Landscapes of Global Capital
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Transcending the State and the tyranny of paper (nationalist) currencies
The Vietnamese man's comment regarding the coming demise of paper money alludes to the promise of dissolving the interventions and restraints government places on free exchanges in the market place. Paper currencies are situated as the product of State power and its enforcement within a set of territorial boundaries. In heralding this new sense of freedom, Cisco and its speakers point to a landscape of non-power relations -- a landscape free of domination and oppression. And it is a relatively boundary-less landscape. The Nation-State is a non-reality if we take the Cisco ad seriously as a representation of the new global economy and the role of Cisco/the Internet in it. Instead the new unfettered, free market computer technologies will lead to the eclipse of paper money with its replacement by digital cash. Digital cash and the use of smart cards linked by networks of computers are envisioned by some as leading to a vast restructuring of social life. Here, for instance, is Kevin Kelly waxing rhapsodic about digital cash: "I'd go so far as to say that truly digital money -- or more accurately, the economic mechanics needed for truly digital cash -- will rewire the nature of our economy, communications, and knowledge." (Kelly, 1994: 225).

Another commercial in the 1999 Cisco campaign scans across the planet to listen to a medley of older men and women, rather than the youth of future labor markets. Older, apparently privileged, woman holding candles:

"There are seven new people on the internet..."
Mexican or Spanish fisherman: "every second..."
Chinese man: "every fourth person on the web..."
Female intellectual: "is buying something right now..."
Male intellectual/artist: "This month..."
Cockney male in a bar: "over half a billion dollars will be spent...""
European man: One down, one day..."
Older Vietnamese man, possibly a physician, maybe a bureaucrat: "There won't be any paper money..."
First woman: "Are you ready?"
A turbaned male, possibly Arabic and Islamic: "Are you ready?"
Man: "Are you ready?"
Chinese man: "Are you ready"?
Cisco Company voiceover: "Virtually all internet traffic travels across the systems of one company. Cisco Systems, empowering the internet generation."
Older Vietnamese gentleman: "Are you ready"?

The ad alludes to a new era a dawning full of promise and possibility. The ad refers to a story of future empowerment -- a grand, though sketchy, narrative that presumes information liberation, the Internet, and the renaissance of a free multicultural spirit that will be experienced as enlightening. Whereas most of the
Cisco ad campaign stresses youth, this ad features an older pan-ethnic generation. Indeed, the persons who appear here all seem to be of middle or upper middle class backgrounds. Once again, none are shown in work situations, but rather in moments of relaxation.

Like the other ads in this campaign, this ad is structured by using the technique of splicing together the speech of many actors conducted in many separate interviews to create the impression that they are altogether uttering a common, shared idea. Serially arranged voices appear to complete one another's sentences and ideas.

Cisco's Poststate Landscape

Stringing together soundbites from speakers of varying nationalities and ethnicities suggests an impression of post-nation state, as the ostensibly nationalist speakers from China, Russia, Spain, Vietnam, India, Italy are arranged to give the impression of a transnational imagined community. To be sure this is the imagined community of the electronic telecommunications era -- the new digital era -- and not the kind of imagined community rooted in the nationalist newspaper. The subject of their imagined conversation concerns the growth of e-commerce across the internet.

These ads rhetorically express glimpses of Cisco's philosophical statements of goals and direction. Cisco is heavily invested, not just in terms of capital expenditures, but also rhetorically, in depicting the new Internet economy as "level[ing] the playing field by providing access and opportunity for lifelong learners of all ages in any location." In conceptualizing the links between education, jobs and society, Cisco offers the following vision at its corporate web site: "As society makes large digital leaps in teaching and learning, it is increasingly important that no one be left behind. The Internet has the power to serve as a great equalizer."

We must then ask whether or not there is an homology between open architectures and horizontal business models? Does the institutionalization of networks based on nodes and nodal linkages point to new relations between Capital and State? Is Digital Capital, or its Venture Capital backers, any different in its characteristics as Capital than Financial Capital? Is there a dominant bloc of capital at this historical moment?


Abstraction and Deterritorialization
Cultural Geography
The Architecture of Capital

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