Landscapes of Global Capital
tv globe icon link to home Better things for better living

Better things for better living" this was the slogan for DuPont Chemicals for decades. Though the slogan is dated, the theme remains prevalent in American corporate ideology. Corporate labs are focused on serving consumers by constantly working to improve everyday products. The promise of new inventions and new techniques lies in translating them into consumer needs. Here corporate technoscience is said to directly extend the benefits of commodified consumption by improving the mundane objects that are part of everyday life.

BASF, for example, has sought to establish a brand identity for itself by showing a range of products such as carpet, jet skis, fishing line, food coolers, etc. and claiming that its technologies improve the functionality of each object. "At BASF we don't make a lot of the products you buy, we make a lot of the products you buy, better."

A Du Pont's campaign connects a series of scenes with superimposed titles that speak to Du Pont's accomplishments and their vision of future scientific innovations. In the DuPont campaign we don't see science at work, only what it has accomplished or what it intends to accomplish. In the background a female voice rhythmically sings an African-like chant with an ethereal quality humanizing the corporation.

To Do List For The Planet
1) Invent fabric that knows to either cool or warm you
2) Find food that helps prevent osteoporosis
3) Find ways for cars to hide their scratches
4) Invent typhoon-resistant glass. (did that)

DuPont
The miracles of science

DuPont's list mixes the superficial (scratch-proof cars) with the significant (typhoon-resistant glass and foods that prevent osteoporosis). Here science is put to the service of both the market and humanity simultaneously. At times making minute improvements; at others accomplishing scientific breakthroughs. This formula absents both production practices such as waste as well as the distribution of these products. Who is actually protected by typhoon-resistant glass? Certainly not the many living in poverty. Perhaps the beneficiaries here are businesses in Pacific rim skyscrapers.

In a series of ads that seek to legitimate corporate timber practices, International Paper shows how they are turning trees into better products. Combining black and white photography with children as spokespersons, International Paper personalizes its projects. Out of sight are the complex commodity chains so central to the corporate timber and paper industry. Out of sight is any hint of clearcuts, or runoff, or any other sort of ecological degradation. These low key ads quietly speak about how IP employees are devising new paper products that enhance our lives.

Girl: My Dad works for International Paper.
He makes orange juice cartons so the orange juice
can stay fresh longer.
Male voice-over: International Paper developed an innovative juice carton.
Girl: I think fresh orange juice makes you feel better.
Male voice-over: The carton's unique lining keeps juice fresh longer.
Girl: I think my Dad plays a trick on the orange juice,
he makes it think that it's still an orange.
Male voice-over: International Paper. Answering citrus
producers needs and yours.

This little testimonial to the good deeds of International Paper is of course merely an extension of the good deeds of Daddy. Drawing on the quiet innocence of a child's pride in her parent, the International Paper representations also direct us to see corporate technology as well-motivated and innocent -- that is, it has no ulterior motives.

Technoscience in ads like this one is not just about the present but a future signified by the well-being of children. Children are often the beneficiaries, as we saw in the Siemens' ads. Or child-parent relations benefit as in the BASF ad that shows a father and son fishing when speaking about how it makes fishing line stronger. DuPont shows a child jumping up and down on a bed in a high rise behind its typhoon-resistant glass.


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Robert Goldman, Stephen Papson, Noah Kersey