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Until recently, « ordinary » advertising for connection-enabled items was not very pervasive. Many of our contemporaries are captivated by the new technologies that allow us to create a multitude of virtual links. The technique for baiting buyers is therefore subtle. Thus, Apple is a specialist in hooking potential customers. It announces the launch of a new machine, but leaves uncertainties about the technical advances of the novelty. The geeks get excited, exchange on the networks, the interest grows and the day of the launch of the new machine, Apple realizes a very mediatized event on which some tens of fanatics rush. The video of these unleashed people reaching out to snatch the object is widely circulated. Anyone who bought a similar item just a year ago will feel that they too must acquire this coveted device. In fact, they will never use the few new functions, but they will be able to proudly show off the new toy to their acquaintances, some of whom, out of jealousy, will acquire it in turn. René Girard would speak of  » mimetic desire « (1) and Thorstein Veblen of  » conspicuous consumption of the leisure class »(2).


It would seem that the fascination with this hardware is beginning to wane. The novelty is not really new anymore and then there are some spoils of trade: the telephone operators, to convince you to subscribe to them, offer you a smartphone for 1€… If it’s free, it’s worthless, say those who have well integrated the codes of the all-powerful market. 

It is therefore necessary to use the good old advertising methods but adapted to modernity. This is how Qualcomm starts to multiply the ads. Not familiar with Qualcomm? It is however a giant firm in the technology sector. Founded in the United States in 1985, it specializes in  » telecommunication solutions  » and has become one of the world’s leading companies in the design and marketing of cell phone processors ($24 billion in sales, 33,000 employees). She makes advertising videos which are very well done and which show us, for example, what a non-connected world would be like.(3) To sell one of her chips, she also made another video that could be the envy of the best science fiction film directors(4) (if we show them to you, it is not to let you be bewitched, eh!). 

Lately, in Brussels, Qualcomm has been using STIB buses and street TV (animated billboards) to get its message across:  » We invent. The world leaps forward. The tech the world loves « (5). Technological imperialism, language imperialism: it is clear that they want to impose another world, theirs. 

But cell phones were only the vanguard of connected objects. Now, everything has to be connected and advertising is there to convince us of this. For example, a few days ago, the Vandenborre appliance store sent me an e‑mail with the following message:  » Imagine: a fridge that helps you shop. A coffee machine programmable directly from your smartphone. A food processor that prepares your meals automatically and groups its recipes on an app… Would it make your life easier? With our selection of smart appliances, you can create the connected kitchen of your dreams « . So this is the world they are preparing for us: a world where machines will do everything for us and where we will never be where we are(6) but in permanent link with the objects we will remotely control (I wonder who will drink the coffee I will have made in my connected kitchen and if my fridge will be polite with the drone that will come to deliver the groceries it has ordered). 

If we accept the logic of hyper-connection, it will not only be our kitchen that will be permanently connected, whether you like it or not: the connected electricity meters (soon to be mandatory?) should allow you to continuously measure your household’s consumption. For what purpose? To check if your fridge isn’t messing with your toaster? Or is it to find out your habits and send you advertisements adapted to your lifestyle?(7)

Finally, let’s not forget the constant advertisements for autonomous cars: they will only be able to move without too much danger if they are connected with a whole complex system. If they and other connected objects multiply, current microwave links will not be able to handle the enormous wave rates that this will represent. 4G, 5G, xG… will be necessary to broadcast these waves whose effects on our health are known to be absolutely deleterious. But you can’t stop progress, can you? Besides, these autonomous cars are not really desired by motorists who, in general, prefer to drive rather than to be passive. In fact, the real interest of these autonomous vehicles is to be able to do without truck, bus and cab drivers whose salaries prevent companies from making more profits. It’s like the Deliveroo & Co and other Uber bike deliverers whose activities are only possible thanks to their permanent connection with the central office that enslaves them. 

So expect to see more and more advertisements and other reports extolling the virtues of the connection, for the greater good of capitalism 4.0…

Alain Adriaens

Notes et références
  1. René Girard, De la violence à la divinité, La Violence et le Sacré, Paris, Grasset, [1972] 2007, 1491 pp. .
  2. Thorstein Veblen, Théorie de la classe de loisir, Collection Tel (n° 27), Gallimard, [1899] 1970, .
  5. « Nous inventons. Le monde fait un bond en avant. La technologie que le monde aime. »
  6. Il y a plus de 10 ans déjà, Miguel Bensayag et Angélique del Rey dénonçaient les ravages psychologiques du mobile : « II aurait fait de nous une tribu de nomades, libres et sans attache. Cette image publicitaire se révèle bien fausse : (…) elle nous promet le réconfort de la tribu mais cette liaison incessante avec les autres cache une cassure des liens sans précédent. Et cette solitude qui serait enfin comblée pourrait bien être la marque de notre incapacité tragique à être avec nous-mêmes, et de ce fait, avec les autres. » Plus jamais seul, Paris, Bayard, 2006.
  7. Lire l’article de Paul Lannoye, « Je refuse qu’on installe un compteur ’’intelligent’’ chez moi », Kairos février-mars 2018

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