Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Commentaries on this Media!

Data Anthem

by Critical Commons Manager

These videos are all from IBM's Effie award-winning Let's Build A Smarter Planet marketing campaign of 2009-10. The ads are a celebration of the ability to harvest, interpret and visualize of data in complex systems such as the human body or an urban transportation system. The initial series of four ads were produced by the Santa Monica based design firm Motion Theory, each of which presents a seamless integration of the data/image binary, with images of 3-dimensional objects constituting themselves dynamically in three-dimensional space, then dissolving into glowing bits that reconstitute as the next object in space -- morphing from a car traveling on a smart highway, for example, to a patient receiving smart health care in a hospital bed; and so on. Throughout the video, a disembodied camera flies through the empty spaces of a world continually being constituted, dissolved and reconstituted not as abstract data visualizations but as 3D images of real-world objects. The trope of the floating disembodied camera is familiar from the virtual, floating cameras of third-person gaming systems, but also from architectural flythroughs and motion graphics design films. This abstraction of the human body, which is ostensibly what is at stake in the IBM ads, is compensated -- or perhaps overcompensated for -- in a subsequent series of ads that shifts the tagline from "Let's build a smarter planet" to "I'm an IBM-er."

The Data Anthem ad, does not have a single cut, instead seamlessly interweaving changes of perspective on an XYZ axis. It begins with an explosion that could be either on a cellular level or perhaps that of the big bang, out of which a glowing cluster of downtown high rises comes into view; a disembodied camera does a rapid fly-through into the heart of the city and tracks around a vehicle made of glowing bits, performing a semi-circular arc in bullet time before pivoting to an overhead position to see the car transform into a human figure on a hospital gurney; the camera pushes through the hospital scene to follow high voltage electrical wires, zooming down to the scale of an excited electron and back out to glowing data-visualized planet appearing to show densities of electrical usage worldwide; the earth then explodes into a glowing pulsing Let's Build a Smarter Planet logo, which in turn shatters and reconstitutes itself as the IBM logo.

In contrast with the dominant imagery of IBM's previous self-presentation campaigns, these ads pointedly avoid the fetishizing of high-tech equipment -- the Business Machines -- or machines that mean business suggested by the company's corporate moniker. In visualizing the "data," in this series, Motion Theory elides the more prosaic mechanisms by which such data is captured: sensors, electrodes, etc. in favor of fluid animations and glowing lines in rainbow hues.

IBM Data City

Motion Theory's Data City for IBM's Smarter Planet campaign

from Data City (2010)
Creator: Motion Theory
Distributor: IBM
Posted by Critical Commons Manager