Reviewed by: AAA Executive Program Committee
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Technology
Secondary Theme: Cities
Silicon Valley has transformed during the last century from the agricultural lands of the "Valley of Heart's Delight" to the land of microchips and digital technologies. Traces of old and new in housing, transportation, business, and the environment intermingle. Images projected in the media focus more on technologists and less on the dynamic of life. This walking tour and map-making event is designed to show multiple genealogies of the area.
Participants are invited to take one of several walking tours around the conference venue to see Silicon Valley and discover underlying processes of changes, such as those related to gentrification and “smart city” implementations. During the walking tours, participants are encouraged to make note (sketches, photographs) of their observation and submit them to a website (TBD). A concluding exposition and discussion will take place at the conference venue.
For example, one tour focuses on mapping micro-infrastructures of mobility in downtown San Jose. This tour reveals what maps as navigation tools leave out, considering how sidewalks, curbs, corners and crosswalks constitute cross-boundary / borderland spaces of mobility practice. Tracing the areas around the Convention Center, participants will be invited to document spaces that appear, for instance, as “occupied,” “empty,” or “contested” in terms of mobility and to ask who “owns” the space, and for how long? We can also ask after the affective experiences of spaces as “ordered,” “uncomfortable,” “polluted,” etc.
Another tour will be designed to help participants argue for better and thicker data as cities gear up to create “smart cities” through IoT. Various websites provide city maps based on sensor data, such as pollution (e.g., Google’s https://www.edf.org/airqualitymaps). Sensors generate specific metrics, eg., gas levels, but leave out “thick” data, those having to do with human/non-human experiences. A walking tour that accounts for this thick data through first person experiences can help add to metrics collected by sensors, revealing what often goes unnoticed by the citizens.
Other walking tours will include the history of the area from the valley’s orchards to the post WWII industrial landscape (with some Superfund Sites), and to labor transformation through digital revolution. Japan Town is an example of labor transformation from an ethnic enclave to a gentrified housing market.
1. Tour information will be accessible through information provided in the program, and on fliers to be disseminated throughout the conference hall.
2. During the tour, participants will be invited to document their experiences (sketches, maps, photographs, audio recordings, video) and upload these notes to a website and/or post them on boards in the installation location.
3. Participants will gather for a review of materials and a debrief discussion. (We request a session scheduled for later in the conference to ensure conference-goers can first do the tours.)
The Dumbarton Circle is a group of anthropologists, interdisciplinary researchers, artists, and activists in Silicon Valley. Our work spans topics ranging from urban transformations attendant to automation, financial inclusion, lives of diasporic communities, sensor data visualization for citizen pollution monitoring, social media, and more.