August 1, 2002, Episode Thirteen: The Queue: Culture Jamming Books
If you are a regular listener of First Person Plural, you know that at the end of our show each week, we direct you to our website called "Cultural Construction Company." While this might sound like the name of a business, it is not. It is simply a website, a space we've carved out on-line to think about some issues that are important to us. The website links to personal and professional pursuits and it will continue to grow in those directions. We have designed the site this way on purpose because we believe that the ways most people divide their lives into such compartments as "family," "friends," "business," and "profession" can be misleading. Life ain't that neat. Life is fuzzy, blurry, overlapping. Cultural Construction Company is meant to reflect that fuzziness.
While the site has blurred boundaries, it is not without a central theme or value. Through Cultural Construction Company we are concerned with Culture. We don't define culture, but we do reflect upon the ways in which culture intrudes into our lives and the ways in which we contribute to the culture around us. Oh, yeah, and we try to find ways to create culture on purpose. Say for instance, by producing a radio show. Why be concerned about culture? Because we have become convinced that culture is the place where power is shaped and challenged. We are no only confident that simply protesting a cause, casting a vote, expressing an opinion or changing a law will be enough to facilitate real change in a world that is at once locally centred and globally influenced. Even when laws are obeyed, only a change in our shared values will ensure an ongoing growth towards a world
The Queue (below) is a list of 10 books that have influenced our development of the Cultural Construction Company project. We are particularly interested in Culture Jamming. Have your read anything lately that you think will add to a better understanding of culture and how to change our shared values to reflect a more open, creative and humane way of life? Maybe it's just a book about fun things to do that offer an alternative to the oligarchy.
If you'd like to contribute a book recommendation to the
Cultural Construction Company Book Club, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or
fill out the form provided.
THE CULTURAL CONSTRUCTION COMPANY BOOK CLUB QUEUE
No project is without an influence and our influences include books. Yes, we are outing ourselves as “readers.” What better way to present our ideas than to share with you those sources that helped shaped them. In the next few minutes, we will share with our top ten “Cultural Studies” reads. Editor Stephen Duncombe divides the essays and excerpts in his Cultural Resistance Reader into several sections. One of them is entitled “A Politics That Doesn’t Look Like Politics.” These books fit that description. There are some differences among these books, but they have one thing in common – they are concerned with combating the onslaught of commercial interests that shape contemporary culture. So grab your pencil and paper to write down titles and authors. Or better yet, visit our website, http://culturalconstructioncompany.com to find The Queue.
1. Introducing Cultural Studies, written by Ziauddin Sardar, illustrated by Borin Van Loon.
Published in the UK by Icon Books, in the US by Totem Books, and by who-knows-whom in Canada, the “Introducing . . .” series surveys a number of heady topics in a lavishly-illustrated format. Readers wanting light but not insubstantial overviews of such topics as postfeminism, postmodernism, and semiotics will find them herein. The book tends to be written from a British point-of-view, but for North Americans that can be enlightening.
2. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde.
Lord is quoted often by cultural critics and cultural activists. Her articulate outline of how poetry, the personal and politics meld together into subversion of dominant paradigms was most eloquent in this collection of lectures and essays.
3. No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies by Naomi Klein.
Klein exposes the new face of corporatism. There exists an elite that seeks to control the ways and means of symbolic communication itself. Their modus operandi is introduction and promotion of commercial symbols meant to supersede all other content and all other uses of media and communications spaces. Familiar archetypes of anticorporate texts are present, including consumers being trained to purchase whatever they are told and sweatshops whose workers have no access to remedy when their employers treat them arbitrarily, but Klein’s twist on the subject is the pursuit by multinationals of strategies designed to impose their trademarks and other proprietary snippets onto culture itself and indeed to have overriding considerations attributed to such “intellectual property.” Counterefforts have already begun, and Klein notes many of them and their assessments of the practical nuances of corporate branding strategy. The “resistance” is well aware of the implications of paid speech taking precedence over free speech.
4. The McDonaldization of Society by George Ritzer.
Ritzer is arguably the most accessible sociologist. Almost every sociology student in North America has been assigned his comprehensive theory survey and so it is no surprise that Rizter knows social theory. What is surprising is that he can take that social theory and make it readable by relating it to the problems of everyday life such as the ways in which McDonald’s philosophy has invaded other cultures and other realms of North American culture.
This collection of essays looks at the concept of “whiteness” from a number of different angles relating to class. Since whiteness is often equated with wealth and non-white equated with poverty, this reader breaks down both race and class, by marking both in ways not usually done in sociological circles. And well, it does so with humour as well as wit.
6. Commodify Your Dissent: The Business of Culture in the New Gilded Age Edited by Thomas Frank and Matt Weiland.
This collection of reprints from The Baffler is an irreverent look at business and culture. Aptly describing their essays as “salvos,” they take shots at much of the commodification of culture with hits designed to sink.
7. The Onion Presents Our Dumb Century: 100 Years of Headlines from America’s Finest News Source edited by Scott Dikkers.
In a society that has tried very hard to make a joke of the media, a joke media source can be valuable. Dikkers and his staff have created a book of retroactive, verisimilitudinous Page Ones for their famous parody periodical. The work echoes the similar but serious New York Times end-of-the-20th-century volume.
8. The Bust Guide to the New Girl Order edited by Marcelle Karp and Debbie Stroller.
What separates the women from the girls? Boobs, no doubt. Karp and Stoller were an important part of the ‘zine revolution in the early 1990s and this book has the best of breasts. This project is a great example of what has been called “new feminism.”
9. The Happy Mutant Handbook: Mischievous Fun for Higher Primates edited by Frauenfelder et. al.
So you’re one of those creative people and you’re trapped on Earth with a bunch of Organization Men and perpetually depressed artsy types. Despair not: there is another lifestyle option at your disposal. The editors of bOING bOING, a ‘zine of no fixed paradigm, provide tidbits on “culture jamming” (crediting the band Negativland with coining the term), advanced techniques in prank phone calling, the Reverend Ivan Stang of the Church of the Subgenius (praise to Bob), using computers to all sorts of aesthetically scary ends, and even the Happy Mutant Hall of Fame, featuring, among others, William M. Gaines, the late publisher of Mad magazine.
10. Fat!So?: Because You Don’t Have to Apologize for Your Size by Marilyn Wann.
The most fun to be had reading, Wann takes on the diet and fitness industry, the fashion industry and the medical establishment with excerpts from her ‘zine put together in a cohesive book. Because fat-hatred is so deeply entrenched in our culture, this book necessarily culture jams, including fat trading cards and a beautiful Venus of Willendorf paper doll complete with clothes that fit.
copyright by Pattie Thomas and Carl Wilkerson 2002
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