Consumer Politics

Consumer Politics

Culture Jamming and Meme-based Communication

Culture jamming is the act of reorganizing media, via acts like billboard or a magazine advertisement alteration, in a way that gives new meaning to the images – a meaning that carries a political message or social commentary on the product, brand, or corporation doing the advertising. Three members of a Center for Communication and Civic Engagement working group on communication and global activism traveled to Vancouver, Canada, on April 19, 2002, to interview Kalle Lasn, editor of Adbusters magazine, co-founder of the Media Foundation, and author of Culture Jam: How to Reverse America’s Suicidal Consumer Binge - and why we must (New York: Quill, 2000).

Activist Campaigns

One of the core activities of CCCE is tracking and studying various issue campaigns. We are particularly interested in campaigns that redefine the boundaries of traditional politics and communication. This portion of the CCCE web site offers examples of different organizations and resource sites that are typical of these campaigns to make them available for policymakers and scholars to study, and for citizens to follow and to join, in ways that advance the goals of meaningful civic engagement.

Consumer Logic and Global Citizenship: Case Studies of Internet-Facilitated Tropical Rainforest Activism (2003)

Rachel Wilhelm, B.A. Political Science, 2003, became interested in political consumerism through her course work, and combined this with a theoretical interest in political consumerism in the political science honors program. Her honors thesis is on political consumerism, global citizenship and the world environmental movement.

The Sustainable Coffee Movements in the United States and Denmark: A Comparative Analysis (2002)

David Iozzi, a 2004 CCCE Undergraduate Research Fellow and Mary Gates Undergraduate Research Fellow, became interested in 2001 in understanding transnational advocacy groups. His project was a study of the sustainable coffee network. For this project, David produced a map as well as an analysis detailing the links between various organizations interested in supporting responsibly grown and fairly traded coffee. He also transcribed lectures and secured interviews with important leaders in the sustainable coffee movement. He also wrote a paper entitled the Moralization of Coffee that discusses the strategies of the networks. In addition, he created a Catalog of Sustainable Coffee Network Actors. His interview of Melissa Schweisguth can be found here. His capstone essay is titled, The Sustainable Coffee Movements in the United States and Denmark: A Comparative Analysis.

Culture Jams and Meme Warfare: Kalle Lasn, Adbusters, and media activism
Tactics in Global Activism for the 21st century

Wendi Pickerel, B.A. Latin American Studies 2002, conducted numerous interviews with activists concerned about consumption and politics. She has conducted interviews with Kalle Lasn of Adbusters, Alistair Jackson of the Transparency Center, and Mark Hosler of Negativland.

Standards Regimes Comparisons (2002)

Carl Schroeder, Political Science, 2002, developed a project that compares ethical standards regimes in the apparel industry and in the organic foods industry. Carl says: "The project grew out of my interest in corporate social responsibility, especially the use of consumer market pressures to achieve that responsibility. ... I was specifically interested in providing a means for interested parties to objectively compare competing standards regimes along areas they deemed important. ... In fitting with my personal interest in transparency, this project is not designed to make a recommendation as to the best standard but rather to provide a resource with which someone can make an informed opinion based on their own preferences."

This project aims to compile data allowing comparisons of different regulations or codes of conduct meant to ensure labor standards and/or certain production practices. It includes sweat-free apparel and organic food production. The focus of the project is to develop an interactive online system that will allow users to easily create unique comparisons of certain schemes and criteria. This project is not complete and the information below is presented as a work in progress. Although every attempt has been made to ensure completeness and all data was accurate at the time it was entered, please note that information may have changed. Lack of data on certain criteria may represent the incomplete status of the project rather than the absence of a standard, unless specifically stated.

Ethical Apparel Production:

Many people are concerned about reports of workers being exploited and abused while producing some of our most popular brands such as The Gap and Nike. This portion of the project aims to compile a comparison of ethical apparel production codes along with multiple criteria (such as wage requirements, overtime regulations, human rights, child labor standards, and more). These certification regimes take many shapes, from student-led schemes like the Workers Rights Consortium, industry-NGO partnerships like the Fair Labor Association, to company specific codes of conduct from corporations like Levi Strauss and Nike. (Note that FLA data does not reflect a major revision from April 2002.)

This Excel spreadsheet compares the various apparel regimes along multiple criteria. There are links to help navigate the spreadsheet. Click on the links at the top of the columns to view a single regime along all of the criteria. Click on the links to the left of the rows to view how the different regimes compare along one criterion.

Organic Food Production:

People are concerned about the quality of the food that they purchase to feed themselves and their families. Organic certification arose as a way to ensure that foods being sold as "organic" really represented foodstuffs produced in an "organic" fashion. This portion of the project compiles a comparison of organic production certification criteria such as transition time to organic, manure requirements, crop rotation requirements and seed inputs. Certification bodies range from the European Union to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements to Farm Verified Organic which is accredited for the IFOAM.

Description of the Organic Regimes

Description of Organic Criteria

Link to the Organic Standards Spreadsheet


Center for Communication & Civic Engagement