You should definitely ask for details about what the interview will entail. This shows that you care enough about the job and respect the interviewers enough to want to be prepared to make a good impression in the interview.
If an interviewer decides that somehow this breaks some unwritten rule they have about interviewing or feel that you're somehow cheating by asking this, then maybe this isn't the job for you and you should look for an employer who respects your desire to use the tools at your disposal to be properly prepared.
Whenever I asked beforehand, knowing what to expect made me feel more prepared and confident in the interview, which effectively killed two birds with one stone:
- I looked confident and knowledgeable in the interviews.
- I showed the interviewer that I wasn't afraid to speak up and do some investigating and preparation beforehand.
In my experience, in all of the interviews I've had, I've either asked the interviewer him/herself what he/she expects me to bring to the interview, or I've asked one of the recruiting agents what I should do to be prepared. In all instances, they were very helpful and provided me with much more information than I expected, and in those instances, I usually got an offer for employment after the interview.
As far as how to approach the interviewer with your questions, it may be easier to do over the phone, since you could then probe for more details without a lot of unnecessary back and forth emails. I'd start with "Could you please tell me what I should expect during our interview on X date?" and then go from there. If the interviewer is vague, you could ask a few more follow-up questions and then thank him/her for his/her time. If they're really detailed, then pay attention and take notes, as the interviewer is setting you up for success.