Culture Jamming – [.providing.relief.on.smoky.times.]

Culture jamming is a hard term to grasp at first, even though we are surrounded by it day to day. We see it on billboards, street signs, in emails, and even in videos. Companies thrive off of culture jamming, because the citizens love to see it and feel it. The raw way of putting this jamming is “media hacking, information warfare, terror-art, and guerrilla semiotics, all in one.”[1]

There are different types of culture jamming as well. [2] The first type is commercial which is probable the most well-known type. This type of jamming includes creative ads that are targeted at specific over-consuming societies. The ads can go both ways, aiming at either the consumer or the company. They usually want to get a message out on what and why people buy the specific product.


The second type is political which is less common than commercial, but still just as powerful. Political culture jams generally play on items that people normally wouldn’t take a double look at. Both sidewalks and street signs are favourites for subtly changing their meanings, giving them a clever look and message.  They usually revolve around ongoing issues, or newly developed complaints.


The third and final type is social which is playful in nature and target society in general. Being satirical about a wide range of topics can either be within a town or within a country. They poke fun at little stupid things, as well as expose big names in a comical way. They make us rethink reality and the type of place we live in. They let us smirk, maybe tell a friend, and go on with our chaotic lives.


As clearly described by Lessig, “creative work has value”[3] and culture jammers take these pre-made works, and add some kind of flare to it, giving it that imaginative touch. However, when bad habits are injected into the society and made part of the daily lifestyle, it leaves a wide open door for poking fun. Eating at McDonald’s or buying Nike shoes can easily be discussed when it comes to culture jamming. But when a daily habit occurs that literally drains the pocket and gives you cancer… now we have something. Smoking has been part of societies since 2000BC and was heavily brought into the media’s eye around the early 1900s.

As the years went on, we began to understand the true side effects of smoking, and the hazards they pose on our bodies. Cigarettes are now ‘hidden’ in convenient stores and warnings are placed on the boxes to prevent purchases. However, cigarette sales still continue to boom. This only leads those who care for our bodies to jump on the jamming train. Subjects such as cigarettes are easy targets because they are “aimed at exposing questionable political assumptions behind commercial culture.”[4]  


Funny one by Ron English for sure! But then we see a commercial like this, and it only makes us question how bad it really was back then.


No doubt about it, whether intended or not, ads around smoking have dramatically changed. There are so many spoofs off of anti-smoking commercials that my blog could be listed with videos off of youtube. If you are really interested, check out “funny anti-smoking ads” on YouTube; some of them are pretty good. All in all, what Ian says doesn’t always click right away, but after a bit of research, he makes sense in my books! No questions asked I definitely understand his point of “radically changing the intended message.” Gooooooo culture jamming!  

[1] Dery, Mark. Culture Jamming: Hacking, Slashing and Sniping in the Empire of Signs. 10 Oct. 2004. 25 Nov. 2008 <;.


[2] 3 Kinds of Culture Jamming. WebUrbanist. 25 Nov. 2008 <;.


[3] Lessig, Lawrence. Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity. New York: Penguin (Non-Classics), 2005. 18.


[4] Culture Jamming. CCCE. 25 Nov. 2008 <;.


[5] Flinstones Winston cigarettes commercial. 30 Mar. 2006. YouTube. 25 Nov. 2008 <;.



2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    music4videos said,

    Thank you for this post, culture jamming hadn’t been part of my vocabulary but you sure did make me aware … I really like the Flintstone spot, that’s a great cartoon. Will go to youtube and check the anti smoke clips too …

  2. 2

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