Is bigger really better?

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Is bigger really better?

Postby Igneouss » Sun Dec 04, 2011 9:52 am

No I'm NOT talking about that!

I've noticed over the years that some people, the BMorg included, seem to be all about having the biggest (theme camp, village, art project, height of the man, size of the temple, art car....). I'm beginning to find it a distraction that sucks up enormous amounts of resources. Example: theme camp I was with in 2009 with about 20 people morphed into 150-ish people in a village in 2011. It also became impersonal and so crowded with visitors that it was not nearly as much fun for campers OR visitors. But the lead organizer was stoked about it and undoubtedly plans more for 2012.

When you can must 150 people for cost sharing and labor etc, it becomes relatively easier to create on a big scale. You got more money to work with and more people to build it etc. But that logic just leads to larger and larger impersonal villages. What's lacking is the magic spark that makes BM what it is.

I realized in 2011 that camps that were the love child of a few people (say 10 or less) tended to be much more magical, more infused with the BM ethos. I watched more carefully other peoples reactions to interacting at camps. I noticed that the people that had really cool experiences tended to have them in smaller and more personal ways that were NOT facilitated by giant camp size.

If a camp needs a huge staff to mount and operate I have to wonder what magic would happen if it was 15 camps of 10 people rather than one camp of 150.

I also have to note the negative: I interacted with 2 big villages in 2011 and in both it was obvious that a fraction of the campers were not doing much.

So if you are part of a giant camp and you give oodles of money are you buying the right to NOT participate at BM? If you give oodles of labor off playa have you qualified to NOT work on playa? Some friends coined the term 'radical self entitlement' to describe these people. That seemed to be the attitude. An attitude that can't exist in a small camp where everyone has to help with most everything.

I do not travel in the art circle, but I wonder what the concensus is about installations that impress with size rather than quality. Same with art cars and mutant vehicles.

One of the jamba camps was also actively selling prime camping locations for high dollars. Takers were not expected to participate...

Conclusion:
Mustering a huge (camp art vehicle etc) can be a challenge but it seems like sometimes the organizers are relying simply on size to equate with success. Seems like the size thing is slowly changing the culture and vibe in ways that maybe are not so good. I wonder if how much the BMorg thinks about these issues when placement time rolls around.

Would like to see discussion...
Basic b/e analysis:
2005 $243K
06 $855K
07 $1.0M
08 $1.1M
09 $0
10 $1.1M
11 $1.2M
12 $1.2M
That’s $6.8M that thousands of volunteers deserve to know about. Capitalism is alive at BM. Tickets are the commodity. Others have estimated higher profits.
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Re: Is bigger really better?

Postby jkisha » Sun Dec 04, 2011 10:04 am

I don't think size matters. There will always be a mix of large and small and any size in between camps. BMORG has been pretty good at monitoring and placing (or not placing) camps to assure that interactivity prevails.
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Re: Is bigger really better?

Postby Igneouss » Sun Dec 04, 2011 10:09 am

So you do not see a trend toward bigger these days?
Basic b/e analysis:
2005 $243K
06 $855K
07 $1.0M
08 $1.1M
09 $0
10 $1.1M
11 $1.2M
12 $1.2M
That’s $6.8M that thousands of volunteers deserve to know about. Capitalism is alive at BM. Tickets are the commodity. Others have estimated higher profits.
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Re: Is bigger really better?

Postby jkisha » Sun Dec 04, 2011 10:15 am

No. But that could simply be because I never paid much attention to analyzing the size of camps. Personally speaking, over the life of our camp, we went from a small unregistered camp, to a large camp, to a large village with several camps and we're back now to a small camp again. The event is organic and will continue to grow and change in many ways, some unexpected, I'm sure. But I don't think that change is bad for the event no matter what shape it takes.
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Re: Is bigger really better?

Postby 5280MeV » Sun Dec 04, 2011 11:37 am

Here are my burgin year opinions:

BARS/LOUNGES: Smaller is better, but I feel this way in defaultia too. At the large bars I get my drink and I almost feel like I am in the way of other people and need to move off to the side and away from the bar. At small bars I am almost forced to interact and hang with the bartender and patrons. I had a really good time lounging around in some really tiny bars.

THEATRE/PERFORMANCE: If it is some sort of theatrical performance, bigger is better if bigger is needed. Thunderdome is the size it is because that appears to be approximately how big it is supposed to be. More intimate is more interesting in general.

SOUND CAMP: I just preferred the sound cars. Cars beat out camps by a large margin for me. I loved the sound car cluster parties out in the deep, and riding around dancing on top of something is just too much fun. That said, I do have about eight DISTRIKT and Opulent Temple podcast CDs in my car right now. I never really got why a dance party of 2000 is more fun than one of 50-100, or even 20.

ART CARS: Everything is awesome. One of my favorite times in the burn was hitching a ride on the little 3-seat wagon on the back of El Pulpo Mechanico (the fire spitting octopus), and then an hour later boarding the Christina (actual fishing Yacht). Then seeing the absolute mess of art cars of all different sizes converge around the burn just rocked.

ART INSTALLATIONS: Big can be fantastic, but big for big's sake I find idiotic - unless there is some sort of artistry in engineering something of size beyond just throwing money at a crew to haul materials out to the playa. The man is an exception for me, since everyone goes to that burn, make it huge. Big fire is interesting as well, but that is almost always an engineering problem unless you are simply blowing up a huge tank of fuel. I really enjoyed hanging around the Flaming Lotus Girl's installation when they were trying to get it all working - there was something exhilarating about being 20ft away from a twisted knot of pipes sputtering out flames at very high velocity and getting red hot - while knowing all along that the group was struggling with something not working right.

As far as living at a big theme camp, definitely not for me. I like the survivalist element way too much. I like the total freedom in planning my day, my meals, etc.
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Re: Is bigger really better?

Postby trilobyte » Wed Dec 07, 2011 2:57 am

Bigger isn't better, better is better.

That's not to say that larger camp/project/etc can't be better than a small one, it just needs more work to create a quality experience for everyone. If you spend much time looking around, you'd find some examples of amazing large camps/projects/etc as well as some that weren't so great. Same is true for the small scale stuff.
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Re: Is bigger really better?

Postby FlyingMonkey » Thu Feb 02, 2012 10:19 pm

I guess it depends on the camp & their theme.

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Re: Is bigger really better?

Postby AntiM » Fri Feb 03, 2012 5:54 am

I've watched small camps I truly enjoyed visiting evolve into big camps where the newbs stare at me like I'm a piece of MOOP. I do enjoy the experience of a smaller camp rather than a large camp. A size mix is fine, but the smaller camps should not be shorted because they aren't over the top.
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Re: Is bigger really better?

Postby Ugly Dougly » Fri Feb 03, 2012 12:50 pm

I think it's easier to develop a genuine sense of community with smaller gatherings.
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Re: Is bigger really better?

Postby Bob » Fri Feb 03, 2012 1:12 pm

Surprised Trilo hasn't bumped this to the Philosophy area.

Camp I was in for a couple years looked smallish from the front, and activities there during the week were pretty limited in scope, but among the fifty-plus people camped there a good portion either worked DPW or had large-scale projects on the playa. So, camp appearances might be deceiving.
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Re: Is bigger really better?

Postby lemur » Fri Feb 03, 2012 2:23 pm

bigger is not better.

well, at least in terms of headcount.

bigger just means theres more slackers for the other slackers to hang out with while they are slacking and doing nothing..

and ya kno, shit needs to get done.

a camp i am familiar with decided to cut their ranks in half for the next year while at the burn in 2011 after noticing that adding more people was of no benefit at all.
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Re: Is bigger really better?

Postby shykat » Sat Feb 04, 2012 1:26 pm

lemur wrote:bigger is not better.

well, at least in terms of headcount.

bigger just means theres more slackers for the other slackers to hang out with while they are slacking and doing nothing..

and ya kno, shit needs to get done.

a camp i am familiar with decided to cut their ranks in half for the next year while at the burn in 2011 after noticing that adding more people was of no benefit at all.


It is better,interms of headcount if your camps model is based members fees..


I like small camps that go big.....
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Re: Is bigger really better?

Postby lemur » Sat Feb 04, 2012 1:49 pm

i think we are seeing from a few camps this year that if they need the Dues/camp fees from 300 people just to run the camp,.. it just might not be sustainable (anymore?)


it might be playarific to 'go big' (or big because you cant afford to do your idea without 300 people pitching in the $$$) ... but, sometimes big isnt better as trilobyte mentioned.. better is better.
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Re: Is bigger really better?

Postby ZaphodBurner » Mon Feb 06, 2012 6:28 pm

I really like your discussion, and your question.

My answer is honest. I've said for years that the city was no "better" with 35,000 or 50,000 people than it was with 24,000 or whatever in 2004 which was my first burn, and even then people were saying it was "better last year."

The Temple in 2004 was better than the Temple in 2005, 2008 or 2010. People don't stand around in amazement at how SMALL the man looks or how quiet the fireworks are. In 2008, during the dust storm, nobody rejoiced that the fire dancers couldn't perform around the man. I missed the years of the oil derrick explosion and the Trojan Horse, but, people still talk about them.

Miracle Grow, Do-Lab's flower, is my single favorite art piece, ever. I drove a hand-built mutant vehicle named Aemma around the 9 o'clock plaza in 2010, but, nobody here remembers it. People remember Miracle Grow as they remember La Contessa.

Read through the forum and you'll not find many posts about how great the art wasn't.

Taken at its logical conclusion, the idea that smaller is better ends with one or two people on the Black Rock Desert shooting guns, playing some music on a portable stereo, running around naked, having sex and lighting off fireworks. Which is awesome. But it's not Burning Man.
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