Digital Nomads: Employment in the Online Gig Economy

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My article “Digital Nomads: Employment in the Online Gig Economy,” was published in Glocalism: A Journal of Culture, Politics and Innovation, Issue 2018, Vol. 1. (DOI:10.12893/gjcpi.2018.1.11).

Abstract: In 1997, Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners published their future-looking manifesto Digital Nomad that, decades later, would present as a manifesto for a lifestyle movement. At the time, businesses and the US government were interested in looking at tele-commuting, productivity, and work-family balance. Critiques of a neoliberal economy provide insight into understanding the context of freelance and online, piecemeal employment. This article examines the types of employment that digital nomads engage in, based on in-depth interviews with thirty-eight self-identified digital nomads. The participants mostly originate from wealthy, industrialized nations, and have many class privileges, but are underemployed compared to what their socio-economic status would historically suggest. As most participants are in the Millennial Generation, an overview of the shifting socio-economic status of this age-cohort is examined in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and the European Union – notably their high educational achievements and increasingly precarious employment status. Many of the nomads were working part-time with their own micro-business, with few able to maintain full-time employment. Few have benefits such as healthcare, retirement, unemployment insurance, or family leave. While “freedom” is touted as the benefit of gig-work, by both industry management and digital nomad enthusiasts, this lifestyle marks a shift towards precarious employment – itself not a basis for economic freedom, nor security.


The Academic Minute

Screen Shot 2018-05-19 at 3.30.30 PMI recorded a segment for The Academic Minute on my research on women and tattoos, which aired on May 18, 2018. This segment was also featured during The Best of Our Knowledge airing as well.

Here is the link to the audio segment.

Or read here for the full text:

Record numbers of Americans are getting tattoos—at least twenty-five percent of the population now has at least one. And for the first time ever, women make-up over 50% of all collectors! My research focuses on this often-overlooked population. “Heavily-tattooed” women, who have large tattoos on “public skin,” and imagery not considered pretty, such as skulls or snakes, often face social sanctions. Women manage their tattoos to a greater extent than men, as being heavily tattooed goes against stereotypical expectations of what it means to be feminine. But the women themselves view their tattoos as something that makes them more beautiful and authentic.

For women tattoo artists, they face discrimination from both employers, and potential clients alike, similar to women in other male dominated professions. From male tattoo artists who refuse to take on women apprentices, to sexual harassment, and derogatory treatment in the workplace, women tattoo artists have had their own “Me Too” moment in their industry. Women artists may face clients who: overlook them as receptionists, do not want tattoos done by a woman, or think that women have a lighter touch with a tattoo machine.

With the sheer numbers of tattooed people in contemporary society, this research provides insight into understand the idea of “tattoo etiquette,” or how the public can most respectfully interact with people regarding their tattoo collections. By re-considering the reasons for questioning another’s body adornments, not touching, and understanding that tattoos are simple one manner of self-expression, observers can work towards lessening the social stigma surrounding women’s tattoo collections.

The Other Side of the Ink; Rome, Italy; 24 Feb 2018

5E9A8358.JPGI was able to attend The Other Side of the Ink, a tattoo convention showcasing the work of women tattoo artists in Rome, Italy and the region, 24-25 February, 2018. I attended along with my colleague, anthropology professor Alessandra Castellani, who lives in Rome and who has published several books on tattoos and subculture over the years. I also interviewed her for my documentary on tattooed professors for which I am currently in production. Lots of big, bold, and black-out ink. Check out the pictures here.


Dr. John Scott on Male Sex Work

I interviewed Dr. John Scott about his co-edited anthology, “Male Sex Work and Society.” This interview is for my online sociology course on the topic of deviant behavior and subcultures. In this video, Dr. Scott overviews some of the dominant social issues related to male sex work such as: sexuality and identity, decriminalization, the cost of criminalizing sex workers, sex tourism, gender and feminism, and female clients.

Women Grow 2018

40087333892_5465e98daa_zI was lucky enough to attend the Women Grow Leadership Summit 2018 in Denver, Colorado on February 1-2. For my research on women in cannabis, this conference is a central piece for understanding women’s role in the legal cannabis industry, which Jane West says may become the first big industry not dominated by men. I’m interested in continuing to find interviewees and research participants of women cannabis consumers and industry workers, in the United States, and especially, internationally. While the US now has 9 recreational states and over half of the states with medical marijuana laws, the rest of the world does not–although Canada is scheduled to come online with their recreational marijuana law nationwide this summer, which would leapfrog the US. How are women leading the cannabis industry and movement in other countries, such as in Europe, Australia, or New Zealand? Please contact me for an interview ( to take part in this project. I aim to publish academic articles, conference presentations, and an academic book on the topic. Let’s add women’s voices to the academic narrative on cannabis! To see all the photos from the summit that I took, check it out here. Feel free to use photos with proper credit @ Beverly Yuen Thompson.  39220790175_e75980582e_z

CFI: Seeking Tattooed Professors

5E9A6930.JPG When we think of what college professors (or educators) look like, what comes to mind? For me, it’s my father–an old white male in his 90s. For someone like me, who is radically different than my father, but still a college professor, how do we navigate different identities as well as different visual self-presentations, including body modifications, in the world of education? How do we conceal or show our tattoos in the classroom, as well as other fashion choices that might conflict with the academic environment? How are such professional norms of attire expressed in this particular institution?

I am interested in finding research participants to discuss these sociological issues in relation to their own educational and academic professional experiences. The interview process can take place in person, on a video call, or a phone call, and will take approximately 60-70 minutes.

This research will be published in academic journal articles and a potential manuscript.

For this visually oriented topic, I will include a visual element to the research for select participants who are interested and can be accessed in person. I will collect photos of the participants and/or video segments for photo essays and/or short documentary films.

I previously published Covered in Ink: Tattoos, Women and the Politics of the Body (2015) about heavily tattooed women and tattoo artists. Before that, I completed the documentary film Covered (2010), on the same topic.

Please do contact me at with your availability and manner of contact (Skype handle, etc.).

See questions here: questions

This project has been approved by Siena College IRB (# 03-18-018).
Informed Consent Form


Rites of Passage Tattoo Festival in Sydney, NSW, Australia

37978499982_dc5945db97_zSince I’m spending about two months traveling around Australia (but based mainly in Brisbane), I decided to finish my tattoo sleeves at a great shop in Sydney: Authent/Ink. A few days before my appointment, I attended the Rites of Passage Tattoo Festival in Sydney (photos). Incidentally, the same weekend, on Friday, I was in Christchurch, NZ, and briefly checked out the Christchurch International Tattoo Expo (picture). So it was a big, international, tattoo weekend for me.

Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 7.53.25 AM.pngNovember 1st was the big appointment day when I went to Authent/Ink and settled in with my tattooist Soo, from South Korea (photos). I was super nervous to sit for the six-hour appointment. I’m used to sitting for two hours with artists who are friends and who let me be a pansy or tap out. But this was a new artist for me and I had come a long way for this work. Incidentally, it was also the first male tattoo artist I have had work on me, since focusing so much of my time on women tattoo artists for my book and documentary–and personal collection. My new design was Chinese lions in traditional Japanese style–the featured style of the shop and of the artist. At the end of the session I sat much better than expected, and even booked the third appointment to be a two-day session, with one arm each day–but that’s not until February. My second appointment is November 15th, for six more hours on the shading. This has encouraged me to want to get my current tattoos touched up, including the rest of my arms and back-piece. But I also have my eye on several artists whom I would love to get some work in the future: Zihee in Seoul, Korea and Eva Krbdk in New York City.