Tuesday, November 6, 2007

New Sanfrakota

Lately, AT&T has run an ad campaign that illustrates the notion of mobile enclave, an intersection of technology and performance that allows its practitioners to carry miniature version of the world with them. The mobile enclave is best illustrated by the iPod's (and, now, iPhone's) enablement of a portable bubble of sound whose impressive storage capacity allows users to disconnect from the outside world for increasingly long periods of time. Consider the contrast of radio that is static (in terms of motion, if not in terms of quality), limited to a narrow range of music, and innately public. With new personal data, navigation, and entertainment devices, we need not be tied to those old media-sites. AT&T illustrates a fascinating expansion of the mobile enclave concept with its "works in more places" spots.

Here's a typical example: "You live in New York. You work in San Francisco. You play in South Dakota. AT&T Works in more places like New Sanfrakota." The name is awkward and confusing at first, but it undoubtedly grabs your attention. Where is this place? Then you realize that the name is meaningful only to its author. The place is a conflation of nodes designed to further an individual ambition or corporate vision. New Sanfrakota - and other amalgams such as Philawarapragueacago - are precisely not places for you or for anyone else.

A number of critics have castigated this campaign as being confusing or, worse, kind of stupid. Bloggers have emphasized that AT&T, regardless of its ad budget, sells a lousy product. A reasonable critique. Yet I'm drawn to the ad campaign's proposal that we want to carry our own artificial worlds around, tying together personalized nodes that allow us a more perfect dislocation from the places through which we pass and the people by which we walk.

I wonder how this trend will end.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This stupid campaign illustrates the gulf between AT&T's self-image and reality. I live in Silicon Valley and they can't even get reliable coverage here; despite claiming "fewest dropped calls", I regularly drop calls driving on the two major freeways between San Francisco and San Jose. They've withdrawn DSL service from my neighborhood even though we're two miles from Oracle Corp's world HQ! Meanwhile they're busy renaming our ball park every other year and claiming to provide service in Sanfrakota. I'd be happy if they could provide reliable service in San Francisco!