Technology Affects On The Family Essay

2387 words - 10 pages

Technology is binding the world of work and the world of home
in ways that redefine what is means to be in each. Some changes are
dramatic, others are subtle, but the changes are experienced in the
mundane activities of everyday life. To begin this presentation I
will tell you a story. This story may not reflect your own lives, but
I imagine some details will have a familiar ring to them.

John is a middle-aged product development manager at a high
tech company in Silicon Valley. He bemoans the fact that he no longer
has the kind of personnel support he had even 10 years ago. While
he shares an administrative assistant with several other managers,
he is now expected to ...view middle of the document...

Both John and
Sharon now take work and worry home. Sharon checks her E-mail and
voice mail in the predawn hours before her children wake to prepare
for any tasks that may need to be addressed immediately. She carries
a pager and a cell phone so that she can stay in contact with her
teenaged children after they come home from school. All of them feel
much safer for the presence of these devices. They can now stay out
longer and be more independent since they are "in contact." The only
time they have been physically together in several weeks is for the
anthropologist's visit to their home for an interview.

This vignette is drawn from a host of interviews and
observations done over the past seven years in a series of studies
dubbed "the Silicon Valley Cultures Project." I have been part
of a team of anthropologists, along with Charles Darrah and James
M. Freeman, that have been studying technology and community in
Silicon Valley. While the larger issues addressed by my colleagues
here today also interest us, our particular emphasis has been on the
study of technology in daily life. We have treated Silicon Valley as
a laboratory for technological saturation, where talk about technology
surfaces easily at work, at home and in the community and can be
therefore captured by eager social scientists. Silicon Valley is also
a place with a well defined regional identity, in which discussions
of reinventing community are common fare. We have sampled the
intersection of technology and community in a variety of ways. In
1995 we worked with the Institute for the Future who combined a large
scale statistical survey with an intensive ethnographic study of
"infomated households." These are households with a critical mass
of at least five information devices, including some combination of
VCRs, CDs, laser discs, fax machines, answering machines, voice mail
services, computers, and cellular phones. How did these devices enter
and flow through peoples lives? What impact did they have? This study
highlighted an unexpected connection. Infomated households revolved
around work, both paid work and an endless series of tasks that formed
a greater environment of work ranging from gainful work to voluntary
activities and "working on ones family." This project led to 450
detailed interviews with people on work/home/community interface in
Silicon Valley, soon to be partially funded by the National Science
Foundation. We entered a variety of work spaces, at "work" and
at home to view how people managed the intersection between these
domains. Meanwhile, we also conducted related studies, collected
hundreds of stories on how people decided to purchase devices and how
they managed interactions across different cultures and generations.
We also interviewed more than fifty community leaders about their
visions of the future of community in the Silicon Valley region.
Finally, using this research as a base, we are...

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