Cultures of Silicon Valley

Project: Reengineering Nature in Silicon Valley

Principal Investigator(s): J.A. English-Lueck (SJSU)

Client/Partner: Silicon Valley Cultures Project

Summary: This project is primarily an academic research project, although it has implications for the forecasters at the Institute for the Future and the Food Innovation program. Building on more than 25 years of ethnographic inquiry into the cultures of Silicon Valley, the project looks at the lives of workers who participate in the countercultural and artistic life of Silicon Valley, and the research, design and implementation of food, ag, and clean tech endeavors. Internet of Things and Virtual Reality technologies combine sensors and versions of lived experience. These researchers are interviewing artists and engineers, community advocates and designers to better understand how they merge their distinct visions of the future with the work they do. What values are these workers bringing to their work? Geography faculty Kerry Rohrmeier is collaborating with English-Lueck to explore the relationship of Silicon Valley to Burning Man. English-Lueck is also teaming up with interested alumni, undergraduate and graduate researchers, and Mass Communications faculty Tina Korani to document these stories. The project will result in an academic production such as a book and article, and a co-authored innovative virtual reality installation and proceeding article for the Southwestern Anthropological Association meeting and other venues.

Funding: SJSU RSCA, Carnegie Pending

Timeline: 2018-2021

Student Opportunities: There are opportunities for individual undergraduate student projects and graduate 280 and MA projects. Contact J.A. English-Lueck (

Student Researchers: Ella Babin, Cheryl Cowan, Jillian Ferini, Ian Torres, Andrew Marley, Daniel E. Maldonado, Kevin Kochever, Jasmine Low, Melanie Bailey, and Christophe Gonzales.

Project: Food Paths Project

Principal Investigator(s): J.A. English-Lueck (SJSU); Chiara Cecchini (Food Innovation Program) and Sara Smith (Future Food Lab, Institute for the Future)

Client/Partner: Food Innovation Program, University of Bologna; Future Food Lab, Institute for the Future

Summary: We have engaged in a multiyear project that evolved out of a funded project with the Institute for the Future and the Google Food Lab. The San Francisco Bay Area practices a distinctive food culture that is connected to its agricultural and immigrant past and present. Culinary fusions, food innovation, urban farming and craft food production flourish in corporate cafes, restaurants, food tech startups, and resident networks. The legacy of social movements in the region link food production, preparation, consumption and waste management to the notion of “eating for good.” Such efforts are captured ethnographically, curated and disseminated to our partners. One partial product of this collaboration has been the documentary, Food Makers, which was recently shown at the film festival, Cinema Italian Style in San Francisco. Students have presented their data at the Southwestern Anthropological Association.

Funding: N/A, Future funding possible

Timeline: 2017-2020

Student Opportunities: There are opportunities for individual undergraduate student projects and graduate MA projects. Contact J.A. English-Lueck (

Student Researchers: Anthropology 107, Eating Culture, the Anthropology of Food, undergraduate students from 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.  Additional related work done by Ella Babin, Cheryl Cowan, Clemy Bebb, Tim Rodriquez, Veronica Rodriguez, Ashley Estrada and Milton Canas-Chinchilla.

Project: The Streetsense Project, formerly known as Parking Matters

Principal Investigator(s): J.A. English-Lueck (SJSU); Dr. Melissa Cefkin (Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Silicon Valley Lab)

Client/Partner: Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Silicon Valley Lab

Summary: In partnership with anthropologist, Melissa Cefkin, at the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Silicon Valley Lab graduate students in the Anthropology 232 Applications Core class have conducted original research and developed ethnographically-based video design fictions to examine the potential consequences of changes to our streetscapes as vehicles become more autonomous. Students in the class go beyond the interior of the vehicle and the experience of driving to examine the landscapes, policies and behaviors that shape our experience of being street adjacent. Each cohort develops several team projects that examine how our streets reflect vulnerability, social justice, social change and explores cultural concepts such as ability, navigation, safety and community. The various films have been collected into a public access YouTube Channel, San Jose State Applied Anthropology Nissan Research Center Collaborative Videos.  These videos have been shown to Bay Area communities of practitioners, EPIC (The Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference), the Society for Applied Anthropology, and the Southwestern Anthropological Association. Several students have gone on to base their MA projects on issues considered in the project and/or have received paid internships at the Alliance Lab.   

Funding: N/A

Timeline: 2016-2020

Student Opportunities: There are opportunities for individual graduate MA projects.  Contact J.A. English-Lueck (

Student Researchers: Anthropology 232, Applications Core: (2020) Chioma Aso, Brieann DeOrnellas, Jillian Ferini, Andrew Ng, Jhaid Parreno, Shilpa Shah, Edher Zamudio, (2019) Melanie Baily, Milton Canas-Chinchilla, Kristen Constanza, Ashley Estrada [pdf], Jasmine Low, Kevin Kochever, Shelbie Taylor, Brett Witteck, (2018) Victor Cortes, Briza Diaz, Andrew Marley, Laticia Marshall, Megan Shaw, Andrea Vinke, (2017) Miguel Huerta, Simon Jarrar, Shauna Mundt, Bhargavi Pawar [pdf], (2016) Clemy Bebb, Leah Grant, Chelsea Halliwell, Erika Harvey, Sarah Luce, Ailea Merriam-Pigg, Jamieson Mockel, Angela Moniz, Ari Pimentel, Alisha Ragland, Kelli Sullivan, and Megan Watson.

Project: Disaster Preparedness in San José

Principal Investigator(s): A.J. Faas

Client/Partner: Japantown Prepared!

Summary: In partnership with Japantown Prepared!, a disaster preparedness organization in San José’s historic Japantown, we are designing anthropologically-informed organizational development projects to improve organizational structure and community participation, and improving household and community-level disaster preparedness in Japantown. Deliverables to-date include: a preparedness and response “block captain” initiative, website and social media development, a community disaster supplies depot, community festival tabling and outreach, an organizational branding project, a business preparedness program, a marketing project, and an ethnographic study of preparedness in Japantown. New projects include a household preparedness survey and designing and implementing new participatory preparedness events.

Funding: Laura Good Grants to support undergraduate research and projects, GRAD grants for graduate student research

Timeline: 2017-2022

Student Opportunities: There are opportunities for funded student research assistantships and individual student MA projects and theses. Please contact A.J. Faas (

Student Researchers: Vanessa Castro, Brandon Alvarado, Nicole Angulo, Bryan Arcadia, Essay Beyene, Nicole Bradley, Cameron Chan, Troy Clark, Nancy Diaz, Madeline Dickson, Maranyeli Estrada, Alyssa Gil, Matthew Hodson, Kiyoshi Ito, Mardi Khin, Patrick Kim, Wendy Kwong, Chelsea Lance, Nayeli Lopez, Jeovany Martin, Leonicio Mejia, Cristian Mesias, Roger Mountha, Wendy Myvett, Victoria Nguyen, Kelly Phan, Lluvia Ramos, Joshua Rivera, Maylea Saito, Jodi Tran, Janet Trujillo, Brian Truong, Shaojie Yu

Project: Bok Kai Temple artifact identification.

Principal Investigator: Marco Meniketti

Partner: Bok Kai Temple, Marysville

Summary: Working with the Oldest Buddhist Temple in western states to identify and document artifacts of the temple collections and prepare for museum exhibition.

Funding: Bok Kai Temple

Timeline: 2015-2018 ongoing intermittently. 

Student Opportunities: Internship in museum and material culture studies. Students catalogued and interpreted artifacts in the Bok Kai collections. Material culture studies, Chinese diaspora of California. Assisted in museum exhibition design.

Student Researchers: Michael Boero, Robert Gelb, Ruoheng Mao