Landscapes of Global Capital
tv globe icon link to home MCI: the end of social ranking

This pre-merger commercial is composed of a montage of black and white and color shots of a range of people, black and white shots of typing on laptop screens, and MCI title frames. The commercial opens with an older man opening a laptop, his elderly hands type on the keyboard. A young redheaded girls starts the litany, "People can communicate mind to mind." The older man finishes the sentence. An African American businessman standing in the window of an office tower with a laptop in hand starts the next sentence, "There is no race." As he speaks, the words appear on a laptop screen. The sentence is completed by a girl, as a schoolgirl writes an "x" through the word "race" on the blackboard. "There are no genders" repetitively appears on a laptop screen as a Chinese women states the phrase. This style repeats itself through the ad. A young boy, a father and child, a deaf girl, an old woman on a park bench, a young African American male and school children continue the serial litany.

There is no age.
No age
There are no infirmities
There are only minds
only minds
the Internet
where minds, doors, and lives open up
Is this a great time or what?

The commercial uses repetition in an obsessive way. It gives us a superficial proposition and validates it through repetition. It abolishes the social qualities of distinction and discrimination while it reanimates the personal codes of conduct that make for civility. It is against ascription and offers a world in which it could take place. At one level the speakers of the ad proclaim the body is unimportant yet it is their physical differences that give each speaker voice. The ad puts forth the proposition that all these characteristics are ascribed. It uses the body as a marker of individuality and yet denies it on the Internet. The ad attains legitimacy by drawing on difference. These technologies have the glimmer of creating a level playing field. The music builds through the ad involving the audience in the virtual order it offers at its conclusion.

The commercial presumes a community of otherness reinforced by the Internet smile J :-) signifying a way to reestablish personal connections. However, denial of difference has its underside. Stone's classic essay on the cross-dressing psychiatrist in which a male psychiatrist poses as a handicapped female to 'explore' the way in which women speak to each other constructs an underside to a medium in which participants can easily disguise the characteristics that make-up their social identities.

Our students always liked this simple ad--not because it speaks the truth but because it speaks what they want the truth to be. Myth offers a desirable future and a simplified plan for getting there. Sure, wouldn't it be great if people weren't discriminated against because of race, age, gender, or disability? Hey, where's social class in these pictures? Why is this variable left out of the mix? Class is the absent social characteristic in this genre of commercials.

Sign Formulas & Branding
Signifying Clusters
Structural Frames

WorldCom: serialized social order < Previous

Next > Akamai: aestheticized seriality

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