Friday, April 24, 2009

Silicon Valley--The Place

Silicon Valleys' staggering success, which depends on a new technological innovation every decade or so, fits a longstanding and powerful story about California that stretches back to gold rush. That story used to figure California as the Great Exception. Now it also seems more like the Great Template. What's happening here, we tell the rest of the world, will be happening near you soon.

But the Silicon Valley story tends to obscure at least as much as it reveals. Mostly it conceals the history (let's call it the people's history) and the everyday quality of life on the ground here. That part of the story is the focus of the California Studies Association conference I'm attending today at De Anza College.

I won't try to summarize the fine presentations I've heard here, but here's a little factoid for you. We usually talk about the San Francisco Bay Area. Makes sense, right? But the Census folks talk about the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland area. Yep, Santa Clara County is by far the most populous one in the nine-county Bay Area. It's also a huge economic engine. But I wouldn't dream of telling anyone I was from the San Jose area.

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