Culture Jamming

KATHLEEN KUEHN

Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs088

Culture jamming is a form of rhetorical protest through pranking, hoaxes, hacking, and other types of sabotage. The concept derives from the radio jamming techniques of pirate citizens band (CB) radio operators who intentionally disrupted transmissions between sender and receiver by introducing noise into the signal. The guerrilla communications tactics of culture jamming, however, are rooted in the tenets of social activism and aim to reclaim independent thought and public spaces from the control and influence of ubiquitous media culture. Although the modes of disruption vary, culture jamming reconstructs new messages from existing ones; it aspires not only to generate critical awareness of social issues but to challenge the status quo by eliciting alternative frames for thinking. Importantly, culture jammers distinguish their acts from pointless vandalism; as social activists, the perpetrators of these creative crimes are motivated by a larger sense of purpose beyond destruction for its own sake. Shepard Fairey's “Obey” campaign, Banksy's urban graffiti, “Billionaires for Bush,” and the anti-consumerist magazine Adbusters mark some of the more popular culture jams in recent years.

Generally, culture jamming reacts to the loss of control over information and representation in an era of profit driven corporate media ownership and a standardized system of cultural production. ...

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