Culture jamming is a form of alternative media. What is it alternative to you ask…. corporate advertising! Culture jamming is a practice that has been around for decades; to determine it’s exact origin is quite difficult. The term is defined by Klein in her book “No Logo: taking aim at the brand bullies” as follows, “The practice of parodying advertisements and hijacking billboards in order to drastically alter their message” (Klein, 280). Originally a San Francisco band coined the term in 1984. The Negativland band used the term on their album ‘Jamcom 84’, the lyrics went like this, “The skilfully reworked billboards…. directs the public viewer to a consideration of the original corporate strategy” (Klein, 281).
       The idea behind culture jamming is that individuals are not given the choice as to whether they are exposed to ads or not. Without consent every individual in our communities are exposed to thousands of corporate ads each day. Jammers believe everyone should have the opportunity to voice their opinions just like the corporate advertisers. They believe in the opportunity to respond to the advertisements. As Klein states, “culture jamming badly rejects the idea that marketing- because it buys its way into our public space- must be passively accepted as a one-way information flow” (Klein, 281). Culture jamming is the practice of fighting back against the corporate advertisers and an attempt to get their own voices heard. Using any means available from a simple black marker to fancy computer programs, jammers alter advertisements and billboards to alter the message of the advertisements. The messages that Jammers are often exposing are anti-corporation, anti-consumer, anti- materialism and overall anti-advertising.
Many of the concepts behind culture jamming are derived and influenced greatly by media theorists. Some names that are mentioned by Naomi Klein in her book are, “Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman, Mark Crispin Miller, Robert McChesney and Ben Bagdikian, all of whom have explored ideas of corporate control over information flows” (Klein, 284). Several art movements have also influenced culture jammers. Avant-garde art such as Dada and surrealism were based on similar principles of fighting against the norm and using visual images to let your voice be heard (Klein, 282). Dada artists used their art as a form of political expression; culture jamming is very similar in the fact that political messages are often part of the Jammers message. Divers political views are found in culture jamming.
      Various issues are taken up though the practices of altering advertisements, many women’s group fight against the use of unhealthily skinny models and the portrayal of women in general in advertising. Many ads make the female viewer feel insufficient and self-doubting but through culture jamming these women are given a voice and a means to fight back against the ads. More feminists are getting involved in culture jamming and using its practices to expose their concerns of sexist advertising. As Klein points out, one of the highest profiles of culture jamming is in the back section of a feminist magazine called “Ms.”. The magazine exposes sexist ads found in other publications (Klein, 289). One other prevalent issue raised by Jammers is the concern for factory workers and their labour that is being exploited through production. Our culture is driven by consumption and the need to produce goods fast and cheap is overwhelming. Through jams these issues are exposed and the corporations who used such labour exploitive factories are outed.
       Whether you would like to believe it or not the constant exposure to advertising is affecting our culture. Effecting consumption rates, materialism, and conceptions regarding our society. Culture Jamming provides the opportunity to take action and attempt to change the advertising industry for the better.

14 Responses to “Culture Jamming…What is it?”


  1. [...] to watch it with some of my friends and relatives who don’t know much about feminist politics or culture jamming. There’s one thing* that really bugs me about the movie: it opens with a heartfelt admonishment [...]


  2. [...] and entities, as potentials spaces for grassroots political action and interaction. Beyond ideas of culture jamming, they employ tactics such as those outlined by Christine Harold in her book Ourspace, that [...]


  3. [...] isolation of public life. The messages that are being transmitted can be humorous or provocative. The term is defined by Klein in one of his books: “No Logo: taking aim at the brand bullies” as follows, “The practice of parodying [...]

  4. joefiona Says:

    Thanks for this eloquent post. I’m about to start production on a film with culture jamming as a major theme and this was helpful to help me express some of the ideas in my head. Cheers,
    ~ Fiona
    http://www.pennyblackmovie.com


  5. [...] anyone reading this and does not have the faintest clue of what culture jamming might be, here is a pretty insightful lowdown (or, there is always Wikipedia). But I think Peter gives a pretty [...]


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  10. […] Jammin/’Ladies 2009, ‘Culture Jamming…..What is it?’, WordPress, Blog Post, viewed 10 April, http://jamming.wordpress.com/culture-jammingwhat-is-it/ […]

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