Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Share your views on the policies, philosophies, and spirit of Burning Man.

Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby CornMan » Tue Jun 18, 2013 10:27 am

I've heard the terms "participant" and "spectator" bandied around for the past few years, and I believe we all know what it all means. Last year, I witnessed behavior that I consider a step below spectating. I call it as being a Burning Man "tourist." Just like the tourists that get hotel rooms in the streets back and away from the beach in Waikiki, they migrate to the center of action with their blinders on ignoring any kind of interactive attraction along their very direct route. Just like Waikiki, after a few years of such neglect, the camps, dive bars, and other magical elements of Burning Man might find it not worth the effort to create such attractions only to suffer such neglect in favor of the headliner musical and artistic acts on the Esplanade and open playa. Maybe a 5 day dust storm might rectify this what I consider to be a problem? I don't know.
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby TT120 » Tue Jun 18, 2013 10:42 am

Last year I spectated more than I should have but it was my first year and I really didn't know what I was doing. Now that I have a better understanding of what I can do, this year will be much different. I will participate and give back and generally just be a good guy.
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby Roberto Dobbisano » Tue Jun 18, 2013 10:44 am

EVERYONE gets kool-aid.



now sit down, shut up and drink.




this year it's TANG flavored.
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby CornMan » Tue Jun 18, 2013 10:44 am

TT120 wrote:Last year I spectated more than I should have but it was my first year and I really didn't know what I was doing. Now that I have a better understanding of what I can do, this year will be much different. I will participate and give back and generally just be a good guy.


Yeah, I suppose all the tourist activity was due to there being so many first timers. Good on you TT120.
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby Captain Goddammit » Tue Jun 18, 2013 11:15 am

Yeah... this is why I cringe at "plug-&-play" camping, and the idea of cell phone or internet service on the playa, or even less-than-horrible weather.
I remember after my first year thinking to myself "shit this is really cool I better go while I can, before it inevitably gets watered down, screwed up, over-regulated, etc. and that was in '00. I can only imagine what the people from before me think!
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby MyDearFriend » Tue Jun 18, 2013 11:25 am

CornMan wrote:
TT120 wrote:Last year I spectated more than I should have but it was my first year and I really didn't know what I was doing. Now that I have a better understanding of what I can do, this year will be much different. I will participate and give back and generally just be a good guy.


Yeah, I suppose all the tourist activity was due to there being so many first timers. Good on you TT120.


I think it falls to us as veteran Burners to reach out and engage people. I will be forever grateful to the folks who greeted me from their camps as I walked by or stopped me in the street my first year. And I still feel weird about the folks who hid behind barricades (however decoratively thematic!), even weirder about the ones I knew from eplaya, since penetrating the barricades and introducing myself did not usually meet friendliness. :|

Maybe they were just, um, altered. :lol: I know that I was less than fully responsive on at least one occasion in my own camp last year (sorry, Illy!!!).

Or, maybe the solid fronts on some camps really are "KEEP OUT" signs. :?

At any rate, if your camp does not welcome people in from the street then I hope not to hear the word "Spectator!" from your lips. And if you have a mobile fun thing I hope you take it out & around the periphery. 8)
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby CornMan » Tue Jun 18, 2013 11:46 am

I agree about the need for a clear invitation to participate in our camps and activities. Last year, we ended up going to the corner of the spoke street with signs and stopping each person to announce that we had cold beer on tap over there just down the street. That was effective.
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby Mojojita » Tue Jun 18, 2013 12:00 pm

Absolutely agreed. I spend far more time in my own camp than anywhere else if I am not working at my volunteer job. It's nice to go walking through my own neighborhood but I like it best when my neighborhood comes to me.
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby BBadger » Tue Jun 18, 2013 2:07 pm

These "spectator" and "tourist" complaints bother me. It's like hearing "pious" folk grumble to each other about how the world is going to hell because not everyone is ascribing to the former's standards and beliefs. Usually the judgement call is based on an expectation that someone who isn't actively engaged in some sort of good and purposeful act is up to no good. The ol' idea that idle hands are the devil's workshop.

But you don't know.

Maybe the person you're observing doesn't show off. Maybe he/she has already "paid dues" and is now treating the rest of the burn as a vacation. Maybe the person acts in small ways that rarely get noticed. Maybe "participation" isn't how you define it.

Regardless, rather than whine about the people who don't meet your expectations, how about doing some "conversions" yourself? Conversions in the form of demonstrating why your way is better. Hell, why even bother trying to convert people? Just get out there and do your thing. Concern yourself with your own participation, not the participation of others. Burn the way you would have others burn. If others aren't inspired by the actions of those around them that's their problem, and their loss.

Hell, as long as those perceived "tourists" aren't ruining the place, there are much better things to concern ourselves with than what those people want to do or where they want to hang out. It's their burn, not yours.

I'm also not not seeing this "gentrification" of Burning Man's art and event scene due to headliners or Esplanade attractions. Sure, there are lots of people on Esplanade or at the big music camps, but there are tons of people everywhere else too. Ever wander around through the city during the day? It's a hopping place. How about early in the week, finding those beacons of light in BRC before the playa art is in full force? Those are great times to focus in on.

Even our camp's small Thursday night party attracts a crowd and we only have a few small advertisements on the sign posts around the camp, and it's basically a camp DJ and a bar. It's great. People have fun, it isn't huge, and it's our own slice of fun to bring to the community. You bring it, people will visit.

The main problem here is people who feel their art, camp, or projects don't measure up to the big camps, art, lights and attractions. Maybe they don't match up, but rather than despair and close up shop, that should be a sign that you should bring something new and novel. Maybe even consider that the people who ignore your attraction aren't the kind of people you should care about anyway. It's not about quantity after all.
Last edited by BBadger on Tue Jun 18, 2013 2:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby Savannah » Tue Jun 18, 2013 2:08 pm

Great post, BBadger.
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby lucky420 » Tue Jun 18, 2013 2:19 pm

eggcellant post, BBadger
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby trilobyte » Tue Jun 18, 2013 2:45 pm

Tourism is a form of spectating. What Bbadger said is pretty bang on, unless you're following the people in question around all week and can verify they weren't participating elsewhere, you may well not even be right. And even if you were, don't let it get you down. Unless someone is actually actively interfering with other people, I say either ignore them and each go about your day/night, or engage them in conversation and make an effort to get them involved (if they appear friendly and open to it). No, that does not mean go yell at them with a bullhorn or go be an asshole because they don't meet your burnier-than-thou standards.

Sometimes people are just shy. Other times, they may just want (or need) a little space, and other times they're just tired. Thinking about it, I think I've been guilty of that quite a few times in the last few years. I bust my ass in the days before the gates open to get everything done and set, and it can take a day or two before I'm back to full strength. I still want to go out and do/see stuff, so I'll go on bike tours or photo safaris as I check stuff out.
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby Simon of the Playa » Tue Jun 18, 2013 3:02 pm

everybody has a special talent. Use it.

sometimes, as stated, it's not in your face or evident.

those people who all week, simply take and not give, are not participating.

tourism is a state of mind, sometimes, just as trilo said, its nice to "wind down" after building shit for 4-5 days in the hot sun, by just strolling the esplanade, or your favorite part of the city, or deep playa, just to "Take it in"....say hello, drink a nice drink, relax....it is a vacation, one many of us plan for all year.

this is participating too.

people make this stuff for people to freak out on....freaking out on stuff IS participating, too.

making the stuff, creating the freak out, plumping the pillow, stirring the absinthe, telling the joke, being part of a discussion, is participating.

you dancing, for no other reason than you feel like it, is participating.

sometimes, under the right conditions, even a trip to the porta potty can be involved, and possibly enlightening...

Tourism implies first time visit...yeah, they gawk, but usually they are drawn in, and drawn out, and become part of the spectacle, not an observer...i would say this happens more often than not....that straight laced guy named carl from accounting is wearing a tutu on friday, and is painted blue....and is butt naked under the tutu...and is singing in the opera....

i wonder what happened to carl......i digress.

anyway......right.....specs vs. tours. vs partis....

LABELS SUCK...


lets not use them......
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby CornMan » Tue Jun 18, 2013 3:02 pm

The only judgement I'm making is categorizing them as tourists which I think ranks 3rd on the hierarchy of Burning Man involvement. We saw what we saw. There was a mass migration of people walking nonstop down the spoke street to the esplanade at one time of the day each day, and the reverse later in the evening/night. I saw it last year much more so than any other year. If that's the trend, then that's the trend, and we'll deal with it - or not. If it was a one year phenomenon, then that sits better with me. I've read elsewhere here on eplaya that some people noticed that in 2012, to the big attractions goes the spoils, and the small stuff got largely overlooked. We can't complain because cold kegs of free beer always works, but I felt for some of the other lonely looking camps obviously wishing for interaction. It was awkward to witness.
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby MyDearFriend » Tue Jun 18, 2013 3:08 pm

BBadger can I come to your party? I want to see the CORE Burn for once :oops: since we moved the Meet & Greet to Wednesday, but, your party sounds like fun. 8)

And no I don't sort people into spectators and participants, for just the reasons you state, my dear, but I do think it's helpful to reach out to those who look a bit disconnected. And the eager-but-shy. 8)
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby Eric » Tue Jun 18, 2013 3:10 pm

Bbadger pretty much summed up what I was going to say. Dead on perfect.
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby Savannah » Tue Jun 18, 2013 3:13 pm

CornMan wrote:The only judgement I'm making is categorizing them as tourists which I think ranks 3rd on the hierarchy of Burning Man involvement. We saw what we saw. There was a mass migration of people walking nonstop down the spoke street to the esplanade at one time of the day each day, and the reverse later in the evening/night. I saw it last year much more so than any other year. If that's the trend, then that's the trend, and we'll deal with it - or not. If it was a one year phenomenon, then that sits better with me. I've read elsewhere here on eplaya that some people noticed that in 2012, to the big attractions goes the spoils, and the small stuff got largely overlooked. We can't complain because cold kegs of free beer always works, but I felt for some of the other lonely looking camps obviously wishing for interaction. It was awkward to witness.


Well, resolve to persuade some virgins to ride out out to the little camps and see what you can find. :) There are some wonderful things, I agree.

But there's absolutely nothing wrong with people being attracted to Anubis, or CORE Burns, or the Man Burn, or the Temple Burn. And record attendance means record numbers of people passing by for some of those big things. Yes, they are quite noticeable. And participation in those is a little restricted --by the safety perimeter. :lol:
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby CornMan » Tue Jun 18, 2013 3:17 pm

I think discussing it here is a good step. When I first came to Burning Man, there was a big thing going on eplaya about participating vs spectating. Due to my reading those posts, I resolved myself to participate the best I could, and I scrapped together an assortment of costumes where I certainly otherwise would not have if I didn't know about the participant/spectator dynamic. I was very thankful I read those posts.
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby Eric » Tue Jun 18, 2013 3:30 pm

CornMan wrote:I resolved myself to participate the best I could, and I scrapped together an assortment of costumes where I certainly otherwise would not have {snip}


To me costumes are the least important part of "participating" - participating is talking to people, helping a neighbor pound rebar, giving someone a drink at a bar, making someone laugh... costumes are just dressing up to try to look like you "fit" into the stereotype of what people look like at Burning Man.

I dress so I'm comfortable, and I wear things that I wear in real life (the exception being tshirts - the playa is the only place I wear those outside my house), but I have no problems with people walking around in bermuda shorts & a tshirt if that's what they want. In fact I'd probably rather they did that then the people wearing the cheap polyester Halloween Store merchandise because they're desperate to "fit in", but don't know what that means. The glory of the event is that they really don't have to do anything to fit in, just be themselves and have fun.
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby CornMan » Tue Jun 18, 2013 3:41 pm

Eric wrote:To me costumes are the least important part of "participating" - participating is talking to people, helping a neighbor pound rebar, giving someone a drink at a bar, making someone laugh... costumes are just dressing up to try to look like you "fit" into the stereotype of what people look like at Burning Man.

I dress so I'm comfortable, and I wear things that I wear in real life (the exception being tshirts - the playa is the only place I wear those outside my house), but I have no problems with people walking around in bermuda shorts & a tshirt if that's what they want. In fact I'd probably rather they did that then the people wearing the cheap polyester Halloween Store merchandise because they're desperate to "fit in", but don't know what that means. The glory of the event is that they really don't have to do anything to fit in, just be themselves and have fun.


Doing the costume thing was a big step for me. I've always been pretty set in my ways as far as dress, hairstyle, wearing a ball cap, etc. It was big fun to let myself join in being silly wearing some of those things, although they were mild compared to what I wish I could put together. Those other things like help pound in/pull out rebar doesn't even register on my conscience of interacting because I'd do that sort of thing anyway ever since I was just a young kid. I'd say that doing the kazoo parade was the most daring thing I did my first year. Again, I credit eplaya in inspiring me to do that via the participant/spectator debate. My brother is going for his first time this year. Due to him not wanting to be a spectator, he's putting together a Pachinko Palace with 8 pachinko machines in a carport. If it wasn't for eplaya, he never would have thought of doing that. That's pretty good for a burgin if I do say so myself.
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby theCryptofishist » Tue Jun 18, 2013 3:44 pm

Is he going to have a Pogues soundtrack?
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby CornMan » Tue Jun 18, 2013 3:46 pm

He just might!
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby International Incident » Tue Jun 18, 2013 3:58 pm

Eric wrote:
CornMan wrote:I resolved myself to participate the best I could, and I scrapped together an assortment of costumes where I certainly otherwise would not have {snip}


To me costumes are the least important part of "participating" - participating is talking to people, helping a neighbor pound rebar, giving someone a drink at a bar, making someone laugh... costumes are just dressing up to try to look like you "fit" into the stereotype of what people look like at Burning Man.

I dress so I'm comfortable, and I wear things that I wear in real life (the exception being tshirts - the playa is the only place I wear those outside my house), but I have no problems with people walking around in bermuda shorts & a tshirt if that's what they want. In fact I'd probably rather they did that then the people wearing the cheap polyester Halloween Store merchandise because they're desperate to "fit in", but don't know what that means. The glory of the event is that they really don't have to do anything to fit in, just be themselves and have fun.


Eric, thanks for saying that!

I'm not a costume person - I am self conscious about drawing attention to myself. But I am a participant. I got called a tourist once - I laughed at the idiot. I had just come off a long dusty shift at Gate and was in std shorts, t-shirt and cap. Some people hey...
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby Turtleburp » Tue Jun 18, 2013 3:59 pm

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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby lucky420 » Tue Jun 18, 2013 3:59 pm

umm std shorts? Dont know if you should just leave those laying about
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby CornMan » Tue Jun 18, 2013 4:00 pm

No, it's OK. Those are technically cargo shorts.
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby lucky420 » Tue Jun 18, 2013 4:01 pm

Whew...
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby Savannah » Tue Jun 18, 2013 4:04 pm

International Incident wrote:
Eric wrote:
CornMan wrote:I resolved myself to participate the best I could, and I scrapped together an assortment of costumes where I certainly otherwise would not have {snip}


To me costumes are the least important part of "participating" - participating is talking to people, helping a neighbor pound rebar, giving someone a drink at a bar, making someone laugh... costumes are just dressing up to try to look like you "fit" into the stereotype of what people look like at Burning Man.

I dress so I'm comfortable, and I wear things that I wear in real life (the exception being tshirts - the playa is the only place I wear those outside my house), but I have no problems with people walking around in bermuda shorts & a tshirt if that's what they want. In fact I'd probably rather they did that then the people wearing the cheap polyester Halloween Store merchandise because they're desperate to "fit in", but don't know what that means. The glory of the event is that they really don't have to do anything to fit in, just be themselves and have fun.


Eric, thanks for saying that!

I'm not a costume person - I am self conscious about drawing attention to myself. But I am a participant. I got called a tourist once - I laughed at the idiot. I had just come off a long dusty shift at Gate and was in std shorts, t-shirt and cap. Some people hey...


People like that need to mind their own business.

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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby theCryptofishist » Tue Jun 18, 2013 4:21 pm

It's true that the only way to sleep in a tutu is to be very drunk. otherwise, too uncomfortable.
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Re: Participant, Spectator, Etc.

Postby BBadger » Tue Jun 18, 2013 4:22 pm

CornMan wrote:The only judgement I'm making is categorizing them as tourists which I think ranks 3rd on the hierarchy of Burning Man involvement. We saw what we saw. There was a mass migration of people walking nonstop down the spoke street to the esplanade at one time of the day each day, and the reverse later in the evening/night. I saw it last year much more so than any other year. If that's the trend, then that's the trend, and we'll deal with it - or not. If it was a one year phenomenon, then that sits better with me. I've read elsewhere here on eplaya that some people noticed that in 2012, to the big attractions goes the spoils, and the small stuff got largely overlooked. We can't complain because cold kegs of free beer always works, but I felt for some of the other lonely looking camps obviously wishing for interaction. It was awkward to witness.


THIS is your evidence of "tourism"? A mass of people going down the main spokes of the city to go look at things on the playa? Did these "tourist"-herd events coincide, say, with meal times? Regardless, you have no idea where these people were going, what they were doing, or when they returned. Nothing about this situation even implies that these people are bona fide "tourists", just the normal flux of people checking out the playa.

As for camp-love, what it sounds like is that people just weren't interested in hanging out at some camp bar or that specific attraction. Not everyone is interested in shooting the breeze with every camp they encounter along their walk. I know that I don't visit camp bars or some of the other stuff going around because it's just not something I do. I barely touch my camp bar as is. Still, I'll wave hello and look at camp decorations, but unless you're hosting some unique attraction I probably won't stop on my way to get ice.

Want more interaction? Go out and interact with people. You're the vet here promoting that kind of thing; take the initiative. People go to big attractions specifically for the anonymity and lack of interaction it brings; the same way with "generic" attractions like snow-cones and food treats that draw a line. It's safe, and you feel like you're part of something without much commitment.

That doesn't mean, however, that these same people don't want to engage and interact; they're often just shy or intimidated by it all. Many people on the streets need an opening in which to participate or interact. Approaching a small camp bar can be a big step, like being the only customer in a new restaurant where everyone is watching you eat. That interaction can be daunting; so you have to make the first step and draw them in. Make them feel welcome, don't just expect that a sign and you staring down people will draw a crowd.

MyDearFriend wrote:BBadger can I come to your party? I want to see the CORE Burn for once :oops: since we moved the Meet & Greet to Wednesday, but, your party sounds like fun. 8)


Absolutely! Though I won't be at BM this year unfortunately. :(

We're in camp Cats! Cats! Cats! If you hear a group of people meowing while riding around the man and through the city on Thursday, that's us! Then the party begins after that.

You know I've never seen a CORE Burn either. Every year I was either on dinner duty or at the M&G (no regrets on the latter).

And no I don't sort people into spectators and participants, for just the reasons you state, my dear, but I do think it's helpful to reach out to those who look a bit disconnected. And the eager-but-shy. 8)


Damn right!
"The essence of tyranny is not iron law. It is capricious law." -- Christopher Hitchens

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