Work, Identity and Community
         in Silicon Valley

Concurent with the collaborative research with IFTF, the SVCP team conducted 175 in-depth interviews in the Work, Identity and Community in Silicon Valley project.

The Silicon Valley region is composed of diverse fragments—towns, companies, ethnic communities, social networks—that shift and reform themselves. Workers flow through a mosaic of organizational cultures in their daily lives. Individuals must negotiate this metamorphic social terrain by creating social networks that can sustain them and new metaphors to justify their strategies. Work is the dominant venue for this creativity. In the Silicon Valley technological metaphors evolve into solutions as the local community is "reinvented" to support an "optimal" work environment. Work and non-work time become blurred. Community activity, justified by its value to work, reaches into education, communications, recreation and family. Community becomes transformed into an instrumental force for production. Investigating the nature and impact of this shift in community self-definition is the primary research question.

As a bellwether of American high tech communities, Silicon Valley displays distinctive characteristics. Because organizations import managerial and professional expertise from abroad they experience a demographic influx comprised of highly educated, upwardly mobile elite, largely from Asia. In California, the successive waves of ethnic, immigrant and refugee populations diversifies the lower echelons of the community. High tech communities also contain distinctive corporate cultures that may color the larger region with varied work ethics, models of interpersonal management and images of mobility and risk. The boundary of workplace and family blurs as "egalitarian, familial images" of relationships are shipped into the corporate culture, only to form new corporate notions of identity and family which trickle back into the home. The density of technological tools and toys may themselves mediate human relationships. Finally, just as pagers redefine parents relationships with their teenagers the information and telecommunications technologies may transform traditional face-to-face communities as well as virtual ones, redefining identities, relationships and family communication patterns. Our second research questions explores constant creation, transformation and erosion of individual and familial identities that take place within high tech communities. (For details of this projects sample and methodology see the NSF report). This project resulted in the book, Cultures@SiliconValley.

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