Thank you Melina Sherman and the International Journal of Communication for writing and publishing a review of Venture Labor.
Many books have been written about the decline of the manufacturing-industrial society and the massive social and economic shifts that characterize the late 20th and early 21st centuries (e.g., Castells et al., 2012; Cross, 2002; Stiglitz, 2010). However, few books on this topic have focused on the social norms, values, attitudes, and individual experiences that accompany system-wide changes (e.g., Fisher & Downey, 2006; Zaloom, 2006). This latter point is the center of Gina Neff’s Venture Labor: Work and the Burden of Risk in Innovative Industries, a multifaceted study of employee risk in New York City’s Silicon Alley during the last decades of the 20th century. Neff argues that the so-called “dot-com era” and the forms of “venture labor” employees underwent as a strategy of managing risks in their jobs is best understood as a response to social, economic, and technological changes rather than the cause of them.
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Thank you Michael Indergaard for the scholarly review of Venture Labor in Contemporary Sociology.
What advice do you give to young folks about jobs? I could tell them I made some investments in my employability, but it is equally true that I mostly muddled through the uncertain career paths of our times. In Frank Knight’s classic formulation, efforts to manage “uncertainty” turn it into “risk.” This idea is the starting point for Venture Labor, Gina Neff’s rich study of New York internet workers who embraced risk during the dot-com boom. This internet cluster, known as Silicon Alley, became the site of new forms of media and work. Neff seeks lessons from this first wave of digital start-ups even as a new wave tries to capitalize on social media, big data and the like. She wants to understand why such workers came to accept the idea that they are individually responsible for managing employment uncertainties. She offers a synthetic account of agency that contributes to debates about the role of calculation in economic action—a position usually in tension with established claims about action’s structurally-embedded or culturally-constituted nature.
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