Posts tagged ‘culture jamming’

March 17, 2013

More on Culture Jamming

It was brought up on page 84 of Alternative & Activist New Media that culture jamming has become a standard feature in pop culture.  Its ironic, parodic, “in on the joke” quality and pastiche have been appropriated by a number of mainstream entertainment programs, such as: The Simpsons (whose “Lisa the Iconoclast” episode I have actually been tested on in my Culture & Media class a few years ago… you can watch the episode here), Family Guy, American Dad, The Daily Show, and the Colbert Report.  And as we all know (or at least should have figured out by now…) I kinda sorta love the idea of culture jamming, so I figured I’d explore a little more.

Shows like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report smartly utilize your typical 5 o’clock news style (down to the dramatic music and overly-enthused attitudes) to get their points across.  And, from a previous post here, we know that the most successful jams use the same medium as the target.  As stated in this article I found, The Colbert Report writers and comedians disseminate dissident interpretations of current political events, potentially jamming the transmission of the dominant political brand message.  Like other culture jammers, The Colbert Report subversively employs emotional and aesthetic modalities similar to those employed by political branding itself, thus interrupting it from within.  Unlike many culture jammers, however, The Colbert Report’s reliance on a humorous version of parody means that they can add their voices to the conversation in a seemingly innocuous way (after all, it’s just a joke).

That same article goes on to explain how, according to Lasn, the primary goal of many culture jammers is détournementwhich is a French term that literally translates to “a turning around.”  Makes sense.  Jammers want to “turn around” the image or idea or conversation.

But animated shows do things a little differently.  They can’t rely on real people wearing nice suits and a smile to mock current events or popular culture.  So they primarily use satire to ridicule and criticize, but, as any good jam hopes to accomplish, much of the audience is unaware of the “prank.”  See above link to The Simpsons for an example episode.  Another episode that comes to mind?  Family Guy‘s FCC Censorship episode.  You know, the one where Peter is upset with the FCC enforcing strict censorship laws on television so he creates his own network which eventually gets shut down by none other than the FCC.  It proves, to me at least, that the show is a little more than toilet humor and poorly timed jokes.





March 4, 2013

Adbusters & culture jamming


If I had to pick an expert of culture jamming (concentrating on tackling advertising companies) there’s no other group besides Adbusters.  Founder of Adbusters, Kalle Lasn, defined jamming as:

“…a way to fight back against advanced consumer capitalism.  I see the kind of consumer culture that we have built up over the last many years as being unsustainable.  It’s a culture that drives the global economy in a way that will eventually make it hit the wall.  Culture jamming is a way to this dysfunctional culture to bite its own tail.”  (The Alternative Media Handbook, page 168-69)

They specialize in parodies of well-known ads (such as Joe Camel being turned into Joe Chemo, because let’s face it, chances are if you’re a smoker, you’re going to get sick at some point.  And chances are, you won’t stop smoking because it’s been ingrained in you for all your life that smoking is “cool.”  Though yes, the ads depicting tobacco have been limited in recent years, finally.)  What makes Adbusters successful in getting their point across is their professionalism in how they present a jam.  They use the same medium that the advertising agencies use.  It “exploits the target’s own medium of choice turning the advertisement against its sponsor.”  Not to mention, at the owner’s expense.

I feel culture jams are an incredibly compelling act of activism against the mainstream norm.  They put issues in a new light by exposing the truth and creating a crack in the social discourse.  However, as we discussed in class, even though jams can create that crack, it’s difficult to utilize the cracks to the advantage of the people.

Culture jams are essentially pranks. And the most successful ones are the ones that go unnoticed.  Which, is why I feel they aren’t always wholly successful.

But, they have potential.  Loads of potential.  Lawrence Lessig, a prominent political activist for the reduced legal restrictions of issues such as copyright, has suggested “that the experience of twenty-first century media could be not just ‘read only’ but ‘read and write’.  Jammers temporarily block the flow of images–jam the culture–but they also improvise and create with those images–jamming with the culture, in the musical sense.  In both of these ways, culture jamming illustrates some of the opportunities and limitations of the emerging read and write media environment.” (page 179)

This does dig into a previous post on copyleft, but just imagine a world where manipulating the media that surrounds you is not a criminal act, but rather an encouraged art form.  A collage of the experiences, all of the experiences, that you are a part of.  Whether it’s music, movies, advertisements… Culture jamming could be the crack that opens up the discourse just enough to allow such freedoms.



March 4, 2013

Corporate America


March 4, 2013



March 4, 2013

Joe Chemo




February 26, 2013

Think outside t…

Think outside the box, collapse the box, and take a fucking sharp knife to it.”

– Banksy