Landscapes of Global Capital
tv globe icon link to home Saving time, accelerated consumption

"It goes real fast but it sure feels good."
"It goes real fast but it sure feels good."
"It goes real fast but it sure feels good."
Reverend Horton Heat
'Texas Rockabilly Rebel'

Given the obvious consumption bias of most advertising, it is hardly surprising that a major pitch concerning time has to do with speed of delivery, speed of service, speed of cooktime, speed of billpaying. This Chase Bank ad takes a carefree, almost humorous, approach to touting their on-line banking service as giving you, the consumer, "more time bonding" which is visually defined as having fast-and-furious fun with your loved ones.

"Singers: All the whole world over, so easy to see. People everywhere just gotta be free."
Voiceover: "Thousands of people are free to spend less time with their money and more time with their honey."
"With new Chase on-line banking, it's so easy to check balances, transfer money, pay bills [pause] -- on your time, wherever you are."
"So spend less time banking and more time bonding. Open a Chase better banking account and get free Chase on-line banking.
Chase. The right relationship is everything."

In this narrative, one gets to frenetically pursue pleasure with one's "honey" or children or pets. People's leisure consumption space is defined as a realm of freedom - a freedom from the demands of managing money, especially the amount of free time that it consumes. But with Chase's on-line banking service, people "all the world over" can now be "free to spend less time with their money" (the world of necessity) "and more time with their honey" (the world of personal choice). Or, as they put it, banking made "easy." The promise of well-managed technology once again claims to increase our spheres of freedom by giving back to us our time, wherever we are.

Time and space made immaterial

Notice how, in the ad, the time of bill paying becomes calmer and slower, and seems almost to be ceasing, while the time of being with one's loved ones accelerates. People like us zoom along in these scenes, carrying canoes over their heads, devouring pizza and pancakes, being 'wacky' and fun. The pace of their consumption seems to be linked to the pleasure they appear to be experiencing. Speed, as it is represented here, signifies both personal mobility and thrilling pleasures.

You must have wondered by now about why leisure would need to be consumed in such accelerated bursts? What background assumptions premise your interpretation of this ad? Go back through it now, if you would and consider the assumptions the ad makes about you? How does it address you? What does the ad assume, if anything, about the amount of time spent working and the amount of time spent on taking care of the many necessities of daily life? And how are these related to family, leisure and the subject of personal freedom?

Our own interpretation of the ad begins with Juliet Schor's study, "The Overworked American." Schor's research debunks the notion that Americans have progressively more free time at their disposal. In the last decade, hours worked per week have actually increased, making home life a bit more harried. Moreover, an increasing number of households depend on more than one income. Here it is not simply a matter of working more, but also a matter of integrating schedules. And when we factor in the necessity of 'reproduction' activities (cleaning, washing, cooking, repairing, shopping, and indeed, paying bills) free time becomes even more scarce. Hence, it makes some sense to represent consumption as a time of energetic expression.

But there is another dimension to this as well. There is a sense in which such representations address the reality of consumption oriented to immediate gratification -- the satisfactions of such consumption are relatively short-lived, and even at that, incessant pursuit of immediate gratification may indeed contribute to a declining half-life of consumption-based gratifications. No single act of consumption is sufficient to achieve satisfaction; rather consumption must be engaged continuously. Here the immediacy of frenetic gratification forms the flip side of political-economic necessity -- for the economy to function efficiently there must be ever-expanding consumption. Speed is fun, as the lyrics from The Reverend Horton Heat, emphatically declare. And while excessive speed may strike some as rebellious, it also takes shape in the underbelly of conformist consumption. As repetitive as they are is, the lyrics speak to more than just the pleasure of speed, they also speak to hyperactive addiction.


Speed: conquering time & space

The speed of daily life < Previous

Next > Working bibliography

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