Digital nomads disrupting local life

Wired has a long-read on how a digital nomad initiative has wrecked havoc in the island of Madeira, Portugal. Rising housing prices, in some places forced evictions, and virtually no interactions with local culture are the painful consequences of an essentially predatory locust lifestyle that only the privileged with the right passports can afford to live, at expense of locals. This is a clash between what Manuel Castells has termed the ‘space of flows’ versus the ‘space of place’. The author draws a paralel to the naming of Madeira (‘lumber’), discovered in the 15th century as a green forested uninhabited paradise, and named for its extractable resources.

“For a sector that so loudly proclaims its devotion to quality of life, the failure of the global leaders in the digital nomad space to consider the losses of host communities is astounding to behold. It is as though those living communities don’t matter beyond the abstract role they fulfill as backdrop. Lumber, not trees. In April, a video circulated on social media of 50 police officers with their batons out in the streets of Beato, a rapidly gentrifying parish in eastern Lisbon, grabbing and striking a group of women and children who were protesting a mass eviction. A few weeks later, the massive Creative Hub of Beato on the waterfront, home to Lisbon’s newest “unicorn factory,” hosted a hackathon to find innovative solutions to the capital’s housing crisis. The winning answer: blockchain.”

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