Preserving the Voices of the Dot Com Era
The Voices from the dot com era project seeks to collect and preserve the experiences of individual workers. While a number of memoirs have already been written about individual experiences at specific companies, no systematic study of former dot com workers has been completed. For future historians to properly understand what life was like in these heady times they will need more than anecdotal information. Our survey serves as a first step in filling this gap.

Too often, history only records the experiences of the winners. This is especially true in business history, where the records of failed companies are rarely preserved. Our sister project, the businessplan archive (www.businessplanarchive.org) at the R.H. Smith School of Business of the University of Maryland seeks to collect the business plans and other materials from both defunct and extant dot coms so that future historians will have a more complete documentary record of the era.

But an inclusive record also requires more than just business documents and the stories of entrepreneurs. The personal narratives of the individuals who made the companies function on a day-to-day basis provide invaluable information about work production, the physical environment and workplace culture.

With the internet boom and bust still a recent event, we believe it is imperative to begin recording the experiences of individual workers. As time passes, individual recollections may fade and be altered by other experiences.

We will post summaries of the survey data along with excerpts from individual narratives on this site. The survey data will also be made available to other qualified researchers upon request. Survey respondents can chose to keep their identity private, in which case narratives will be posted without names.

We are a non-commercial, educational project based at the Smith School of Business [http://www.rhsmith.umd.edu/] at the University of Maryland at College Park. We are part of a larger effort of digital preservation and interpretation of historic materials based at the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. [http://chnm.gmu.edu]. Rest assured, respondents retain complete control over the material they submit to the project.

We want to hear from you. We welcome comments, feedback and interaction with our content. Ultimately we plan to make available both narratives and responses to them. All excerpts and results will provide links for feedback.

About Us:

Dalit Baranoff, a business historian, has recently received her Ph.D. in history from The Johns Hopkins University. Her dissertation is entitled Shaped By Risk: The American Fire Insurance Industry 1790-1920. She is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the businessplan archive at the R.H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. dbaranof@rhsmith.umd.edu

David Kirsch, a business historian, is an assistant professor in the Department of Management and Organization at the R.H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. He received his Ph.D. in history from Stanford. He is the author of The Electric Vehicle and the Burden of History, Rutgers University Press (August 2000). He currently heads the Business Plan Archive. dkirsch@rhsmith.umd.edu

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