Going NomadAn interesting special report in the economist this week focuses on how mobile technology gives rise to new nomadic life styles. With mobiles, PDA’s, WiFi, Smart Phones, ultra-portable Laptops, keyring pendrives (the list goes on) many workers are no longer tied to an office. Those ‘early adopters’ of the new technology roam the cities hopping between hotspots in cafe’s, parks and libraries, checking email from the breakfast table, and (who, me?) sometimes even from bed.

I’m all up for mobility, I think it’s great. Before I was given a decent work environment by the university I spent a lot of time roaming between places of work. I’d drink sightly too much coffee and make hasty and excited notes about some new insight or angle on a subject, only to go over them the next morning and decide they were a million miles from having any place in my PhD thesis. It was all a lot of fun.

But it couldn’t last. I liked the mobility but I required stability. Now I have a desk – a work station to call my own where I leave my books and do most of my writing and reading. Productivity has gone up no end. I make my own coffee.

So is the life of a networked nomad just not for me? A significant factor is that doing a PhD (especially in certain of the humanities) is essentially an isolating experience. It does not involve regular emails and phone calls and there is no place for internet messaging, skype, or texting. The life of a nomadic philosophy student is a lonely one; sometimes it is just too much to sit in another cafe or library where nobody knows your name.

A permanent desk offers grounding in a community when the work itself offers minimal connectivity. Whilst other areas of work tie people to a shared environment because the work requires connectivity and communication (something being eroded away by the rise of mobile telecoms) I find my self tied to a place of work because what I do doesn’t require such networking.