Tactical Media, Culture Jamming, and Adbusters… oh my!

“World War III will be a guerrilla information war, with no division between military and civilian participation.” – Marshall McLuhan

So much of our lives are experienced through mediated communications,  in light of this, I wanted to bring up another aspect of Tactical Media.  While de Certeau emphasized one’s physical decisions as tactical and individualistic within or in-contra-to larger organized urban systems and institutional structures, I, instead, wanted to address the tactical frontier of telecommunications and broadcasting.  In this field, the same power relationship exists.  Systems of information and communications are likewise controlled and structured by those who define, create, maintain and survey those systems and networks –  a collection of businesses, military interests and governmental agencies.  These information systems represent the controlling interests at play and demonstrate the information structures that are re-enforced as normative pathways (in keeping with de Certeau cityscape metaphor).

Now, consider that advertisements proliferate via telecommunications; ads use the means of telecommunications to reach a wide public.  Ads are intended to sell something; they are intended to induce the public into the consumption of a particular commodity.  Advertising space, forms, and systems are, therefore, designed to benefit businesses.  Likewise, television broadcasters essentially construct a commercially structured media-scape.  For example, television programs are businesses; the watching of them equates to commercial consumption punctuated by ads that support the consumption of other types of commodities.  The television broadcasting structure is designed to protect and to support businesses.  This is business as usual.

However and moreover, those who do not control the information systems and telecommunication networks represent those must engage with these structures tactically.  These individuals must subvert the intended use or structure of these forms of communications to voice individualistic perspectives that go against the grain of the power structures.  These subversive communication uses or forms are tactical media of an informational variety.

Reflecting this situation,  consider the Culture Jammer’s Manifesto:

“We will take on the archetypal mind polluters and beat them at their own game.

We will uncool their billion-dollar brands with uncommericals on TV, subvertisements in magazines and anti-ads right next to theirs in the urban landscape.

We will seize control of the roles and functions that corporations play in our lives and set new agendas in their industries.

We will jam the pop-culture marketeers and bring their image factory to a sudden, shuddering halt.

On the rubble of the old culture, we will build a new one with a non-commercial heart and soul.”  (Lasn, Culture Jam, p. 128)

Some culture jammers also banded together to create:  https://www.adbusters.org/

As they describe themselves on their website, the Adbusters ” are a global network of culture jammers and creatives working to change the way information flows, the way corporations wield power, and the way meaning is produced in our society.”

These ideas of tactical media are wonderfully presented by Kalle Lasn in Culture Jam: The Uncooling of America(tm), New York: Eagle Brook, 1999.  In 1989, Lasn was essential to the development of culture jamming as a cultural form in the vein of the Situationists International and tactical media.  The book Culture Jam provides many examples of tactical media both as an artistic practice or activity (i.e. an artistic medium) and as media projects or objects (i.e. projects produced for our media culture – informational or communications objects).  Likewise, an internet or YouTube search will provide you will great thoughtful examples as well.

This short video explains what is possible:

Ultimately, tactical advertisements are media campaigns with a tactical stance.  They work against the controlling interests and provide an alternative voice against the dominating structure of telecommunications and “business as usual.”

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