A FEW HOURS AGO, Liam Daly, an industrious painter on a stretched bicycle, pointed his rig west and continued his painting tour across the 32 counties of Ireland.
Liam is a gold-plated member of the Irish twitterati and perhaps the most digitally connected of any traditional artist in Ireland. Because he is a man of the land, he knows the service side of online social networking. He carries a full complement of paints, brushes, canvases, sketchbook and sctatch work. All on a stretched bicycle that he pedals along the back roads of Ireland. He is also permanently connected to a virtual world, communicating by text, map pinpoints, photostreams, and Audioboos during the day. Then he does "art stuff" for five hours a day when out of the saddle. He is a nomad who is using social media to get places to stay in exchange for pieces he paints. Speaking from experience, he gives more than he gets.
Liam's idea for the #paintingtour originated several months ago. From tweetups, awards events and Open Bottle sessions, he thought he could evolve casual online friendships into real world watering holes for a techno-Bedouin like himself. Since Bedouins, whether in Arabian deserts or on Irish boreens, are inherently tribal and social creatures, he understood from the outset that a proper oasis had to offer more than a room with a roof. It had to permit him space and light to paint it in his own special way.
As a concept, modern nomadism arrived prematurely. I read Herbert Marshall McLuhan in the 1970s, the most influential media and communications theorist ever, as he postulated about nomads zipping around at great speed, using facilities on the road and all but dispensing with their homes. That world view fit mine at the time as I spent 14 days every month flying across oceans, following inertial navigation systems to island destinations while communicating via High Frequency Radio. In the 1980s Jacques Attali, a French economist, used the term to predict an age when rich and uprooted elites would jet around the world in search of fun and opportunity, and poor but equally uprooted workers would migrate in search of a living. As a pilot, Attali's world view fit my working world. In the 1990s Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners jointly wrote the first book with "digital nomad" in the title, adding the bewildering possibilities of the latest gadgets to the vision. I carried a mobile phone with a 22" long whip antenna and felt part of that vision.
But all these early depictions of nomadism miss the point because the nomad personified by Liam Daly subordinates the technology to the end process of working to produce a painting. These prognostications were formed in a world without WiFi and without 3G. In short, nomads carried gadgets but they did not carry mobile data services.
As he cycles and paints his way around Ireland, Liam Daly is setting himself out as Ireland's first truly digital nomad. The manner in which he has trained his technology to serve his purpose is a case study in the art of online social networking. If you live in one of the 20 counties he has not visited, you might enjoy having him stop by with his brushes. And if you want to entice him inside for a chat, I suggest opening your wifi node and preparing a large pot of Barry's Classic Label Tea.
Sent mail2blog abeam Hore Abbey using O2 EDGE service on my Nokia E7 after watching the Painting Tour head towards County Limerick and looking at a sample of Liam's paintings.
Bonus Link: "Eolaí and his Painting Tour: Week Five on the Thirsty Gargoyle Blog, August 4, 2011.