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If it's Tuesday, I must be the 'relevant parent'

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Tools for navigating life in Silicon Valley: Manage time by "chunking," avoid "drag units" at all costs, and if you've got children, make a point of remembering if you are today's "relevant parent."

Translation: Life in the technology fast lane requires doing more in compressed blocks of time, avoid people who can become drags on efficiency, and keep track of who is picking up the children from school.

No one said living through a technology revolution was going to be easy. Now, coping measures are reaching a high art here, where the revolution is furthest along.

Looking on with curiosity is a team of anthropologists who have spent the past two years shadowing a dozen families in Silicon Valley to help describe its emerging culture.

What they found is that, at its most fundamental level, the technology revolution is altering people's sense of time, collapsing boundaries between work and home, saturating children with electronic gadgets, and creating a fair amount of moral uncertainty along the way.

Such trends will probably sound familiar to families in Toledo, Ohio, and Phoenix. Such is the spread of technology and its cultural influences.

Indeed, team leaders Jan English-Lueck and Charles Darrah are fond of saying people in Silicon Valley are probably pretty much like they are everywhere else. Only more so.

"It's not so much that the people in this technology culture are unique," says Ms. English-Lueck of San Jose State University. "They're experiencing many of the same things everyone else is, just to a different magnitude."

The anthropological study of Silicon Valley, funded in part by the National Science Foundation, is the first of its kind. And while it will run another five years, a snapshot of early findings was presented earlier this month at the American Anthropological Association.


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