Stanford University
Silicon Valley's Future Wasteland


Using my present-day landscape photography, California's Silicon Valley is imagined as its own future wasteland, the former home, that is, of the technology industry.  This is a creative, if dystopic look at what the region that makes tomorrow (e.g. Apple, Google, Oracle) will look like tomorrow.  In this speculative work, I make many starting assumptions.  One important one is that the metaphor of the “bubble-burst”—used to explain the relative collapse of economies—is no longer the fate of the technology sector.  As copycat regions continue to reproduce the seemingly-continual growth of Silicon Valley (e.g. Santa Monica’s Silicon Beach, Austin’s Silicon Hills, and upstate New York’s Tech Valley), capital flows will eventually level out such that the original Silicon Valley is left with swaths of unneeded infrastructure.  Not so much a burst, then, the slide back into rural-ish suburbia will be gradual, leaving the landscape littered with the quick architecture of necessity.  A play on the game of imagining oneself as a future archaeologist, here I play this game from the perspective of an artist-geographer in the year 2091, imagining how our intellectual descendants will make sense of a once-dominant economic region.

American Association of Geographers Conference | San Francisco
30 MARCH 2016

The Present of Silicon Valley's Future Wasteland from Nicholas Bauch on Vimeo.

I performed a lecture at the 2016 AAG conference—a monologue spoken over this video that I made (above). My purpose was to engage with futurity studies in a way that opens the door for cultural landscape geographers to start imagining themselves in the future, looking back on the present day. "Spatial histories," I believe, are not so different from spatial futures. They each require leaps of imagination. Importantly, our ideas about what the future might be inform how we interpret the past. What better place to study the future than Silicon Valley, and what better city to present such work than San Francisco, both of which are obsessed with their own futures.

During the AAG talk, my friend and colleague Maria McVarish posed as a delivery person from the year 2091, passing around this tray of electronic parts (above) as if they were salvaged delicacies from 2016.  There were quite a few takers (see below). Top photography by Nicholas Bauch, 2016; bottom photograph by Julie Leavitt, 2016.

Other Photographs

Image Caption: Facebook, West Campus Building Model, 2012-2015, Menlo Park, Calif.  Model by Frank Gehry.  Photographed by Nicholas Bauch, November 2015 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  Exhibition title: Frank Gehry.

Spatial History