Monday, May 12, 2008

Are We Becoming Nomads?

Via the excellent Six Pixels of Seperation, I came across a couple of articles on digital nomadism in The Economist. The idea isn't really that new in philosophy with thinkers such as Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari and Rosi Braidotti, but sometimes you need to see the practical applications of such theories to realize their potential again.

The series of articles is all about how we are becoming mobile in our work and learning. With the ubiquitous availability of Wi-Fi, ever more portable technology and 24/7 access to our data, we can virtually work anywhere:

"Urban nomads have started appearing only in the past few years. Like their antecedents in the desert, they are defined not by what they carry but by what they leave behind, knowing that the environment will provide it. Thus, Bedouins do not carry their own water, because they know where the oases are. Modern nomads carry almost no paper because they access their documents on their laptop computers, mobile phones or online. Increasingly, they don't even bring laptops."

We are moving from oasis to oasis, not in search of water, but in search of inspiration, of connectivity. But where as the Bedouin's oasis was a social place, where one would relax, enjoy the bounty found at the oasis and share it with each other, we are absorbed in our own little mini oasis: our own IP address. At modern day oases like coffee shops, restaurants, libraries or flex-work spots, we do not share, but we work in solitude.

Which makes me think that maybe we are not like Bedouins, relishing in the wonder of the oasis, but more like wanderers who are dying of thirst in the desert: hoping for water and once there, only interested in quenching their own thirst. It's probably because dynamics such as team work, work-ethics and work-processes haven't yet adopted a nomadic attitude. Work is work, we are still afraid of management's Eye of Big Brother/Sauron, we still need to be face-to-face in meetings and we just sometimes need the work-vibe we get from being in an office. We are not completely comfortable in this new oasis environment yet.

Nevertheless, we see that the world around us is shaping itself more and more towards a nomadic way of working: public spaces become multifunctional, bigger spaces become fragmented into smaller spaces to provide more (work) spots and architects are even increasing wallspace, to cater to all the laptop workers who apparently work most comfortable with their back to the wall.

Slowly, but steadily we will become more nomadic, and I don't know about you, but I am saddling up my camel to join the ride!

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