How Do Tech Companies Pay Attention To Culture?

Undergraduate Thesis, 2019 • Department of Anthropology • Tufts University • Advisor: Nick Seaver

Tech companies are increasingly invested in the workplace as a site of intentional culture- and community-making. This can be seen manifested in company culture codes, an investment in community development and activities, workplace perks, the campus model that are making tech workplaces increasing like total institutions that are interested in serving their workers’ various personal and social needs. Why are tech companies invested in this project? What is it – what is this culture and community – that they are building? How does that process look like? Just as these tech companies have created tech companies that have importantly changed how we relate with technology, ourselves, each other, our surroundings, and so on, how are these cultural and social initiatives at tech companies also changing how we think of work, community, and the future of both? 

WeWork’s motto – “Make a life, not just a living” – sums up the apparent ethos of Silicon Valley and the new tech industry’s outlook at how they want to design their workplaces. I’m particularly interested in the implications on the relationship between work and the rest of one’s life, how young adults today build community and purpose in their lives, and how the future of work looks like. The specific focus on tech companies also raises the question – why is it that tech companies are especially if not uniquely invested in this aspect of work? More broadly, how do these efforts relate to the sense of love, belonging, and purpose that workers at these companies feel? Apart from the product innovations that these companies are shipping to the market, more subtle and nuanced is the social influence and social re-imagination that they manifest outside of the workplace and industry, but into a popular, collective sphere.

Notes from the Field

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