The nomad is invoked as a metaphor for our present technological mediated mobile lifestyle and identities. The “digital nomad” has become quite a buzz word to describe a new breed of urbanites who are location independent as long as there is a good coffee shop with free wifi. John Durham Peters cautions that the “nomad is explicitly a hero of postmodernist thinking” and that we are encounter an often romanticized account of nomadology.
The influence of mobile media on space and time have often attractively described as the freedom to travel and work anywhere in the world, painting an intoxicating picture of sun-kissed entrepreneurs, owners, freelancers who can indulge in travel and adventure. Best seller, Timothy Ferriss in The 4-hour Work Week : Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich says it all, the era of the New Rich.
“How to reconstruct your life? Whether your dream is experiencing high-end world travel, earning a monthly five-figure income with zero management, or just living more and working less, this book teaches you how to double your income, and how to outsource your life to overseas virtual assistants for $5 per hour and do whatever you want.”
Say YES to precarious work! Cosmopolitanism that makes us the “citizen of the world”.
Sounds like Castell’s cosmopolitan global elites, but Castell’s conception is sociologically significant to the network society because of the ways it accounts to for the cluster of nodes in specific cities or regions that our high-speed infrastructures of communications are built on. The nomadic lifestyle is contingent on network nodes but it does not produce the the social uniformity or global sameness of McLuhan’s “Global Village” in the discursive conception of “citizen of the world”. For this is a forced globalization and individuation, a form of domination and imposition on mutiple economic or cultural models for a global netowrk. The geographical hotspots for digital nomads are capitalizing on these unequal flows, whether it be attracting populations to tech hot spots or third world/ cheap to live locations (for lack of better word).
The invocation to the nomad in mobile studies, especially in Leopoldina Fortunati’s use of “digital intimacy” looks at social groups belonging to communication networks rather than on fixed spaces. The cellphone allows for the possibility to contact its own communication networks at any moment, at any public situations. Kristen Drotner emphasize the importance to consider socio-cultural varieties of Fortunati’s “digital intimacy” and its potential to blend public and private space
I appreciate the use of Goffman’s work in what he calls “face work” and “stage performance” as a way to think about Braidotti’s nomadic identity, the simultaneous and multiple identity, roles, and performance. This horizontal positioning of audiences led to discussions of nomadic intimacy and nomadic audiences, where audiences occupy various front stage performances, becoming part of various portable publics.
What is missing I think is the political context. Nomadic metaphors rests on “flexibility”, “adaptability”, “portability”, all aspects of mobility offered by investing social relations based on connectivity. The nomad or normadic descriptions is not ahistorical, though metaphors sometimes are treated as such. The nomadism offered by self-help books, popular press (though more critical now of digital nomad life) portrays a postmodern hyper-mobile individuality while mobility is thoroughly unequally divided. The different mobility enable and constrains freedom and power, and the metaphor of the nomad seems to swallow it whole.