Virtu-Real Space:





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  • Essay

Abstract/Summary/Introduction:

  • A significant shift is occurring in the makeup, physical nature, and composition of space as it is experienced in contemporary culture. This shift, which is a direct result of the ubiquitous presence of information technologies in the cultural landscape, signals that physical components alone no longer comprise the infrastructure of the contemporary social environment. The ads, which show American Express cards in locations where they function as architectural elements (i.e., a bridge support, a path on a golf course, a canopy over a restaurant dining area, and others), indicate that it is now a combination of physical components and virtual systems that support and sustain the “real” world. Virtual credit space, symbolized in the advertisements by the credit card, functions not only as structural support for the physical world, but also as solid footing and shelter for the people who live in that world. And since virtual credit space is operationalized by information technologies, it becomes clear in these commercials that the extent to which physical space has been infiltrated by information technologies is both extreme (the cards are pervasive) and covert (no one in the ads notices the cards). Furthermore, because the cards blend into their surroundings unnoticed, these corporate images also indicate that information technologies are our natural setting. It becomes clear, then, that the use of the credit card icon in these commercials represents the extent to which information technologies have become naturalized as an intrinsic part of contemporary social life.