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  • Corrina Chaos Espinosa

Hactivism, Retail Poisoning & Culture Jamming...


What is hacktivism? If you google Hactivism or hacktivist, this is the short answer that you will get: These definitions are equally concise and broad enough to encompass the practice (of hacktivism) without restricting its vast perimeters. However, I will say that hacktivism goes well beyond the realm of computers and into the real world, and it can have a significant impact on the public.

One of the most well known examples of hacktivists are the Yes Men, "a culture jamming activist duo and network of supporters created by Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos." They use tactical media as an art practice, but more importantly as a tool for political, social and cultural change. The Yes Men's main goal is to bring attention and and make people more aware of social and political problems and corruptions. In order to accomplish this goal, they use performance as a medium to impersonate people who they perceive to be harmful or who participate in morally questionable behavior. Specifically, the Yes Men target corporate leaders and government figures who they perceive to act in "dehumanizing ways toward the public". They have come to call these performances "identity corrections". "The Yes Men operate under the mission statement that lies can expose truth."

"EAT SHIT AND LIVE" this is a cut from the first YES MEN documentary of a performance

The whole process begins with the creation of parody websites intentionally similar to the sites getting spoofed. The sites are similar enough to attract emails requesting interviews, offers to speak at conferences, and even on television. The video posted above is a scene from the first Yes Men movie. Through the entire performance the actors never break character and by the end of the whole ridiculous presentation, the students are literally booing and throwing things at them. Everything went exactly as planned because the Yes Men made their impact.

The Yes Men have collaborated with other groups of similar interest, including Improv Everywhere, Andrew Boyd and Steve Lambert. In the video posted above we see an example of "retail poisoning." Retail poisoning is similar to hacktivism, but it's specific task is to disrupt consumerism. Improv Everywhere does exactly that with this community performance that flips an average day at Best Buy into a disruption of mass confusion and frustration (on the part of Best Buy) that is nothing less than hilarious and exciting! A collection of retail poisoning based works appear on a tumblr, and consist of videos, recorded performances, sculptures pranks and other creative ways of disrupting the retail portion of corporate capitalism. Below are a few more examples:

Evan Roth, Available Online for Free stickers:

Jeff Wysaski's altered pet store labels:

Jeff Wysaski's altered book covers (changed and replaced on bookstore shelves)

Culture Jamming

Similar to retail poisoning, Culture Jamming aims to disrupt, but in this practice it's the media and corporations and institutions of mainstream culture and advertisements that falls victim. Here are some specific examples of culture jamming projects put out by various groups:

An example of billboard altered by the Billboard Liberation Front. Post Hurricane Katrina.

more examples:

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