Uncanny Valley Summary & Study Guide

Anna Wiener
This Study Guide consists of approximately 44 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Uncanny Valley.
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Uncanny Valley Summary & Study Guide Description

Uncanny Valley Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener.

The following version of the book was used to create this study guide: Wiener, Anna. Uncanny Valley. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020. Amazon Kindle E-book.

Unsatisfied with her job at a literary agency in New York City, Anna begins to work at an eBook startup which is her introduction to the tech economy. Her position there is short-lived as she seems to lack the entrepreneurial initiative the founders are looking for. Still interested in working in tech, Anna moves to San Francisco where she has landed a job in customer support at a data analytics startup. Anna is introduced to the world of Silicon Valley and soon becomes immersed in tech culture. Her work/life balance is eroded as San Francisco itself is changed by the rise of Silicon Valley and its contributions to the economy and culture. The power dynamics common in tech culture begin to emerge as Anna experiences significant sexism in the workplace and is introduced to the ways in which tech companies can also act as surveillance and data collection companies. As she becomes more and more immersed in tech culture, she realizes that her friends in New York would not have found this kind of work meaningful or fulfilling.

As the data-analytics startup grows, bigger problems emerge in the company's culture. A lack of proper management and a volatile CEO result in a negative workplace environment. Anna experiences more direct sexism and one of the company's most valuable employees is summarily fired when he sought compensation he felt was equal to his quantifiable contributions. As the office culture dissolves, Anna also becomes more aware of some bigger issues in tech such as surveillance and civil liberties. She also begins to realize that she has a love for an attachment to the analog and material worlds that is not highly valued in tech culture. Though the CEO begins to question Anna's suitability for her position, despite quantifiable evidence of her good job performance, she is later promoted. Despite this promotion, the negative workplace atmosphere takes a significant toll and Anna begins to look for work elsewhere. At the end of the first section, Incentives, Anna accepts a new position at a well-known company that she refers to as the "open-source startup" (157).

In the second section, Scale, Anna begins her job at the open-source startup. This company has recently been caught in a sexism scandal, but Anna hopes that this means that the company culture will be actively moving toward diversity and inclusion. The open-source startup has a very free company culture where employees have a lot of independence and access to great amenities. It is clear that sexism and misogyny are still rampant in the tech industries, but the open-source startup is engaging in diversity and inclusion initiatives that Anna feels are meaningful and important. As Anna enjoys the financial and lifestyle perks of her tech job, she is also aware of several broader socio-cultural issues including gentrification and increasing economic stratification in San Francisco. In addition to the sexism and misogyny in tech culture, she observes the impact of systemic racism and questions the role of tech in society as these industries gain extreme economic power and social capital.

Anna's values differ from those of Silicon Valley and her need for meaningful and fulfilling work begins to rise. She values the analog and material worlds over the digital and virtual ones, and she resents that tech is more economically valued than arts and culture or other kinds of civic contributions. Anna's emerging friendship with Patrick, a tech wunderkind highlights the fact that her time is not valued as much as his in the ecosystem they have both bought into and are helping to strengthen.

With time, Anna becomes more and more disillusioned with Silicon Valley. Her writing toward the end of the book highlights the disproportionate power of the tech economy, systemic racism and sexism, economic disparity, surveillance and privacy issues, her value of the material over the digital, and tech's contributions to global systems. It becomes clear that Anna's need for meaning and fulfillment in work is growing and heralding a career change. She yearns for something more and, at the end of the book, quits her job and leaves the tech industry.

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