Is Burning Man an Open-Source Cloud Based Culture?

Part of the I, ROBOT series

It’s often said that Burning Man and the internet grew up together: both started emerging at around the same time in the late 80s, went through a “wild wild west” phase in the 1990s, when they were seen as counter-cultures. Both started to get really big around the turn of the century, and both became massive cultural phenomenon after that (though, granted, it’s a hell of a lot easier to find someone who’s never heard of Burning Man than it is someone who’s never heard of the internet.) Many of the people who made the internet what it is went to Burning Man – and both imply new forms of social organizing.

Anselm Engle, a member of Burning Man’s IT team, thinks the similarities go deeper. Both Burning Man and the internet were born out of the same social forces and cultural movements, and thus have been moving in parallel – one emphasizing pure information, the other grounding us firmly in the immediate physical moment, but both still riding the crest of the same wave.

Which is why he thinks Burning Man can be described as an open-source, cloud based, culture — Burning Man and AI have co-evolved.

We discuss this idea in a Philosophical Center podcast.


Photo: The Temple by Steven Brummond, Marisha Farnsworth, and Mark Sinclair (Photo by Eleanor Preger)

About the author: Caveat Magister

Caveat Magister

A member of Burning Man Project's Philosophical Center, Caveat served as the Volunteer Coordinator for Media Mecca from 2008 - 2013. He is presently working with Burning Man's education program on a cultural studies curriculum for Burning Man culture. Caveat is the author of the short story collection A Guide to Bars and Nightlife in the Sacred City, which has nothing to do with Burning Man, and the novel The Deeds of Pounce, which is about goblins. He has finally got his email address caveat (at) burningman (dot) org working again. He tweets, occasionally, as @BenjaminWachs

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