Another big misunderstanding of previous decades was to confuse nomadismwith migration or travel. As the costs of (stationary) telecommunications
plummeted, it became fascinating to contemplate “the death of distance” (the title of a book written by Frances Cairncross, then on the staff of The Economist). And since the early mobile phones were aimed largely at business executives, it was assumed that nomadism was about corporate travel in particular. And indeed many nomads are frequent flyers, for example, which is why airlines such as JetBlue, American Airlines and Continental Airlines are now introducing in-flight Wi-Fi. But although nomadism and travel can coincide, they need not.
Humans have always migrated and travelled, without necessarily living nomadic lives. The nomadism now emerging is different from, and involves much more than, merely making journeys. A modern nomad is as likely to be a teenager in Oslo, Tokyo or suburban America as a jet-setting chief executive. He or she may never have left his or her city, stepped into an aeroplane or changed address. Indeed, how far he moves is completely irrelevant. Even if an urban nomad confines himself to a small perimeter, he nonetheless has a new and surprisingly different relationship to time, to place and to other people. “Permanent connectivity, not motion, is the critical thing,” says Manuel Castells, a sociologist at the Annenberg School for Communication, a part of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
I have to admit that I'm not quite a mobile nomad. I avoid my cellphone as much as possible. I get a bit annoyed while eating dinner and a friend checks her text messages. But I'm part way there. I have this blog, I'm on LearningTown, I'm playing around with Twitter and Spaz, I want an iPhone, and I may have even texted a photo or two to a friend.
So, is it me? Or do these articles seem a little off, a bit not there - like hip parents trying to appreciate their son's latest and favorite band, but not really getting it?
Where I see a disconnect is in the lack of Web 2.0 discussion. Or in the idea of weak ties getting weaker while family and close friend ties grow. For instance, bringing Twitter into the discussion, (or even blogs/comments for that matter), would add a new dimension to the worries about not interacting "with the wider society around them" or not gaining from the various viewpoints of strangers. In my opinion, there is probably truth in the changes happening to in person communication. (Answering texts in the middle of dinner, for instance.) But I don't think that it's at the expense of interacting with strangers. What I do think is very relevant and I can't remember it being mentioned is the Digital Divide. What happens to those without computers, the Internet, mobile devices, text/IM plans? Are they left in the lurch?