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  • Writer's pictureBenoit Hardy-Vallée

On Digital Nomads, a conversation with Dave Cook (S01E09)

A conversation with Dave Cook – PhD Researcher, Anthropology, UCL (University College London).

What are “digital nomads” and what Dave learned about them in his 7-year research

  • TThe typical path, entry point or background in this way of living and working 

  • The use of "disciplining practices to manage work/leisure boundaries”- digital mediated time management, self-regulation, skills maintenance, image management and personal branding. ·

  • Key trends that will shape the future of how we work  

  • More information at


  • Digital Nomads are usually individuals in the early twenties and early thirties, trying to create their own sense of autonomy and freedom by combining travel and work, often in exotic locations.

  • The research found that they ended up engaging with elaborate disciplining and productivity practices due to their autonomous worker situation.

  • Individuals chose this way of living and working to escape the nine to five, not being micromanaged, not having to commute into the office.

  • Even with all that freedom, they often end up creating a mini commute to a co-working space to creat boundaries between leisure time and their work life, showing the need for structure.

  • Digital nomads are an extreme form or remote workers; they live in a state of perpetual isolation and try to integrate aspects of work and life during their travels.

  • Many of them work out of co-working space, however they end up being "individual workers surrounded by other individuals" rather than collaborating, as they are using the co-working space as a way to create a work environnment but not necessarily a community of practice.

  • Most people adopt this lifesetyl for one to two years, and tend to be single or without children.

  • Dave noticed that many conversations turn towards how people might spend their time, how they discipline themselves, how they stay productive; when you are constantly moving to new locations, it is very disruptive. Hence the interest of co-working spaces.

  • One of the productivity practices that is spoken about in the community is called MIT, which is Most Important Task - tackling the important work in the morning, carving out some uninterrupted time to accomplish deep work.

  • The digital nomads that were doing well were those that were engaging with these disciplining practices that were helping them structure their day and their work week.

  • Not everyone has this self-discipline and self-management, and it is becoming more important as knowledge worker will be increasingly remote

  • Despite all the social media pictures, nobody works on a laptop on the beach - you wouldn't put an expensive computer near sand and you just can't see the screen under the sun.

  • With work becoming more distributed, this could change the future of cities: "Nobody is saying that they missed the daily commute and it is really hard to put that genie back into the bottle"

More information and reading material:

Academic Profiles

Specific article on digital nomads · Articles issuing guidance on working from home for those new to it. · · Some non-English/International syndications · · · ·

Photo by samer daboul from Pexels

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