Culture jamming originated as a guerilla communication tactic to combat commercialization, corporatization, and materialism. However, the practices and tactics used by culture jammers can easily be translated into courses that examine various cultural contexts and can replace or supplement typical final presentations/papers in a way that allows students to experience public activism.
I simply instruct my students to make some aspect of culture (within their own or others’) more visible (so they can promote or critique this aspect of culture) by creatively intervening.
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The magazine/organization Adbusters is probably the most known producer of culture jamming. These are examples of their ads.
My students impressed me with their creativity when I assigned this. Here are some examples of their original culture jamming.
This student created a flyer commenting on the unrealistic body images portrayed in much of fashion, and chose to focus specifically on Abercrombie and Fitch. She taped this flyer outside their store in a local mall.
This student created a very realistic and eyecatching cover of Redbook (in the middle) modeled after an actual issue featuring Faith Hill on the Cover. The other side showed the actual cover, on which Faith Hill had been airbrushed. The side showing in this picture shows the "before" picture of Faith and some satirical headlines.
Holding a sign that reads "Kill the Poor" outside a prominent country club apparently gets the attention of people quickly, because a security car approached this student within a few minutes, citing having received phone calls from residents as the reason for coming. As the student finished up explaining everything to the security patrol, the Denver Police showed up. It's worth mentioning that the student said the guards and police were very congenial, and understanding of her "school project." Needless to say, the student had an interesting reflection essay.
Interestingly, some of this student's personal ads actually received positive responses from guys with similar beliefs. Obviously, not everyone will get the criticism and subversion inherent in culture jamming.
This is one of my favorites because on the surface it looks like a regular, real paper towel ad (even the ones we see today), but when you look closer, you see some great commentary on gender roles.
This student "jammed" a tequila ad to bring attention to the ever absent negative effects of alcohol, like sexual assault. This one was hung in the restroom on a residence hall, and another student added their own comments, in black marker, to the ad.
This varsity athlete student hulked up Barry Bonds with culture jamming instead of steroids.
A student created this magazine cover to bring attention to how women's bodies are surveilled and disciplined by media messages that tell them to be obsessed with their appearance, weight, and sexuality.
A student drew this "super hero" figure as the embodiment of white male heterosexual privilege to bring attention to the ways in which people in dominant identities are given unearned privileges that often operate below the surface because they are seen as "natural" and "normal."