space in reference to your Hackjam curriculum.

  2. 2 Sophia Bender April 1, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Phil’s recommendation to pursue a critical approach in your hackjam, and specifically his suggestion to “hack” advertisements, reminded me of a HIVE NYC organization I saw present at the NY Maker Faire: . Their pedagogical model is all about critical approaches to mass media. Specifically, you might want to check out, where you can see some of the commercials that kids have remixed.

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