From the monthly archives:

November 2023

Observers Observed: The Ethnographer in Silicon Valley

by Tamara Kneese on November 9, 2023

It is undeniably powerful to hear workers’ stories in their own words. Movements can emerge from the unlikeliest sources. The oral histories of ordinary workers are often seen as distinct from the memoirs of outsiders in tech, many of them women, who have written about their experiences. The latter range from Ellen Ullman’s 1990s memoir from the perspective of a woman software engineer to Anna Wiener’s viral essay and then monograph-length account, Uncanny Valley.

Elsewhere, I have written about the politics of collecting stories from the margins of Silicon Valley. I argue that the femme tech memoir, as an iteration of the personal essay genre, can be read alongside workers’ inquiry as a way of finding solidarity across job descriptions and positionalities. Workers’ inquiry combines research with organizing, allowing workers themselves to produce knowledge about their own circumstances and use it in their labor organizing. This seems especially vital in an industry where even short-term history is hard to access and most workers stay with specific companies or in particular roles for short stints. [click to continue…]

Silicon Valley is the Detroit of the Future

by Louis Hyman on November 8, 2023

In the U.S., there is a city where industrial visionaries, state leaders, and financial titans all clamor to go. They want to see the future being made today. Revolutionary new ways of working are being combined with technology to create a better standard of living for the employees, cheaper products for the consumers, and unimaginable returns for the investors. Driving around, you can see the boom everywhere you look. Factories. Warehouses. Mansions. This town is going to be the center of a new world. This town is Detroit in 1920. [click to continue…]

Silicon Valley Liberal-tarians

by Neil Malhotra on November 7, 2023

To analyze the ideology of Silicon Valley, one can take two approaches. One is to start “from the bottom” and qualitatively examine the writing and influence of key intellectual figures in the community. This method will yield a host of arcane and idiosyncratic ideologies and worldviews, which may or may not be reflected in political competition and policymaking, either directly or indirectly. The second approach is to consider the current structure of political cleavages and see where Silicon Valley elites – people who play a key role in the Silicon Valley business community – fit onto this existing mapping. [click to continue…]

Silicon Valley Fairy Dust

by Sherry Turkle on November 6, 2023

Silicon Valley companies began life with the Fairy dust of 1960s dreams sprinkled on them. The revolution that 1960s activists dreamed of had failed, but the personal computer movement carried that dream onto the early personal computer industry. Hobbyist fairs, a communitarian language, and the very place of their birth encouraged this fantasy. Nevertheless, it soon became clear that, like all companies, what these companies wanted most of all, was to make money. Not to foster democracy, not to foster community and new thinking, but to make money.
[click to continue…]

Sunday photoblogging: Little Egret

by Chris Bertram on November 5, 2023

Not the greatest of photographs, but I thought I’d continue with a bird. When I was looking at this one I was approached by some French retirees who asked me if there was anything interesting to see. Not knowing the French for egret, I said “Il y a un héron”, only to get the slightly contemptuous reply “Ce n’est pas un héron, c’est une aigrette!”. So I learnt a new word.

Little Egret

Silicon Valley is the Church of Moore’s Law

by Dave Karpf on November 2, 2023

I have come to the conclusion that the most essential element of the Silicon Valley ideology is its collective faith in technological acceleration. More than the mix of libertarianism and tech determinism that Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron described as the “Californian Ideology” in 1995, more than the breakdown of donations between Democratic and Republican candidates, the driving ideological conviction among the denizens of Silicon Valley is that the rate of technological innovation is accelerating.

[click to continue…]