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Uncanny Valley: A Memoir de Anna Wiener
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Uncanny Valley: A Memoir (edició 2020)

de Anna Wiener (Autor)

MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaMencions
6162531,066 (3.69)10
'Joan Didion at a startup' Rebecca Solnit 'I've never read anything like Uncanny Valley ' Jia Tolentino 'This is essential reading' Stylist At twenty-five years old, Anna Wiener was beginning to tire of her assistant job in New York publishing. There was no room to grow, and the voyeuristic thrill of answering someone else's phone had worn thin. Within a year she had moved to Silicon Valley to take up a job at a data analytics startup in San Francisco. Leaving her business casual skirts and shirts in the wardrobe, she began working in company-branded T-shirts. She had a healthy income for the first time in her life. She felt like part of the future. But a tide was beginning to turn. People were speaking of tech startups as surveillance companies. Out of sixty employees, only eight of her colleagues were women. Casual sexism was rife. Sexual harassment cases were proliferating. And soon, like everyone else, she was addicted to the internet, refreshing the news, refreshing social media, scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. Slowly, she began to realise that her blind faith in ambitious, arrogant young men from America's soft suburbs wasn't just her own personal pathology. It had become a global affliction. Uncanny Valley is a coming of age story set against the backdrop of our generation's very own gold rush. It's a story about the tension between old and new, between art and tech, between the quest for money and the quest for meaning - about how our world is changing forever.… (més)
Membre:ahblake
Títol:Uncanny Valley: A Memoir
Autors:Anna Wiener (Autor)
Informació:MCD (2020), 288 pages
Col·leccions:Andrew Read, La teva biblioteca
Valoració:
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Uncanny Valley: A Memoir de Anna Wiener

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Wiener fleshes out some of the details of a story that most people are familiar with only in its broad outlines: the social and cultural damage wrought by a tech sector that has tried--often not very hard--to mask its hunger for profit behind a veneer of social utility. Many of the elements here have in fact been described in detail elsewhere: the toxic culture of bro-grammers, the treatment of women in tech, the messianic delusions of boy-king founders, the pernicious effects of venture capital throwing millions of dollars into the laps of people in their teens and early twenties who in many cases dropped out of college. Wiener's strength is her ability to weave all this into a prose that crackles; I haven't felt like a book would furnish me with this many dinner party one-liners since reading Zeisler's "We Were Feminists Once." Like Zeisler, Wiener is not emptily snarky; at regular intervals the humor will pause and moments of genuinely moving insight into our current human moment emerge.

But the comparison with Zeisler occurred to me for another reason. One thing I want from a memoir is not simply to learn about the world or events that the memoir describes, but about the author. And this book leaves you with a lot to ponder about Wiener. The most problematic aspect for me was her claim to be a feminist. I have no doubt that in her own mind she considered herself to be so at the time. But it appears to be the kind of feminism that I see all the time in many of the students I teach: a vague individualized notion of inherent rights. Wiener is in fact a perfect illustration of what Zeisler describes as the emergence of consumer feminism that sells a notion of individual empowerment rather than collective action. When it comes to acting like a feminist, rather than just believing she is one, Wiener's actions are consistently at odds with her beliefs. As a reader, you can play a game where you count the number of times she uses some variant of the phrase "I waited for them to notice me; they never did" or list the instances where she otherwise passively waits for things to happen to her. Despite, by her own account, being subject to repeated victimization as a woman and seeing other women endure the same, there is little in the way of trying to build a collective response.

Also fascinating is the degree to which Wiener's narrative highlights some of the larger cultural ills of which the startup culture is just one facet. Chief among these is a truly extraordinary level of wasteful consumerism. Another fun game with this book is to count the number of times Wiener reports buying a service, device, or item of clothing that by her own account she never ends up using. One of her chief concerns is with the degree to which so much of our social media tech has become addictive mainly because it was deliberately designed to be so (the analytics firm she worked for rolled out a package that they called--with the complete lack of irony in which Silicon Valley specializes--Addiction). You would think, then, that she might have had cause to reflect on the extraordinary reliance on alcohol and cigarettes that fuels both the work and social scenes she inhabits.

Lastly, while she is legitimately and thoughtfully critical of the entitlement bubbles in which so many tech workers are encased, she doesn't seem particularly aware of the dynamics of the broader culture of which she is a part. She is a bicoastal denizen and the lives of she and her friends in New York and San Francisco have a lot in common: regular recreational drug use (Ecstasy, Acid, etc), artisanal this-that-and-the-other, chi-chi restaurants, services for entirely made-up problems, obscure bands, performance art, etc. I want to be very clear, that I don't myself have a problem with any of these things. But it only takes a little imagination to realize that there are large swathes of the country where someone would learn that, say, a guy has a job as a "cuddle therapist" providing emotional solace for older men, and think WTAF? One of the unintentional side-effects of this book, then (unless, I guess, you are a twenty-something living in the New York and San Fran fantasy worlds) is to help us see some of what divides us at the moment. The daily life that she describes, even the "healthy" version, is one that is so far removed from the reality of much of the US population as to be taking place on a different planet.

These may seem like criticisms, but they aren't really; hence the high star rating! It is Wiener's openness and honesty in describing her life that makes these issues visible. My only regret is that she herself doesn't seem to notice them and reflect on them which would have made for an even better book. While I think this book will remain valuable as an anthropological account of startup culture, I suspect its real value going forward will be its portrayal of a certain type of smart, compartmentalized, analytical but not terribly reflective twenty-something product of late US capitalism. ( )
  BornAnalog | May 11, 2022 |
Wiener's narrative style is very engaging and humorous, and her wry observations about Silicon Valley start-up culture are spot on. As a memoir though, I felt the book lacked introspection. What the author doesn't seem to realize is that practically everyone in Silicon Valley is: A) a transplant from someplace else, B) feels like they don't belong, and C) rolls their eyes at the culture here.

The book is mostly observations of *what* she experienced -- told with exactly the preconceived notions and subtle condescension common in the literary world about tech -- but very little about *why* she contributed to a culture she disdains. As she complains about her $90K salary at age 26, lack of promotion within a year of employment, her misogynistic company that she decided to join despite a public discrimination lawsuit, etc., it's hard to be sympathetic. Though she finally acknowledges on p. 251 her "own class privilege" and "everything I took for granted," that hardly seems the point of the book.

What really makes Silicon Valley "Uncanny" is that it has fostered several negative corporate dynamics and broader societal repercussions, despite being located in one of the most progressive cities in the world and populated by well-educated, well-intentioned, and generally progressive people. More self-reflection about how we all, perhaps inadvertently, contribute to that culture would have been welcome in this book. ( )
  Mike_Trigg | Feb 10, 2022 |
Gosh I really enjoyed this book! I liked the writing style and elements that others didn't enjoy. I liked the fact that her sociology undergrad degree really seemed to shine through in the way she approached her thinking about tech and Silicon Valley. Wiener is clearly an excellent writer. The way she can craft a sentence is just technically and artistically very impressive and I would love to read some more of her writing for the New Yorker.

I was slightly nervous going into this even though I know I am very interested in the topic. I rarely read memoirs and when I have read books about Silicon Valley they usually focus on specific companies or the economic system that built them and were not as much about one persons individual work experience. Because the writing was so phenomenal, I fell write into it. I think there are some parts of Wiener's writing style that some people may find annoying like that fact that she does not name the companies but just describes them and leaves the reader to try to figure it out.

I think if you're a person like me who is somewhat obsessed with the machinations of Silicon Valley I think you'll enjoy getting to read from the perspective of someone who worked in that environment and has some critiques of how the whole system works. I would definitely recommend this book.
( )
  AKBouterse | Oct 14, 2021 |
In the future, when people ask me what it was like working in Silicon Valley, and why I left, I'll be able to point them to this book, which contains a some of the answers. My own time overlaps with the time covered in the book, and I found myself nodding in agreement many times. ( )
  Enno23 | Aug 15, 2021 |
Insights into the wealthy bubble next door and how tech has changed the valley/San Francisco and us. Universal human flaw on page after page: being attracted by the temporal idols of wealth and power. And Werner's personal flaw of choosing not to know, seeking an undefined "something more" and not finding it. The solution? Exit the bubble looking back, as did Lot's wife in the book of Genesis. Redemption in writing a memoir or tragedy in becoming a pillar of salt? ( )
  meganjpdasilva | Aug 4, 2021 |
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Corral, RodrigoDissenyador de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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'Joan Didion at a startup' Rebecca Solnit 'I've never read anything like Uncanny Valley ' Jia Tolentino 'This is essential reading' Stylist At twenty-five years old, Anna Wiener was beginning to tire of her assistant job in New York publishing. There was no room to grow, and the voyeuristic thrill of answering someone else's phone had worn thin. Within a year she had moved to Silicon Valley to take up a job at a data analytics startup in San Francisco. Leaving her business casual skirts and shirts in the wardrobe, she began working in company-branded T-shirts. She had a healthy income for the first time in her life. She felt like part of the future. But a tide was beginning to turn. People were speaking of tech startups as surveillance companies. Out of sixty employees, only eight of her colleagues were women. Casual sexism was rife. Sexual harassment cases were proliferating. And soon, like everyone else, she was addicted to the internet, refreshing the news, refreshing social media, scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. Slowly, she began to realise that her blind faith in ambitious, arrogant young men from America's soft suburbs wasn't just her own personal pathology. It had become a global affliction. Uncanny Valley is a coming of age story set against the backdrop of our generation's very own gold rush. It's a story about the tension between old and new, between art and tech, between the quest for money and the quest for meaning - about how our world is changing forever.

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