To be or not to be a digital nomad: lecturers and students from the department of social communications about the new identities

When will each person have a digital twin? Why are «smart cities» considered a utopia? How does the identity of digital nomads influence the requirements to the websites? These and many other questions were discussed by lecturers and students from the Department of Social Communications of TSU on November 28, during the first day of the VII Siberian Psychological Forum "Integrated Human Research: Psychology" at the symposium "Digital Nomads and Digital Migrants as New Identities".

Digital nomads are people who use digital technologies for their professional duties and have a mobile life. The first scientific description of the phenomenon of digital nomadism appeared in the 1960's - 70's. It was a certain scientific prediction, because at that time digital nomadism did not exist. Today digital nomadism has nearly become a universal phenomenon; it is habitual and ordinary lifestyle for many people. Moreover, each of us can choose digital nomadism as the way of living. To understand whether we want to be digital nomads or not, we can try different sides of this identity.


The representatives of generation Y, belonging to the digital natives born with a gadget in hands, can consciously cultivate in themselves qualities, necessary for becoming a digital nomad. What does education of the era of digital nomadism have to be like to meet the requirements of generation Y? What do present-day students think of digital nomadism? What do millennials have to be able to do to be successful, irrespective of the place where they stay and the technological era? All these issues were discussed at the symposium "Digital Nomads and Digital Migrants as New Identities".

Head of the Department of Social Communications, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor Irina P. Kuzheleva-Sagan together with Graduate Student Natalia A. Suchkova presented the report about the place that digital nomadism takes in the identities of Tomsk students.

The researchers held an opinion poll and found out that Tomsk students do not know the exact meaning of the terms “digital nomad" and "digital nomadism". However, they were able to understand intuitively the key characteristics of the nomadic lifestyle – the tendency to continuous movements and the possibility of working remotely.
Natalia Suchkova: 

According to Tomsk students, a digital nomad is a person (a man in most cases) of middle age, with the university education, who has good English-language skills. Among the professions typical of a digital nomad, Tomsk students mentioned journalism, Public Relations, design and programming.

The Tomsk students have also noted that they will probably choose the nomadic life in the future, as they are accustomed to constant connection to network, and they would travel with pleasure if they did not have financial problems, usual for students. It is interesting that the students described the attributes common for a digital nomad: a tablet, a camera, glasses, a beard and sneakers.

Snezhana S. Nosova, the Senior Lecturer of the Department of Social Communication, spoke about the requirements that future professionals should meet in the age of digital nomadism. According to Snezhana Nosova, one of the main characteristics of a true professional in the constantly changing digital world is "soft skills".

Snezhana Nosova:

About 85% of professional success of a practitioner depends on "flexible" soft skills and only about 15% – on technical skills and professional knowledge.

So, when at university, digital nomads, who are engaged, for example, in PR, have to learn, first of all, not how to write press releases, adjust targeted advertising or organize special events. All these things are important, of course, but the ability to work with information and sort it by its importance, find unusual answers to usual questions, work with virtual colleagues and adapt to any cultural environment is more useful to a future PR-practitioner.

It is possible to assume that because of such a disbalance of professional skills of modern people, it is necessary to build a new identity – not the identity, for example, of a PR-specialist, a journalist or a designer, but the identity of a multifunctional expert, who has all the necessary skills for performing various professional tasks. The TSU Rector, Eduard Galazhinsky, called such modern specialists “transfessionals” in course of one of his meetings with journalists.

According to another speaker, the graduate student Kristina I. Ugolnikova, the formation of nomadic identity is possible when using the potential of the open educational space.

Kristina Ugolnikova:

Openness in education is the transformation of values stimulating free comprehensive exchange of information, knowledge and skills, and reorganization of the hierarchy of the relations between students and teachers.

The openness of educational space allows pupils and students to develop those competences that researchers refer to as "soft skills": tendency to critical judgment, generalization and filtering information, ability to concentrate, and manage their time effectively.

The digital nomad is a "transfessional".


Today digital nomadism is a deliberate choice for many people. There is an open question: why do some people choose digital nomadism, and others, not less talented and professional, prefer the traditional way of life? Some researchers consider digital nomadism a utopia because the nomadic life can have certain limitations. Is it possible to be always on the move and start a happy family at the same time? How can digital nomadism be balanced against patriotism? What will digital nomads do when they grow old?

Associate Professor Irina V. Guzhova considers that the phenomenon of digital nomadism is an existential choice of freedom in the modern world.

Irina Guzhova:

We have defined three dimensions of freedom of a digital nomad. First, it is internal freedom that is expressed in the nomads’ courage of making free choices and taking responsibility for their own identity. Second, this is rejection of the social and economic identity, postulated by the capitalist relations of production and the consumer society. Third, we refer the idea of travel as a symbolic form of designing the person’s identity.

Thus, formation of digital nomads’ identity means implementing the postmodern project of maintaining freedom of choice in the unfree world.

Undergraduate Student Grigory V. Potemkin, spoke about the world, which surrounds and will surround digital nomads in more detail.

In his report "The Potential of Smart-Cities as Places of Residence for People with the New Identity", the speaker appealed to the research by Peter Levich, the Head of Science, Technologies and Societies Department of Moscow Technological Institute. According to Peter Levich, the identity of modern people (both digital natives and digital immigrants) is a combination of connectome, metabolome and siliconome.

Grigory Potemkin:

Connectome is a set and configuration of all neurons, their communications, and charge distribution. Metabolome is a set and a configuration of all synapses and molecules of neurotransmitters, and hormones. Siliconom is a digital footprint, profiles on social networks, all information from letters in e-mail boxes, and our comments and answers.

Siliconome is some kind of digital twin of a person. Can it be separated from humans? If so, will it have the same extent of freedom as a person? How do personal freedom and existence of this digital twin correlate with each other? These questions are important, but today we cannot find the definite answers.

As it appeared, there is no answer to the question about the potential of "smart-cities" for the person with the "multilayered" identity including "siliconome". Associate Professor Dina Spicheva paid attention to the utopian nature of the idea of a "smart city". According the researcher, smart cities will not become the space of total freedom for digital natives, but the space of total control.

Dina I. Spicheva also placed emphasis on the history of the formation of the digital nomads’ identity. According to the researcher, the aspiration to the nomadic way of life is especially inherent to Siberian people.

Dina Spicheva:

The history "of the Siberian genome" will help to understand several aspects of the development of the network information and communication society, and the emergence of this special category of people – digital nomads, who, like Siberian people, have no common genetic history. She developed a hypothesis that some predisposition to digital migration and nomadism is "genetically" inherent to the representatives of certain social groups; one of such groups is Siberian people.

The digital nomad is a free person.


Digital nomadism is not only philosophy; this is a way of life. This is the reason why it is important for PR-specialists to study digital nomads as a special target audience. What requirements do they have to the products and services consumed? How do they spend free time? In what professional spheres do they want to develop?

The Senior Lecturer Natalia A. Karnaukhova researched the phenomenon of digital nomadism from the marketing perspective. Her report was devoted to creating a website about and for digital nomads.

Natalia Karnaukhova:

Specialized websites about digital nomads play a special role in digital communication. The mission of such websites consists in informing people about the life and work on the Internet (stories of digital nomads’ success; articles, books, resources and applications about this new way of life; forums; and guides).

It is interesting how the authors of the report – developers of the website for and about digital nomads created the concept that can form the basis of some standards of web design for the target audience of nomads. The authors considered such characteristics of digital nomads’ life as using mobile gadgets, absence of the high-speed Internet when they are on the way, their desire to communicate with other digital nomads, the need for obtaining relevant information about the vacancies, and many other things.

Their work suggests the idea that every year the escalating popularity of digital nomadism will lead to the emergence of more and more developed specific guide for creating products and services for this target audience.

It is also necessary to consider the requirements that digital nomads have concerning their work. Not only employers have high requirements to digital nomads as professionals; digital nomads also have certain requirements to the vacancies they want to apply. The ideal profession for nomads gives themfreedom to be constantly on the move and carry out their working responsibilities on the Network. According to Senior Lecturer Marina N. Bychkova and Master Student Marina A. Kontsybko, such professions as designers, photographers and programmers are not the only choices for digital nomads. Cyber sport is another professional activity that allows nomads to move around the world and achieve their digital potential.

Games and gaming technologies are as popular in the era of digital nomadism as the communicative technologies. In the report presented by Master Student Ani G. Gazoyan about the innovative technologies of scientific PR, the author considered the potential of gamification (introducing gaming technologies in the non-gaming contexts) during the era of digital nomadism. The speaker described the modern society, where digital nomads live and work, not only as information and network society, but also the society of knowledge.

Ani Gazoyan:

Within the society where knowledge is a key resource, possession of knowledge becomes one more factor of competitiveness. Therefore, it is necessary to search for innovative ways of broadcasting the scientific knowledge that would be interesting to different groups of people, including digital nomads.

The digital nomad is a person of new requirements.


As we have already mentioned, the society where digital nomads live, work and fulfill their potential can be characterized from different points of view: information, network, and knowledge. One more characteristic of the modern society is communication. Thus, one more important aspect of digital nomads’ life is communication and self-presentation.

For digital nomads, online communication is not only their choice, but also the necessity. It is difficult for a person who is constantly on the move, to create stable and strong social relations (what we would call "real friendship") and maintain them for a long time. There is an alternative to this: making friends on social networks, where communication doesn't depend on time and place (there is a possibility of postponed conversations in different time zones). But can online communication fully replace personal contacts? Associate Professor Andrey P. Glukhov argued that social networks intensified and scaled interpersonal relations.

Andrey Glukhov:

Social platforms as infrastructure of communication promote transformation of close strong connections, keeping space for intimate private communication. They expand the space of semi-public communications to the virtual communication environment and scale weak communications, promoting their transformation into social capital.

It is impossible to imagine communication on social networks without self-presentation. Associate professor Gulnafist A. Okushova and Senior Lecturer Ekaterina V. Polyanskaya were engaged in studying this aspect of digital nomads’ communicative behavior. The researchers paid special attention to visual forms of self-presentation of digital nomads, using photography, in particular.

Ekaterina Polyanskaya:

Nowadays photography plays a more important role than text ". The authors claim that photography can bring satisfaction to digital nomads in five areas: preserving the present, communication and expression of feelings, self realization, social prestige, entertainment and escapism.

The digital nomad is a communicator.

To answer this question: to be or not to be a digital nomad, it is necessary to answer a number of additional questions. To be or not to be the “transfessional” person, the person of new requirements, the

communicating person, and the free person? All these are different sides of the identity of a digital nomad. However, this list isn't limited to these definitions. Obtaining new knowledge about digital nomadism, which will allow each of us to make the conscious choice in favor of this or that way of life, requires further comprehensive study of the phenomenon of digital nomadism.

Lecturers and students from the Department of Social Communications continue to research these questions. They think that all of us, those who consider themselves digital natives or digital immigrants, need to ask these questions to ourselves and the world around us.

So, to be or not to be a digital nomad? This is for you to make this choice.