CULTURE JAMMING 101
The tactics & techniques
of creative action
Artful Activism : Creative Strategies for Social Change
Gallatin School, NYU, Spring 2004
Wednesdays, 3:30 - 6:10pm, 194 Mercer Street, Room 207
Professor: Andrew Boyd
718/768-4110 + 646/234-3990 + andrew at wanderbody dot com
Office hours: wed, 12-2, room 815
Is culture the new politics? Where is the line between art and propaganda?
How can we adapt artistic strategies to support political action and education?
We will take on these questions through a hands-on exploration of creative
activism and aesthetically-savvy political action. In the classroom we
will survey a wide range of forms including culture jamming, media stunts,
guerrilla theater and on-line viral campaigns. Case studies will be drawn
from ACT-UP, Guerrilla Girls, Abbie Hoffman, RTMark, MoveOn.org, etc.,
as well as from my own work (Billionaires for Bush, etc.). Selected readings
from Dery, Klein, Lacy, Rushkoff, and others will provide background in
the history, theory, and methods of creative activism. Outside class,
working in small teams, and armed with a "toolbox" of creative
tactics and techniques, students will collaborate with a grass-roots campaign
to design and implement artful activist projects of their own invention.
The class will make use of alternative formats, including film, slideshow,
case study analysis, guest presenters, hands-on experimentation, and project
Content: Gain a broad exposure to the history, theory, sources, and current
practice of creative activism.
Practice: By briefly experimenting with several forms and deeply exploring
one, develop the capacity and confidence to design and carry out your
own activist/art projects.
Intangibles: Come further into your own power and imaginations—as
citizens, critical thinkers and artists -- and, um, have fun.
1) Attendance, diligent reading, and active participation in all class
2) Several short written & hands-on assignments during the semester.
3) Completion of a final group project & short evaluation paper.
Students' final grades will be based on the following:
30% class participation
30% response papers & miscellaneous assignments
40% project work
Class participation will be judged by level of preparation, engagement
during class time, and generosity to other students.
Final projects will be judged by all aspects of their creation—both
process and product. Did the group think things through in the early stages—did
they plan, design and redesign well? Did the group set up an effective
process—did they care and learn from each other? Did the project
succeed on its own terms?—according to the group's own stated goals?
Did the group do the necessary risk-taking, follow-through and evaluation
to learn all that the project had to offer them?
1. Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky, Vintage Books, New York, 1971, ISBN:
2. Activist Cookbook, Andrew Boyd, United for a Fair Economy, Boston,
3. Radical Street Performance: An International Anthology, Jan Cohen-Cruz,
Ed., Routledge, London & New York, 1998. ISBN: 0415152313.
4. Cultural Resistance Reader, Stephen Duncombe, Ed., Verso, London/New
York, 2002. ISBN: 1859843794.
5. Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, Al Franken, Dutton, New York,
2003. ISBN: 0-525-94764-7.
6. Media Virus!: Hidden Agendas in Popular Culture, Douglas Rushkoff,
Ballantine, New York, 1994, 1996. ISBN: 0345397746.
1. Main Course Pack.
2. A xeroxed version of the out of print.But is it Art?: the Spirit of
Art as Activism, Nina Felshin, Ed., Bay Press, Seattle, 1995. ISBN: 0941920291.
Except for Boyd’s Activist Cookbook, all books are available at
Bluestockings Bookstore. (Bluestockings is a radical bookstore, fair trade
café, and activist center in the Lower East Side of Manhattan at
172 Allen Street, just one block south of Houston, and the F train 1st
The xeroxed course packs are available at the cheapest copy shop in town:
Advanced Copy Center, 552 Laguardia St., 212/388-1001.
[c] = coursepack
[CRR] = Cultural Resistance Reader, Steve Duncombe
[Felshin] = But is it Art?, Ed. Nina Felshin
[Cruz] = Radical Street Performance, Jan Cohen Cruz
Get acquainted, define goals, discuss structure of course.
Introduce the two campaigns in which we will do our project work : Billionaires
for Bush, and the effort by NYU adjunct faculty to secure a just contract.
Tease out core questions. Fill out questionnaires.
ASSIGN: Create your own Billionaires for Bush persona.
NO CLASS. INSTRUCTOR MIA.
1. Franken, selections [see handout]
2. Billionaires for Bush website and hand-outs.
DUE (in my box): One-page response paper to Franken & Billionaires
INSTEAD COME TO :
January 31 (Saturday)
BILLIONAIRES FOR BUSH CAMPAIGN KICK-OFF PARTY
Of Truth & Lies and Means & Ends
1. Alinksy, prologue, 3-47
2. Hazen, A 12-Step Program for Regime Change [c]
3. Farber, The Four-Fold Path to Student Liberation [c]
4. Kaufman, A Short History of Radical Renewal [c]
Survey of Artful Activism
CASE STUDY: Boston Tea Party Redux
1. Felshin, Introduction [Felshin, 1-34]
2. Alinsky, 72-97
3. Boyd, Activist Cookbok, 1-17 & selections
4. Rubin, Do It!, [CRR, 330-332]
5. Boal, Invisible Theater [Cruz, chap 15]
6. Piper, Xenophobia and the Indexical Present [Cruz, chap 16]
7. Durland, Witness: The Guerrilla Theater of Greenpeace [Cruz, chap 8]
8. Boyd, Activist Cookbok, 18-25
Media & Media Viruses; Memes & SmartMemes
Jonah Paretti’s Nike Sneaker Virus
1. Boyd, Truth is a Virus [CRR, 369-378]
2. Rushkoff, 1-42 & Afterword
3. Reinsborough, Direct Action at the Point of Assumption [c]
4. Gladwell, Introduction, The Tipping Point [c]
5. Lasn, Meme Wars [c]
6. Branwyn, chap 1, The New Media Hackers [c]
7. Klein, chapter 16, A Tale of Three Logos [c]
8. handout, Cultural Creatives [c]
Bring in a virus.
Culture Jamming and its Discontents
GUEST: Carrie McLaren of Stay Free Magazine
WATCH: selections from Sonic Outlaws
1. Dery, Culture Jamming [c]
2. Klein, chapter 12, Culture Jamming [c]
3. Lasn, Culture Jam, p. xi-xvii; 100-109; 128 [c]
Social Networks & Digital Activism
GUEST: Eli Pariser of MoveOn.org (unconfirmed)
CASE STUDY: MoveOn.org
1. Boyd, The Web Re-Wires the Movement [c]
2. Arquilla & Ronfeldt, The Advent of Netwar [c]
3. Klein, The Vision Thing [c]
4. Rheingold, Smart Mobs—Introduction [c]
Posters & Propaganda
GUEST: Gene Case of Avenging Angels (unconfirmed)
CASE STUDY: Gran Fury & ACT UP
1. Meyer, Grand Fury and the Graphics of AIDS Activism, [Felshin, chap.
2. Hess, Guerrilla Girl Power, [Felshin, chapter 11]
The Art of the Prank
GUEST: “Andreas Bichelbaum” of RTMark (unconfirmed)
CASE STUDY: Abbie Hoffman & RTMark
1. Pranks!, Introduction & chapters on Hoffman & Skaggs [c]
2. Rushkoff, chapter 9
3. Branwyn, Media Pranks and Art Hacks [c]
4. Nisker, Crazy Wisdom, chapter 7 [c]
Humor: "Redicule is our most potent weapon"
GUEST: Todd Hanson of The Onion (unconfirmed)
CASE STUDIES: The Onion, The Daily Show
1. Friend, What's So Funny? [c]
2. Peyser, Red, White & Funny [c]
3. Eco, “I Love You Madly,” He Said Self-Consciously [c]
4. (other readings, TBA)
5. Nisker, Crazy Wisdom, chapters 1 & 2 [c]
Tactics & Tactical Media
GUEST: Ricardo Dominguez of EDT & CAE (unconfirmed)
CASE STUDY: Electronic Disturbance Theater & Critical Art Ensemble
1. Dominguez, Electronic Disturbance [CRR, 379-396]
2. Alinsky, 126-148; 158-164
3. Bogad, Electoral Guerrilla Theater in Australia [c]
4. Klein, chapter 16, A Tale of Three Logos [c]
5. Rushkoff, chapter 7
Reinventing Protest: The Extreme Costume Ball
CASE STUDY: RTS & WAC & Critical Mass
1. Jordan, The Art of Necessity, [CRR, 347-357]
2. Bey, Temporary Autonomous Zone, [CRR, 113-117]
3. Monbiot, Raising the Temperature [c]
4. Boyd, Extreme Costume Ball [c]
5. Essoglou, Louder than Words: A WAC Chronicle, [Felshin, chapter 12]
6. Schechner, The Street is the Stage [Cruz, chapter 25]
7. Bell, Louder than Traffic [Cruz, chap 33]
Does the Truth Matter?
1. Duncombe & Boyd, The Manufacture of Dissent [c]
2. Rorty, Ironists and Metaphysicians [c]
3. Boyd, Save Western Civilization Now—Ask Me How [c]
4. Boyd, Life’s Little Deconstruction Book
5. Franken, What is a Lie? [Franken, chapter 43]
But Is It Art?
1. Kelly, The Body Politics of Suzanne Lacy [felshin, chap 8]
2. Lacy, Debated Territory: Towards a Critical Language for Public Art
3. Kalb, The Gospel According to Billy [c]
4. (other readings, TBA)
5. Felshin, Introduction [Felshin, 1-34] (Reread)
Project Presentations. Party.
DUE: Final Papers & Project Evaluations