Landscapes of Global Capital
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Advertisements reference numerous kinds of time. In their efforts to reference everyday life, advertisements may portray the time of consumption, the time of labor, the time of capital and markets, the time of reproduction, family time, and the time of transit. We offer these as heuristic categories, recognizing that there is overlap between these representations in advertising.

An example from AT&T illustrates an effort to draw together the multiple spheres of time in everyday life. The ad hails middle class women who perform the roles of working mom. "If this is you," yours can be a harried day, divided into distinct blocks of time, each dedicated to a scheduled activity. The typically busy day may begin with a run across the great wide open of the Western landscape to keep one's body and mind fit. This is labeled 'breakfast,' and it is followed by an image of a commuter plane labeled as 'your carpool.' We begin by peeling away one scene at a time, because each scene has been selected as a way of signifying the elements of a fast-paced daily life. So after you take a commuter flight to the city where you work, you check in with your wealth-o-meter - the 'scoreboard' of stock prices, for this has become your measure of well-being.

From here, the pace of urban night life starts to get pumped up by a techno beat on the soundtrack. AT&T09-99Visually the ad draws on the now-standard signifier of speed - the blurring, pulsing beams of light, produced by using time-lapse photographic techniques of urban traffic to stretch out time visually. We have captured this sequence of scenes and edits from the ad - but we have reduced the number of frames, slowed it down and isolated it from the signifiers on the sound track. This permits us to defuse the speed - not because we want to downplay it, but because we want to highlight how viewers "read" the codes for expressing speed. The pulses of light identified onscreen as "your sandbox" - these are supposedly the space and speed coordinates of your daily life.

What does "this is your sandbox" suggest? This is the place where you play? This is where you are the master? The maestro? The connoisseur of consumption in the global city? You are at home here, you are comfortable here? But how does one feel at home in the blurring speeds of green light bursts?

The question the ad poses is whether or not 'you' have the tools to keep this lifestyle from flying apart at the seams. The lifestyle in question refers to a suburban, neo-country space where women raise families by scheduling their days into personal time, transit time, market time, work time, family time. AT&T's message is that "finally communications has caught up with the way you live." Under the campaign rubric of "AT&T's personal network," this commercial translates the struggle to keep spatially scattered everyday lifeworlds integrated into well-adjusted and fulfilling family lives into a story of heroic vitality and celebration. Speed and busy-ness of schedules are turned from negatives into the glue of daily life. Where normally having too much to do in too little time in too many places is a recipe for stress and anxiety, the AT&T ad turns the psychology of stress into imagery of heroic vitality and accomplishment. The ad celebrates (toasts) the individual woman who accomplishes the impossible everyday, and does it with a smile. This is a woman who is more full of love for her family at the end of the day than at its beginning; this is a woman able to balance the pressures of professional performance with being a loving parent; a woman who can be everywhere at once.

"...Networks are appropriate instruments for a capitalist economy based on innovation, globalisation, and decentralised concentration; for work, workers and firms based on flexibility; for a culture of endless deconstruction and reconstruction; for a polity geared towards the instant processing of new values and public moods; and for a social organisation aiming at the supersession of space and the annihilation of time" (Castells, 1996: 470-71).

AT&T09-99Time overwhelms space in AT&T's ad. It does not so much eclipse space as to 'fold' it back in itself to form a new kind of space. Here for example, the spatially dispersed family now appears in its sublated form - connected by communications devices rather than actually occupying the same space. Visually, the admakers signify the eclipse of place/space by carving the temporal frame into three simultaneous parts - one holds your significant other, the second symbolizes your baby (children), and the last is you - or at least, your hands doing the communicating. The network holds together your life - in this sense, the ad offers a therapeutic solution to speed insofar as the network becomes the means for holding together the nuclear family. The need for a therapeutic moment is acknowledged in the joky reference to "your analyst," which turns out to be the family dog. Of course, as Sigmund Freud observed, jokes often reveal more of ourselves than we are normally disposed to show. Your pet dog as your analyst is funny because it might be the truest moment in the commercial. It is at once a clever way of acknowledging the necessity of some therapeutic time and space in a world as hectic as this one is, while also admitting that maybe things aren't so socially and psychologically perfect. After all, if the only one you can really talk to honestly is the dog...hmmm, how much good is a new package of communications services going to do?

AT&T09-99
AT&T09-99

AT&T defines its new product as a highly flexible, customized communications solution for 'the way you live.' They name their service, "the personal network." What is the relationship between self and network? AT&T sounds confident that whatever its nature, it will change "forever, the way you communicate." The last scenes offer a visual representation of the new way of communicating - the relationship conducted between two mobile communications users. Wireless and mobile, they chat and correspond in transit. Making use of otherwise 'wasted' time, they redefine the way they communicate. Is it any accident that the male in this pairing appears as an isolated individual in the most abstracted of spaces?


Speed: conquering time & space

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Robert Goldman, Stephen Papson, Noah Kersey