Jacking the Semaphores: Making New Sense of Cultural Pollution

0 Posted by - April 16, 2007 - Blog

Feeling a little semiotic overload? Advertising imagery and political propaganda spreading in your brain like rust? The folks at subvertr want to give you a chance to fight back. In this Roland Barthes inspired project, the online community is invited to subvert the semiotic power of the images that dominate our cultural landscapes.

The project is based on the observation that our cultural systems are not created by the whole community, but rather are defined by a much smaller “semiotic elite” within processes based on marketing and the desire for profit. The idea is to take these symbols and reassign them new meaning, to invert the traditional one-way relationship of symbol-consuming to symbol-creative. The hope is that this inversion will allow users to create new cultural contexts for well-known symbols and to “regain” symbols that belong to the “collective media imaginary”.

My experience at the site was hit and miss – seemed like a lot of search tags that I tried drew blanks (i.e. consumerism, patriarchy, copyright), and not all of the images make the kind of semiotic leaps that might give an unsuspecting Lilliputin shivers.

A picture of the Pope on a book about fellatio is pretty powerful, as was the “Intifada” coca-cola sign. The potential, however, for a collaboratively created database of culture jamming imagery to be shared and spread around the net – now that gives this Lilliputin shivers… check it out. Invert the semiotic tyranny!

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