Culture Jamming, or sniggling, is the act of using existing mass media to comment on those very media themselves, using the original medium's communication method. It is based on the idea that advertising is little more than propaganda for established interests, and that there is little escape from this propaganda in industrialized nations. Culture jamming differs from artistic appropriation (which is done for art's sake), and from vandalism where destruction or defacement is the primary goal.
The word, "culture jamming" comes from the idea of radio jamming: that public frequencies can be pirated and subverted for independent communication, or to disrupt dominant frequencies. The Situationist International first made the comparison to radio jamming in 1968, when it proposed the use of guerrilla communication within mass media to disseminate confusion within hegemonic cultural discourse.
Culture jamming is a form of activism and a resistance movement to the hegemony of popular culture, based on the ideas of "guerrilla communication" and the "detournement" of popular icons and ideas. It has roots in the German concept of spass guerilla, and the Situationist International. Forms of culture jamming include adbusting, performance art, graffiti art and hacktivism (notably cyber squatting).
Examples of Culture Jamming:
- Billboard modifications, done in the style of the original billboard.
- The appropriation of corporate logos for evangelical purposes. Christian groups have appropriated the 'Cover The Earth' logo of the Sherwin-Williams paint company, and modified the Coca-Cola trademark to read, 'Jesus, he's the real thing.'
- Modifying slogans to create political statements. For example "Just do it... or else!" was used as a modified slogan to comment on Nike's alleged sweat shop practices.
- The band Negativland's Dispepsi album, in which recordings related in some way to soft drinks are used to comment (in a negative way) on the beverage industry and its marketing practices.