We view advertising as an important space for the production of value. As opposed to those who see advertising solely as a space for consumption, we regard it also as a site of production. Within the space of advertisements, exchanges of meaning are made with an eye to creating a new value, or adding value, to a product or a service. We refer to this kind of value as sign value.
In the advertisers' effort to bolster and sustain brand currencies of value, they must, as Judith Williamson observed, try to "sell us ourselves" as we wanna be. Where do representations of space figure into our definitions of commodity selves?
Are there particular kinds of images that stand out in advertisers' efforts to depict social life? How do corporate ads represent social and cultural spaces that are represented through it? In a period of intense and puzzling global transformations, themselves abstractly mediated through electronic media, it's not always easy to get a handle on the deep changes taking place in the ways we live our lives. One way we conceive of locating ourselves amidst these changes come from the mass media -- especially television. Ads contribute to the frames that enable people to construct new cosmologies that aid in making sense of intense and rapid changes.
"Representations of space encompass all of the signs and significations, codes and knowledge, that allow [corresponding] material practices to be talked about and understood..." (Harvey, 1989, 218).
Metaphors for space. We are particularly interested here in visual metaphors of space, just as we have been with visual metaphors of speed. Are some metaphors more common than others? What can the visual cliches tell us?
In this project we are studying representations of space and time, along with those of capital, technology and globalization -- through the lens of mainstream television advertising. Have representations of space and time changed in contemporary ads? How do ads for companies who rely upon new technologies represent relations of time and space? (for ex. 1997-1998 campaigns for Sun Microsystems, MCI, NASDAQ, and Motorola; 1998-1999 campaigns for Qwest Communications, MCIWorldcom). Are their representations different from those in the 'old economy' ads'?
What is the difference between "place" and "space" in representations of social and cultural life?
Is there a relationship between the accelerated flow of imagery within advertising's cultural circuits of images and how viewers might be reconceptualizing the relations of place and space in their lives?
Here, we've chosen as our texts, the Sun Microsystems ads and the MCI ads (as well as others) to explore how corporations are representing such new spaces as NASDAQ or the Internet itself. These representations lace together time, agency, movement and space. Our intent is to shift the consideration of non-places by moving away from the nostalgic reasoning of folks like Marc Augé and Frederic Jameson to the works of Jean Baudrillard, Paul Virilio, Celeste Olalquiaga, Scott Lash and David Harvey and their critiques of modernity and postmodernity.
The designation "high-tech" industries includes networking, semiconductors, software, telecommunications, and fiber optics. These are all obviously interlinked. However the networking side is the side that we'll begin with, in part, because of a recent book by Manuel Castells on The Rise of The Networked Society. Castells maintains that space organizes time in the networked society. He conceives this emergent social order as a "space of flows" which differs from the stage of modernity organized as the "space of places. How are social and cultural spaces reconceived in the networked society? What does it mean to have discursive communities which exist in non-places, but rather which exist in the "space of flows"?
Even the most cynical of social theorists could not have predicted a few years ago that prior to the millennium some of the most far-fetched speculative stock values ever afforded would be found in Internet companies that were selling discursive community as their commodity. Join AOL or Geocities, E-Bay or U-Bid and become a member of a discursive community of your own choosing. This is the commodity they offer, but the revenue comes from advertisers -- from banners and the sale of 'cookies.' In this regard the Internet is modeled precisely on television, where the number one commodity has been the audience that can be delivered. Hence ratings and the fetish of ratings.
The thing about the Internet is that it is hard to figure out where "here" and "there" and "where" are -- at the very least, we would admit that it constitutes a non-embodied form of interaction. What would Donna Haraway have to say about this, given the irreducible fact that knowledge is always, cannot be otherwise, the product of an embodied existence? Though the interaction has been distanced from the body, the body remains, although displaced.