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OurSpace

Resisting the Corporate Control of Culture

2009
Author:

Christine Harold

OurSpace

Culture jamming is so twentieth century! What’s next?

In OurSpace, Christine Harold examines the deployment and limitations of “culture jamming” by activists. For Harold, it is a different type of opposition that offers a genuine alternative to corporate consumerism. Exploring the revolutionary Creative Commons movement, copyleft, and open source technology, Harold advocates a more inclusive approach to intellectual property that invites innovation and wider participation in the creative process.

This book deftly navigates the borders between markets and publics. And it offers us strategies of survival in and resistance to the increasingly corporatized digital realm.

Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash Between Freedom and Control is Hacking the Real World and Crashing the System

When reporters asked about the Bush administration’s timing in making their case for the Iraq war, then Chief of Staff Andrew Card responded that “from a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” While surprising only in its candor, this statement signified the extent to which consumer culture has pervaded every aspect of life. For those troubled by the long reach of the marketplace, resistance can seem futile. However, a new generation of progressive activists has begun to combat the media supremacy of multinational corporations by using the very tools and techniques employed by their adversaries.

In OurSpace, Christine Harold examines the deployment and limitations of “culture jamming” by activists. These techniques defy repressive corporate culture through parodies, hoaxes, and pranks. Among the examples of sabotage she analyzes are the magazine Adbusters’s spoofs of familiar ads and the Yes Men’s impersonations of company spokespersons.

While these strategies are appealing, Harold argues that they are severely limited in their ability to challenge capitalism. Indeed, many of these tactics have already been appropriated by corporate marketers to create an aura of authenticity and to sell even more products. For Harold, it is a different type of opposition that offers a genuine alternative to corporate consumerism. Exploring the revolutionary Creative Commons movement, copyleft, and open source technology, she advocates a more inclusive approach to intellectual property that invites innovation and wider participation in the creative process.

From switching the digital voice boxes of Barbie dolls and G.I. Joe action figures to inserting the silhouetted image of Abu Ghraib’s iconic hooded and wired victim into Apple’s iPod ads, high-profile instances of anticorporate activism over the past decade have challenged, but not toppled, corporate media domination. OurSpace makes the case for a provocative new approach by co-opting the logic of capitalism itself.

OurSpace

Christine Harold is assistant professor of speech communication at the University of Georgia.

OurSpace

This book deftly navigates the borders between markets and publics. And it offers us strategies of survival in and resistance to the increasingly corporatized digital realm.

Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash Between Freedom and Control is Hacking the Real World and Crashing the System

Readers interested in the effect of the media environment on our lives will appreciate OurSpace, a critical examination of the public discourse surrounding the influence of multinational corporations, marketing, and branding.

Portland Mercury

OurSpace is a handy how-to primer, with illustrations, on subversion tactics and culture-jamming that is a must-read for anyone with an anti-establishment itch to scratch, a sense of humor, and no clue what the etymology of the word ‘detournement’ is.

Baltimore City Paper

A follow-up to the bible of brand resistance, Naomi Klein’s No Logo, Harold’s book is an academic survey of and intense meditation on the efficacy of current culture jams. She explores the limitations of sabotage, the role of parody and models of success. Adbusters, Barbie Liberation Organization, Yes Men are all placed under her scrutiny. I was familiar with all of the above, but OurSpace led me also into new territory.

Jim Poyser, NUVO

The commercialization of public life, civic culture, and even child-rearing has become a major focus for radical critique as freedom seems to narrow to life-style choices. Christine Harold critiques the strategies of resistance developed so far, whether they be those seeking state intervention or anarchist-style pranking and pirating appropriation of the tools of the manipulators of mass cultures.

Tikkun

Harold presents a sophisticated rhetorical analysis of countercultural communication. Offering many interesting, entertaining examples, she explores and evaluates the strategies and tactics these communicators use to subvert the dominant commercial and political voices and reach audiences. Highly recommended.

Choice

From guerilla protesters who throw pies in the faces of prominent figures in the international sociopolitical community to people who create gender reassignment by switching the voice boxes in talking G.I. Joe and Barbie dolls, Harold provides a good overview of the world today and what citizens are doing to create a space free of corporate control.

Conscious Choice

For anyone interested in the Creative Commons movement, the history of culture jamming, or civic politics and the creation and definition of publics, OurSpace is a must.

Steel Bananas

OurSpace offers a comprehensive and insightful discussion of many recent social movements that have emerged in struggles around information and communication issues.

Museum Anthropology Review