[SIGCIS-Members] some labor statistics questions about programmers

Luke Fernandez luke.fernandez at gmail.com
Mon Nov 10 16:10:40 PST 2014


I realize the below questions might be more germane to "contemporary
history of computing" than SIGSIS' focus on "history of computing"  but
nonetheless perhaps some of you could point me to the resources that could
help me answer the below questions:

1) What percentage of American programmers are involved in start-ups versus
working long term at an established firm?
2) What is the age distribution of programmers?
3) What are the political and/or partisan affiliation of programmers?
4) What percentage of programmers are introverts and extroverts?  (A
cursory review suggests some seeming contradictions:
http://www.eng.uwo.ca/people/lcapretz/mbti-IJHCS-v2.pdf  versus
http://www.infoq.com/news/2013/02/Introverted-Intuitive-Logical )
5) What (small) percentage of American programmers work in Silicon Valley?


Luke Fernandez
Weber State University
Manager of Program and Technology Development

PS: By way of background context I'm trying to get answers to these
questions to substantiate some assertions about programmers that my editor
is questioning in a review I'm writing on Alice Marwick's book __Status
Update__.  You can read a draft of that review here:
 The paragraphs in question are the following:

Second, Status Update portrays a world where everyone is on the make, where
everyone has become outer directed, where the authentic self is eclipsed by
the edited self, and where everyone has become so consumed by
self-presentation that nothing is left but an edited self.  This hyper
edited self actually seems to be the subject that Marwick currently
inhabits.  She’s @alicetiara instead of @alicemarwick.   She is circumspect
in replying to tweets.  Her “mentor,” “champion,” and “collaborator” (as
she states in the acknowledgements) is Danah Boyd who actually goes by the
overtly edited moniker danah boyd.  Marwick “agonizes” over what to wear.
To be fair to Marwick it’s possible that we’re actually all pretty outer
directed and that we all seek acclaim from others.  In the Discourse on
Inequality  Roussau postulates  that this is simply a facet of becoming
civilized.  So even if we don’t subscribe to neoliberalism, maybe Status
Update is a mirror that reflects all of us.  And maybe Marwick is just
being a little more honest then the rest of us about the fact that she’s
outer directed. Still, it’s unlikely that we are outer-directed to the same
degree.  That seems pretty clear when I associate with my plainly dressed
programming colleagues, a good portion of whom occupy the top introverted
quadrants of the Myers Briggs test.  It’s not like we don’t occasionally
like to bask in the limelight.  But programmers wouldn’t be programmers if
they didn’t derive some of their most enjoyable experiences from talking to
machines rather than performing in front of others.  Pace Will.i.AM we
don’t generally like to have “all eyes on us.”

Third, part of the purpose of studying up is to examine how the colonizers
have subjected (or reshaped) the colonized.  Marwick does a pretty good job
of showing how that has taken place in the Bay Area.  But it’s an open
question as to how much the ideology of the Valley has colonized the rest
of us.  I’m a programmer and I’ve programmed in Utah (sometime referred to
as “Silicon Slopes”) for the last thirteen years.  Before that I programmed
in Kentucky.   So I’ve met my share of people who live close to the Web and
use the term “Web 2.0” in our daily working lives.  Many of us are still
earnestly laboring to embed Web 2.0 principles in software.  But most of us
aren’t involved in start-ups, or living anywhere near “the scene” (as
Marwick describes the Valley), or subscribing in any conscious way to the
tenets of neoliberalism.   In particular, when Marwick suggests that
neoliberal ideology is part and parcel of whatever people have adopted when
they subscribe to Web 2.0 principles and Web 2.0 technologies she is making
an association that probably doesn’t have that much traction outside her
field site.  The people who use the term most these days are programmers
and designers who refer to it when they are trying to describe a rich user
interface that is snappy and responsive.  It has a discrete meaning and its
principles are subscribed to by programmers and designers of many different
political stripes.  Some of them may be neoliberals but others of them are
distinctly not.  Status Update however glosses over this more common usage
and piles onto the term a set of politics that are not in keeping with the
way the term is most commonly employed.  This isn’t to say that Marwick has
invented her definition out of whole cloth.  She gets it from the way Tim
O’Reilly and other hoi poloi of the Valley have tried to spin the term.
But the dissonance between her definition and the way it is used elsewhere
illustrates the fact that her study cannot be easily scaled.   Put another
way, Status Update may be a faithful portrait of life in the Valley.  But
we should be careful not to let that portrait eclipse how technology is
being produced and used in the hinterlands where social media may be being
repurposed for other ends.
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