Culture Jamming
[ Issue 35 ]

Culture Jamming fascinates Emily Bronto

Let Bikwil introduce you to Culture Jamming

Culture Jamming

In Issue 35's Web Line column Tony Rogers takes a short look at that form of guerrilla activism that seeks to subvert society’s norms by use of “maximum disturbance with minimum damage”.

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Web Line — Tony Rogers


Well, you’ve seen and read about anti-globalisation demos, but in case you’re not up to speed on culture jamming, today I’m going to point you towards a few Internet sites on that subject. While you won’t emerge as anarchists, you will come to an understanding of the movement’s aims and methods.

Culture jamming at its most benign can be defined as a form of guerrilla activism that seeks to subvert society’s norms by use of “maximum disturbance with minimum damage”. Its primary medium is the Internet itself, and not unexpectedly its primary campaigners are aged 20 to 40. The primary approach is via humour.

I first became aware of culture jamming in a 1998 (Aussie) ABC Radio National broadcast. It was an episode of Background Briefing, and a transcript of that informative programme may still be had on their Web site. Not only does it discuss Pauline Pantsdown (visit the site if you’re not Australian), it even features the legendary American media hoaxer, Joey Skaggs, who began doing his thing over three decades ago. (He’s the one who advertised the Cathouse for Dogs.)

In one sense, I suppose, culture jamming might be traced back to the beat generation of the 1960s, to that anarchic literary figure William S. Burroughs (1914-97). Culture jamming so called, however, had one of its earliest manifestations in 1989 in a print magazine from Canada called Adbusters, which made a feature of adding negative connotations to the advertising images of Madison Avenue. As well, it gave a voice in its articles to “a global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs”.

Ultimately . . . Adbusters is an ecological magazine, dedicated to examining the relationship between human beings and their physical and mental environment. We want a world in which the economy and ecology resonate in balance. We try to coax people from spectator to participant in this quest. We want folks to get mad about corporate disinformation, injustices in the global economy, and any industry that pollutes our physical or mental commons.

Today, the magazine boasts a circulation of over 85,000.

A comprehensive site for the newcomer to culture jamming is Sniggle. This hosts “the idiosyntactix culture jammer’s encyclopedia”:

Most of this site highlights deception, but it's not because I have a thing for liars and cheats. I think there's a brand of immunizing deception that helps us to expose and correct the lies we tell ourselves and the webs of falsehood that make up our societies. Harmless fibs can remind us that we've dropped our guard and let the Big Lies in.

Another good site is Abrupt, which is run a by a well-known jammer, Daniel Maron. So, spoofs it is, folks, but with a purpose. There are plenty of similar sites out there. Here are three more: The Whirled Bank Group, Child Slaves and Popular Medicine.

As I have to keep the column short this issue and some of you are about to rush out and tastefully modify your favourite billboard, let me recommend — in recognition of how important Google thinks culture jamming is — that you continue your investigations at their special directory category Society > Activism > Media > Culture Jamming.

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