Friday, August 27, 2010

The Digital Ascetics

Transport and travel is opposed to residence and dwelling. In between these distinctions are a range of liminal exceptions that defy this dualism: sleeping rough, backpacking, caravanning, camping, sleeping in the car, renting, couch-surfing.

Those who travel continuously are considered outside of social normality: homeless, nomads, gypsies, and itinerant workers. As well, homelessness has historically been affiliated with divinity: Jesus, Buddha, and Confucius all lived without dwelling.

Yet, what has been termed a 'cult of less' now appears to transgress this basic building block of late modernity. BBC News 16 August 2010 In today's world property reflects the greatest status item and also the most expensive consumer item possible to own. It is also the storage centre for many of the other assets we cherish.

Yet, now many people who cannot afford to own a home and find that most of their assets are digital, are adopting a distinctly ascetic lifestyle that still conforms with society's expectations. These digital ascetics are not anti-consumerism nor anti-work like vagrant beat-poets such as Jack Kerouac. Instead, digital ascetics consider the modern ownership of physical objects as an obsolete practice in favour of 'superior' digital equivalents. Such a belief is naturally more mobile and demands more flexible quarters. For instance, Mark Boyle, the "man who lives without money" cannot live without his laptop nor his caravan. Guardian 9 November 2009 Interestingly, the number of caravan travellers rose significantly under New Labor in the UK. Daily Telegraph 22 August 2010

Combinations of homes and vehicles seems to be
a growing trend for the cult of less. For instance, the "bloggers ideal mode of transport" is little more than a rickshaw with an internet connection (more important than a toilet it seems) and a bed. Gizmodo 23 August 2010 The grander, more middle-class version of this is the Terreform Homeway - a huge house on tank treads that circulates never-ending highways. These mega-vehicles are a far cry from the asceticism of the cult of less! Either way, this version of dwelling pertains to a range of new values linked to digital technologies.

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