⚡ Reboot 2.0 + The People Behind The Platforms

Register for a talk on Voices from the Valley by Moira Weigel and Ben Tarnoff

Reboot is back: a little bigger, a little different, and with just as much to say. Before I show y'all our first event, I want to share a bit about who we are and why we're here. The tech-society-media space is a crowded one, full of industry vets and PhDs far more knowledgeable than I. By myself, I don't stand a chance.

But my goal with Reboot is to seed a community—to convene bibliophiles, writers, and technologists to imagine the future of technology, humanity, and power. To this end, we host author events alongside a weekly newsletter featuring book reviews and short essays by Reboot community members. Think an indie bookstore meets The Paris Review meets 21st century attention spans.

I also want to introduce three wonderful people who joined Reboot to make this happen:

  • Deb: Fourth-year at the University of Chicago studying Sociology, CS, and Stats. Likes browser engines and the NYT mini.

  • Ben: Postdoctoral researcher in cancer immunotherapy. Outside the lab, passionate about the interplay between science and technology and how they'll shape our future.

  • Em: Creative strategist and multidisciplinary designer interested in people, places, and ecosystems of care for our physical and digital infrastructure.

With that said, here's our first book recommendation:

Voices from the Valley by Moira Weigel and Ben Tarnoff

📖 what is a tech worker, and who gets to be one?

This is the central question of Voices from the Valley, an interview collection from Logic Magazine cofounders Moira Weigel and Ben Tarnoff. This book peels back the anonymized faces of an industry that celebrates its superstar CEOs far more than its cooks, highlighting both the strata and similarities among its diverse employees.

Next Thursday at 5pm PT, we'll invite Moira and Ben to Reboot to discuss their book and the future of the tech workers' movement.

Register Here

🔊 our take

By Deblina Mukherjee and Jasmine Sun

There's a lot of passive voice in Tech™, and Voices from the Valley doesn't like it. "Tech companies have many reasons to pretend that their products run themselves," the very first page says. "This book will introduce you to the people behind the platforms." And it does—Voices' seven anonymous interviews (which might be familiar if you've read the "Anonymous Conversation With" series in Logic) are all rich provocations.

The book's central theme is the diversity of the "tech worker," a term that is coalitional almost by definition. One interview explicitly cites the union meetings that brought cooks and PMs in the same space, and organizations like the Tech Workers Coalition have been explicit about building this kind of cross-functional power. And while Silicon Valley often wields the term “technical” to exclude people, it's “technique” that ties together the engineer who wrote reCAPTCHA, the massage therapist kneading knots from her coworkers' backs, and the writer preparing instruction manuals for complex software. All labor is skilled, and all labor exists on a spectrum of precarity and humiliation.

Voices presents Silicon Valley as simultaneously a place, a mindset, a collection of multibillion dollar corporations, and the people who comprise it. This expansive frame—of an assemblage, not a monolith—becomes especially salient when skimming tech's latest headlines. Microsoft's decision to make remote work permanent is no longer just about Zooms—er, Teams—and lost perks, but rather losing the workers who provided those perks in the first place. The fact that the pandemic has sent Uber and Lyft stocks into a tailspin provokes concern for the hundreds of thousands of contract drivers choosing between their health and their income.

Yet while Voices implores readers to acknowledge Silicon Valley’s hierarchies, the authors' obfuscation of their own identities can feel like the view from nowhere that plagues modern journalism: How much does this founder represent all founders? What was cut from the interview, and why? What do Tarnoff and Weigel want us to do, exactly? Without this context, it becomes too easy to read the interviews, check our privilege, and go — to fall into what New Yorker writer Katy Waldman dubs the reflexivity trap: the "idea that professing awareness of a fault absolves you of that fault—that lip service equals resistance." So certainly, pick up a copy of Voices. But keep asking: Where do we go from here?

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microdoses

What else we've been consuming:

a closing note

There's a lot in Reboot 2.0 that's still being sorted out, so we're especially eager to hear from you. What kinds of events are you interested in? Got any great book recommendations? Just want to freestyle hot takes? Reply to this email (or put some time on my Calendly) to let me know what you think.

Also, check out Reboot’s new Twitter account 🤗 We’ll be live-tweeting events, sharing behind-the-scenes info, and more.

Thanks for listening,

—Jasmine & Reboot team

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Reboot is generously supported by the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI).