Friday, May 18, 2012

Valley/Tech Consumption Patterns

Atrios flags The Times story on (non)-consumption patterns in Silicon Valley, using the soon to be newly minted Facebook millionaires as a news peg. The article makes it seem that Zuckerberg's hoodies are part of a larger symbolic rejection of conspicuous consumption. Atrios chalks this up to "spending money in ways that show up the bosses" but that's not quite what's going on.

What's going on here is that Valley & tech culture consumption just follows different patterns than Eastern seaboard consumption. The most visible difference is that nobody buys fancy clothing. But there are other ways in which techies spend more money than those on the East Coast. I imagine lots of vested employees will be filing for long unpaid Leave of Absences to travel the globe, having bought some very expensive backpacking gear, bikes, snowboard equipment, or reserved rooms in nice hotel. Owners of  high fidelity audio/video companies in the Bay Area will probably have several good months of installing ridiculously expensive home theater systems. Local high-end restaurants will probably see some more business, and if there are any foodie/techies there who have the time to cook, they can renovate their kitchen to their hearts' content. The basic shape of tech luxury spending, though, is that people don't try to keep up with the Jones's. If you're not a foodie you might not renovate your kitchen at all just because you can afford to and everyone else is doing it. If you're not a car buff you might get yourself a new Subaru or even spring for a low-end Lexus, but not everyone is going to go get themselves an M-class BMW. If you're not an audiophile why light money on fire by installing a five-figure stereo system. And so on. My perception is that people in the tech world seem to do a better job recognizing what sort of spending they'll derive enjoyment from and what they won't, and they're better able to avoid spending money that would be purely part of a positional competition in which they have no personal interest in participating.

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