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The Company We Keep

The Company We Keep: Occupational Community in the High-Tech Network Society

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 204
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  • Book Info
    The Company We Keep
    Book Description:

    At the birth of the Internet Age, computer technologists in small, aggressive software development companies became part of a unique networked occupational community. They were creative, team-oriented, and enthusiastic workers who built "boundaryless careers," hopping from one employer to another.In his absorbing ethnographyThe Company We Keep, sociologist Daniel Marschall immerses himself in IntenSivity, one such technological workplace. Chronicling the employees' experiences, Marschall examines how these workers characterize their occupational culture, share values and work practices, and help one another within their community. He sheds light on the nature of this industry marked by highly skilled jobs and rapid technological change.The experiences at IntenSivity are now mirrored by employees at Facebook and thousands of other cutting-edge, high-tech start-up firms.The Company We Keephelps us understand the emergence of virtual work communities and the character of the contemporary labor market at the level of a small enterprise.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0757-3
    Subjects: Sociology, Management & Organizational Behavior

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. PROLOGUE: First Encounters of a Techie Kind
    (pp. 1-8)

    Though steadily receding in our collective memory, the period of the technology bubble that preceded the housing bubble that burst into the Great Recession retains its standing as a time of remarkable prosperity for the U.S. economy. For eight consecutive years, from 1993 through 2000, the domestic economy expanded, with real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growing at approximately 4 percent per year, nearly 50 percent faster than in the previous two decades.¹ The administration of President Bill Clinton reported that twenty-two million new jobs were created during that period, including nearly two million jobs in information technology service industries. As...

  5. 1 Network Society and Occupational Community
    (pp. 9-36)

    Once the U.S. Congress completes its deliberations and the humidity rises to barely tolerable levels, the summer months in the regional labor market surrounding Washington, DC, are generally uneventful, a good time for contemplation, vacation, and plan-making. In May 1997 two veteran software developers “rolled out” of a slowly failing firm with severance payments and stock options they would turn into cash, sufficient resources for some downtime and a chance to ponder their next steps.¹ A mutual friend characterized Vince and Adam (as I will call them in this book) as compatible personalities, one focused on the vision of a...

  6. 2 Setting: A “Monster Soft Dev Shop” in Silicon Swamp
    (pp. 37-50)

    IntenSivity emerged during a period of rapid change in regional economic structures and the widespread diffusion of the Internet as a popular communication medium. This chapter contextualizes the company’s growth by recounting pertinent dynamics of the Internet stock bubble (Cassidy 2002) and describing how these developments were manifested in the Greater Washington Region surrounding the District of Columbia (DC). Internet-related start-up firms expanded rapidly when capital investment for new ventures was plentiful. The two founders of IntenSivity Unlimited met and worked together in an Internet related start-up that I call “Turbo Pusher.” Their experience in that firm influenced their conceptualization...

  7. 3 Constructing Occupational Identity
    (pp. 51-82)

    Conceptualizing computer programming as a fun and all consuming activity best practiced by talented intellectuals, IntenSivity’s founders sought to establish the sort of organization in which they would enjoy working. This chapter demonstrates the tight linkage between the face-to-face social interaction among computer technologists in the daily fl ow of work practices in IntenSivity offices and the social interaction, conversational exchanges, and documentation of work for clients that transpired online in multiple electronic mailing lists. The interpenetration of the physical and virtual realms reveals how occupational communities have been transformed in the network society. The founders of IntenSivity and the...

  8. 4 Forging Bonds on Projects and Products
    (pp. 83-112)

    During my early fieldwork visits to the neighborhood offices, I noticed that no one seemed to have a stable office location. After more than 20 years in various service-sector jobs in nonprofit associations, government agencies, and union organizations, I had come to expect working conditions in which an employee had some semblance of an office, whether a noisy metal-and-glass cubicle or a carpeted suite. An office-like workplace with definable boundaries was one aspect of my identity as a white collar professional. The importance of such a place seemed foreign to IntenSivity. People kept moving around.

    While attending one of the...

  9. 5 Language and the Persistence of Community
    (pp. 113-144)

    From the outset, Vince and Adam accorded enhanced communication a paramount role in conceptualizing the company’s ideology, core values, founding story, approach to projects, and product development methodology. Externally, beyond the boundaries of the small group of employees and friends working for the firm, the concentration on smooth communication with clients expressed the allegiance IntenSivity’s founders felt toward them. Their entrepreneurial customers in start-up firms were not only sources of revenue to fuel the company’s growth, the founders professed, but also fellow guerrillas struggling on the Internet battlefield against the vast yet clueless armies of BigCo. The ideal customers were...

  10. EPILOGUE Remembering the “Wild Ride” . . . and What Happened to Its Participants
    (pp. 145-154)

    During the 10 years that followed the beginning of my research (in early 2000) on this shifting community of computer technologists, the public spotlight on software developers and the Internet infrastructure they created underwent several important shifts, principally sparked by computer hardware advances and innovations in software systems.

    After the Internet stock bubble burst early in the decade, the entire field seemed to be weighed down by sheer exhaustion. Technologists who had experienced some of the most exhilarating work they had ever imagined in start-up firms were often unsure of where to turn next. Like the members of the community...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 155-170)
  12. References
    (pp. 171-184)
  13. Index
    (pp. 185-192)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 193-193)