Monday, September 13, 2010

Technomadism and Sense

I've found a movement that immediately appeals to me: technomadism and neo-minimalism, the move from many things you don't need to a few things that do everything at once, in order to be comfortable and productive anywhere, anytime. A quest that for me began with my bicycle began shaping my choices of luggage, computers, camera equipment and clothing. Cameras must be smaller and more portable, justifying their presence in cross-continental journeys but still delivering high-definition footage. Pants should never wear out, and be versatile enough that one can get away with carrying one pair. Everything should fit easily in a bicycle saddlebag or small backpack.

Boing-boing's released an excellent special feature by Sean Bonner, an account of his own adventures and a bit of a manifesto on throwing away the excess crap that slows you down: Neo-Minimalism and the Rise of Technomads. Sean also has a cute little tumblr site with zen tidbits and general decluttering advice to go with the movement.

This is great and all, this striving to travel light as a feather while still maintaining your link to the glowing webs. But as a featherweight chronic traveler I also know where there's danger in going too far. Bouncing from place to place is glamorous, sleek-designed objects give the appearance of solving all problems. But there is tons of hard, concrete work that supported the creation of those i-whatsits and allowed for easy travel to all points on the globe. Not all of that work was done in ethical or environmentally sustainable circumstances. Further, Sometimes all the digital extensions of an online individual seem just as cluttered as a house full of junk, but with a variety of accounts, interests, spin-off avatars, instead of spare tools, knicknacks, lotions and extra clothing. Sometimes bouncing between digital interests and forums and blogs makes my head swim, and I wonder how productive we're actually being.

Take for example Sean's 12-Hour trip to Dublin. Highlights include patronizing an art museum, a veggie Kabob shop, and drinking 10 cups of coffee. I wonder if this frantic nomadism is justified when the end-result is just some intercontinental dilettantism. Having the tools to get things done quickly is great, and being able to spread the results over a variety of outlets equally validating, but it's important to focus on... staying focused. Don't let the digital pace overwhelm your ability to spend time on deeper contributions in your area of fascination.


Luke Williams said...

Great post, Davey. Sean Bonner's manifesto is a nice piece of multimedia essay-writing, too. That picture of his son on the Paris metro is beautiful, in its corny little way. I love the basic ideas here. Spend money on experience, not stuff.

Here's where I personally have a hard time: I would love to make all my music electronically, one laptop and ultra-portability, if it felt anything like my fingers feel against the thick, rough strings of the bass and the wood of its neck. Digital representations of artwork, books, etc. lack for me the aura, the visceral presence, the reason they hold value to me, the same way digital productivity can sometimes make your head swim, and so you seek out a more multi-sensory, physical kind of productivity. All that aside, there are things I could do. I have too many clothes. I should work on that. But every time I see you and Jessica dressed in your utilitarian, all-black garb, it depresses me. I get the functionality, but I need more aesthetic than that. I like colors. Plus, I'm not a nomad by nature. I settle into places, and I love feeling home.

Maybe it's all vice; I'm timid where I should be brave, overly sentimental where I should be utilitarian, blue where I should be black, technologically conservative when I should ditch my old samsung for a smartphone, which seem more revolutionary by the day in their ever increasing multi-functionality. I'm willing to seriously consider all of that.

Davey D said...

Right on mister. I don't see any of those decisions as faults, just differences that set our influences and outputs apart from one another. Your attachment to aura is something that I see as very critical to your work, something that would be fairly shattering if you rejected it as overly sentimental. Likewise I see the desires I have to minimize and be mobile as dangerous and superficial from time to time.

Watch the video I posted in a more recent post and keep these things in mind. There are SO many ways to be efficient or mindful of resources in your life, the important thing is to be just that, mindful, and always be seeking ways you can hone your own set of actions to deliver the greatest bang for the effort put in.

Claudia Lorenz said...

Hi Luke
There are degrees of minimalism... And there is no way I would give up my bass, or my weaving loom, or my DSLR.
The solution for me was to take only occasional intercontinental trips (if the job at the other end could support it !) and spend the rest of the time live/work/traveling in the 1986 Grumman step van that I converted into a cosy, solar powered rolling nest with all my favourite things aboard. The amp is a Roland cube:-)