Landscapes of Global Capital
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The building blocks of commercials are shots -- signifiers which are detached from contexts, then strung together in new arrangements and given coherence by narration, music, and sequencing. We have been struck by just how recurring and stereotypical these signifying slices become. Most of these shots come 'precoded' - that is already embedded in referent systems that are drawn from other media - and are then encoded - rearranged and reframed by the advertiser. The audience must complete and decode the signs thus produced and give them significance. More often than not the actual act of constructing significance (making sense of the ad) is accomplished without much reflexivity. Since the advertising structure is so familiar to us, the routinized act of valorizing an advertising takes only a minimal amount of attention and agency.

In this section we have teased out some recurring signifiers. The goal of our analysis is twofold: further map the way in which Capital represents itself and critically unleaf the structure of advertising itself. Many of the signifiers in these commercials are drawn from image banks supplied by photographers and cinematographers who traverse the world. Others are drawn from corporate vaults. Though many of these images seem to allude to exoticism they are also strangely familiar. We have previously seen these images as part of nature documentaries, in commodity advertising, on the news, or in magazines like National Geographic. And yet while they are recognizable, they are not locatable except in the broadest regional terms -- a camel refers to Northern Africa, a parapet to Asia, or a Cardinal to Italy. Strung together, these signifiers speak to the universalizing reach of technology, capital, and corporate practice.

Sign Formulas & Branding

Signifying Clusters

Structural Frames

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