Thursday, August 16, 2007


This collection of essays about race and technology seems to offer something to the academically-inclined of various persuasions, from traditional labor studies in essays about marginalized technical workers and resistance on the assembly line to contemporary cultural criticism surrounding a modern urban musical genre ( Detroit techno), to sociological interpretations of activites such as low-riding. Pick the approach that suits you best. All bring to the foreground a concept that minorities traditionally viewed as absent from the world of technology, or passive consumers of technology at best, are in fact active shapers of contemporary technology whose unique use and role in technology production does not necessarily mirror that of non-minority society.

From my own perspective, I appreciated especially the essays about low-wage Latina assembly-line workers in what we think of as affluent Silicon valley, and the discussion of marginalized Indian workers on special visas for ëxpert" workers. The assembly-line workers are viewed in a somewhat traditional fashion, focusing on their gendered resistance to the strictures of assembly -line work under the direction of male non-Latino bosses. The Indian workers are subtly reclassed in their worklife from higher-status computer programmers to lower-status "temporary workers" whose rootless existence in spite of their superior education and qualifications is presented as one aspect of global migration.

The presence of traditional assembly-line work in such a supposedly contemporary venue as technology production as well as the downgrading of the abilities and status of immigrant groups, are traditional themes that seem to be playing out in contemporary high-tech settings. Just how revolutionary is the supposed computer revolution, anyhow? In aspects of labor and production, it seems that traditional themes are still applicable.

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