Some nights I wonder: How did I become a D-Bo?
Twenty years ago, I would have been sat at my desk in a big corporation, dictating memos. (Do you use your Dictaphone much? No, I use my finger – this was a joke of the time.) Dictating copy for the marketing department to spend a small fortune on printing it somewhere on a dead tree and wonder who the hell would read it. I come from a time where we had someone to do our typing for us. In Tapscott terms this makes me a digital immigrant – I moved on-line in my lifetime. I wasn’t (like my children for example) born here.
Now, in fact, I’m a digital nomad – I work where I sleep and several times a month, I sleep where I work. When the big corporation was swallowed by a mega-corporation, they might have let me go because my function was a duplicate of an existing one. Actually, I had already left of my own volition. Now I type my own copy to be turned into electronic pulses by Twitter and transmitted to whomever of my followers can be curious enough to tap a key and see them. Fortunately, because I still oil some communication wheels at mega-corp (in fact several mega-corps) I can afford to dick around like this. I guess there’s a lot of us out there and if we can handle the uncertainty we should appreciate the freedom.
Anyway, that’s enough about me – let’s talk about you. What kind of “work” do you do? Whether you work for a corporation, a small-to-medium enterprise or you operate as a sole-trader (or “bed-ender” as they used to be known, after their bedroom office) your work might fall into one or two of these categories:
• You develop content-free IT and attend the care and maintenance of the information superhighway (remember that one?) You are like Wallace & Gromit in “The Wrong Trousers”, laying the train-track as we run on it
• You trade in knowledge, products or services. This might be straight on-line commerce (like e-bay, Amazon etc), e-learning (web-enabled training) or face-to-face events marketed and/or disseminated on the web (conferences, workshops, webinars and the like). Your design skills might be the best. You make games. You may be charismatic in a commercial way (or vice-versa)
• You work creatively in the areas of autobiography, photography, music, poetry, writing and similar artistic endeavours. You are a digital bohemian (D-Bo!)
Wherever you sit or stand on this Science – Commerce – Art continuum, you can choose to use some of the resulting time and money from the first or second category to fund your activities in the third. To a greater or lesser extent this simply defines you as being civilised – “having instincts other than survival.” So bit by bit, byte by byte, you might say that we are all becoming more “civilised” through our activities as digital bohemians. It’s 2.0, it’s unmediated (and might benefit from some editing), but it’s all about our lives and loves in the 21st Century.
Wikipedia defines Bohemianism as the “practice of an unconventional lifestyle”. Compared to what went before, swopping a suit and a tie and a desk 9 to 5 in exchange for pyjamas and a laptop all hours of the day and night. “…Often in the company of like-minded people, involving musical, artistic or literary pursuits”. Hello Tweeps! “…With few permanent ties. Bohemians can be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds.” Or just a bit random, eh?
Are D-Bo’s creating the cave paintings of the Digilithic era – made in the dark winters by people using stone tools and berries? Maybe it’s potentially something as long-lasting as that. Will you be remembered for the last few elegant lines of code you wrote in ASP or PHP? No. Or the instructional design you did on that Health & Safety training? Not likely. Did I write history with that teambuild I ran for 60 senior managers in Manchester last week? No, but maybe that blog you wrote, that picture I took, that clip she stuck on YouTube (35 million views and rising…) – it’s a long shot but any one of our little digital boho-doodles might just go global, or failing that, simply show what it means to be human in the 21st Century. Civilised, despite what goes on all around us.
Maybe in the future everyone will be famous for 15 million bits. Maybe not. Either way – immigrants, natives, nomads – all hail the civilising influence of the D-Bo.