Landscapes of Global Capital
tv globe icon link to home imagined commuities

IBM ad campaigns which ran under the tagline, "Solutions for a Small Planet" between 1993 and 1996 drew on the use of English subtitles to draw attention to the force of IBM in unifying the diversity of cultures on planet Earth. By allowing people to speak in their native tongues, the IBM ads suggested a respect and tolerance for diversity, while also claiming to provide the means of unifying ethnic, nationalist identities and language communities through the transnational, global presence of IBM. IBM depicted the process of globalization as linguistically contingent on the articulation of IBM as an "imagined community." Benedict Anderson (1983) brought forth the concept of the "imagined community" to make sense of the nationalist sentiments shared by those who, though they may never have met one another, identified with the nation-state because of their common reading language. The IBM ad elevates the imagined community to the transnational scene where the binding force now includes the 'language' of IBM itself.

IBM05-97 IBM05-97 IBM05-97
IBM05-97 IBM05-97 IBM05-97
IBM05-97 IBM05-97
IBM05-97 IBM05-97
IBM05-97 IBM05-97 IBM05-97

>1st African man: "Something magical happening to our planet.

European children: It's growing smaller. European woman: Every day the global web of computers...

2nd African man: weaves us more tightly together. Asian woman: Join us. A group of young scholars: Wander through a distant library.

Icelander man: Turn your corner store... into a mini-multinational. European man: Curious?

German man: IBM can get you there. Young American woman in a row boat: Just plug in...

1st African man: ...and the world is yours."

In this ad, IBM has turned its own advertisement into a space that represents the coming together of a global community. The ad uses the device of sequencing and sewing together phrases in many languages, subtitled in English (perhaps because it is still the master language, or, simply because the primary target audience for this audience is in the US and not the rest of the world). This weaving together of discourse parallels the metaphor of "weaving" people together via a "global web of computers." The technique signifies a community of discourse, and it would appear to be a community based not on exclusion, but on universal access to the new means of production -- IBM tools.

Abstraction and Deterritorialization
Cultural Geography
The Architecture of Capital

Cultural geography < Previous

Next > Moral landscapes

© Copyright 1998-2003
Robert Goldman, Stephen Papson, Noah Kersey