Landscapes of Global Capital
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MCI07-98 Neon01-00 MCI11-99

In his influential treatise on the role of the "informational city" in the nascent "Network Society," Manuel Castells (1996) argues that "spaces of flows" are supplanting and displacing "spaces of places."

MCI07-98Establishing material metaphors for the space of flows is crucial to its signification. Hence in the world of advertising, high-speed transportation systems become visually interchangeable with high-speed microelectronics and telecommunications, the circuitry of information technologies. The latter are, of course, the infrastructural pivot on which a space of flows is based.

mCI07-98In staging television representations of itself, Global Capital seems to prefer being seen as a dynamic Network of Global Cities, rather than in its more forceful presence as a shaper of international labor markets or unequal currency rates or the allocation of investment capital. Behind the scenes of these ads we must remind ourselves that Capital mobility has moved production around geographically - dispersing production internationally. Capital mobility has also reshaped international labor markets (Sassen, 1991:32). We shall return to those relations that are obscured in these corporate ads, but first we need to take seriously the representations of corporate office towers as Urban Nodes shaped by the "space of flows."

NYSE03-99 Boeing02-00

One approach to signifying the global information city has been to convert aspects of the built environment of cities into visual metaphors of data flows. In the two examples shown here, the New York Stock Exchange and Boeing have each turned the architecture of a bridgeway carrying traffic into the city from a means of spanning a body of water into a means of spanning space. Whereas the bridge has been crucial to the flow of workers, consumers and goods, they now become useful objects for signifying the flow of information.

FedEx07-99 over Caterpillar02-98

Some corporations, Boeing, FedEx and Caterpillar (in their ads featuring airport construction), to name three of the most obvious examples, have an obvious interest in depicting themselves as connecting the major cities of the planet to one another as well as to the hinterlands. Ads such as these depict a unified world, unified by technologies of connection - here, the jet-plane; in telecommunications ads the connective tissue is the Internet added to telephony.

Sun Microsystems did a 1997 ad that established the visual concept of electronic, computational, nodes that formed the web of connectivity that enables the world's inhabitants to conduct their everyday lives. The ad starkly depicted the disruption to that taken-for-granted flow of resources throughout the world if there was no "Sun." In raising the subject of system-wide disruptions, Sun risked exposing one of the contradictions that comes with a unified world technology - don't put all your eggs in one's basket.

Neon01-00
Beaming information in the Info City, from a Neon ad.

Saskia Sassen contends that global cities are distinguished by a concentration of what she labels as "advanced producer services" (Sassen, 1991:11). This awkward phrase encompasses heavily rationalized and specialized capital functions -- management consulting, accounting, legal services, marketing and advertising, product engineering and design, financial instruments, insurance and risk assessment, software programming, information management, and symbolic analysts. Corporate management has become a matter of coordinating these outsourced, now geographically that lies behind the infrastructure of the networks themselves. In the ads, these functions are tacit, buried in the symbolism of office towers connected to the world by light beams as the medium of information exchange and connectivity.


Abstraction and Deterritorialization
Cultural Geography
The Architecture of Capital

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