Saturday, 5 September 2009

Culture Jamming

According to some recent study “The average American is exposed to about 3000 advertising messages a day, and globally corporations spend over $620 billion each year to make their products seem desirable and to get us to buy them". 3000 messages seemed way too many in my view, but probably it is because I don't live in the US. Anyway, I think that nobody would deny the fact that we are exposed to a huge number of commercial messages every day. The consequences of this mediatic bombardment are mainly two (out of thousands): firms have to become more and more capable of "breaking through the clutter". This basically means that they have to use new unconventional ways of communicating with the market (e.g.: product placement, events, ads where you would not expect them, etc...). The second consequence is more on the consumer side: our culture, therefore our "mental programming", the way in which we see the world is increasingly shaped by commercial communications. Entertainment, shopping and other consumer activities are frequently cited as people's preferred ways of spending their free time.

As mentioned in an article produced by the Center for Communication and Civil Engagement "As people in global societies increasingly enjoy the freedoms of private life, it becomes increasingly difficult to communicate about many broad public concerns. The personalized society enables people to choose individual lifestyles and identities that often lead to disconnection from politics. Many citizens become receptive only to consumer-oriented messages about tax cuts, retirement benefits, or other policies targeted at particular demographic social groups". We can therefore argue that, due to the information overload, we have become increasingly anesthetized or, better, like the Pink Floyd song we've become Comfortably Numb.

An interesting and creative answer to the forementioned tendencies of today's world is called culture jamming. According to Wikipedia, it can be defined as a tactic in which an activist attempts to disrupt or subvert mainstream cultural institutions or corporate advertising. Classic examples are the transifguration or transformation of famous corporate logos or national flags in order to produce a message. In this way people are forced to reconsider the branded environment in which they live and the underlying assumptions. The main goal of Culture Jamming is therefore to subvert and criticize the mainstream culture, what we take for granted and our consumeristic habits using the power of communication.

A nice and famous example is the one that jams with the US flag (in the picture): the stars representing the states in the blue part of the flag are replaced by various US corporate logos like McDonalds, Nike, MTV, etc... The message is clear without need for further comments. The examples are, anyway, pretty numerous. It is enough to google culture jamming and you'll find them by yourself. And, of course, I hope you like Jamming too!