Culture jamming

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search
Ideas and theory
Society of the Spectacle · Culture jamming · Corporate crime · Media bias · Buy Nothing Day · Alternative culture · Simple living · Do it yourself · Microgeneration · Autonomous building · Cultural Creatives · Commodity fetishism · Cultural hegemony · Conspicuous consumption · Ethical consumerism
Related social movements
Anarchism · Alter-globalization · Anti-globalization movement · Environmentalism · Situationist International · Postmodernism · Socialism · Anti-consumerism ·
Popular works
Culture Jamming: Hacking, Slashing, and Sniping in the Empire of the Signs · No Logo · The Corporation · Affluenza · Escape from Affluenza · The Theory of the Leisure Class · Fight Club · Surplus
Persons and organizations
Adbusters · Freecycle · Ralph Nader · Green party · John Zerzan · Noam Chomsky · Ron English · Naomi Klein · Thorstein Veblen · Guy Debord · Michael Moore · Michel Foucault · RTMark · The Yes Men · Reverend Billy · CounterCorp
Related subjects
Advertising · Capitalism · Economic problems · Left wing politics · Sweatshops · Anti-consumerists · Social movements

Culture jamming is an individualistic turning away from all forms of herd mentality – including that of social movements – and by that definition, culture jamming is generally not treated as a movement. Culture jamming is not defined by any specific political position or message, nor even by any specific cultural position or message. The common thread is mainly an urge to poke fun at the homogeneous nature of popular culture, often by means of guerrilla communication (communication unsanctioned or opposed by government or other powers-that-be).

Culture jamming could be defined as an art movement, although this too may be insufficient to cover the full spectrum of activities identified as culture jamming. Culture jamming has been characterized as a form of public activism which is generally in opposition to commercialism, and the vectors of corporate image. However, this also is too narrow a definition to cover all culture jamming activities (that definition more closely fits Subvertising). Some culture jamming takes aim at these power structures because they are part of the dominant culture, but any other aspects of the dominant culture are also fair game for culture jamming.

Culture jamming sometimes entails transforming mass media to produce ironic or satirical commentary about itself, using the original medium's communication method.

Aims of culture jammers may include:

  • To have a good laugh (and to encourage others to do likewise) at the expense of prevailing social currents - many purveyors of which, in the opinion of many culture jammers, take themselves too seriously. Even culture jammers themselves are not immune to being the subjects of culture jamming, if they appear to be on their way to becoming as institutionalized and humorless as the original objects of culture jammers' attention.
  • To reawaken a sense of wonder and fascination about one's surrounding environment, inspired by the frequent intentional ambiguity of a specific culture jamming technique, which stimulates personal interpretation and independent thinking.
  • To demonstrate contrasts between iconic images, practices or attitudes and the realities or perceived negative side of the item object of the jamming (often the target is a trapping of monolithic power structures such as corporations, government or religions). This is often done symbolically, with the "detournement" of pop iconography.
  • To provoke an interest in civic engagement and social connectedness.

Culture jammers' intent may differ from (but may overlap with) that of artistic appropriation (which is done for art's sake) and vandalism (in which destruction or defacement is the primary goal), although its results are not always so easily distinguishable. Some street art and other actions fall into two or even all three categories.


[edit] Origins

Coined by the collage band Negativland on its release JamCon '84, the phrase "culture jamming" comes from the idea of radio jamming: that public frequencies can be pirated and subverted for independent communication, or to disrupt dominant frequencies.

One can attempt to trace the roots of culture jamming in medieval carnival, which Mikhail Bakhtin interpretated as a subversion of the social hierarchy (in Rabelais and his World). More recent precursors might include: the media-savvy agit-prop of the anti-Nazi photomonteur John Heartfield, the sociopolitical street theater and staged media events of '60s radicals such as Abbie Hoffman, the German concept of Spaßguerilla, and in the Situationist International (SI) of the 1960s. The SI first compared its own activities to radio jamming in 1968, when it proposed the use of guerrilla communication within mass media to sow confusion within the dominant culture.

The Canadian magazine Adbusters began to promote aspects of culture jamming after the American author and cultural critic Mark Dery introduced editor Kalle Lasn to the term through a series of articles he wrote for Adbusters. Dery's New York Times article on culture jamming, "The Merry Pranksters And the Art of the Hoax" [1] was the first mention, in the mainstream media, of the phenomenon; Dery later expanded on this article in his 1993 Open Magazine pamphlet, "Culture Jamming: Hacking, Slashing, and Sniping in the Empire of the Signs" [2], a seminal essay that remains the most exhaustive historical, sociopolitical, and philosophical theorization of culture jamming to date.

from issue 002 of Good Magazine

The Street Artist Sometimes "street artists" are fine artists gone wild, having fled the sterile confine of the gallery to apply their work directly on the urban landscape. Most memorable perhaps is Shepard Fairey's OBEY campaign. EX: Bansky

The Politurgists Politurgy = Politics + Dramaturgy uses the principles of theatre (usually comedic) to mess with the news.A game of deceit, bluffs, disguises, and access, the object being to make the headlines of tomorrows morning paper as laughably true as the Onion is laughably false (or is it). EX: The Yes Men

The Mob As long as there have been streets and crowds, there have been occasional angry mobs, waving torches and bellowing demands. What began as an arcticle in New York Magazine, flash mobs often only want a few minutes of juvenile kicks through temporary disruption of the public order. More effective is Critical Mass where bicyclists gather for rides around urban centers letting drivers know what it is like to be in the minority. EX: Rev. Billy Talen

Consumer Mutineers (aka Commerce Jammers) Those who play with or otherwise alter commercial space. My personal favorite is the Barbie Liberation Organization, who switch out the electronic voices boxes of Barbies with GI Joes. EX: J.S.G. Boggs

The Hacktivists As online shopping, snooping, and socializing gradually reduce us to a nation of shut-ins, the Hacktivists are bent on showing how rebellion can even be found in virtual space, without ever leaving one's bedroom. Google bombs and wikialities are the most popular forms of hacktivisim. EX: Grey Tuesday

[edit] List of culture jamming organizations or people

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  • Dery, Mark (1993). Culture Jamming: Hacking, Slashing, and Sniping in the Empire of Signs. Open Magazine Pamphlet Series: NJ. [1]
  • King, Donovan (2004). University of Calgary. Optative Theatre: A Critical Theory for Challenging Oppression and Spectacle. [2]
  • Klein, Naomi (2000). No Logo. London: Flamingo.
  • Kyoto Journal: Culture Jammer's Guide to Enlightenment. [3]
  • Lasn, Kalle (1999) Culture Jam. New York: Eagle Brook.
  • Tietchen, T. “Language out of Language: Excavating the Roots of Culture Jamming and Postmodern Activism from William S. Burroughs' Nova Trilogy.” Discourse: Berkeley Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture. 23, Part 3 (2001): 107-130.
Personal tools