Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Culture Jamming

About a week ago I was in search of good books for required and/or recommended readings for my design students. It happened that while I was searching high and low, I received an email from a student who told me about a great book he was reading and thought it would be great for class. I borrowed a copy.

Culture Jam is an astounding book about our culture and the branding of America. Wikipedia has a great definition of Culture jamming here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_jamming

The book is remarkable. For those of you who are familiar with No Logo or High Tech High Touch, this book combines many subjects which are covered in each of those. However, this book is a very easy read. It is associated with adbusters http://www.adbusters.org/

I have only read about half of the book at this time. It really delves into our society and makes one think about the reasons that we are as we are and why we make the choices we make (if they are, indeed, choices).

It has made me think about our society: most of us work in jobs that we dislike in order to get more money to purchase more things - or to simply maintain our "chosen" lifestyle. However, is it really chosen? We have been inundated with images from media from the moment we were born. We don't know how to appreciate silence - we "need" the hum of a television or music. We have been told that we should like a certain tv show, movie, food because someone else has told us that it is good. Do we really like diamonds, or do we have them because "diamonds are forever?"

We try to make ourselves look like these unattainable people because we are told that we should look a certain way - they are, afterall, what is desirable and beautiful. What does a real person look like? We don't know - because they don't exist. We should all look like a supermodel - even if it means dieting, botox, surgery.... If we don't look like this unattainable beauty our partners will not be happy with us and move on to the newer younger thing.

We have forgotten what real food tastes like, because we are told to shop at the supermarket and get foods which are boosted with chemicals so that they can travel to us in the middle of winter. We eat sugar, fat, and artifical this and that and get fat. We are unhappy - everything is unattainable. We will never have all we want or be all we want.

No wonder so many of us are depressed and on medications. We don't know how to feel. We have lost our innate skills to see, to smell, touch, taste, and feel. Instead, we sit glued to the tube and are told that we want a big steak and that eating that will make us happy. So, we get into our car and drive 30 minutes have a steak and are not happy. We no longer have a community of neighbors - as most of us choose to sit inside our living rooms and watch the tv instead of visiting with friends and neighbors. We do not havea neighborhood market - instead we have to pack in the car and travel for our groceries. We have lost our society.

Jonathan and I often talk about our bodies and what we are meant to do. We are meant to use our bodies (not sit around watching tv), meant to eat when we are hungry (not when the clock dictates), meant to drink water (not soda), etc.

I think choosing not to purchase for a year has made me sit back and take a look at what the media has told me that I "need" and I am starting to realize how the corporations have been dictating that to me. I much prefer my simpler life. I am choosing what to wear (I don't care if pencil thin pants are back "in"), I am tasting food again, I love the sound of the breeze. I never have suffered from depression, however, I feel that I am becoming more intuned with myself and my environment.

I know that I have stated that not purchasing is liberating, but now I also see that in choosing my new path I am living.


Jane Kathryn Kolles said...

I read Culture Jam about 5 years ago. I admit I was not ready for all of its principles and theories. My heart was ready, but my actions were out of alignment. It is something I had to grow into — the radical turning away from our consumer culture. Perhaps I was planting the seed then. Now it is blooming and my actions are more in alignment...I say more because I know there is more I could do. I think that is how it works.

emme said...

I think you would like Design Anarchy. Same author. It is designed like a sketch book with images, text...

I read No Logo about 5 years ago and was certainly not ready for change then. I think I needed something more - a way and a reason to make a change.

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