Culture jamming – creatively subverting and challenging corporate advertising and mainstream media messages - uses fake adverts, hoax news stories, hacking and the spreading of disinformation as tactics.
Subvertisments – clever subversions of advertisements – are a popular form of culture jamming. Princess Hijab, for example, has made a name for herself drawing black hijabs on models in advertising images in the Paris metro. Subvertisements of famous brands like Diesel, Calvin Klein and Nike are published in the culture-jamming Adbusters magazine.
US: Stamping dollar bills
China: mythical creature takes on censorship.
In China, internet users found a creative way to not only get around internet censorship and talk about forbidden topics, but to publicly ridicule this censorship at the same time.
In Chinese, the word 'grass-mud horse' (cáo ni ma) sounds nearly the same as a dirty insult. The grass mud horse was created as an online character to ridicule Chinese government censorship -- a system which searches the internet for any words deemed 'vulgar' or politically inflammatory, and then blocks that content. The grass-mud horse gets through the censors because the written word itself is very innocent. As a symbol, the grass mud horse has appeared in a number of online videos, animations, songs, art and poetry.
In the music video 'The Song of the Grass-Mud Horse', the grass-mud horse fights the 'river crab' (a word which in Chinese sounds very similar to the word for 'harmonious society', the term used by then-president Hu Jintao to describe the reasoning behind censorship), and wins. As one blogger told Wired magazine, “The grass-mud horse (草泥马) represents information and opinions that cannot be accepted by the mainstream discourse, and 'The Song of the Grass-Mud Horse' has become a metaphor of the power struggle over Internet expression.
Ironic Tumblr blogs, spoof news sites, fake websites and video games
Mockery, irony and absurdity are great ways to express dissent and undermine power.
South African spoof news site ZA News makes fun of current affairs, using humour to expose the often absurd nature of official news.
Molleindustria creates games revealing the dark side of the institutions and industries on which technology relies.
Spoof websites can hit hard: for example the fake Assad Foundation website, actually a scathing critique of the atrocities of the Syrian regime, and Lukashenko's Lu-Net, a group of websites created by Belarusian activists in mock honour of President Alexander Lukashenko after he promised to increase internet censorship.
Video remixing can be a creative and less time-intensive way around limited video resources. Using existing footage found on the Internet, plus some editing software, a video remix has the potential to spread virally and reach a large audience. Zenga Zenga, for example, mashed up footage of a Muammar Gaddafi speech with hip-hop beats. A Fair(y) Use Tale spliced together clips from Disney films to illustrate the ridiculousness of certain copyright principles. For more examples, check out our hands-on workthrough on Creating a Video Remix or a Mashup.
Zenga Zenga's mash up of a Muammar Gaddafi speech with hip-hop beats
- Beautiful Trouble is an excellent compilation of tools and examples for the creative activist, available both as a book and online.
- Actipedia, a joint project of the Center for Artistic Activism and the Yes Lab, is an open-access, user-generated database of creative activism.
- The Department of Media at the Coventry School of Art and Design have created an entire course around Creative Activism called An Open Class in Creativity for Social and Cultural Change. All the course materials and examples are offered for free on their comprehensive website.
- There are also a number of relevant case studies in the Explore Tactics section on the website of New Tactics for Human Rights.