[...] In 2012, new start-ups were flush with money and the tech sphere was overwhelmed by ardent media coverage; the verb disrupt was elbowing its way into vernacular prominence and had not yet become a cliché. Facebook’s IPO was not only record-setting but a flag in the ground, and the West Coast seemed a hopeful counternarrative in an otherwise flailing economy. Stories about Silicon Valley were imbued with a certain awe that, today, is starting to fade.
Since the genre’s takeoff in the late 1990s, during the first dot-com boom, writing about the tech industry has traditionally fallen into a few limited camps: buzzy and breathless blog posts pegged to product announcements, suspiciously redolent of press releases; technophobic and scolding accounts heralding the downfall of society via smartphone; dry business reporting; and lifestyle coverage zeroing in on the trappings, trends, and celebrities of the tech scene. In different ways, each neglects to examine the industry’s cultural clout and political economy. This tendency is shifting, as the line between “tech company” and “regular company” continues to blur (even Walmart has an innovation lab in the Bay Area). Founders and their publicists would have you believe that this is a world of pioneers and utopians, cowboy coders and hero programmers. But as tech becomes more pervasive, coverage that unquestioningly echoes the mythologizing impulse is falling out of fashion.