Culture jamming Information

Culture jamming, a tactic used by many consumer social movements, is a mechanism in which an activist attempts to disrupt or subvert mainstream cultural institutions or corporate advertising. Culture jamming is often seen as a form of subvertising. Many culture jams are simply aimed at exposing questionable political assumptions behind commercial culture so that people can momentarily consider the branded environment in which they live. Culture jams re-figure logos, fashion statements, and product images to challenge the idea of "what's cool," along with assumptions about the personal freedoms of consumption. Culture jamming is usually employed in opposition to a perceived appropriation of public space, or as a reaction against social conformity. Prominent examples of culture jamming include the adulteration of billboard advertising by the BLF and Ron English and the street parties and protests organised by Reclaim the Streets. Culture jamming sometimes entails transforming mass media to produce ironic or satirical commentary about itself, using the original medium's communication method.

Culture jamming is a form of disruption that plays on the emotions of viewers and bystanders. Jammers want to disrupt the unconscious thought process that takes place when most consumers view a popular advertising and bring about a détournement. Activists that utilize this tactic are counting on their meme to pull on the emotional strings of people and evoke some type of reaction. The reactions that most cultural jammers are hoping to evoke are behavioral change and political action. There are four emotions that activists often want viewers to feel. These emotions, shock, shame, fear, and anger, are believed to be the catalysts for social change.

The basic unit in which a message is transmitted in culture jamming is the meme. Memes are condensed images that stimulate visual, verbal, musical, or behavioral associations that people can easily imitate and transmit to others. The term meme was first popularized by geneticist Richard Dawkins but later used by cultural critics such as Douglas Rushkoff that claimed memes were a type of media virus. Memes are seen as genes that can jump from outlet to outlet and replicate itself or mutate upon transmission just like a virus. Culture jammers will often use common memes to such as the McDonald's golden arches or Nike swoop to engage people and force them to think about their eating habits or fashion sense In one example, jammer Jonah Perreti used the Nike symbol to stir debate on children sweatshop labor and consumer freedom. Perreti made public exchanges between him and Nike over a disagreement. Perreti had requested custom Nikes with the word "sweatshop" placed in the Nike symbol. Nike, of course, disagreed. Once this story was made public over Perreti's website it spread world wide and sparked the conversation and dialogue about Nike's use of sweatshops. Jammers can also organize and participate in mass campaigns. Examples of cultural jamming like Perreti's are more along the lines of tactics that radical consumer social movements would use. These movements push people to question the taken-for-granted assumption that consuming is natural and good and aim to disrupt the naturalization of consumer culture; they also seek to create systems of production and consumption that are more humane and less dominated by global corporate hypercapitalism. Past mass events and ideas have included "Buy Nothing Day", "TV Turnoff Week", virtual sit-ins and protests over the Internet, producing ‘subvertisements’ and placing them in public spaces, and creating and enacting ‘placejamming’ projects where public spaces are reclaimed and nature is re-introduced into urban places.

Wikipedia, Culture jamming, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_jamming (as of Apr 1, 2010)

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