What is the Action?

Edna Hirsbrunner
3 min readSep 27, 2020


© Edna Hirsbrunner

Action is the process or state of acting or
of being active.
— dictionary.com

The theory class of my 5th semester as an Interaction Design Student at ZHdK called “Sweet Dreams are Made of This” started last Monday.
In the first session, What is the Action? we discussed the following two questions: “What made an impact on you within the las three years and why?” and “What impact did you make on others, this course, the world? What contributions did you make?”. Furthermore we watched an except each of the movies How to Survive A Plague (David France, 2012) and 120 BPM (Robin Campillo, 2013). We took five minutes each to answer the questions and these are my thoughts:

What made an impact on you within the las three years and why? Studying abroad, living in a foreign country for a longer period of time. Studying, working and living in the US specifically in Portland, OR impacted me a lot and I have to think back to this time almost every day. I moved back to Switzerland almost 5 months ago, it still feels like a blink of an eye but also is somehow so far away. I miss Portland and it’s people a lot. It makes me sad that I am not there anymore but I think it is also because I can not return at the moment as aresult of the current world situation. And at the same time what is going on in the US is frightening and I feel so lucky to be able to live in such a “secure” country with a comparatively good functional social state. But am wondering simultaneously, how have I earned this?

What impact did you make on others, this course, the world? What contributions did you make? What does impac mean anyway? How do I know if I have left an impact on someone or on something?
One thing I do is trying to always stay open towards others. Towards new things, be curious and give others room to be and show me their world. I made friends along the way and left part of me with them. But I am also critical, I ask hard questions, try to discuss a lot but fair. Asking hard questions means being curious and not numb. Asking hard questions means being interested and willing to change my mind. Asking hard questions means listening to others and trying to break through someone’s reserve. Asking hard questions means trying to understand and stay open. Asking hard questions means discussing the world. Asking hard questions is crucial to me.

To talk more specifically about what an Interaction Designer can contrubiute to the world, we gathered as a class those points:

  • change such as cognitive patterns and behaviors
  • (raise awareness)
  • improve systems
  • finding points of intervention
  • take action through a political approach
  • build a tool like an app
  • participatory design, design with people — new methods
  • public intervention like installations, performances and so on
  • visualizations

In Thomas Oppong’s Medium article The Overthinker’s Guide to Taking Action I read a quote by Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States of America:

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.”
— Thomas Jefferson

I think this rather corny cite describes not only what action means for oneself but also what action implies for the world. Action and activism describe in a good way what the world is and was about at this specific moment. What activism is currently being practiced and which activism was important in the past describes the momentary world situation on a good level. For the next session all students will bring a poster of a campaign from the present or past that contributed to inspire, to bring awareness and to awake individuals and collectivity towards action.