Unpacking idyllic remote work

I have been taking photos in almost each place where I have been to get work done since the end of 2015. You’ll see me in Barcelona, Madrid, Bogotá, Aarhus and Brussels. This collage shows I’d say a 10% of the photos I have in my computer.

I want to underscore with these photos what we can call the side B of working with digital tools in a nomadic way. I want to show the less visible side of seemingly privileged jobs in what I called earlier glamourous precariousness.

I want to show also that being a “digital nomad” is more than free floating between paradisiacal beaches, meeting cool people and making money while at it. There is a material relationship between us and our technological devices, between us and the transient places we occupy, and our place-making is imbued with our structural positions -our salaries, our work conditions. Even though surrounded by people who are also working remotely, our relationship with those people around us is often non-existent or reduced to mere functionalities: is this seat taken?

The connection to my mobile phone and computer screen is stronger than to the person sitting next to me.

The idyllic image of the life of a digital nomad fails to account for the bodily burden of being constantly on the move and carrying your work equipment with you, digital devices breaking down on you, lousy wifi connections, feelings of isolation and disconnect from your remote coworkers, and so on. 

Taken from the Facebook page “Digital Nomads Around the World”, with 99.452 members.

 

In the case of intellectual and creativity based professions, the idyllic image of remote work also fails to recognise the impact of the degradation of our work conditions as “cognitive protelarians” (the term is not mine, I will soon provide a list of references for those interested). 

Taken from my personal Facebook page with the author’s permission.

This project is among others such as the one by Jeff Thompson on mechanical turkers and Catherine Banner on the daily life of a writer opening the blackbox of remote work. 

I have learnt today to find a better balance between moving around and staying put, between working alone and with others. A balance that is never perfect, that is a constant negotiation between a myriad factors -money, kind of project, day of the week, available places, and so on-, and that is never reached completely.

 

 

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