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Venture Labor: Work and the Burden of Risk in Innovative Industries (Acting with Technology)

5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0262017480
ISBN-10: 0262017482
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Editorial Reviews

Review

In her rich fieldwork-based report from Silicon Alley, Gina Neff splendidly captures the bravado and the anguish of the late 1990s pioneers who placed risky bets on controlling their future, only to discover that they were simply preparing the way for a future that soon no longer needed many of them or their firms.

(Howard E. Aldrich, Kenan Professor of Sociology & Chair, Department of Sociology, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Cutting-edge technology, personal fulfillment, maybe even wealth -- in the late 1990s, New York's Silicon Alley promised it all. By showing what became of that promise and the people who believed in it, Gina Neff simultaneously opens a new window on Manhattan at the dawn of the internet age and casts a sharp eye on the increasingly risky world in which we all work today. A fascinating and important book.

(Fred Turner, Stanford University; author of From Counterculture to Cyberculture )

Gina Neff gives us a poised and invaluable analysis of how young people fashion a livelihood in a high-risk economy built on constantly shifting ground. Her profile of 'venture labor' is a particularly useful way of explaining why financial speculation drives the new patterns of precarious work.

(Andrew Ross, author of No-Collar: The Humane Workplace and Its Hidden Costs)

Gina Neff's excellent Venture Labor is a must-read study for those who were there, and for those who care about our evolving workforce.

(Tom Watson Forbes)

About the Author

Gina Neff is Associate Professor of Communication and Sociology at the University of Washington and the School of Public Policy at Central European University. She is the coeditor of the book Surviving the New Economy.

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Product Details

  • Series: Acting with Technology
  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (April 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262017482
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262017480
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,617,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By danah boyd on February 6, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The tech industry seems so glamorous. In both the 1990s dot-com bubble the Web2.0/big data ecosystem, there are tales of entrepreneurs striking it big, becoming millionaires off of a seemingly simple idea. The rhetoric is that it's a big old meritocracy, rewarding those who work hard and are brilliant. Yet, as Neff's book clearly shows, there's a lot more to what's happening here. In "Venture Labor," she brilliantly unpacks the cultural logic that underpins the tech ecosystem. She draws on ethnographic material during the dot-com era to reveal the ways in which the entire ecosystem is dependent on individual risk. Far from being egalitarian, the tech industry rewards few and leaves many more hungry for the possibility of making it big. The detailed ethnographic material in the book is delightful, both for scholars and for those curious about the tech industry. And the analysis provides a thoughtful antidote to widespread assumptions about the tech industry. This is a great book to think with!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Venture Captial Gina Neff unpacks the cultural logics that drove complex interactions between society, companies in the heady "dot com" days of the late 1990s, and workers. Her arguments gain both force and complexity by not resorting to typical framings that simply vilify the industry or define its success as hero worship, the result of the cunning of a select few CEOs. Rather, Neff suggests that everyday workers were willing to put themselves on the line for entirely sensible reasons even as they worked towards increasingly uncertain outcomes. Far from its egalitarian claims, the industry rewarded an elite while leaving large swaths of unemployed technical and creative individuals in its wake. "Venture labor" as a concept deftly connects on-the-ground realities with larger movements towards individualism, precarious labor conditions, and modes of doing business in modernity. The book is eminently readable, unfolding a rich history of a lifeworld and serving as a source of concepts richly discussed both within and outside the walls of academia. In the current day we can see "venture labor" in a dizzying array of creative and increasingly precarious hackathons and "innovative" cultures, spreading far beyond its roots as it finds its way into the core of industries worldwide. The release of this text in paperback speaks to its continued importance and should be essential reading for a general audience curious about what really drove dot-com culture and where we can still see its shadow today.
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Format: Hardcover
Neff’s groundbreaking book illuminates how work is being being profoundly reconfigured by the societal shifts associated with digital technologies. Developing the concept of venture labor as the explicit expression of entrepreneurial values by non-entrepreneurs, Neff documents the dilemmas at the heart of these transformations. Putting empirical meat on the bones of an elusive concept, Neff does a great service to scholars of work, the information society, and organizations.
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Format: Paperback
This book guides readers through the social, material, and economic conditions of digital innovation, in a highly readable and insightful account. Neff illuminates the ways that the risks of innovation have been shifted onto (and assumed by) those who work in the world of code. Excellent book!
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