Oral Presentation Session - Cosponsored Status Awarded
Sponsored by: Society for the Anthropology of Work
Cosponsored by: Society for Economic Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges
Primary Theme: Technology
Secondary Theme: Labor
Silicon Valley and Wall Street exist in the popular imagination as reified forces whose practices shape the destinies of ordinary human beings far and wide. In fact, both are places where people live and work; both are ideologies based upon specific assumptions. These sessions explore the mythologies and the realities that comprise two key American, albeit globally connected, phenomena. They describe the particular characteristics of each domain, seek common elements shared by both, and analyze their interplay and interdependence.
The papers in the sessions consider how the day-to-day habits of the natives combine with cultural and economic narratives to shape the habitus of the cultures. Drawing upon past studies and research in progress, they examine the historic ongoing dialectic between institutions and “disrupters.” Who lives the reality depicted in the narratives, and who has the cultural authority to shape those stories? How is that story seen from different points of view from long-term denizens, short-term sojourners, and outside interpreters? By what means are newcomers socialized, trained, ranked, and sorted? What subcultures and countercultures exist within the domains, and how do the members perceive and present their identities? How has the double helix of technological inventions and financial instruments evolved, and what emerging trends can be discerned?
In this session, Julia Haines, practitioner and scholar of startups, considers the impact of venture capital funding mechanisms on the mythological model of disruptive innovation. Benjamin Shestakofsky studies software developers at a “permanently beta” organization and how they explore the experiences of the often-invisible workers whose efforts support computational infrastructure as they navigate rapid organizational change, revealing variations in corporate imaginaries and inequalities in the distribution of social costs. To investigate the methods creating these experiences, Michael Scroggins reveals how a “garage lab’s” small human resource department uses discursive and material tools engaged to sort employees, and discusses problems of inclusion and equity. He traces how the myths of Silicon Valley come to obfuscate and obscure the lived reality. Jennifer Cool reflects upon her own experiences as an entry-level Wall Street securities trader in the late 1980s and a Silicon Valley project manager at Netscape ten years later, comparing her socialization into practices and imaginaries around information technologies. For a broad historical perspective, J.A. English-Lueck documents how the countercultural practices of the Bay Area in the late 20th century directly map on to the efforts to creatively disrupt nearly every facet of life: counterculture and technology are intertwined, as the iconic event Burning Man celebrates robots, and diverse food, wellness, and clean technologies valorize and transform nature. Through this combination, work practices and expectations are transformed.
Scholar-practitioners in the sessions will approach their topics from two directions. First, the regions are subject to the anthropological gaze as topics in their own right, as anthropologies of work or globalization. In addition, anthropologists who actively work in these locations as practitioners offer a valuable perspective about the meaning of their experiences among the natives.