Article by: Matt Soar
Pages 210 - 212


What is culture jamming?
To answer this question, one might look to the article by Matt Soar, but unfortunately the definition does not lie within. Instead, one finds a rather short and confusing piece about the politics of utilizing advertisements to make a political statement. Which seems to be exactly what Soar was going for.

Following Soar’s logic, we start with a bit of background – while we no longer obtain the majority of our information from informal sources around a campfire, we still obtain them from biased sources through the media. Enter culture jamming. Somehow seen to address the sociopolitical issues the media has constructed in our lives, culture jamming utilizes the rhetoric of anti-authoritarian subcultures in order to make a poignant political critique of modern society.

external image Adbusters_ID_by_Adbusters.jpg
It just so happens that this sort of media has turned into a fantastic advertisement strategy. Adbusters magazine, published by the Vancouver based Media Foundation, is presented as having capitalized on this trend of adapting anti-authoritarian rhetoric in advertisements and events that otherwise hold little political meaning.

Soar somewhat openly condemns this, and cites a few other authors and their own negativity toward this sort of utilization. They stand by the potential that media and advertising has to make a powerful critical political statement, but explicitly state that simply utilizing the rhetoric of these subcultures without an understanding of the political and historical context within which they were created is a poor substitute for the real thing. Soar sums it up best, saying “An historically informed, critical politics doesn't need culture jamming to be effective, but the reverse will never be true.” [1]


Kalle Lasn, editor of Adbusters, is a strong advocate for culture jamming and detests standard social movements that Soar believes accomplish much more than Adbusters could. Lasn pushes for other designers to join his culture jamming "revolution". However, other designers view his "revolution" as "high on graphic polish and bravado and low on intellectual substance."[2]Adbusters has even influenced companies, such as Nike, to make sales off of culture jamming by creating "pre-jammed" ads. Lasn's agenda has become counterproductive and diminished the possibilities of culture jamming becoming an adept political force.


Though this article can be a bit confusing, it's message is very important: the digital media that we create not only can be rhetorically significant, but should be. Graphics and media can convey as strong of an argument as an article but only if it is built off of a solid foundation. We cannot be ignorant of the rhetoric we utilize to convey a point.


  • Soar, Matt (2003). "Culture Jamming, or Something Like It", Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne, Citizen Designer

  1. ^ Soar 2003, p. 212
  2. ^ Soar 2003, p. 211