Landscapes of Global Capital
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MCI WorldCom07-98 MCI WorldCom07-98

A futuristic skyscape and landscape appear in an epic commercial from MCI WorldCom. Look at both the contrast and similarity between the MCI WorldCom landscape and the Boeing cityscape. Like the Boeing ad, the superfast flows of information are depicted as central to the new information era. Yet here is an alternative postmodern landscape familiar to us from cyberpunk, fiction-inspired movies. The hypermodern technology axis set amongst the ruins of earlier stages of western civilization suggests a society where place has become largely irrelevant.

NYSE05-00We interpret these images as representing what Manuel Castells (1996) has called "the space of flows." Calling core cities a "space of flows" is intended to accentuate the role of cities as nodes that permit multiple kinds of flows -- telecommunication flows of information and data, flows of electronic exchange, as well as socio-spatial flows of traffic and people.

It is no accident that in depicting the free and open flow of people and data, that advertisers frequently resort to photography in the abstractly shaped spaces found in airport architecture which provides supermodern spaces designed primarily as space to be passed through. These are precisely those sites that Marc Augé rails against as "non-places"NYSE05-00 because they lack organicity. Architecturally they have been abstractly represented as empty spaces - spatial voids through which individuals or small groups may pass. The functionality of such spaces depends on their emptiness - or abstractness - which is represented as unobstructed flow, as freedom from social, political and economic frictions. In these scenes lifted from a NYSE commercial, we can see the hegemony of supermodernity -- the rule of form over content.

Abstraction and Deterritorialization
Cultural Geography
The Architecture of Capital

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Robert Goldman, Stephen Papson, Noah Kersey