02. Disobedient Electronics

Just Pedro edited this page Feb 18, 2019 · 10 revisions

Disobedient Electronics

Intro to Disobedient Electronics:

Disobedient Electronics is a term coined by Dr. Garnet Hertz, a Canadian artist and academic, in his research and zine by the same name.

Dr. Hertz's zine highlights political and socially-driven works by artists, designers, hackers and academics from around the world. In this first issue, he has decided to focus on the topic of protest. These curated artworks calls attention to injustices, discrimination or abuses of power that especially resonate in the post-truth era of Trump and Brexit. They touch upon issues of feminism, gun control, abortion, gender politics, climate change, robotic forms of protest and tools for counter-surveillance.

As a strong proponent of Critical Making, with this zine, Hertz call out for more hands-on functional design that directly confronts issues head-on, that goes beyond the sleek renders and glossy props precisely placed in a gallery setting. In his words, these are "slightly less RCA/Dunne & Raby-style than it is confrontational and imaginary in the manner of the Critical Art Ensemble and the Yes Men."

Garnet Hertz - Vancouver, BC, Canada - 2016:

  1. Building electronic objects can be an effective form of social argument or political protest.
  2. DIY, maker culture and local artisinal productions can have strong nationalist and protectionist components to them - in some senses, populism can be seen as the rise of the DIY non-expert.
  3. Critical and Speculative Design (Dunne & Raby) are worthwhile approaches within industrial design, but perhaps not adversarial enough to reply to contemporary populist right-wing movements (Brexit, Trump & Le Pen). Questions like “Is it moral to punch Nazis in the face?” should be answered with smart alternatives to violence that are provocative pieces of direct action.
  4. If we are living in a post-truth time, we should focus on trying to make progressive arguments and facts more legible and engaging to a wide and diverse audience.
  5. The fad of ‘Maker Culture’ is over. Arduinos and 3D printers are fascinating things, but the larger issues of what it means to be a human or a society needs to be directly confronted.






Tip of the Week:

Design Tip

When designing Critical Objects it is important to understand the difference between "political design" and "design for politics".

DiSalvo explains in Adversarial Design that:

  • Political Design = is designed for ongoing contest between force and ideals.
  • Design for Politics = is designed to support the means of governance

One of the characteristics of Adversarial Design is the cultivated discernment of political qualities of artifacts and systems.

Tech Tip

If you happened to be running out of memory (heap) on the ESP32 and you are not using the bluetooth BT nor BLE, you can free some space by using the command:



Disobedient Electronics - Protest
Garnet Hertz, 2016

Massive Attack - How a weapon against war became a weapon against the web
Colin Lecher, 2017

Critical design in context : history, theory, and practices
Matthew Malpass, 2017 - ISBN: 9781472575173 Library

_ What's so critical about critical design practice (pg.7)


  • Prototype and document a Disobedient Electronic device/object.
    Though Starters:

    • How does the electronics enhance or constrain the experience?
    • Is the device connected to realtime data?
    • Does the interaction serve any purpose?
    • How does the form factor and attributes relate to the topic?

    * This assignment can be done individually or in groups of 2.
    Due: 02/11/19

Technical Resources:

Arduino Library Manager:

Arduino Board Manager:

ESP32 Arduino Core:

Sparkfun ESP32 Thing:

Adafruit ESP32 HUZZAH:

Silabs CP210x USB to UART Driver:

FTDI USB to UART Driver:


ESP32 Technical Reference Manual:


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