Landscapes of Global Capital
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The micro-technology revolution that underlies advances in semiconductor chips, fiber optics, biotechnology, and telecommunications has its own landscapes. A Computer Associates commercial touts a product called Neugents (derived from Neural Agent) that it claims can think for itself! Part way through the commercial, in a long string of "high-tech" signifiers intended to bolster the astonishing assertion of a technology that "thinks," the following scene of a complex circuitboard appears. But it's how it appears that interests us -- it resembles a "panoptic" overview of a modern city. It looks like a map -- like a geographical map that seems to map a landscape. This must be the high tech landscape of miniaturization.

Computer Associates01-00 Siemens04-99
This scene appears but for a brief second, vanishing as abruptly as it appeared, flushed away in the stream of images that follow. The image barely has time to register, but much less permit reflection upon its meaning. And yet, a similar shot of this signifier, framed comparably, recurs in ads from other large technology providers. Siemens uses the same device here to frame circuitboard "components" as evocative of an urban landscape. Perhaps a tacit meaning in this panopticism is that computer circuitboards are the 'ground' of a global unification of digital telecommunications. The grids and networks that appear in these landscapes, speak to the rationalized delivery of services and goods. Even more precisely rationalized grids are evident in the imaging system at right. But if Virilio is right that territory becomes outmoded by the micro-electronics revolution, why construct a visual analogy between the technology and the territorial landscape?
Siemens01-98

One available meaning in these circuitboard landscapes is that they represent landscapes of speed and rationality. Such a reading is, however, immediately contradicted by the inverse relation between speed and territorialization. But perhaps it is precisely the latter tension that accounts for this type of symbolization. Turning the material of microelectronics into landscapes may offer a modest reassurance about the stability of social forms. Mapping offers a way of ordering our world. And electronic forms of mapping offer the imagery of precision in ordering the world.

Maps are especially comforting when we are feeling lost, or out of control. As the watchword of commerce has become speed and more speed, a sense of bewildering dizziness may result. Hence the need to give order to the chaotic feeling of spinning. The recurring presentation of microchip landscapes may represent a high-tech order committed to the interests of society.


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Robert Goldman, Stephen Papson, Noah Kersey