Thursday, May 01, 2008

Nomads at Last

The Economist recently wrote an article about the impact of wireless communication and urban nomadism. The term nomad is deeply misleading. Despite the focus on nomadism as a distinctly urban phenomenon, the citation of Manuel Castells, and examples that are all located in advanced urban areas--the term nomad is used to conjure a kind of nostalgic freedom.

Much like the image of the Marlboro Man (the single most valuable brand image ever created) was used to project a lifestyle of ruggedness, independence, freedom, and vigorous, healthy masculinity to a demographic under a great deal of economic (and health) pressure, the image of the nomad is also used to sell a lifestyle.

Urban nomadism requires a highly specialized, capital-intensive infrastructure which is continually evolving. Traditional nomadism requires not only limited, lightweight tools, but more importantly, vast areas of under-populated land not subject to private ownership and control. Urban areas aren't inhabited by nomads, but by individuals with the talents, capital, and ability to negotiate highly privatized spaces.


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