For a look at the social impact of our always-wired, technology-driven future, researchers figured there was no place better to study than Silicon Valley.

Anthropologists spent two years observing 14 middle-class, dual- breadwinner families in the shadow of Cisco Systems, Apple and Oracle.

They found parents and children holding themselves together through a fragile network of cell phones, pagers, faxes and e-mails, obsessed with the same goals that drive companies throughout the region: speed, improving productivity and a constant need to upgrade.

The downside: lives inundated by techno-gadgets, and fragmented into "chunks" of time, leading to increased stress. "The technology was infiltrating those other parts of life and tying them together," said Jan English-Lueck, a San Jose State University professor who presented findings Thursday at the annual American Anthropological Association meeting.

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