Recently Facebook announced the development of a neighborhood outside Palo Alto. The project is named Willow Village and features 1,500 apartments as well as parks, plazas, and various other cultural amenities. Critics of the project have dubbed it “Zucktown” after Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerburg. Google also announced that it plans to build its own community in Mountain View, within commuting distance of a soon-to-be-built 660,000 sq. ft. office building. In an age when our virtual lives are dominated by these companies, is it right for our physical lives to be controlled as well?
The concept of a united life/work balance is not new. The same principle exists at universities around the world. On-campus housing provides students with easy access to classes and other amenities while also ensuring that they spend most of their time serving the university in some fashion. The university concept bears one notable distinction in that it is designed to be a temporary accommodation for its participants. Students “live” on campus for the duration of their education before graduation. The purpose of places like Zucktown is to make it harder for employees at Facebook to leave the company. By providing its workers with all of the basic necessities for living, Facebook tips the scale in its favor that employees will feel beholden to their employer. The situation resembles a modern form of slavery. Facebook will control the housing, health coverage, retirement offerings, and down time of its employees, guaranteeing that they participate in Facebook’s sphere of influence until they die or leave. But leaving the company as a member of Zucktown is exponentially more difficult because there’s more to lose than a normal employee of a tech company.