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
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"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