A Recipe for Culture Jam

Make your own culture jam and demonstrate how rhetoric and semiotics can be used to contest, subvert and redirect mediated messages and corporate communications while revealing common tactics of information distortion to your audience.

Critical concepts: media activism, culture jamming, subvertising, counter-discourses, semiotics, ideologies.
Creative task: make a culture jam.

Ideological Messages

As we recently discovered in a previous online lesson, Mainstream News Media, governments and corporations use a range of rhetorical strategies and visual methods to persuade public opinion, intentionally distorting information to accommodate a corporate agenda and reinforce hegemonic ideologies. Then, as we discovered in the following lesson on Media Activism, rhetoric and semiotics can also be used to reveal, contest and subvert hegemonic ideologies, redirect mediated messages and corporate communications, challenge discursive and symbolic power structures, which regulate out thinking, and to reveal to an audience common tactics of information distortion.

These subversive media strategies go by such names as guerrilla communication, tactical media interventions, citizen art and brandalism, or more commonly culture jamming.

Culture jamming describes acts of media activism where familiar symbols, texts, cultural codes and media channels are used to reverse or transgress dominant media narratives and persuasive culture. A combination of DIY ethics, anti-consumerist sentiment, political dissidence and remix culture, culture jams are a way of “talking back” to the mass media, popular imagery, advertising and cultural tropes that surrounds us. While there are many forms and methods of culture jamming (many of which were covered in this week’s online lesson), in all cases, “culture jamming refers to the individual or organized effort to turn media messages against the media itself” (Ott and Mack, 2014).

Your Task – Make Jam

In this week’s online lesson, you were introduced to a range of media strategies and creative methods commonly used by jammers. In the practical part of this lesson, we are going to make our own culture jams using one of the tactics outlined below.

To get you started, here’s an example of a culture jam I made and a little insight into how I made it.

Taking the product image on the left and drawing on this information awareness campaign by GMO Inside on the right, I created a subvertisement of a popular American brand of jam called Smucker’s.jam idea

What do you think? Is this a good subvertisement? How does it differ from the GMO Inside campaign above? Which is a more effective way of getting your attention and/or communicating a message?

So how did I make this? Well, I put this together using powerpoint in under 30 mins. But you can use any tools at your disposal, or choose from the selection of web-based tools provided below.

So now it’s your turn to make jam.

1. Choose your tactic

Subvertising is the practice of making spoofs or parodies of corporate and political advertisements. Subvertisements may take the form of a new image or an alteration to an existing image or icon, often in a satirical manner that is intended to reveal a message to the public. Here are a few examples of subvertisements made by previous CIU 210 students.

A meme hack is altering a meme to express a point of view not intended or inherent in the original, or even opposite to the original. The meme you choose should be something familiar and well recognised, but this could take the form of a thought, concept, opinion, phrase, slogan, historical moment, theory, practice or habit. Here’s an example of a ‘Carry On’ meme hack by Toby Wren and an ‘I Want You’ meme hack by me.

meme hacks2. Choose your tools

Image and text tools

  • https://www.festisite.com/logo/maker/
  • http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/
  • http://says-it.com/
  • https://bighugelabs.com/billboard.php
  • http://www.freemix.com/

Audio and video tools

If you really want to impress us with your jam, then why not try an audio/video mash-up. Check out the Gender advertising mixer below for a little inspiration, and then try and make an audio/video mash-up of your own. Remember, the key is to put some thought into what message you’re trying to reveal through combining select parts of two texts.

  • http://www.genderremixer.com
  • http://www.youtubemultiplier.com/
  • http://www.youtubemixer.net/

📌 And don’t forget that sharing is caring so spread your jam on the class Pinterest board.

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