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Artifacts: An Archaeologist's Year in Silicon Valley Paperback – 1 Oct 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 294 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press; New Ed edition (1 Oct. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262561549
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262561549
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 1.9 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,000,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Observing the dot-com boom and bust was like watching time-lapse photography suggests Artifacts: An Archaeologist's Year in Silicon Valley. It seemed unreal, unsettling, yet deeply compelling. How can we try to understand the cultural changes wreaked by the last "new economy" of the 20th century? Oxford scholar Christine A Finn spent 2000 in San Jose and its surrounding valley, exploring the personal and material culture of the area. Her outsider's report is a great start for students of the accelerating rate of social change.

Though she's no techie herself, she has an uncanny knack for meeting the right people at the right time to get the information she needs to drive her story onward. Talking with successes and failures, pre-IPO orchard-workers turned uncertain service industry workers and unashamed old-tech geeks, she finds a wealth of passion and confusion as social upheaval threatens to make the area's daily earthquakes nothing more than a convenient bundle of metaphors.

Finn is blessed with the ability and willingness to admit her own bafflement--when the goings-on get too weird for her to explain, she just shrugs her shoulders and moves on, leaving explanations to later theorists. Written just as the bust was recognised as more than a temporary setback, Artifacts could have been an epitaph or a morality play; instead, Finn guides the reader to a broader understanding of human motivation and behaviour amid trying times. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"An eye-popping survey of the northern California landscape and (perhaps) its future." Kirkus Reviews "This book is a small delight! I can highly recommend Artifacts as a light, yet fascinating, read." Michael R. Williams Isis "... fresh insights. That is what Christine Finn delivers." Jan English-Luek Wired

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2 of 11 people found the following review helpful By on 23 April 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is not a scientific nor computer related
book. Artifacts are not laid out properly nor investigated. This book is a fairy tale of the authors adventures while touring the west coast of the United States. Someone should have guided her properly into the correct science, computer and archaeological methods here. No one wishes to read about her newly found entertainment travelogues of those she traded for. A very confusing writing stlye indeed! Long winded in the topics of personal dining, traveling, and events-how about going into depth about artifacts?
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Silicon Valley extended? 20 Mar. 2002
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I was looking forward to reading this book with the intention of collecting facts, both historical and computer oriented, in regards to the Silicon Valley. However, it was a wee bit like reading a large essay of sorts, and I was distracted by bouncing dates and events not in a specific order, and material that had little or nothing to do with Silicon Valley. Where were the interviews with the large computer companies and internet companies and their CEO's? When I visited the Silicon Valley, I saw several computer companies in Mountain View, Milpitas, Oakland, Redwood City, Alviso, Fremont, Sunnyvale and San Jose that were never addressed. These companies have fed our nation with a wealth of technology and financial stability amongst the world. Instead, there are pages of personal experiences that had no place in an archaeology based text. If you are to read this book, Artifacts, be sure to have a pad of paper to map out chronologically what is going on. Also, I would have liked to have seen actual "artifacts" of Silicion Valley photographed large and in color, with a description and history beneath them as to identify and associate them. I suppose this book would have fancied me if it wasn't suppose to be an archaeology text. Also, I would have liked to read about the cities in Silicon Valley that are crucial to the computer field and their "artifacts". Some of the cities reported on are not considered the "computer" cities of the Silicon Valley. It may have been that the author was side tracked by her personal journies and discoveries.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
An Oxford Scholar In The Clean Room 26 Dec. 2001
By JRob - Published on
Format: Hardcover
So you think you've heard it all when it comes to the Valley, right? Well check this one out. With a fresh view and a scientist's eye, Christine Finn gives us new insight into a subject that has been done before. Frankly, I was sceptical, but I also had a minimum of six hours to wait at SFO (due to fog there and snow in Chicago). The author covers the valley like nobody I have ever read. Underlying a roaming set of essays is an almost palpable enthusiasm. And there is a romantic slant (in the classic sense) - she sees the valley as what it is as well as what it means to society. I recommend it.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A different view of the valley, removed from the hype 26 Sept. 2002
By Sellam Ismail - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book takes a look at the other side of the Silicon Valley: the side removed from the glitz and glamour of the Silicon Valley (or at least what it had during the writing of the book).
Other reviewers wanted more coverage of local companies. For that, they should turn to the dozens of business publications that already cover that information, or the dozens of books that chronicle the history of the Valley and its various star companies.
This book was written to help outsiders understand the reality of the Silicon Valley and, having been written from the perspective of an outsider, finds significant details that insiders either simply take for granted or just don't notice.
It describes the social foundations upon which the Silicon Valley was built and upon which it currently rests, and uses that information to try to explain how the Valley of Hearts Delight was tranformed. In this regard, the book truly is an archaeological treatise, but written in a friendly and readable style that allows the reader to experience the scene firsthand.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
get English-Lueck's Cultures@SiliconValley instead 17 July 2002
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is not the best book for insights about the Valley. As the other reviewers suggest, this book has a bit of a split personality. On the one hand, one has a stream of observational anecdotes about the Valley. All of the usual cliches are here: Fry's, Buck's Diner, the cherry stands, the 101 traffic jams. These read like someone is trying their hand at writing a confessional ethnographic tale, but without a theoretical argument to provide a central structure. On the other hand, one has a stream of stories about computer-as-artifact -- tales about the collectors, like Nathan Myhrvold, and the people who recycle computers, and so on. One gets the feeling that the author set out to write a book about the latter, found it a bit thin, and the editor suggested fleshing it out with some bubble-era backdrop.
info science student in Art History class 31 Jan. 2011
By Mallory Jane - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was the 2nd of 7 books assigned as reading in an Art History course on artifacts and images. This book is difficult to read at first as the author seems to be randomly meandering through Silicon Valley with no purpose and no method. However, after reviewing her journey at the end of the book, I appreciate the way that the author doesn't do the work for the reader -- she spells nothing out and let's the reader draw his or her own connections. It is an interesting snapshot of life in 1999-2001 in SiVa. Her writing style is unique and clever, though it requires attention and thought from the reader.
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