If you were an advertiser, how would you go about representing CYBERSPACE? One relatively early effort from Digital Computers explicitly attempted to imagine what a 'landscape of cyberspace' might look like. In an ad that stressed the imaginative dimension of what it will be, Digital retained a sense of cyberspace as a deliberately 'fake-scape' - an artist's rendition of a virtual, a simulated, landscape that may only exist in a corner of our brains. The scape here is an "abstraction
Simplistic, and unimaginative, representations of commercial cyberspace are not hard to find. USABancshares.com was a short-lived effort at tapping the venture capital market's desire to fund firms that would not carry the weight of brick and mortar overhead costs. Their television ad pronounced (tongue in cheek) the "end of the world." What they meant was, the overcoming of space, electronically. They simply juxtaposed a few seconds of traditional landscapes and cultural scapes from throughout the world, with a few seconds of rapidly cut scenes of the digital technology apparatus that is freeing us from the materiality of the planet.
The limits of spatial distance are thus supposedly overcome. We have cut this sequence and looped it so that the reader may get a sense of how such representations of cyberspace are almost always linked with significations of speed. But the overblown nature of our continuous loop also is meant to call attention to the repetition.
Prevailing conceptualizations of cyberspace may be drawn less from the technology itself than from artistic and media representations. One of the influential early conceptualizations came from William Gibson's genre-making novel, Neuromancer, which introduced the term 'cyberspace.'
"Cyberspace...A graphical representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the non-space of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding..." (William Gibson, p. 51)
Filtered through the visual imagery offered by the movie, The Matrix, this has become a recurring representation of cyberspace in our data set of commercials. This representation begins with a three-dimensional space - its axes well-defined with an array and a flow of light pulses and/or symbols nested into the 3-D space. In this example taken from a 1999 CDW ad campaign, the symbols are the binary 0's and 1's that form the backbone of computer languages, with a pulse of light thrown in for good measure. CDW sells "computing solutions built for business." The space being symbolically depicted here is the space of the information workplace - a space conducive to structured flows of information.
Egghead, a now-defunct retail chain that marketed software, tried one last desperate attempt to reinvent itself at the height of the Internet craze. Closing up their bricks-and-mortar stores and their investment in real estate, Egghead became an online vendor. They needed to establish an image of commercial cyberspace. Their depiction of their cyberspace store sought to reestablish a sense of geographic coorrdinates, coordinates of place. As with the SAP campaign, cyberspace is signified as an urban topography of buildings with its familiar structured spaces.
Opens with the sounds of windswept empty desert:
"The Internet is a vast, lonely isolated place
Without the help of real, living, breathing human beings.
We are about.com
And we are your expert guides.
Hello my name is Rick Hall
Woman: My site?
Black Man: Internal medicine
Young female: giving advice
Woman: Ireland for visitors
Whatever you're about
Or just want to know about
We are about
You don't come into this world alone
Why go into the next one that way
We are about.com
Nice to meet you