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Nomadic Work: Romance and Reality. A Response to Barbara Czarniawska’s ‘Nomadic Work as Life-Story Plot’

Abstract

This article takes departure in Barbara Czarniawska’s discussion of ‘Nomadic Work as Life-Story Plot’. It contextualises her analysis of actors’ interpretations of nomadic work with a bi-focal review of the ambiguous realities of these phenomena. Firstly, an examination of key aspects of the socio-economic and political context of nomadic work in global neoliberal economies reveals precarious conditions that cloud romantic interpretations of nomadicity. Secondly, a review of studies of everyday practices of nomadic work shows how neoliberal, but also alternative futures are enacted through creative appropriation of collaborative technologies. One example is the work of digital ‘disaster deck’ volunteers and its potential for the mobilization of ‘rapid, highly localized assistance’ through closer collaboration between a distributed crowd, local communities, and official emergency responders (Starbird and Palen 2013). This and other examples suggest emergent new practices and politics of dwelling in mobility that are focused on sociality and collaboration, straddling virtual and physical commons. The twin critique developed in this response can augment narrative analysis to inform more integrated CSCW innovation that challenges the ‘brave new world of work’.

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Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Luigina Ciolfi and Michael Liegl for their comments on earlier drafts. This research is in part supported by the BRIDGE Project, funded under the EU FP7 Security Theme and the UK EPSRC funded project Citizens Transforming Society: Tools for Change (CaTalyST). I am grateful for the support and inspiration provided by my colleagues in these projects.

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Correspondence to Monika Büscher.

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Büscher, M. Nomadic Work: Romance and Reality. A Response to Barbara Czarniawska’s ‘Nomadic Work as Life-Story Plot’. Comput Supported Coop Work 23, 223–238 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10606-013-9194-6

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Key words

  • CSCW
  • design
  • neoliberalism
  • nomadic work
  • commons