Saturday, May 19, 2007

Are digital bohemians bohemians among digital bohemians?

Yo! The BlogWalkEleven took place yesterday in Amsterdam. Theme: Digital bohemians. It was inspired by some German book on the topic of young people making their ends meet by earning a € here and there while leading a digital, networked and somewhat vagabond lifestyle. Of course, part of it is glamour, some are real addicts to the lifestyle, and the down side is the exploitation of young talents with short term contracts, issues with pension fees and how to live on a shoe string while trying to find a next freelance contract.

The idea of BlogWalk is inspired by concept of Open Scpace. Heard people talking of un-conferences? That's the same idea. no PowerPoints, no formal schedule, everyone contributes and cross-pollinates the conversation.
In Open Space meetings, events and organizations, participants create and manage their own agenda of parallel working sessions around a central theme of strategic importance..

Is digital bohemian a trait of character, a mindset, or a definition of an individual in relation to her/his surroundings?

So, the central theme was Digital Bohemians, which I found somewhat detached from in the first place. Towards the end, I'm sorry to say, but I left with an impression that we did not really "walk the talk".

The fun part of all was that the ~30 people around were all pretty inspiring and fun to talk to. They all had clearly anticipated an event with lots of interaction, so they were eager and ready to ask questions, talk to you about your interests and theirs, and just hang out. The first part of the day was fun, we all hurdled around the "window wiki" with post-its to write down our keywords, lines of thoughts and concerns on the topic. There was some geniousity on those post-its, I'm looking forward for Ton to sum'em up.

We had a lunch and - yeah, finally we physically walked in the city as a group! See, the whole idea of the thing is that you are able to find or initiate a discussion that you are interested in. If not, tant pis, walk on or do something. In this thing it's not up to the organisers to entertain and court you, but yourself! Walking is an excellent exercise for that.

Walking part was fun, but I must say that a sit-down lunch was not my idea of this type of organisation. I love cocktail parties for the part of being excused on the fly to change the group. Once you sit down, the "sofa-magnet" starts sucking you in and it's hard to find an excuse to move about 5 people from the same bench to allow you to change the scene just because you are bored with them.

So, that is exactly what happened in the afternoon. People sat down to start the second session, and nothing moved on from that point onwards. I was sad not to have my laptop with me (not many did, and get this, there was no wifi around! radical!), it's a perfect escape route of boredom and has become somewhat acceptable, too.

Anyway, my 2 €cents on digital bohemians: Are bohemians bohemians among bohemians? Is digital bohemian a trait of character, a mindset or a definition of an individual in relation to her/his surroundings?

I think digital bohemianism can best be defined by the relationship to the surrounding behaviour and conventions of practices. It's easy to point a finger to someone saying, see that one is a digital bohemian, if they do something that most people are not doing or do not want to do, e.g. live their life out of their laptop/PDA, have non conventional ways of getting their bills paid, know how to navigate in different spaces (physical and digital), are networked around the globe, etc.

However, if you have a flock of digital bohemians together, they cease to be bohemians among themselves, as they all pretty much sing the same cord. Of course, still, in the relation to others surrounding them, they would remain digital bohemians.

So, finally, maybe rather than defining and classifying digital bohemians, we should just attach tags to it and allow its folksonomic, non-exclusive base of terms to flourish just like bohemians do. Why tags are great is that they allow clustering "the thing" with many other things too, rather than having it sitting in one place in the catalogue or classification scheme, like we used to know them from library. There, I finally was able to tie it up with folksonomies, I'm getting really good at this :)

Anyway, I was glad to be part of this social experiment of BlogWalkEleven and I'm super glad to have met all these people! Let spaces be open in the future too!

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