Landscapes of Global Capital
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Making it Social, Making it Emotional

The Nortel campaign, by contrast to the Lucent strategy, works to stylize and aestheticize the presence of Nortel in the modern global world. Like the Microsoft, the Oracle, and the Cisco campaigns the Nortel ad searches for a way to depict its technology's impact on social and cultural life. It quickly becomes apparent that the campaign is built around the Beatle's tune, "Come Together." The campaign's opening ad was structured around the device of placing placards bearing a question -- "What do you want the Internet to be?" -- in a variety of seemingly antipodal places. On the sides of skyscrapers; in a farmer's field, in the sky. Signs bearing this question turn up in fortune cookies, even on the rinds of melons in a Muslim market somewhere far on the periphery of what we think of as modern urban core. Urban skylines, rural landscapes, Eastern marketplaces, Western media -- all are brought together by the emotional vitality of Nortel's symbolic presence.


Nortel's launch ad -- its one-minute landscape extravaganza -- is set to the Beatles song, "Come Together." While the ambiguity of the song lyrics coupled with the visual juxtapositions lend a postmodern feel to the ad, the theme of the ad goes no deeper into the song's meaning that the title lyric, "Come Together," used to stress connecting people and ideas -- sharing ideas on a global scale.

linking every part of the globe
the apparently ephemeral linked to the apparently eternal

Visions of globalism start here by gazing up at towering skyscrapers. This image is followed by a moving vehicle, a Nortel sign reflected in reverse on its side -- "Where do you want the Internet to be?

The question suggests the importance of client/consumer choice -- what will suit you. Is this about empowerment -- is Nortel looking to develop its technologies according to your needs?

"And it can be what ever you want it to be."

Nortel asserts that under their direction, the implementation of the Internet will leave the world intact -- localities can bring this technology to bear in ways that will not disrupt who and what they are. Nortel presents itself as making the technology of space coincide with place. All sorts of cultural landscapes accept, and are made better by, the presence/the mark of Nortel's placard. Nortel's overarching question graces the sides of buildings and individuals alike, and seems no less out of place in farm fields, etched over the countryside.  

All places in this ad acquire significance by virtue of being surfaces that can accept the sign of Nortel. Still, the representations of places are decontextualized, such that the only clues to their "placeness" are the signifiers that crop up. These are placeless places.

Markers of place

Nortel's representations homogenize the world, taking the many differences that make up the world and unifying them by stamping its signature placard across them all. This turns difference into equivalence in the manner that Marc Augé refers to as the "homogenization of diversity" (Augé, p.32). In this kind of "spatial overabundance" we give meaning to everything, and yet attach little significance to anything. The terrain of meaning becomes infinite in extension, but thin like crust.

Abstraction & Deterritorialization
Cultural Geography
The Architecture of Capital

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