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Text | DIGITAL NOMADS: EMPLOYMENT IN THE ONLINE GIG ECONOMY | 002
2 BEVERLY YUEN THOMPSON
ed, from the computer. The authors envision a lifestyle that would (eventually) spark a movement – digital nomadism:
Finding himself in a pleasant part of the world and enabled by tech- nology to run his business from a hotel room (or even a beach) without being at the mercy of the latest crisis call, he can take time out to enjoy himself free from the dictates of a rigid travel schedule set by a zealous sec- retary or a demanding boss (Makimoto and Manners 1997: 147).
The internet would provide a liberatory utopia in which workers could log on (from the beach), work four hours a week, and then catch the afternoon waves on his surfboard – and he was surely male. The authors did ever-so-briefly ponder the dark side of digitally-controlled employment:
Of course, for some workers – those tied to a production line in a factory, or to a particular person, like a secretary – there will not be any benefit to be gained from the new technologies. For them, the new tech- nologies might even make things worse, with the boss frequently using electronic links to check up on the secretary’s day to day activities in- stead of allowing the secretary a quiet few days in their absence (Makimoto and Manners 1997: 155).
However, such dystopian potentials were swiftly skimmed over to focus on the positive, liberatory, and even fantasy, poten- tial that the rest of the book would envision: location independ- ence, mass nomadic-temporary cities, diminishing governments and national borders, project-based work, less material consumer- ism, a sharing economy – but all backed by a “healthy bank bal- ance” required by the nomad (Makimoto and Manners 1997: 1737). After twenty years of Digital Nomad in print, we can ask, were the authors accurate in their assessment?
This paper explores the socio-economic context of digital nomad work through a qualitative exploration of the lifestyle. While there are numerous business magazines and newspaper ar- ticles celebrating this concept in ways similar to Makimoto and Manners, critical sociologists have been slower to research this phenomenon. Sociologist Juliet Schor has been one prominent voice capturing the worker’s perspective of this precarious living experience, which she refers to as the “gig economy”. I use quali- tative methods of participant observation and in-depth interview-
GLOCALISM: JOURNAL OF CULTURE, POLITICS AND INNOVATION 2018, 1, DOI: 10.12893/gjcpi.2018.1.11
Published online by “Globus et Locus” at www.glocalismjournal.net
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