Blog Post #1: Culture Jamming

While it may be easy to believe that culture is created by the desires and needs of the individual, author of Activism!, Tim Jordan, claims the otherwise, “corporate and state cultural codes have come to dominate and constitute much of the landscapes of our desires, explicitly and all too successfully recreating and moulding our passions to their needs (Jordan 104).” In chapter 5 of Activism!, Jordan explains how activists! use a technique called culture jamming to reverse and transgress some of these culture codes. Often such culture jamming involves a reversal of the meaning of a particular symbol while leaving the general feel/appearance intact. One such example is the splicing of an ‘Employ Labour Now’ sticker to make a ‘No Labour Ploy’ sticker. Both products have a similar look and feel yet the jammed version has an entirely different meaning. Such subtleties are the marks of a good jam as they preserve the connection to the original symbol while provoking thought on the true nature of the symbols.
Later in the chapter, Jordan goes on to discuss the repercussions of the subtlety in culture jamming. He introduces the notion that this approach may be flawed in one of his many examples.  He tells a story about an advertisement that depicted a Zapatista guerilla adorned in Box Fresh clothing that seemingly successfully culture jammed, yet at the end of the story Jordan contemplates the possibility that the culture jamming was secretly a ploy to raise publicity for Box Fresh. This speculation raises an important question, “Does the use of corporate, military, or state cultural codes reinforce these codes, even when the overt message is to oppose them (Jordan 114)?” I find this question interesting and relevant as it challenges the merit of culture jamming as a whole. It introduces the possibility that the publicity raised by culture jamming only further promotes the cultural codes that were meant to be blocked and even reversed. I believe this is an important consideration to make for any activist! before attempting a culture jam.


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