Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Time for a Digital Detox: Burnout, Addiction, and Desperation in Silicon Valley


Cite this article:

2017 EPIC Proceedings, ISSN 1559-8918,

PechaKucha Presentation

There is a crisis brewing in the innovation capital of the world. From protests at Google bus stops, to rallies at San Francisco City Hall over Airbnb gentrification, to a stark increase in homelessness, there is a growing rift between the have and have not’s in Silicon Valley. Meanwhile the average tech employee, told they are “making the world a better place,” is faced with escalating labor demands, hyper-connectivity, and a shift from “work-life balance” to “work is life.” The tech worker is in a contentious position – torn between corporate propaganda and the visible externalities of a for-profit business. To understand how this tension plays out for the average techie, I illustrate a “disconnect camp” where the everyday rules of SF techie sociality are inverted – no technology, no names, no discussion of work, no networking. This carnavlesque pacifies postmodern contradictions about “valueless work” by placing at its center “technology as the problem” – rather than the corporate form. In this way, existential crises of the laborer are quelled, allowing them to recapitulate high-tech corporate-capital.

Shaheen is an anthropologist. He studies corporate innovation praxis, tech culture, and the emergence of UX in Silicon Valley. Learn more at or say hi here