Open Thread: What's a Bedouin?

I want to take a look at why the bedouin tribes of the Arabian, Sinai, Sahara and Negev deserts serve as the allegorical template for the mobile worker. Bedouin is actually an English word, derived from the transliteration of the Arabic word for ‘desert dweller,’ badawi. The bedouin are, traditionally, fiercely tribal, with the bayt, or family tent, the basic unit of social structure. The primary industry of the bedouin is, naturally, trade; the critical tool is the dromedary, or camel; and regional claims by tribes are largely formed around wells, oases, cities and the routes between them.

But how do we define the ‘web bedouin?’ Some analogies to the life of actual bedouin are obvious, with internet hotspots serving as watering holes, data storage such as hard drives serving the camel’s role as a beast of burden, and the team behind a startup or corporate identity defining tribal allegiance. But at least in the last instance, the tribal identity and boundaries are much more fluid for us, trade routes on airlines and highways are set in stone, and (thankfully) conflicts are rarely settled with arms.

So what do you think are the keys to our identity as a group? Is it the tools we use, the habits we foster or just that we aren’t working within the confines of a corporate cubicle? And is bedouin culture the best analogy, or just the best analogy available? Have you gone, or do you want to ‘go bedouin?’ And if not, how would you rather define how or desire to work?

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