The Whirl-Mart Virtual Resistance was founded by the Breathing Planet Troupe in 2001. According to the Breathing Planet Troupe’s website, the project is a participatory experiment that raises consciousness about the media and buying power. With this activity, participants enter a major shopping centre and silently push empty carts up and down the aisles. In doing this, participants generate awareness about over-consumption, and show media conglomerates that citizens want to take back the space currently occupied by consumerist ideology. This culture jamming activity is very effective in demonstrating the negative impacts of consumerism, because it is easily and efficiently displayed to customers who shop in the stores where demonstrations take place. What does this say about our culture? This method of culture jamming shows us that we want to see changes in a media saturated society. We want to see fewer citizens being manipulated by brand names while shopping for the newest product. Citizens want to become self-sufficient without relying on the media as a source of information and contentment.
In her essay “Pranking Rhetoric: ‘culture jamming’ as media activism,” Christine Harold discusses the idea of using pranks to interfere with the transmission of the media. Harold describes culture jamming as an “artful proliferation of messages, a rhetorical process of intervention and invention, which challenges the ability of corporate discourses to make meaning in predictable ways” (Harold 192). I agree with this statement, as I think clever ways to bring about change in the media are required to increase knowledge about its overbearing nature. Harold clearly articulates her point of view by using specific examples of culture jamming and pranking. In regards to Whirl-Mart, the activity is successful because it displays an intervention through a unique mode of peaceful protest. Whirl-Mart challenges the ability of corporate discourses to alter and influence our buying habits, and according to Harold, this is a valuable display of culture jamming.
Harold also discusses the limitations of Adbusters, which is a major contributor to culture jamming. She states that because Adbusters relies on parody, marketers accept the project and turn it into a more corporate activity than independent organization. Based on this, Whirl-Mart is more useful because it does not seek to prank, humiliate, or spoof a company. Instead, it non-violently demonstrates the role of consumerism in our culture. This makes the activity completely untainted by corporate desire, and worthy of a citizen’s attention.
It is clear that culture jamming plays a crucial role in a fight to limit the influence of the media in our culture. Specifically, the work of the Whirl-Mart project has helped to raise awareness about consumerism, and encourages consumers to participate by taking up space within store aisles and replacing it with conscious citizens. Considering this, it is obvious that if we initiate more culture jamming projects, we can begin to demolish the power the media exhibits on our everyday lives.
Harold, Christine. “Pranking Rhetoric: ‘culture jamming’ as media activism.” Critical Studies in Media Communication. 21.3 (2004): 189- 211. 17 Nov. 2009. <http://pdfserve.informaworld.com.subzero.lib.uoguelph.ca/308458_770885140_713696057.pdf>.
“Whirl-Mart Virtual Resistance.” n.d. Breathing Planet Troupe. 17 Nov. 2009. <http://www.breathingplanet.net/whirl/>.