four point plan

All things outside of Burning Man.

four point plan

Postby III » Sat Sep 27, 2003 12:01 pm

letter from larry which seems to explain what's up with the rumors

An Open Letter to The Regionals

Introduction

I often say that culture is a self-created and self-organizing process that exists beyond the range or our control or conscious planning. It arises spontaneously, like any life form, from hundreds, and ultimately millions, of utterly unpredictable interactions. To say that we may plan a culture is as preposterous as believing that it's within our power to plan a tree. We may plant a tree, nurture it, and prune its growth.. But we cannot plan it into existence or control it as we would an artificial thing. The secret of a living thing's vitality is that fertile and yet subtly ordered chaos we call Nature that dwarfs all of our presumptions to control.

This is the first lesson you must learn as planners of Burning Man. Ours is the art of husbandry. All of those organizational tools in which we take pride; our meetings, schedules, duties, charts and balance sheets - as well every type of future institution that we hope to craft - are merely ways by which we hope to create an experience that is forever born anew in chance acts of encounter that we cannot control and should never try to control. I've long regarded Black Rock City as a kind of Petrie dish. As planners, we provide a social context: an environmental niche in which a certain kind of cultural experience is nurtured and protected.

As one example, we have banned commerce in Black Rock City. This has led to a hundredfold increase in meaningful interactions. But more importantly, we have transformed this prohibition into a positive value, a vision of a way of being in the world, an ethos. I'm particularly proud of this, since I've had a direct hand in formulating this idea. But the important thing to remember is that the planners of Burning Man did not invent the gift economy. It emerged spontaneously and over time from the lived experience of our community. Our role is to recognize the laws that govern its development and fashion social vessels that allow it to survive and thrive and grow.

The history of our regional program provides another good example. Beginning in 1997, participants began to contact us. They felt that our event had changed their lives. They weren't content to wait another year to be as they had been at Burning Man. They wanted to meet with fellow burners who had shared their experience: to reminisce and share photos and stories and to plan future projects. Yet reliving their experience and planning for the future didn't seem enough. They began to organize local gatherings, and some grew to be called regional burns. Most interesting to us, many of these celebrations emulated our larger event in the desert. Some large and more or less anthropomorphic figure would be burned and, even more intriguingly, many of the institutions we'd evolved were reproduced. Greeters and Rangers appeared from their ranks. "Why reinvent the wheel?" one organizer asked. Plainly, these participants wanted to do more than be as they had been at Burning Man. As new-fledged organizers, they wanted, in some sense, to be like us.

In response to this spontaneous development, we began to qualify these regional representatives. We'd interview new applicants, looking for those people who possessed communication skills, who could cooperate, collaborate, and serve as hyper-connectors within their emergent communities. We assigned them email addresses and published these on our website. We began to visit regional events and discuss organizational challenges with the groups that produced them.. As time went on, we linked everyone to a discussion list

Throughout 2003, I have lurked on this list, and what I've witnessed has been fascinating. Andie (Actiongrl) has served as our official representative on this list, and from time to time she has provided much-needed information. On the whole, however, it has been our policy to let discussions freely flow. Many times I have been tempted to intervene, especially when questions arose concerning the essential values of Burning Man. Instead, I've bitten my tongue and chose to listen. What I've heard has been illuminating. Time and again, as issues have arisen around a particular practice or problem, this group has searched its shared experience for a solution. Just as often, I have seen it reach consensus. Invariably, people have consulted their immediate experience of Burning Man and, in so doing, articulated our culture's core values.

During this same period it has also become apparent that many groups are now confronting problems we ourselves have faced. We've wanted you, as leaders in our regional communities, to practice self-reliance and be free to forge your own identities. Radical self-reliance, after all, is one of our core values. And yet, cooperation and collaboration in a larger social context is an essential value, too. To help you meet the challenges that come with growth, we have recently created the Extranet. Burners, quite unbidden, have now taken to visiting one another's events. A great movement toward cross-pollination has begun. We believe the Extranet can further and accelerate this process by allowing each group to witness how other groups are organizing.

Yet many very practical needs have been announced on the regional list that take the form of very specific questions. Is it necessary to form a non-profit? Should groups create an LLC? How is it possible to devote increasing amounts of time to organizing others and survive? The most advanced regional groups have now begun to tread a path that we have pioneered. We know that several of our regional groups are at a stage that is comparable to the small band of eight people who first burned the Man on Baker Beach in 1986. But others now contemplate challenges that correspond to problems that we faced as organizers at much later phases of our history. Until now, we have held back from answering all of these questions. Lately, we have spent much of our time and resources in consulting with individual groups to help them solve specific problems they are facing. Most recently, we have created the Burning Man "Film Festival in a Box". Jim Graham, a regional representative and one of our staff members, designed this program. Its purpose is to enable you to mount fundraising events. But this, as well as the many hours we've devoted to direct consulting, has represented a piecemeal approach to what is a much larger challenge.

In order to address this, we have devoted 2003 to looking at the bigger picture. By now, it seems safe to say that everyone now realizes that Burning Man has grown well beyond our eight-day event in the desert. Our community now forms a Diaspora spread out across a continent and into other countries. You, as regional representatives, form vital nuclei within this social movement. I've watched this phenomenon grow. I've seen attendance at events begin to double and redouble. I have seen the numbers of representatives increase from a mere handful of participants, to a number that's quickly approaching a hundred. And I can tell you that I've seen this curve before. I have seen eight people increase to 800 on Baker Beach. I have seen 80 people increase to 8,000 in the Black Rock Desert, and, during the last seven years, I have seen that number quadruple into the present population of Black Rock City. In light of this history, and given the fact that we are far better equipped to communicate and organize participants in 2003, I think its safe to say the regional program now stands poised to grow even faster.

We, as the organizers of Burning Man, have ridden an accelerating wave.. Somehow, we've got used to this. We have dealt with one novel problem after another. Crises have loomed up before us unannounced, and we've survived by learning on the job. In 1997, we learned how to build a real city. Along the way we learned how to remain radically inclusive by acculturating new participants. We've also learned to deal with the authorities, how to manage our money, and how to work by consensus to achieve complex goals. We've learned, in other words, how to fashion a vessel that is designed to preserve and protect what we all essentially value. We believe that many of the lessons that we've learned are scalable, that we can apply these lessons to the larger canvas of a greater world. The following description of our present plan should be regarded as a work in progress. The next step is a dialog with all of you.

The Burning Man Network

The first step is to look at certain down-to-earth realities. Over the last several years we have expended a lot of time and money protecting Burning Man from exploitation by the outside world. We have stopped MTV in its tracks, we've sued pornographers and won, we have regulated the use of cameras at our event, and we have prevented many parties from marketing their goods and exploiting the use of our image and name. I don't suppose I need to tell you that what passes for the mainstream culture of our world is at all times poised to instantly seize on innovative culture and transform it into a product in the marketplace. Burning Man has never stood against commerce - to survive we must sell a ticket - but we are opposed to the commodification of those spiritual values, those unconditional gifts, that must be allowed to freely exist at the center of a society.

Against everyone's expectation, we have succeeded in doing this. But, now, as our culture ventures further out into the world, the challenges before us will increase. As with so many social movements of the past, Burning Man could easily degenerate into a consumer lifestyle if we allow it to be commodified. Already we see "Burning Man" parties and "Burning Man" promotions appearing that may have nothing to do with the welfare or identity of our community. We cannot continue to control this without your cooperation. For this reason, we plan ask our regional representatives to sign an agreement that will pledge them to observe certain core principles. These agreements will also make each group accountable for its handling of any money that is raised through Burning Man. We want to be sure that everyone remains accountable to the greater community. By subscribing to such an agreement you will become an affiliate in the Burning Man Network.

You or your group's membership in this network will make it possible for us to assist you in several ways. Should you choose to become an LLC (Limited Liability Company) we can advise you in this process and furnish you with the unique model that we have used. We can consult with you concerning any of a wide variety of problems you may face, and we can also provide you with fundraising programs. The "Film Festival in a Box" will be only one of many future programs that we hope to create, all of them community based. Their content will relate to your immediate experience of Burning Man. No cross-promotions or commercial sponsorship will be allowed. Currently, we're working out agreements that will divide the proceeds from such fundraising efforts between the regional groups who take responsibility for those artists whose work is prominently featured and Burning Man's regional program.

The use of the Extranet, now in its infancy, will be an integral part of our network. In addition, we also intend to elaborate our website into a much more community-based environment. Until now, this has existed as a kind of billboard that primarily serves the needs of newcomers to the event. Our plan is to make it serve the needs of our year-round community. It will become a complex analogue of our community in cyberspace.

We are aware that our Regionals presently come in all shapes and sizes.. They range from small groups of a few people who hold ad hoc get-togethers, to groups of people who have joined together to produce very ambitious public events. We propose to rank these groups by region according to the stage of their development. We are bending all our efforts toward expanding our ability to work in aid of growing groups, but since our resources are limited and solely dependent on our ticket income, we propose to initially focus our attention on the largest groups within a region. We will try to make available as many members of our staff, each one the possessor of specialized knowledge gained from long experience. In turn, however, we will ask the larger groups to mentor smaller groups within their region and pass on what they've learned. We believe this will help to engender many cooperative ties within our network. It will create a kind of local family.


The Black Rock Arts Foundation

The Black Rock Arts Foundation was founded for the purpose of funding interactive art outside the bounds of Black Rock City. In particular, it funds art that produces interactions that are socially robust. This is art that requires a community for its production and convenes community through its exhibition. We view the art of Black Rock City as forming a kind of social glue that holds our society together, and we now believe that funding art within the greater community of Burning Man can help to achieve this same result. As an example, this year the Foundation endowed a participant with money for the purpose of transporting a piece of interactive art between our regional communities. This was one of Charlie Smith's "Nausts", mobile fire sculptures first exhibited at Burning Man in 2002. The Naust has now traveled from Atlanta to Colorado, and it will next move forward to a new community.

The genesis of this particular program is instructive. Without permission from our project, Charlie gifted the community in Colorado with his sculpture. I learned of this during a recent visit to Atlanta. Charlie, along with a number of other organizers, had helped to stage "Ripe", perhaps the most ambitious regional art events yet produced. On the evening after this event, he told me he had loaned his work to another Burning Man community in Colorado, but lacked the means to finance its return. During a discussion that ensued, Charlie was asked if he had ever thought of renting out his work. Charlie said that," No, this was a gift", and yet there it now stood, stranded in Colorado. Then someone else made a very pertinent point. Since none of us could afford to buy art, she speculated, why couldn't a community raise funds to rent it? This set me thinking. Why couldn't our Foundation, as representative of the entire Burning Man community, furnish funds to speed it on its way to other venues? We begin to envision a day when many other works of community-based art will be crisscrossing our country. Were our regional communities to raise funds matched dollar for dollar by the foundation, it would be possible to mount a continuous migration of artwork that could immediately thousands of people.

The mission of the Black Rock Arts Foundation is to promote interactive artwork in explicitly civic contexts. Until now, many of our regional gatherings have been retreats that emulate our remote desert settlement. Some of the discussions of the regional list have centered on this issue. Should such events be made available by invitation only? How is it possible to cope with the authorities? How can sites be secured? Once an event begins to grow, just how big is big enough? Our organization, during its 17 years of operation, has faced all of these problems, and we stand ready to provide answers to many of these questions. In particular, we would like to use donations to our Foundation, to move out into an even larger public world. During the 1990's, Burning Man staged several art events in San Francisco. We still hold an annual Decompression event that occupies several city streets. Marching under the legitimating banner of art, we have found its possible interface with the authorities and reclaim the public space of our hometown.. Already, the Foundation has given money to a program intended to educate local fire departments concerning the practice of fire art.

Burning Man regional gatherings serve a valuable purpose. These rituals reaffirm our sense of communal identity. And yet, with the aide of the Black Rock Arts Foundation we believe participants can be empowered to reclaim the space in which they really live. If Burning Man, the movement, is to flourish and extend itself into the fabric of the daily lives of people whom we do not know, we should begin to practice more assertive forms of radical inclusion. Building an entire city in the desert is a giant task, but transforming your immediate community and meeting and interacting with neighbors who already share our world can truly bring Burning Man home. The funds of the Foundation will be especially earmarked for this purpose.

The Burning Man Network and the Black Rock Arts Foundation are intended to work hand and glove. The Foundation is dedicated to helping artists who belong to the communities overseen by the Burning Man Network. Toward that end, it is our plan to thoroughly integrate these two organizations. We will invite all members of our network to enroll in the Foundation. From this pool of members we'll select a representative group to advise the committee that annually awards art grants. By this means we can ensure that grants will go to artists and communities that need them most. If large groups will serve as mentors for their smaller neighbors in a region, we believe that fairness will be served. Everyone can thus be bound together through a series of immediate relationships. A true confederation of communities can be established.

We are aware, of course, that art may arise from many different nodes in a community. Planning, as I've said, becomes the art of husbandry. As regional representatives, it will. be your job to recognize what others may be doing.. Grants from the Foundation may be awarded to any Burning Man participant. But we also realize that the task of organizing other people and communicating with a large community can become very time consuming. A frequent question on the regional list concerns sustainability. How can one begin to work full-time yet still survive? This, too, is a problem that our organization has confronted.

The Burning Man project has grown very quickly. We now have a large office in San Francisco's South of Market district. But it was not too long ago - a mere four years, in fact -- that members of our LLC worked from their computers at home. The meetings that occurred were bunched into the living rooms of other members. Compensation was a hit or miss affair. During the early 90's, as the only permanent staff member of Burning Man, I lived as best I could on odd jobs and handouts. My main mode of apparel was Burning Man T-shirts, since these came free. For all of the members of our present day LLC, the transition to full employment has been awkward, at best. We lived from event to event, from fundraiser to fundraiser. Without investors we had very little choice.

However, the larger organization we now wish to create may become part of the answer to this problem. The charter of the Black Rock Arts Foundation will allow it to give grants to regional organizers whose work promotes its stated mission. Although the Foundations first duty is to artists, the logistics of creating an event require careful management. Grant monies could be specifically applied to work that is devoted to the production and organization of interactive art projects.. This, along with monies generated by Burning Man sponsored fundraising efforts, could begin to help those regional who are ambitious to do more.

I cannot promise anyone a rose garden, and, if your primary motivation is to make money, I suggest you go elsewhere. . Our path as organizers has been a long and arduous one. But, we believe we are creating a community that can, ultimately, provide for those who work hardest. As a first step toward this goal, we will encourage all of you to personally enroll has many people in the Black Rock Arts Foundation as you can. Thus far, in 2003, we have raised $17,000. This is a fairly modest sum, but we firmly believe that our participants will begin to contribute much greater amounts once they experience what the Foundation can accomplish in their communities. As our movement spreads beyond the boundaries of Black Rock City, as it becomes a genuine cultural movement, I am convinced that the Foundation may ultimately take in more money than the Burning Man event.

Burning Man's resources are currently stretched to nearly the breaking point. This is because we have been working at two fronts. In addition to producing the event, we have also begun to devote more and more time and money to our Regionals Program. Thousands have been spent developing software for our Extranet project.. And new staff members are working full time to develop our Network. This is a double burden that, until now, has been entirely supported by the relatively fixed resource of ticket revenues.


Over the last year we have tried to develop alternate sources of revenue that will not conflict with our essential ethos. We do not intend to sell Burning Man branded camping gear or Burning Man designer sheets. We are willing to license films that we approve of, and, lately we've begun to sell new goods on our website Marketplace. These items, such as videos, books and the work of Burning Man artists, are thoroughly steeped in our culture.. We feel that they are culture-laden goods. They come with their own context and do not substitute a thing to be consumed for an experience We are aware that sizable profits could be achieved through mass-marketing, but we have restricted our market to the community of our participants. By following this strategy, by developing many small alternative revenue streams, we hope to subsidize or growing mission. In this sense, we are no different from you. We hope to struggle alongside our regional representatives, and, by working as a team, continue to devise new ways by which we can survive together.



Conclusion

What we are proposing is, admittedly, a grandiose vision. It is, in fact, only the first phase of this mission. Our ultimate aim is much greater.. We're not content to view the way of life that we've created as a refuge. We believe that we have made a discovery. This is the beginning of new way to live in the 21st Century. As we spread outward, I believe that our ever-enlarging community will generate many more original ideas, new ways to apply what we have learned, but which we're now incapable of imagining.. If you will help us craft the vessel that will contain, protect and nurture this vital process, we can change the world. Black Rock City is a continuing experiment, a model, an initiation. Now, having learned those things that it was meant to teach us, it is time to move on.

Larry Harvey
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Postby PJ » Sat Sep 27, 2003 12:25 pm

There's any number of things in there to fixate upon, but I'll pick two:

• What, exactly, is the extranet that's vaguely mentioned in passing here and elsewhere? What'll it do and why is that important to anybody?

• IMO the famous "gift economy" of B.Man is a red herring. By far the more important aspect is the self-sufficiency imposed upon participants by both the no-vending rule and the survival conditons. Self-sufficiency is a wonderful idiot filter as well as a self-improvement program; I believe that imposing a lot more of it would improve the Real World too.
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Postby Badger » Sat Sep 27, 2003 12:54 pm

What, exactly, is the extranet that's vaguely mentioned in passing here and elsewhere? What'll it do and why is that important to anybody?


Its where the rabbit hole starts getting deeper. A bit more structure and on-topic than the elaya. As I understand it the extranet will serve as a way to cross pollinate ideas, post queries/suggestions/input and to provide help for those remote groups seeking to put together regional events without having to deal with re-inventing the wheel and repeating (and learning) from past mistakes. But that's just my take on it.
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Postby antron » Sat Sep 27, 2003 12:55 pm

it's interesting to read, that's for sure. the concerns and perspective from the inside are illuminating -- and have almost no overlap with anything i spend time thinking about.

i'd have to agree with you about the "gift economy" as a red herring, and i also agree that the creation of a (*nearly*) commerce-free playa encourages interaction as well as self reliance.

i like to play, but don't feel the urge to make it my life.
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Postby Ivy » Sat Sep 27, 2003 1:47 pm

I've beem mulling over this letter for several days now, trying to come up with words for how I feel about it.
I waste three days of thought and antron sums it up in one sentence:
i like to play, but don't feel the urge to make it my life.


I could go on and elaborate, but I honestly don't have the energy anymore. It's too much for me to deal with right now. When y'all figure it out, someone send me a memo, 'k?
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Postby Hana Hou » Sat Sep 27, 2003 1:48 pm

Darwin was right..
Darwin was right.
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Re: four point plan

Postby TestesInSac » Sat Sep 27, 2003 1:51 pm

<b>Warning! I intend to be honest and critical here with Larry's text, in order to provide a clear counterpoint. This is not recommended reading for those still in 'afterglow'!</b>

Having nothing to lose, other than my BBS privileges, I'll stick my neck out.

As one example, we have banned commerce in Black Rock City.


A forgiving assessment of this would be "inaccurate" or "incomplete".

This has led to a hundredfold increase in meaningful interactions. But more importantly, we have transformed this prohibition into a positive value, a vision of a way of being in the world, an ethos.


This "ethos" inherits the inaccuracy and incompleteness of it's founding premise.

...Burning Man did not invent the gift economy. It emerged spontaneously and over time...


And it correlates well, IMO, with the divergence from "radical self-reliance".

As new-fledged organizers, they wanted, in some sense, to be like us.


Like Burning Man when? In it's earlier days of fewer rules or as it is now?

In response to this spontaneous development, we began to qualify these regional representatives. We'd interview new applicants, looking for those people who possessed communication skills, who could cooperate, collaborate, and serve as hyper-connectors within their emergent communities. We assigned them email addresses and published these on our website. We began to visit regional events and discuss organizational challenges with the groups that produced them.. As time went on, we linked everyone to a discussion list


This process is also essential to franchising.

Invariably, people have consulted their immediate experience of Burning Man and, in so doing, articulated our culture's core values.


I don't know what this means. It seems to imply some correlation between experiences, which are said to differ person to person, and Burning Man's core values, which don't seem that clear to me. "Commerce-free", "radical self-reliance", both of those are touted as "core values" and both are increasingly questionable.

And yet, cooperation and collaboration in a larger social context is an essential value, too.


It is also key to protecting your brand name when you chose to franchise out.

Most recently, we have created the Burning Man "Film Festival in a Box". Jim Graham, a regional representative and one of our staff members, designed this program. Its purpose is to enable you to mount fundraising events.


AMWAY does something like that too.

By now, it seems safe to say that everyone now realizes that Burning Man has grown well beyond our eight-day event in the desert. Our community now forms a Diaspora spread out across a continent and into other countries. You, as regional representatives, form vital nuclei within this social movement.


The use of the word Diaspora, coming from the desert, has some serious religious overtones to it. That starts the move from franchise expansion to just plain cult.

We've also learned to deal with the authorities, how to manage our money,...


The latter being quite dependent, WRT BLM, on the former.


...but we are opposed to the commodification of those spiritual values, those unconditional gifts, that must be allowed to freely exist at the center of a society.


Hold that thought, there's something later in the article that relates.

... we plan ask our regional representatives to sign an agreement that will pledge them to observe certain core principles. These agreements will also make each group accountable for its handling of any money that is raised through Burning Man. We want to be sure that everyone remains accountable to the greater community. By subscribing to such an agreement you will become an affiliate in the Burning Man Network.


The only thing now missing to satisfy commercialization is that the regionals must give a 'cut' back to the parent ORG...

Currently, we're working out agreements that will divide the proceeds from such fundraising efforts between the regional groups who take responsibility for those artists whose work is prominently featured and Burning Man's regional program.


...and there you are.

I don't think I need to go any further here.
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Postby Hana Hou » Sat Sep 27, 2003 2:00 pm

I'll miss the animation.
Darwin was right.
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Postby Ivy » Sat Sep 27, 2003 2:49 pm

Most recently, we have created the Burning Man "Film Festival in a Box". Jim Graham, a regional representative and one of our staff members, designed this program. Its purpose is to enable you to mount fundraising events.


Man, I didn't really wanna get involved in this conversation, but I can't help it, so I'll try to keep it minimal...

It's this last sentence that bothers me. I guess I didn't think that "fundraising" was the "purpose" of the FFIAB. I was under the impression that it could be used as such, but it's purpose was just to give people an idea of what BM was about. Not to recruit or earn money, but to demonstrate. I don't know if I'm wrong yet or not.

Look, I'm no "burner." I've gone for 2 years, which in the scheme of BM history isn't much. There've always been thing that I've agreed with and embraced about BM and things I've disagreed with. I've never met Larry personally, only read a few of his articles, speeches & letters, so I don't know if he's the kind of person that would do this:
Part of me thinks this is not his plan. His plan is to get people to think, and stand up for what they believe in, and this missive clearly does that. it's not the goals he's written in the letters that he's after, it's the reaction to those goals--it's to see if people would blindly follow the "amway" plan or if people would say, "hey, wait a minute, fuck that, we're doing it our way," which is more a long the lines of the BM I knew about.

I don't know if he's smart enough to think that far through this or if, as usual, I read too much into things. Maybe I'm just in denial, I don't know.
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Postby PJ » Sat Sep 27, 2003 3:18 pm

Ivy wrote:...Look, I'm no "burner." I've gone for 2 years, which in the scheme of BM history isn't much. There've always been thing that I've agreed with and embraced about BM and things I've disagreed with...


As far as I can tell, nothing in the proposed scheme sets off any alarms indicating that it needs to affect the post-1997 version of the Burning Man event.

So, not to worry--they'll still happily sell you and me and 40000 others a ticket for your annual desert holiday cruise experience even if you're not a franchisee.
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Postby Booker » Sat Sep 27, 2003 3:22 pm

Testes: A forgiving assessment of this would be "inaccurate" or "incomplete".


A forgiving assessment of this would be quibbling. Commerce within the fence is trivial. And I agree w/PJ that the main benefits are (1) to filter out a certain class of fuckwit who's unwilling to think for 15 minutes about a packing list and (2) to confront the rest of us with the consequences of our actions and omissions, which we have the privilege of avoiding back in commercial society.

That doesn't negate the very real value of the spirit of giving that pervades BRC. A certain bar of which I'm aware gave away a shitload of booze, one of many, many to do so. Many, many people enriched live in the city by their own expense and efforts on art installations. Those are enormous and vital contributions and in no sense a "red herring." Those gifts are the reason BRC is worth the trip.

Testes's comparison to a franchising operation interests me. It does look like Larry & Co. are coopting and adapting that model for their own purposes. Good on 'em say I, with certain reservations. It's a way to empower local folks who want that flavor of playa dust in their daily lives, the absence of which is lamented so consistently and powerfully in the post-event depression thread elsewhere on this board. My reservations come right here:

Larry: Burning Man could easily degenerate into a consumer lifestyle if we allow it to be commodified. Already we see "Burning Man" parties and "Burning Man" promotions appearing that may have nothing to do with the welfare or identity of our community. We cannot continue to control this without your cooperation. For this reason, we plan ask our regional representatives to sign an agreement that will pledge them to observe certain core principles. These agreements will also make each group accountable for its handling of any money that is raised through Burning Man


Accountability, eh? Through signing a paper? Really? I suppose if membership in this Network is at stake, abuse would have a cost. But so would enforcemen--especially consistent, even-handed enforcement, the lack of which created the awful situation on the 80 acres. Have Larry & Co. learned that lesson? This looks to me like the most likely point of failure for the mechanism laid out in that document. Trust in the regionals would have to be HUGE!
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Re: four point plan

Postby PJ » Sat Sep 27, 2003 3:26 pm

TestesInSac wrote:...Like Burning Man when? In it's earlier days of fewer rules or as it is now?


Like now, of course, but ultimately less so.

But if you want to host an early-days-type event complete with shootin' and explodin' and tent-side tiki torches and etc., you'd damned well better not associate it with their name. Big business despises unnecessary liability exposure.

And besides, if you name it something else and keep it small you won't have to charge more than $50 for a ticket to pay BLM fees and porta-potty rent.



TestesInSac wrote:...This process is also essential to franchising.


I'm not so sure. Essential to the success of Ray Kroc's model for McDonalds was that the franchisees were very much prohibited from innovating. "Stick to our script and you'll get rich" was the plan and it worked brilliantly.
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Postby Spokes » Sat Sep 27, 2003 3:28 pm

That doesn't negate the very real value of the spirit of giving that pervades BRC. A certain bar of which I'm aware gave away a shitload of booze, one of many, many to do so. Many, many people enriched live in the city by their own expense and efforts on art installations. Those are enormous and vital contributions and in no sense a "red herring." Those gifts are the reason BRC is worth the trip.

Word!

Includes pretty much every theme camp on the block worth visiting.
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Postby PJ » Sat Sep 27, 2003 3:34 pm

Booker wrote:...That doesn't negate the very real value of the spirit of giving that pervades BRC. A certain bar of which I'm aware gave away a shitload of booze, one of many, many to do so. Many, many people enriched live in the city by their own expense and efforts on art installations. Those are enormous and vital contributions and in no sense a "red herring." Those gifts are the reason BRC is worth the trip...


A good point, that probably went right over my head before because I grew up in a rural small farm environment where such behavior was the norm. That in itself isn't "worth the trip" to me but I can see how urban people might find it delightful and surprising.
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Fabu Thread...

Postby DogBoy » Sat Sep 27, 2003 3:55 pm

(The following should in no way be construed as nay-saying any of the ideas above)

I have running an small (75-200) event for four years now, and can understand and appreciate a lot of what is said in Larrys letter. Our event is a by burners/for burners event, & in some ways follows "certain core principles" of Burning Man (whatever they may be), but I personally would probably not sign on with stipulations. We've been self-sufficent (is that one of the core principles?) since starting, so the idea of getting money/name recognition from Bmorg in exchange for a sign-on seems kind of repellant. I would feel as the I was losing some creative control (?) over my own event; an event which is not Burning Man, nor would it claim to be.

I really like the idea of networking more with organizers of other events, be they regional burns or parties. I also like the "take Burning Man out into the default world" concept, but it seems most long term burners start doing this on their own after coming a few years.

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Postby TestesInSac » Sat Sep 27, 2003 3:56 pm

Booker wrote:A forgiving assessment of this would be quibbling. Commerce within the fence is trivial.


I disagree. Commerce within the fence is literally at the center of BRC, and the symbolic value of that should not be underestimated.

Booker wrote:And I agree w/PJ that the main benefits are (1) to filter out a certain class of fuckwit who's unwilling to think for 15 minutes about a packing list and (2) to confront the rest of us with the consequences of our actions and omissions, which we have the privilege of avoiding back in commercial society.


I think you're referring to "radical self-sufficiency", and the BRC grid is also a clear step away from that. Understand, I wouldn't mind the grid, which is paid for from ticket sales, if it didn't also imply a double standard.

Booker wrote:That doesn't negate the very real value of the spirit of giving that pervades BRC. A certain bar of which I'm aware gave away a shitload of booze, one of many, many to do so. Many, many people enriched live in the city by their own expense and efforts on art installations. Those are enormous and vital contributions and in no sense a "red herring." Those gifts are the reason BRC is worth the trip.


Part of what made it work for me was the "radical inclusiveness" thing. 'Til I realized in 2k3, having encountered a few Chimps, that said "core value" is also *very* conditional. BTW, the bar I used to be a part of did give freely, and I still think it was worth it.

My point is that certain double standards and outright hypocricies are insinuating themselves into the BORG, along with a certain "groupthink". That groupthink, in particular, is what could be most damaging to the event-come-movement in the long run.
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Postby PJ » Sat Sep 27, 2003 4:07 pm

TestesInSac wrote:...certain double standards and outright hypocricies are insinuating themselves into the BORG, along with a certain "groupthink". That groupthink, in particular, is what could be most damaging to the event-come-movement in the long run.


Maybe a committee should decide what to do about that...
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Postby Booker » Sat Sep 27, 2003 4:21 pm

Hadda leave for a second to get the mead in the fermenter, and Testes is already on the case. Wow!

I did forget to mention the Extranet thing. What I've seen is a site not terribly diff. from this one (w/o smilies) but that also allows uploading & downloading files, and gives access to specific logins based on the work they do. It's essentially an online system for collaborative completion of work, including discussion functions.

My work is project managing a system based on COTS software that does that same thing for a not-for-profit organization. I believe the BM Extranet has had the same problem as my system: People prefer email for messaging and file sharing, even though others who need the info and data are inevitably omitted from the To: list, resulting in untold inefficiency and Chinese firedrill type activity. But I'm not bitter. The BM system had some performance issues (took forever to deliver a friggin' page) last I saw it, which was some months ago. Could be a great tool if (a) people decide to use it and (b) performance is acceptable.

Testes: I hear ya about the symbology of the cafe, but it is totally overwhelmed by the extent and importance of what's going on out in the neighborhoods. IMO, of course.

radical self-sufficiency", and the BRC grid is also a clear step away from that


What grid? You mean the center camp power grid? Sure it is. Whose experience would be substantially affected if it were limited to emergency services? Or are you talkin' about the street grid? Not clear here.

said "core value" is also *very* conditional


My experience was dominated by the unconditional flow of gifts going on out there. I consider the occasional lapse I encounter in that context. I'm good with the idea of encouraging the growth of similar activities out in the regions, esp. if the Org keeps Larry's promise to consult and suggest but not dictate, as he stresses in the horticultural metaphor throughout the doc.
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Postby TestesInSac » Sat Sep 27, 2003 4:38 pm

Booker wrote:What grid? You mean the center camp power grid? Sure it is. Whose experience would be substantially affected if it were limited to emergency services? Or are you talkin' about the street grid? Not clear here.


I think that more than just the Center Camp Cafe gets to use that grid, provided the BORG thinks they're worthy of it. From what I saw, a number of camps along the center part of the esplanade were provided electrical service.

Now, I don't begrudge that service in itself, but it is there specifically to magnify the draw of certain esplanade camps. That has the tendency to cluster everyone on the esplanade while starving all other rings of traffic. In my view, there is no qualitative difference between that and Disneyland.
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Postby Booker » Sat Sep 27, 2003 7:41 pm

I do remember a survey question sometime back about whether the power grid should be extended to Esplanade camps. My own answer boiled down to "Fuck no!" and I haven't heard about it being pursued. Anyone with solid info one way or the other?

And PJ:
I grew up in a rural small farm environment where such behavior was the norm.

Ain't buying this. People work and spend to do stuff just because they think it'd be cool, and they expect to delight the neighbors? Cites? Rural people work too long & hard keeping up with their own chores to have time to make the community smile, or so I've been told. If someone takes sick, I'd expect the community to pitch in & help feed 'em or whatever. That's happening at my [urban] workplace at the moment.

I would agree that in urban environments, space and life are much more commodified than in rural areas. You drink coffee & chat at a cafe more than over the kitchen table. You pay money to park your car to be able to go spend money at the store. That sorta thing is definitely more prominent in the city than in the country. But I seriously doubt that there's a small town in Iowa where a stranger can wander into someone's house and be offered drinks while telling them about the sculpture he just finished building on the city hall lawn at his own expense for the enjoyment of the community.
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Postby PJ » Sat Sep 27, 2003 8:00 pm

Booker wrote:PJ:
I grew up in a rural small farm environment where such behavior was the norm.

Ain't buying this. People work and spend to do stuff just because they think it'd be cool, and they expect to delight the neighbors? Cites?


I can cite my family's experience growing up. Bringing food and drink around to others' homes was indeed completely routine. Showing up empty-handed would brand you as rude.

This practice was especially commonplace if anybody was known to be ill. If a farmer was injured it was normal for the nearest neighbors and their older kids to take turns doing the unavoidable seasonal tasks (planting, harvesting, fence repair) without being asked. (Nobody would ask--it simply wasn't done.)



Booker wrote:Rural people work too long & hard keeping up with their own chores to have time to make the community smile, or so I've been told.


True enough. But it's the nature of farming that it's operationally impossible to accomplish 100% of the desirable tasks no matter how many hours you work or how many kids you have to help out. Everything gets prioritized. And helping a neighbor through a bad spot bumps something else of the list. But even at other times people do take breaks and visiting with neighbors (and bringing along a treat) is something that everybody (except for the handful of eccentric bachelor recluses) normally does.

Booker wrote:I seriously doubt that there's a small town in Iowa where a stranger can wander into someone's house and be offered drinks while telling them about the sculpture he just finished building on the city hall lawn at his own expense for the enjoyment of the community.


That's true. They're a lot friendlier with people they understand because they're like themselves, behavior-wise. Normal people work--preferrably at real jobs like farming or plumbing or snow plow operating. Bankers, dentists, artists, preachers, salesmen...they're all suspect unless they too have lived there a very long time.

Note that the "wander into someone's house" principle is carried to extremes. Where I grew up houses normally didn't have locks. (If they did nobody had a clue as to where the key might be.) Locking your house would have been a bizarrely irresponsible act: "What if somebody had to get in?" Which is possible--they got stuck in a blizzard and walked to your place, or needed to use a phone while your whole family was out baling hay. Ditto cars. Even today, at the bars in the little town near my parents' farm all the cars parked outside have the keys in them. If you went outside and your car was gone, you'd assume that "somebody needed it" and they'd return it when the problem was done. Meanwhile, you'd calmly have another beer.
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Postby Kinetic » Sat Sep 27, 2003 8:17 pm

Very illuminating, to say the least. I wanted to be a regional coordinator, and reading this thread has made me pause and reflect, and I'm still doing that. And I'm going to reread everything after I post. I can see the skepticism and the comments about commercialism, I can see the aversion to fund raising. But while I see this, I also see some other things that I'm going to mention.

I see an organization that wants to see the vision expand. Yet they want to protect the event and it's spinoffs from the authorities...ie: the Rave Act among other things. I see a group who is promoting art and wants to get the recognition they feel they deserve from other artists. I see a group asking one to sign an agreement so the main group is protected from lawsuits and that the spirit of the regional events stays true. If your going to be affiliated with BM, then the event you hold should be true to the core beliefs.

I am not the best at communicating sometimes (and I know that's a strike against me being a regional coordinator), but each time I look over Larry's letter, I don't see anything that raises major concerns with me. I simply see a man trying to further the vision and covering his ass along the way. Maybe that's too simplistic a view to take. But on first glance it's the one I have.

I'm going to go back and look over things again but again I know I would like to be a regional coordinator, I'd love to bring the BM spirit and creativity to the barren midwest, and offer the people here a chance to experience the same energy, the same "shock & awe" if I dare use that term, that I had when I first made the trip to BRC. I like the idea of sharing ideas and lessons learned. Maybe I'm becoming too much of a BM cheerleader, or as Badger said in another thread, your just trying to suck up to get the slot. No, I'm not, I really like the idea of spreading the BM spirit and vision around the country and beyond. And I would take a look at his contract for the regionals and likely sign on. I can see myself doing this for years.

I'll sit back and reread the posts and also see what comments come back...I'm sure there will be some flames but I am seriously interested in this...I'm definitely paying attention to what's in this thread.
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Postby PJ » Sat Sep 27, 2003 8:43 pm

Speaking of fundraising, I find it distasteful. You wanna sell me something, just show me your wares and I'll buy them or not. But the slippery slope toward an annoying NPR-like "pledge week" program seems to be right around the bend here.

Figure out what it costs to conduct the event. Charge accordingly and be done with it. Don't be hitting people up continually for a donation--it spoils the experience.
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Postby Ivy » Sat Sep 27, 2003 9:15 pm

the event you hold should be true to the core beliefs.


This appears to keep coming up, here and the other places I've been reading comments about this letter, so I'd like to ask:

May I please see a detailed, explicit list of what these "core values" are?

Thank you.
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Postby TestesInSac » Sat Sep 27, 2003 9:44 pm

Ivy wrote:May I please see a detailed, explicit list of what these "core values" are?

Thank you.


I wonder to what extent they'd already be compromised?
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Postby Ivy » Sat Sep 27, 2003 10:00 pm

I wonder to what extent they'd already be compromised?


Quit jumping the gun.

I wanna see the list first. Tehn you can tear it a part. But not until one's presented.
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Postby Badger » Sun Sep 28, 2003 4:58 pm

I don't know what this means. It seems to imply some correlation between experiences, which are said to differ person to person, and Burning Man's core values, which don't seem that clear to me. "Commerce-free", "radical self-reliance", both of those are touted as "core values" and both are increasingly questionable.


Ivy's said it as much herself.

Just what are burning Man's core values?

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Postby Badger » Sun Sep 28, 2003 5:05 pm

New Topic Time.
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Postby Bob » Sun Sep 28, 2003 11:41 pm

> What, exactly, is the extranet that's vaguely mentioned in passing here and elsewhere? What'll it do and why is that important to anybody?

It's something the Burning Man office staff are really high on at the moment.

The rest of us on dial-up ISPs don't have the (literal) bandwidth to (literally) comprehend it, much like the current eplaya.

> IMO the famous "gift economy" of B.Man is a red herring. By far the more important aspect is the self-sufficiency imposed upon participants by both the no-vending rule and the survival conditons. Self-sufficiency is a wonderful idiot filter as well as a self-improvement program; I believe that imposing a lot more of it would improve the Real World too.

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Postby ramen » Sun Sep 28, 2003 11:59 pm

Did I have something to say, or did I just dream I did.
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