Landscapes of Global Capital
tv globe icon link to home the faces of Generation D
"It's not an age, it's an attitude."
They're young
And some just think that way
The people in companies that were born digital
Or reborn
As comfortable with data as the last generation was with the telephone
As long as they have the right set of tools
And the right company behind them
"For these people, the only questions are, 'How much faster can I go?' And, 'what are the possibilities?''

Like Pepsi, WORLDCOM also extends the notion of generation beyond age as merely an ascriptive category. The Pepsi Generation who valued fun, excitement and caffeinated leisure are now part of this emerging corporate class defined by their relationship to technology. This imagined generation is hailed as WORLDCOM's totem group. Blending tech skills, corporate vision, youthful exuberance and Gap style Gen D's thrive on techno-social change. Work is play. This is the new way.

While we usually think of a biography as a book length manuscript that covers a person's life from birth to death, here biography is hypersignified by a glance. We are positioned to imagine the rest. To be born digital is to exhibit a certain habitus, ways of seeing and doing that are so deeply internalized they are experienced as natural, like being born a gentleman. However, the habitus of generation d denies race, gender, and social class, even though the signifiers of social class are overabundant. For example, reliance on off-center portraiture to connote intelligence is a bourgeois aesthetic device. Generation replaces social class as a classificatory device. Class connotes structure and hindrance; generation suggests choices, movement and progress.

Drawing on Althusser's notion of interpellation and Levi-Strauss' ideas about totemism, Judith Williamson observes that one precondition of successful commodity advertising is that it must appellate us. Here, in this ad, the viewer is hailed as if we are part of the group that exists in the ad. The product often assumes totemic status representing and embodying the ideal qualities of the imagined group. The brand logo focuses and defines the totemic identifications.

For example, the Pepsi generation represented an imaginary group that was fun-loving, youthful, and leisure-oriented. To drink Pepsi, the ads intimated, is to see oneself as part of the imagined group, in this case a function of the coordinates of market research. Like commodity advertising, corporate branding also attempts to give its logo totemic status by associating the ideal, imagined group with its brand. It simultaneously constitutes and is constituted by these branded characteristics.

In this campaign WORLDCOM positions itself as a corporation filled with technological problem solvers neither constrained by hierarchy nor structure. WORLDCOM's generation d campaign defines its employees as cool and confident, 'in the know' and itself as an innovative corporation with a defiantly relaxed and unalienated corporate culture. Most importantly, it opens space for its potential customers to participate in the characteristics that it associates with generation d. WORLDCOM sells freedom from techno anxiety through feel good associations (unlike IBM which uses techno-terror to push up the anxiety quotient to point that a business person can only cry for help). Even the background music for this campaign is melodic, upbeat corporate techno further heightening the sense of confidence that exudes the portraits. Gen Ds know where the world is going and backed by WORLDCOM they are the one's taking it there.


New Economic Formations
Commodification
Social Relations of Production
Information Economy

The digital generation < Previous

Next > I will not be a cog

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