‘Culture Jamming’ by Kalle Lasn

Kalle Lasn (born March 24, 1942) is an Estonian-Canadian film maker, author, magazine editor and activist.

He is the co-founder of Adbusters magazine and author of the books Culture Jam and Design Anarchy and is the co-founder of the Adbusters Media Foundation, which owns the magazine. He reportedly started Adbusters after an epiphany that there was something profoundly wrong with consumerism. It happened in a supermarket parking lot. Frustrated that he had to insert a quarter to use a shopping cart, he jammed a bent coin in so that the machine became inoperable. This act of vandalism was his first (quite literal) “culture jam”—defined as an act designed to subvert mainstream society.

In his first book, Culture Jam, Lasn portrays consumerism as the fundamental evil of the modern era. He calls for a “meme war”: a battle of ideas to shift Western society away from consumer capitalism.

Culture jamming (sometimes guerrilla communication) is a tactic used by many anti-consumerist social movements to disrupt or subvert media culture and its mainstream cultural institutions, including corporate advertising. It attempts to “expose the methods of domination” of a mass society  to foster progressive change.

Culture jamming is a form of subverting. Many culture jams are intended to expose questionable political assumptions behind commercial culture. Tactics include re-figuring logos, fashion statements, and product images as a means to challenge the idea of “what’s cool.”Culture jamming often entails using mass media to produce ironic or satorical commentary about itself, commonly using the original medium’s communication method.

Culture jamming is employed as a reaction against social conformity. Prominent examples of culture jamming include the adulteration of billboard advertising by the Billboard Liberation Front (BLF), and contemporary artists such as Ron English. Culture jamming may involve street parties and protests. While culture jamming usually focuses on subverting or critiquing political and advertising messages, some proponents focus on a more positive (often musically inspired) form which brings together artists, scholars, and activists to create new types of cultural production that transcend—rather than merely criticize—the status quo.

 

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