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Introduction to OrientationSJ & Silicon Valley Signals

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

This research delves into the origins and influences that have made Silicon Valley the hub of media technology culture, through the use of interviews, historical research, media archeology, and key concepts such as "Claim," "Leverage," "Contract," "Community," and "Control."

This research delves into the origins and influences that have made Silicon Valley the hub of media technology culture that it is today. Driven by both personal curiosity and academic interest in understanding the factors that shape civic engagement in a place, we conducted research through interviews with locals and also historical research at local institutions. Through the use of media archeology as a methodology, discovered a discrepancy in the way different groups remember the history of Silicon Valley differently, with each group emphasizing a different starting point and narrative.

To gain a more comprehensive understanding of the place and its evolution, we utilized methods learned from media archeology, which allows for an examination of the physical and tangible artifacts and narratives within a landscape. This methodology, along with the collection of local historical anecdotes, provides a rich network of information to illustrate the many points of interest on both a spatial, as well as a temporal sectioning. Through this research, the we aim to offer a holistic and evolutionary understanding of Silicon Valley's emergence as a generator of media history and culture and in order to explore and explicate Silicon Valley as a “technological place,” we posed three macro questions to guide the research:

  • How has the local geomorphology set the foundational roots to ultimately host the conditions of possibility for the current technological developments in Silicon Valley?

  • What are some of the relational possibilities among land, enthusiasm and technology that allowed this place to such unfolding?

  • What could a media archaeological perspective contribute to illuminating the effectivity behind Silicon Valley’s pervasive presence?

Additionally, we identified three key concepts - "Claim," "Leverage," and "Contract" - to explore the relationships of development within the place. "Claim" is derived from Heidegger and deals with potentiality; "Leverage" is from the work of Harold Innis and deals with the way technology shapes communication, and "Contract" alludes to contemporary philosopher Michel Serres and deals with the connections between technology, science, and time. Through the examination of these concepts, the author is able to further understand the various influences and tendencies that led to Silicon Valley's rise as a major player in media technology culture.

Overall, this research offers a multi-disciplinary, place-based inquiry into the origins of Silicon Valley and how it has become such a vital part of media technology culture. Much of the previous Silicon Valley research chooses to focus on sections of its history in silos. For good reason, most of the focus in previous research has been on the developments of computing in the region. Others focus on tracing its military past or cover the agricultural history of the days when it was referred to as the "Valley of the Heart's Delight." This project is not limited to any one framing as it seeks to paint a more interconnected picture. I propose refusing to stop at the traditionally segmented sections of "computing history" and extending the horizon of our perspective to accommodate a more expanding, wider view of its past. Only then can we arrive at novel illuminations and sense the overall place composition from an expansive contextual twisting of its history. For this purpose, I chose to work with media archaeology as my research method. The use of media archeology and key concepts allows for a novel understanding of the place and its evolution.

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