we be (culture) jammin


Confession: It took me longer than usual to read/view the required material for this week because I fell into a deep, lol induced trance.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this week’s material as it’s given me a “backstage pass” to the world of the Internets and the artists/jammers who wield its power to spark cultural change.

I especially enjoyed the Hacking Art and Culture with F.A.T. Lab video as it mingled the worlds of art and digital culture while encouraging consumers to participate by becoming creators.  Using cultural jamming to communicate independent ideas is not only a creative solution to mass media, it’s super effective.

I think of memes as a sleeker, more targeted version of the sit com or popular television personality.  Now, in addition to being able to connect with other fans of Friends, Seinfeld, SNL, or The Daily Show, we may seek out validation for and humor in highly specific interests and daily life events.  I believe this, along with the availability of social media and its power of instant gratification, has led to us recognizing, documenting, and sharing what we previously considered mundane tid bits of our lives.  Burning your tongue on hot coffee is now worth talking about, especially if you can do so in an image-rich, entertaining way.

I think the trick to creating a great meme is to appeal to the consumer’s want for something highly personal and relatable without narrowing your target audience too much.  For example, a meme about advanced mathematics can only go so far because of the limited number of people who are familiar with its visual language while lolcats can explode because, well, everybody knows about cats.

That said, memes are an excellent way of enticing people to educate themselves about culture.  If a friend sends me a meme employing visual rhetoric that I’ve never seen before, I am highly motivated to research the meme so that I can “get it” and enjoy the humor that it promises.  For example, if you are skipping down the yellow brick road of the Internet and you encounter this:

You might just be interested enough to ask a few questions…
What does this image come from?
What is insanity wolf?
Why would the pony in this picture befriend insanity wolf?
Should you search for insanity wolf, you would meet this charming fellow:

A little more research would reveal that the pony in the first image is Fluttershy, a My Little Pony character with a great talent for befriending and caring for animals.  Since you’ve educated yourself, the next time you encounter Fluttershy on the Internet, you will understand exactly what she’s up to.

Culture jamming is a great tool for both artists and educators, for it employs our skills as visual linguists and excites the part of our nature that wants to ask and answer questions.

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