Landscapes of Global Capital
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What is necessary to assuring the smooth functioning of everyday life in contemporary society? The answer will, of course, vary by whom one asks? Among the ads we are studying, a positive spin is placed on the corporate organization of technoscience as essential to providing, and upgrading, the infrastructure necessary for the comforts we have come to expect of society. Corporate technoscience ads presume that the power of imagination, capital, will power, and the applied engineering of science create unlimited synergistic possibilities.

Corporate research is presented as being universally beneficial. Done in the service of humanity, it enhances the lives of all peoples. The pursuit of scientific knowledge signifies evolutionary transcendence -- what we have come to know as progress. This is science without a dark side (science noir).

Corporate ads depict technoscience driven by capital as a functional prerequisite to maintaining the normalcy of everyday life. In a Sun Microsystems commercial a female voice-over explains that "Since Sun systems manage the power grid for the large parts of North America, imagine then, the chaos, frustration, and darkness of a world without Sun." A montage intercuts technology users dependent on electric power with satellite shots of the East coast lit up. And then the lights go out all across the power grids of North America. Sun reminds us that modern life is dependent upon a highly articulated and integrated technology system to consistently deliver the goods. This ad stresses the semiotic flip side of global integration -- the agony of disruption. The "Blackout" becomes a metaphor for what happens when technology doesn't function perfectly. What this ad does not say is that darkness descends upon us when an antecedent technology system for delivering electricity is disrupted.

A series of Texaco ads mix images of geologists traversing dangerous landscapes searching for clues that oil exists below. They travel to the depths of the ocean, into perilous caves, across deserts to find the necessary energy that the world needs to function. One commercial starts with a child looking up from his crib at a spinning mobile made of wooden planes, trucks and automobiles. This shot is followed by the real thing: a plane zooms overhead, an ice cream truck rolls along a residential street chased by two children, the schedules in an airline terminal flash, an elephant looks out of the back of a truck marked circus, a cop directs traffic, a medical helicopter lands with a patient, a boy and his dog look out of a car, a nun pushes a lawn mower, etc. "See the world run" defines these scenes as a day-in-the-life. The voice-over goes on to tie the reproduction of these activities to Texaco's "relentless" pursuit of energy. Intercut into these scenes is the world of Texaco, beginning with a three dimensional graph overlaid with a Texaco logo, and interspersed with scenes of a worker walking up a metal stairwell on the side of a fuel storage tank, a Texaco control room, and images of exploration lifted from its other ads. The ad ends where it began with the baby in the crib and a tagline: "Texaco - A world of energy"

See the world run.
Run world run.
See Texaco run, visualize, hypothesize, explore and relentlessly search
and find the energy the world needs to run.
Run world run.
A world of energy

Our comfort and well-being back in the world of everyday consumption depends on Texaco's search and exploration for more fuel to run our electronic society. Unlike the Sun ad, Texaco chooses not to show the anxiety of risk provoked by "rolling blackouts" -- having to turn off the air conditioner or the heater, losing access to your personal computer, or your tv.

But, hey what about the consequences of burning all those hydrocarbons that the geologists are uncovering, using the most sophisticated tools of modern technology to look way below the surface to find our precious energy resources. Fossil fuels to power the evergrowing demand for more electricity come at the price of air pollution, and the chain of environmental contradictions that stem from the excess carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

Contradictions of Development
Stories of Science and Technology
Reason and Progress

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