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Syllabus for class/workshop taught at Honolulu Museum of Art 2018, NYU ITP Spring 2016, Cinekid Festival 2015, NYU ITP Spring 2014, NYU ITP Fall 2013.

Social Hacking

  • Taught by Kyle McDonald and [Lauren Lee McCarthy

Course description

This course explores the structures and systems of social interactions, identity, and self representation as mediated by technology. We will investigate ways that technology can be used to augment, subvert, alter, mediate, and ultimately deepen interaction in a lasting way.

How do the things we build and use limit and expand the way we understand and relate to each other? We'll explore this question by building new tools and creating new situations for breaking us out of existing patterns, and discussing contextual examples from media art, performance art, psychology and pop culture. Technologies explored will include computer vision (face/body/eye tracking with openFrameworks), data representation and glitch, browser extensions and plugins (in Chrome), computer security, mobile platforms, and social automation and APIs (Facebook, Twitter, Mechanical Turk).

Students will develop projects that alter or disrupt social space in an attempt to reveal existing patterns or truths about our experiences and technologies, and possibilities for richer interactions. Different tactics for intervention and performance will be explored, first through a set of short prompts or experiments, and then through a larger, more thorough intervention.


Week 1 (1/27): Social glitch and assignment

Week 2 (2/3): Social automation and APIs and assignment

Week 3 (2/10): Individual meetings

Week 4 (2/17): Extensions and customization and assignment

Week 5 (2/24): Individual meetings

Week 6 (3/2): Security, surveillance, and privacy and assignment

Week 7 (3/9): Visit to Laura Poitras at the Whitney

Spring break (3/14)

Week 8 (3/23): Mobile platforms and public performance and assignment

Week 9 (3/30): Individual meetings

Week 10 (4/6): Computer vision and linguistic analysis and assignment

Week 11 (4/13): Individual meetings + 5:15pm Anagram visit

Week 12 (4/20): Final presentations

Important links

  • GitHub - serves as a collection of scripts and tools for social hacking.
  • Wiki - contains syllabus and assignment schedules
  • Google Drive - Reading assignments and other docs.
  • Mailing list - For course announcements and longer form discussions, feedback, questions.

Technical requirements

A conviction that creative people can derail society for the best, a deep love for code, and a willingness to explore uncomfortable situations. You should at least have taken Introduction to Computational Media or have similar experience with programming.


We are going to be introducing a variety of techniques and tools, ranging in technical difficulty. Our main requirement for work is that it is of high quality - it need not be hypertechnical, but it does need to be very well thought out and well executed. There will be one assignment each week, you may skip up to one and still pass the class.

Attendance and participation is essential, you may miss one class and still pass the class.

Previous Iterations