Blog Posts

Art of the Hoax – Joey Skaggs on PRI

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Definitions, Media Literacy, The Prank as Art, What Makes a Good Prank?, Why Do a Prank?

Jester_waitscmMarch 30, 2014: Pranks and Hoaxes, produced by Wisconsin Public Radio and distributed by Public Radio International, presents an interview with Joey Skaggs called Art of the Hoax – Joey Skaggs.

Listen here

Wired’s Guide to Hoaxes

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Filed under: Definitions, The Future of Pranks, Why Do a Prank?

Wired’s Guide to Hoaxes: How to Give “” and Take “” a Joke
Essay by Scott Brown, The Official Prankonomy by Steven Leckart
August 24, 2009

mf_hoax_f-200Here’s what you’ve been told: “There’s a sucker born every minute.” “Take or be taken.” “Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.” These aphorisms are so ingrained in American life, they’re practically commandments. And for good reason: We are a credulous people. For proof, open your spam folder and count the chain emails from 1998 that are still coming in, dutifully forwarded by friends and relatives. Or consider that new Facebook pal whose name seemed familiar enough when you hit Confirm. We are, today, the same easy marks who ran screaming from Orson Welles’ made-up Martians and flocked to see the Cardiff Giant. So we’re defensive. A hoax, we are taught, is an invasive, aggressive stratagem””a nefarious short-circuiting of our natural social instincts, a hack of Trust itself, a deterministic, zero-sum shell game with a clear winner (the prankster) and loser (the gull).

Well, here’s what we’re telling you: Bullshit. (more…)

Emily Levine: A Trickster’s Theory of Everything

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Filed under: All About Pranks, Definitions

From TED: Humorist, writer and trickster Emily Levine riffs on science and the human condition:

I’m Gonna Wash That Meme Right Outta My Hair

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Definitions, Propaganda and Disinformation

Here’s a collection of articles about Memetic Engineering spanning the last 10 years:

What is Memetic Engineering? (from Wikipedia)

Memetic engineering is a term used by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene concerned with the process of modifying human beliefs. Memetic engineers do this by exposing people to differing belief systems (or memes). Other authors who have discussed memetic engineering include Leveious Rolando, John Sokol, and Gibran Burchett.

According to Dawkins, the effect a meme has on society is based on the application of the meme within a society rather than any qualities essential to the meme. For example, Dawkins explains that, “Race” and “Racism” are memes comprised of several other memes, some of which have positive connotations in societies that reject racism.

According to Dawkins, typical memetic engineers include scientists, engineers, industrial designers, ad-men, artists, publicists, political activists, and religious missionaries.

Dawkins states that much of theology and other theoretical aspects of religion can be viewed as the careful, even worshipful, handling of extremely powerful memeplexes with very odd or difficult traits.

Memetic Engineering
by James Gardner
May, 1996

What if culture – even consciousness itself – were nothing more than an artifact of the interaction of selfish memes, ideas capable of replicating and co-evolving with supreme indifference to their impact on human hosts?

A meme-centered paradigm of human culture and consciousness is, to say the least, disconcerting. In Consciousness Explained, cognitive theorist Daniel Dennett captures the horror graphically:

    I don”™t know about you, but I”™m not initially attracted by the idea of my brain as a sort of dung heap in which the larvae of other people”™s ideas renew themselves, before sending out copies of themselves in an informational Diaspora. It does seem to rob my mind of its importance as both author and critic. Who”™s in charge, according to this vision – we or our memes? (more…)

Pranks Defined

Filed under: Definitions, Sociology and Psychology of Pranks, The Prank as Art


This definition of pranks is from V.Vale’s introduction to his formative book PRANKS, published in 1987 by RE/Search Publications. I’ve always loved this essay. He has graciously allowed us to reprint it here. In 2006, RE/Search Publications released a follow-up book called Pranks! 2 that is equally seminal in its approach to the subject -JS

PRANKS. According to the Merriam-Webster New Collegiate Dictionary, a prank is a “trick . . . a mildly mischievous act . . . a practical joke . . . a ludicrous act.” The best pranks invoke the imagination, poetic imagery, the unexpected and a deep level of irony or social criticism””such as Boyd Rice’s presentation of a skinned sheep’s head on a silver platter to Betty Ford, First Lady of the United States. Great pranks create synaesthetic experiences which are unmistakably exciting, original, and reverberating, as well as creative, metaphoric, poetic and artistic. If these criteria be deemed sufficient, then pranks can be considered as constituting an art form and genre in themselves.

However slighted by Academia, pranks are not without cultural and historical precedent. (more…)

Culture Jamming: Hacking, Slashing and Sniping in the Empire of Signs by Mark Dery

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Definitions, Media Pranks

In 1993, Mark Dery wrote this seminal discourse coining the phrase Culture Jamming. I think it’s a must read for anyone interested in the subject. This is an open source document and is available on Mark Dery’s Web site. JS

“Culture jamming,” a term I have popularized by articles in The New York Times and Adbusters, might best be defined as media hacking, information warfare, terror-art, and guerrilla semiotics, all in one. Billboard bandits, pirate TV and radio broadcasters, media hoaxers, and other vernacular media wrenchers who intrude on the intruders, investing ads, newscasts, and other media artifacts with subversive meanings are all culture jammers. (more…)

Reality Hacking Defined

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Definitions

Here’s a definition of “reality hacking” from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia -JS

Reality hacking is an artistic practice that emerges from the intersection of hacking and hacker culture, contemporary art, activism, and net culture. Reality hacking takes as its basis a broad, phenomenological point of view of the world, and considers (often unorthodox) investigations into everyday objects and situations a meaningful way of probing into the working of varied social contexts.

Reality Hacking as Political Activism

“Reality hacking” is a form of activism that relies on tweaking the every-day communications most easily available to individuals with the purpose of awakening the political and community conscience of the larger population. The term first came into use among New York and San Francisco artists, but has since been adopted by a school of political activists centered around Social Redemption. (more…)

Culture Jamming Defined

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Definitions

Here’s a workable definition of Culture Jamming from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia -JS

Culture jamming is the act of transforming existing mass media to produce commentary about itself, using the original medium’s communication method. It is a form of public activism which is generally in opposition to commercialism, and the vectors of corporate image. The aim of culture jamming is to create a contrast between corporate or mass media images and the realities or perceived negative side of the corporation or media. This is done symbolically, with the “detournement” of pop iconography.

It is based on the idea that advertising is little more than propaganda for established interests, and that there is a lack of an available means for alternative expression in industrialized nations. Proponents see culture jamming as a resistance movement to the hegemony of popular culture, based on the ideas of “guerrilla communication”.

Culture jamming’s intent differs from that of artistic appropriation (which is done for art’s sake) and vandalism (where destruction or defacement is the primary goal), although its results are not always so easily distinguishable. See the rest at Wikipedia…

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution

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Filed under: Definitions, First Amendment Issues

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”