Accepted Paper:

Risky Business: Clean Tech and the Entrepreneurial Imagination   


June Anne English-Lueck (San Jose State University)

Paper short abstract:

Clean Tech is viewed among the entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley as the next evolutionary step. Countercultural beliefs merge with business pitches to create a cultural narrative about clean technology’s role in shaping particular cultural futures. This paper uses fieldwork with entrepreneurs to explore how risk is understood and managed.

Paper long abstract:

Clean Tech is viewed, especially among the entrepreneurs and pundits of Silicon Valley, as the next evolutionary step for the region. Workers in this emerging work domain come from other technology fields, as well as disciplines ranging from classic energy economics to countercultural consumer products. Beliefs about the need to reinvent capitalism merge with narratives about innovation and environmentalism to create distinctive cultural narratives about the purpose and destiny of clean technology. This "new space," as technologists and entrepreneurs call it, has some of the features of the information technology economy, and others--such as a large and embedded infrastructure in the utilities industry, that are quite divergent. Politics, capital investments, and narratives of planetary and personal risk loom large in narratives about clean technology. It is a global industry, but local areas create different stories of how clean tech should be supported, cultivated and brought to market. Local political and economic realities also influence how work is developed and supported in particular regions. Based on fieldwork with entrepreneurs, educators, policy actors and consumers in Silicon Valley and along the Pacific West, this paper explores key metaphorical concepts—risk, entrepreneurship, innovation, and mission. Different stakeholders are imagining diverse cultural futures, some radical, others buffering a transformational shift, and use that vision of the future to rationalize particular actions.

Panel PE19
Urban development, business operation and social responsibility (Social Responsibility) (IUAES Commission on Enterprise Anthropology)