Tag: Corporate Culture, Elites and Their Self-Understandings

  • I’m slightly embarrassed to admit how much I think I would enjoy this job

    From loc 1171-1189 of Frenemies, Ken Auletta’s new book about the declining fortunes of the advertising industry: Then as vice chair heading Business Innovations, Comstock became the company’s chief futurist, attending digital confabs, planting herself in Silicon Valley, scouting and making it her business to know cutting-edge agencies and entrepreneurs, seeking out partners for unusual ways to […]

  • The cultural consequences of start-ups remaining private

    There’s an interesting anecdote on loc 3960-3972 of Bad Blood, John Carreyrou’s gripping account of the Theranos scandal, recounting a follow up meeting between Rupert Murdoch and Elizabeth Holmes which sealed the former’s investment in the latter’s company. I thought it was a vivid account of the distinctive corporate culture which had emerged within Theranos and how […]

  • Accelerating into the singularity 

    The singularity is a speculative notion referring to the point at which exponential innovation generates a fundamental transformation of human civilisation. As Murray Shanahan puts it in on loc 78 of his book The Technological Singularity: In physics, a singularity is a point in space or time, such as the center of a black hole […]

  • Social media and the devaluation of introspection

    Does social media lead to a devaluation of introspection? This is what Nick Couldry and Andreas Hepp claim on loc 4098 of their The Mediated Construction of Reality: The selfie stamps the marker of ‘the self’ onto whatever things a person wants to record as a way of increasing its value. But why should that […]

  • Hilary Clinton: The oddly fascinating confessions of a political centrist

    Yesterday morning I bought a copy of Hilary Clinton’s new book What Happened and was surprised to find myself gripped by it. I’d expected a turgid and unlikeable text which I’d skim through in order to supplement my understanding of the last Presidential election with the authorised account of the losing candidate. To my surprise, I’m […]

  • The Silicon Valley Narrative

    Another extract from Audrey Watters, this time from The Curse of the Monsters of Educational Technology, who analysis of the rhetoric of disruption has fast become one of my favourite examples of digital cultural critique. From loc 184: “The Silicon Valley Narrative,” as I call it, is the story that the technology industry tells about […]

  • Technology, regulation and disruption

    One recurring theme in Brad Stone’s excellent The Upstarts is how technological assumptions encoded into legislation become focal points for conflicts with ‘disruptive’ companies. For instance, as loc 2348 illustrates, the novel dispatch system used by Uber complicated the distinction between taxis and livery cars: Stressing that Uber cars were not hailed or even electronically hailed […]

  • Uber as a moral project

    When the Uber co-founders recount the story of their project, they stress the importance of the consumer to it. This might seem like familiar rhetoric but I want to suggest it reflects a deep (and problematic) commitment. In The Upstarts, by Brad Stone, we see how the early idea for Uber came to Garrett Camp when he […]

  • The Workation

    I just came across this term in The Upstarts, by Brad Stone, loc 1828: Enjoying a modicum of momentum, Kalanick leased a new office in San Francisco but had a month before he could move in. Instead of waiting, he took the whole company to Thailand, where they worked eighteen-hour days out of cafés and […]

  • The cultural lure of Silicon Valley

    Upstarts, by Brad Stone, loc 337-353 describes Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky’s preoccupation with Silicon Valley as a dissatisfied recent graduate of design school:  At the time he was obsessively following the story of the fantastically successful founders of the video-sharing site YouTube; he was spending hours on the site as well as watching Steve Jobs’s […]

  • The Importance of Business Culture

    From One Market Under God, by Thomas Frank, loc 1787: It is worth examining the way business talk about itself, the fantasies it spins, the role it writes for itself in our lives. It is important to pay attention when CEOs tell the world they would rather surf than pray, show up at work in […]

  • Hip hop culture, philanthrocapitalism and getting shit done 

    I’ve been fascinated in recent months by the relationship between hip hop and tech. In some cases quite explicitly, senior figures in technology find cultural inspiration for the approach they take to management in contemporary hip hop. I’m interested in the notion of ‘business for punks’ for the same reason.  In essence, I thought this […]

  • Hip hop culture, philanthrocapitalism and getting shit done 

    I’ve been fascinated in recent months by the relationship between hip hop and tech. In some cases quite explicitly, senior figures in technology find cultural inspiration for the approach they take to management in contemporary hip hop. I’m interested in the notion of ‘business for punks’ for the same reason.  In essence, I thought this […]

  • How life coaching spreads in corporate cultures

    From Losing the Signal, Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff’s history of Research In Motion, pg 179: Bruised by the Storm experience and confused by the apparent rift between Balsillie and Lazaridis, executives feuded more frequently over turf and for the attention of their CEOs. Some turned to Don Morrison, the company’s kindly Father Time, who […]

  • The Accelerative Ethos of Steve Jobs

    From the Commencement address Steve Jobs gave on June 12, 2005: When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have […]

  • The Bechdel test for tech conferences

    The Bechdel test for tech conferences: 1) two women speaking 2) on the same panel 3) not about women in tech. — Monica Rogati (@mrogati) November 15, 2015

  • Aaron Swartz on digital business models

    From The Boy Who Could Change The World: The Writings of Aaron Swartz, loc 309. He’s talking about the semantic web but what he’s saying could easily be applied to much of social media: So, uh, here’s the plan:  1. Collect data  2. ???????  3. PROFIT!!!

  • A capitalism-friendly version of social mobility

    A really enticing analysis by Evgeny Morozov of the “eventual depoliticization of extremely political and contentious issues by wrapping them up in the empty, futuristic language of technology and innovation”. Silicon Valley increasingly dominates the discursive representation of our global future, with the amelioration of social problems limited to a technologically-driven intensification of consumption: Like […]

  • The Reactionary Politics of Tech Bros

    A slogan more frequently encountered on pro-police demos has been repeatedly daubed inside the Facebook headquarters, creating embarrassment for a corporation whose staff are overwhelmingly white and male: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has reprimanded employees following several incidents in which the slogan “black lives matter” was crossed out and replaced with “all lives matter” on the walls […]