Landscapes of Global Capital
tv globe icon link to home The new organization man

If there is a direction associated with the young elite, it's going up. Matt, a young executive, enters an elevator occupied by a bike messenger. As the elevator starts to go down, a female supervisor/manager enters the elevator to acknowledge receipt of an idea Matt had sent her as an e-mail. She also indicates that an unseen higher authority (by the name of Epps) is checking it out. Other employees enter the elevator at other stops to inform Matt about the progress that his idea is making through the organization. Despite the elevator as a narrative device, it becomes apparent that this company is a "flat" organization that uses AT&T's communication network systems to span geography and division. As a consequence, the idea seems to move very fast.

Matt enters: "Hey"
Woman: "Matt, got your e-mail.
Vancouver. Genius. Passed it on to Epp's. He's running it through the Northwest."
Male manager: "Hey Matt, idea's a hit in the Northwest.
I've got purchasing checking suppliers."
Younger woman: "Uh uh uh, you're wanted up top. Client briefing, your Vancouver idea."

From new idea to practice in the length of time it takes him to ride the elevator down. This ad is about speed in business; about how AT&T's deployment of technology streamlines organizational decision making.

AT&T10-99
AT&T10-99
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As he reaches the ground floor and begins to exit, he is redirected back into the elevator going up to the top floor for a client meeting. As the elevator goes up, our young exec turns and exchanges glances with the bike messenger. His success is acknowledged by an approving nod from a bike messenger who exudes quiet subcultural coolness and confidence. His bright idea has been recognized and he is on the rise. The final scene is shot from below so that the elevator disappears into a bright beam of light. This exec is on the rise not just because of hard and disciplined work but because he chose AT&T technology which allows his business to link electronically with suppliers and to customers. The announcer asks, "Want to take your business to the next level?" The copy answers:
AT&T networking
This way up
AT&T
It's all within your reach

Images of organizational charts and function diagrams intercut the main narrative. This second visual narrative is interwoven with the drama taking place in the elevator. The commodity promise here is the linked organization -- the coordination of functions and decision making when employees are dispersed geographically in large global firms. This ad suggests a business organization with relatively few levels of decision making to go through. A "flat" organization built around the integration of discretely defined functions.

However, when one locates authority on this organization, it is clearly at the top. The lyrics of the music are "Gonna take you higher." Moreover, it appears to be both absent and panoptic. In this case, it is beneficent. This is not a democratic work place. This ad is as much about survival as it is about success. Ironically, it locates cultural authority at the bottom. This insecure young exec beams because the 'hip' bike messenger nods his head with approval. "Boom-shakalaka, Boom-shakalaka"


New Economic Formations
Commodification
Social Relations of Production
Information Economy

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Robert Goldman, Stephen Papson, Noah Kersey