“World Premiere of Silicon Valley, Season Four” by jurvetson is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Between the 1990s and 2000s, the birth and development of the World Wide Web made the Internet more acceptable to the public. In 2000, Silicon Valley became a household name overnight due to the collapse of the Internet (Barjarin, 2019). The popularity came from transferring the Internet into the “information economy.” The answer is to turn it into a platform. In this article, I will discuss how Silicon Valley is at the core of the world’s best technology, but simultaneously dealing with government pressure and what ideologies are behind to balance this significant political and economic gap or to collapse.
Silicon Valley has underpinned its rapid growth and success as the home of the Internet. Covering a solid reputation, the historic feature behind SV now appears on paper. As an introduction, the interview with O ‘Mara is worth watching (Big Think, 2019). She uses a unique historian’s perspective to analyze the factors that come from people from society itself and to directly point out that the so-called “Valley Culture” stems from an exclusionary culture of inequality dominated by white men. Accordingly, what is the social, political, and economic factors that help shape this culture? I will illustrate this with a few straightforward examples from Silicon Valley history.
Silicon Valley has been a “role model” in upholding the white-man principle attributed to the continuity of the Internet culture. The term “nerd masculinity” mentioned by Emily K. Crandall et al. (2021, p. 843) is a work ethic that supports Silicon Valley, explained by the lack of masculinity in the traditional sense to boast the civilization and charismatic calm as a symbol of leadership, to cover the exploitation and exclusion up. There are examples of discrimination against women in the hiring and distributing of jobs within big-tech companies. In the video, O ‘Mara mentions a typical one (Big Think, 2019). When a female programmer named Anne Hardy works at IBM as a Programmer, she gets to the management level and manages an all-male team. To her surprise, her salary is lower than that of any man. Go back 50 or 70 years, the worlds of engineering, finance, and business management had very few women, does this point to the failure of innovation in Silicon Valley to distribute labor? The progressive open-mindedness that Silicon Valley relies on can hardly be denied as an attempt to erase the history of gendered and racialized labor recruitment. Some of Silicon Valley’s defenders say that all they are doing is pursuing a common goal of human progress and technological innovation. However, the chilling metaphor implies that innovation comes at the price of sacrifice, of women’s rights in tech employment, of higher pay for people “with a family,” and, more absurdly, of hard-working people’s right to everyday life. If Silicon Valley’s steady exclusivity, preconceived stereotypes, and pride in prosperous northern California become the driving force and cause of today’s tech giants, that will be too lamentable and selfish.
Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times
Emily K. Crandall et al. (2021) argue that these measures uphold the neoliberal emphasis on flexible, unstable labor. The particularly contradictory point is how they exclude those women with high skills and diverse backgrounds and people at the same time essentially demand the software engineer and developer. In O’Mara’s (Big Think, 2019) words, meritocracy never arrives in the case that talent will not grow in such a closed environment. Canales (2020) uses the term “out landed perks” to describe the high salaries, stock options, and job perks that Silicon Valley offers to keep its “smartest” tech talent — coveted free lunches, massage parlors, and the privilege of walking barefoot around the studio. It is easy to understand from the point of view of Internet transformation. One of the characteristics of the Web 2.0 era is lightweight — the idea of aggregating other people’s content “using collective intelligence” (MIT Technology Review Insights, 2021). The approach of Silicon Valley to this theme is to encourage internal collaboration: According to the survey conducted by Techspo (n.d.), the need to connect with colleagues inside and outside the organization is more critical to their success in Silicon Valley than elsewhere. For example, the CIO of Gap Inc has left the fixed office and high-walled cubicles for his IT department in favor of open spaces for brainstorming and closer seating for teams. It is a classic example of complementally keeping people in their jobs by mystifying exploitation and rationalizing the dominant relationships with the design of the Internet-corporate structure. As a strength of Silicon Valley, the leaders often establish the premise of exploitation in the first place so that people in such an ideology do not feel the problem. The more ‘blackspot,’ the more exploitation.
The Internet is a process of monetizing and commercializing innovation driven by networked infrastructure. What Silicon Valley is doing is making that a reality, within the awareness shaping its identity — as the birthplace of the information technology revolution and the information-technology-led economic development model until now (Saxenian, 2014). WIRED magazine called the “economy of ideas” the “new economy” created by invisible information in the advent of the web 2.0 era. What are the exact characteristics of such an economy? Turner (as cited in Popiel, 2018, p. 571) argued that this was originally from the 1960s when the neo-community rejected politics and embraced cybernetics and technology as agents of social and political change. The technological determinism in Silicon Valley has germinated through countercultural rebellion, technological utopianism, and distrust of political institutions. Under the premise of seeing technology as ‘the key to individual empowerment and cultural change’ (Levina & Hasinoff, as cited in Popiel, 2018, p. 571), the economics of the Internet evolved into some core concepts. One called muti-sided markets are considered to cater to multilateral interests (Mansell, R. & Steinmueller; W. E., 2020).
Taking Uber as an example, the interests of both passengers and drivers should be considered. The “consideration” here is to cover many accounts that are finally poured into the platform’s Fanny pack (Lusoli & Turner, 2021). Big data represents a data-driven approach, meaning data is the business model’s core rather than the content. As a result, the platform ignores the quality of the content (MIT Technology Review Insights, 2021). Based on the design of digital technologies, these continuing problems on the World Wide Web are a source of conflict between Silicon Valley and the government. Technology companies try to maintain their monopoly by exploiting network effects — the features of a platform that become more valuable as more people use it, controlling technical standards, and lobbying for solid patent protection McChesney (as cited in Popiel, 2018, p. 570). At the same time, the government often ignores Silicon Valley’s establishment of power systems in the technology sector (Popiel, 2018).
President Obama meets with leading tech executives, including Google’s chairman and the CEOs of Yahoo and Twitter, at the White House in December 2013. (Michael Reynolds/EPA)
One of the reasons that government ignores these issues with violation of user privacy is because it relies on the rich user data of these companies to conduct surveillance activities in the name of national security. In addition, the tech industry’s growing involvement in politics is due to its prominent role in government campaigns. Lobbying is a rare, obvious example of its use of media elites to build interlocking relationships between governments (Kreiss & McGregor, as cited in Popiel, 2018, p. 578). In the example of the Obama administration’s relationship with Silicon Valley from the 2008 presidential campaign, ‘disruptive tech’ is used to describe the country’s use of cooperation with Silicon Valley to consolidate technology and overturn everything — the ideology of technological determinism. It is not difficult to consider the center of rights as the trigger of ideology in how such interactions reveal not better-protected rights of people but the more intense power of the unicorns.
In this essay, I have introduced how the ideology has interacted with the power and platform economy of Silicon Valley by covering all social, political, and economic features drawing from the culture of technological determinism. The evolution of society creates an ideology that further distorts the structure. Whether Silicon Valley’s actions are dissected by scholars and speculated about or ignored by workers far from Northern California, the caverns of enormous interest behind Silicon Valley’s actions will not be dismembered and dispersed in a short time. While Silicon Valley has significantly contributed to the world, human rights and equality must be valued. In my opinion, rather than expecting that Silicon Valley’s philanthropy will one day benefit everyone, it is better to cut its “gravity” fundamentally. As the core of national power, the government should more firmly use ” political economy approaches” (Popiel, 2018, p. 567) to focus on antitrust, privacy, and surveillance regulation.
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