Bohemians in rhapsody: the liquid life of digital nomads

Digital nomads’ are knowledge workers who reject office life and leverage wireless communication technologies to combine work and travel (Moravec 2013, p.20).  Digital nomads master and practice the art of a ‘liquid life’ (Deuze 2006, p.1) – they accept uncertainty, flux, change and an indefinite duration of travel. In mobile_digitalBerlin, a city that attracts digital nomads due to its creative scene and cheap living costs, this group is referred to as ‘urban bums’ or the ‘precariat class’ (Hartmann 2009, p.430) Whilst digital nomads are effectively homeless, it is also ‘lifestyle’ choice – of freedom over security and independence over regular income (Hartmann 2009, p.430). Andrew Ross (2003 cited in Gregg 2009, p.35) refers to this phenomenon as the “industrialisation of bohemia”.

Creative industries, especially newer high tech, design and advertising sectors, have increasingly incorporated elements of the bohemian ethos (Halasz 2015, p.187). For digital nomads, the bohemian lifestyle has become a brand to sell the workstyle – one that is high-risk, poorly paid and ‘desynchronised’ with the rest of society (Hartmann 2009, p.431). The seduction of autonomy, extreme flexibility and self-fulfilment has, thus, become a trade-off for the precarity of labour and life in the information economy.

theworldismyofficemanifesto

Check out the computerised bicycle used by the first digital nomad, Steven Roberts, here.

Reference List:

Deuze, M 2006, ‘Liquid Life, Convergence Culture, and Media Work’, accessed 20 August 2015, <https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/2022/3343/Liquid%20Life%20Deuze%202006.pdf>.

Gregg, M 2009, ‘Function creep: communication technologies and anticipatory labour in the information workplace’, New Media and Society, accessed 20 August 2015, <http://homecookedtheory.com/wp-content/uploads/functioncreepnms.doc>.

Halasz, JR 2015, The Bohemian Ethos: Questioning Work and Making a Scene on the Lower East Side, Routledge, New York.

Hartmann, M 2009, ‘The Changing Urban Landscapes of Media Consumption and Production’, European Journal of Communication, vol.24, no.4, p.421-436.

Moravec, JW 2013, Knowmad Society, Education Futures, Minneapolis.

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16 thoughts on “Bohemians in rhapsody: the liquid life of digital nomads

  1. This is a very interesting piece about the Nomadic lifestyle, more specifically that of a Liquid Nomadic life (Digital Nomads). What a life you could live being technically homeless, but filming your travels for the world to see, earning money along the way but with the freedom of forever being on holidays. Have you checked out FunForLouis on YouTube? He lives quite the Digital Nomadic life, daily vlogging his life and documenting the means of a nomad, without actually identifying as one. I think the whole Nomadic lifestyle has evolved and changed on the means of the digital age. There is a lot to be learned by a digital nomadic lifestyle. Great insight into this, especially the use of your sources. You post is also kept interesting with the use of your Soundcloud excerpt.

  2. Really interesting article, this is the first time I’ve heard or read about ‘digital nomads’.
    I think there’s a good change this kind of lifestyle will become more and more popular with time, perhaps a much more free and personal workplace could evolve from these digital nomads.
    I can’t say I’d enjoy the uncertainty of it all but I’d happily avoid the 9 to 5 lifestyle.
    Your post is very well done but maybe you could have improved it by linking to or writing about an individual that lives the digital nomad lifestyle.

    • I agree, Dean, I wouldn’t like the uncertainty but flexibility is very important to workers these days. Thank you for your suggestion – I have put in a link to the Digital Nomad subreddit which is very fun and interesting to read through 🙂

  3. Hi Giverny,

    What can I say, this was truly an exceptional blog post! It was so rich in content yet structured so accordingly that it was not difficult to understand.

    The concept of digital nomads is an interesting one, one in which i feel future generations will accept without hesitation the more digitalised our society becomes.

    While it is in the name, nomad, the freedoms those who choose this way of life is unparalleled, even to gypsy’s or great nomadic tribesman, for these are digitized, forever-connected nomadic types.

    There too is the risk of the low-paid, high-risk environment these people face, and too the everchanging, costly transitions within technology could also prove damaging one day perhaps.

    Keep it up,

    Todd.

    • Hi Todd. Thanks for your lovely comment. It is an excellent point you have made about future generations – particularly as more people become knowledge workers and work in a profession that allows such flexibility.

  4. This is a really cool post about the Nomadic lifestyle – to be honest I wasn’t really that familiar with this term but I then realised I follow many people on YouTube that follow this life style (one of the comments before mentioned FunForLouis – highly recommend), and I really enjoy their approach to their work. It’s amazing that technology today can allow for such a lifestyle to even exist. Great use of Soundcloud to further explain your points on this lifestyle too- well done!

  5. I really loved your outlook on this topic. I’ve read a lot of other blog posts that seem to be focusing purely on how ‘distracted’ we all are and how the work-life balance has been blurred and why it’s bad for us. You’ve got a really refreshing take on it in terms of needing to accept and adapt to this new work-life culture and how it can essentially elevate our lives in a way the traditional 9-5 work culture never could. Good blog!

  6. Extremely cool and engaging podcast – it’s really interesting to see how in this centralised, digitalised world bohemianism has seen a rise through digital nomads. I agree with the other comments that you’ve tackled a super interesting concept really well, your enunciation and summation of Steven Robert’s as the first digital nomad in your soundcloud were very well done.

    I think that the viability of surviving through nomadic activity within this information society will only continue to grow as we shift away from centralized 9-5 jobs and instead encourage more individuality – more liquid labour orientated job opportunities.

    Although I don’t really believe that becoming a digital nomad would be an excellent idea myself – although its true the idea of being incredibly mobile and have freedom to choose working hours and work on the go are enticing prospects – I wouldn’t be able to deal with issues of stability regarding keeping a permanent job and committing to the lifestyle choice.

    • Thank you for your lovely comment, Alan. I agree with you that the pursuit of individuality and self-expression will continue to drive the digital nomad trend. Like you, however, I don’t think the lifestyle is for me!

  7. Hey Girl! Great research into the topic, you seem to have done a lot of further reading and have a great understanding of the topic. It is the first I have heard about “Digital Nomads”, so I did a bit of research myself to get some knowledge on the concept and found myself intrigued by this idea which brings great opportunity to travel and work simultaneously. The link I’ve put down the bottom goes through and interviews several digital nomads who spend their days writing travel blogs, one even left her day job as a Lawyer to travel the world and found herself blogging her way into a whole new career. Her story really interested me, and her blog is linked below if you want to check her out. She explains how she maintains her lifestyle by traveling to cheaper areas of world, as well as continuing to work online doing different social media strategy freelancing.

    Thank you for this great blog post, I really enjoy this concept and think these digital nomads all lead a dreamy life of adventures!

    http://www.legalnomads.com/about

    http://thenextweb.com/insider/2013/12/15/7-digital-nomads-explain-how-they-live-work-and-travel-anywhere-in-the-world/2/

    • Hi Amanda! Thank you for posting those links. It is very interesting to read about other people’s experiences. The notion of a lawyer becoming a digital nomad really exemplifies this desire for freedom and individuality!

  8. I find the idea of digital nomads really interesting. The idea that the world is your office and that you can have total freedom over your work environment is exciting. I think most people would be interested in the idea that ‘the life you want is yours to create’. A way I think this post could be improved is maybe by also mentioning the negatives of being a digital nomad. For example not knowing where and when your next job will come from and not having a stable, steady income. I enjoyed your sound cloud clip too, it really added to your post.

    • Hi Jacqueline! Thank you for your comment. I hope that my blog post has effectively communicated the idea that the nature of the digital nomad’s work is very precarious. This is indeed a negative of their lifestyle. However, I have recently added in a link to the Digital Nomad subreddit where people post and reflect on the pros and cons of the digital nomad lifestyle so I hope readers can find this interesting 🙂

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