Setting a Cultural Direction for Residential Black Rock City

As we reflect on Black Rock City 2018 and begin preparing for 2019, one area we believe needs some extra love and attention is our approach to theme camps and other “residential” areas of Black Rock City. For our purposes, “residential Black Rock City” is defined as any location and any way people live in our temporary community in the desert — placed camps, open camping areas, walk-in camping, etc.

As the event in the desert has evolved and our culture gains more traction and attention in mainstream society, questions and concerns have been raised around the size of camps, relative inclusivity or exclusivity, requirements for interactivity, and the placement process. How might camps continue to grow and change? Where do we stand on turnkey, “plug and play,” or convenience camping? What course are we charting for the next five to 10 years?

This is an important moment to dig in and strengthen our culture.

Suburbia Camp (Photo by Daryl Henderson)

So what is the Burning Man organization doing?

In 2017, we launched Project Citizenship, an intentional effort to uphold some of the values and practices that make Burning Man events so special and meaningful for the participants who create them. This year, as part of those ongoing efforts, we established a group charged specifically with creating a vision for how we live in Black Rock City. Instead of reacting to situations and trying to figure out what to do after the fact, it’s time to design a focused vision and align our efforts and actions to that vision.

The Black Rock City Cultural Direction Setting group is made up of leaders from camps, community members, Burning Man Project’s Board, Regional Contact leadership, Placement Team members, and Burning Man Project Staff. This visioning group is responsible for examining questions such as:

  • How and why are camps placed?
  • What do camps need from the organization in order to thrive? What does Black Rock City need from camps in order to thrive?
  • What is the role of the Placement Team and how can it best serve the evolving needs of both camps and the organization?
  • How has the growth of camps affected Black Rock City culture?
  • What levels of engagement should be required for receiving formal camp placement?
  • What is the role of money and Decommodification in camps and camp culture at large?
  • How does placement affect the overall culture of Black Rock City and Burning Man?

Our goal is to create a clear, actionable vision that addresses our current challenges, sets a course for where we are going, and can inform potential changes to placement and other policies in the future.

Here’s where you come in.

We need your input and thoughts. If you have ever lived in Black Rock City, we want to hear from you! A vision for residential Black Rock City won’t go anywhere unless that vision is conceived collaboratively by camps and participants — the groups of people who will create the Black Rock Cities of the future. Whatever we come up with won’t be realized unless it’s guided and supported by the Burning Man community at large.

Extraterrestrial at 8:15 (Photo by Dan Adams)

Are you ready? Here’s how to participate:

  • Fill out this survey. It will take around 30 minutes to complete. We’ll ask you about city planning, camp size and culture, money and decommodification within camps, and more. If you’ve ever lived in Black Rock City, please fill out the survey. The survey deadline is Thursday November 8 at 11:59 pm PST.
  • Participate in a community conversation in your area. We’ve partnered with camps and regional communities all over the world to host deeper discussions around these topics and to share notes with the visioning group as qualitative data. These are all happening now until the end of November! Check out the listings by location and thank you to everyone hosting!
  • Host a community conversation. You can organize your own conversation, using a kit we’ve created that includes suggested discussion format, facilitator tips & tricks, questions to ask, and how to submit the input and feedback to the visioning group. Email us at to request the kit. Schedule a date, time, and location (in person or virtual) and, if you’d like, we’ll add it to the listing above so others can join you. You can also host a conversation with just your camp.
  • Join the Facebook group. Post the notes from your community conversation in this public Facebook group so others can see all the threads as they develop. Post your individual thoughts after taking the survey in the group or as a comment on this Burning Man Journal post.
  • Share the survey. Share this post and the survey link widely with your fellow Burners, campmates, and friends. We want to hear from folks who are already tuned in (like you reading this) and from folks who are less tuned in, or perhaps haven’t been to Black Rock City in a while.
  • Stay tuned. We have some ideas for future virtual engagement, and participation opportunities at events like the 2019 Theme Camp Symposium.

This is community-wide engagement. That means this vision won’t reflect any one individual’s feedback. The visioning group will analyze the input gathered, keep you informed, and provide feedback on how our community’s input influences the eventual vision of this project. This visioning group will meet regularly through spring 2019, and we’re excited to see how this effort evolves.

With the 10 Principles in mind and our best intentions as heart, we’re confident we can set a clear path for Black Rock City’s future.

In service,

Black Rock City Cultural Direction Setting Group*

Bravo (Placement Team), Jennifer Warburg (Boom Boom Womb Camp), Jess Hobbs (Flux Foundation and Flaming Lotus Girls), Kari Gregg (Philanthropic Engagement for Burning Man Project), Kimba Jorgensen (Facilitator & Man Pavilion Project Manager), Lauren Brand (Varsity Camp & Cirque Gitane), Level (Placement Team), Marisa Lenhardt (Death Guild Thunderdome), Mercedes Martinez (Burning Man Project Board Member and Ashram Galactica), Michael Mikel (Burning Man Cultural Founder), Ray Russ (Community Member), Scotto (Meta-Regional & PolyParadise Village), Shadow (Placement Team), Simone Torrey (Lead Facilitator, WeCharge! Camp), Skywalker (Root Society Camp), Terry Schoop (Community Services Manager), Trippi Longstocking / Victoria Mitchell (Placement Manager & BRC Cultural Direction Setting Project Creator), Wally Bomgaars (Burning Man Staff and Community Member), and Zang (Suspended Animation Camp)

With support and direction from Marian Goodell (CEO and Cultural Founder of Burning Man Project), Harley K. Dubois (Cultural Founder of Burning Man Project), Charlie Dolman (Black Rock City Event Director), and Heather White (Managing Director of Burning Man Project)

*Since it’s not possible to have every camp participate in the visioning group, the camps forming the group represent a cross-section of Black Rock City in terms of camp size and complexity, number of years as an established camp, and camp location. This is a new level of engagement with the Burning Man organization for most of these camps and we look forward to hearing voices from all camps in our survey, social media, and community conversations.

Top photo by Scott London

About the author: BRC Cultural Direction Setting Group

BRC Cultural Direction Setting Group

Phase 2 of the project involves over 70 individuals across 10 groups that are working to implement the cultural vision across many areas. You can see all of their names and affiliations within the Burning Man community in this blog post. Phase 1 Visioning Group: Bravo (Placement Team), Jennifer Warburg (Boom Boom Womb Camp), Jess Hobbs (Flux Foundation, Maker Faire and Flaming Lotus Girls), Kari Gregg (Philanthropic Engagement for Burning Man Project), Kimba Standridge (Facilitator and Man Pavilion Project Manager), Lauren Brand (Varsity Camp and Cirque Gitane), Level (Placement Team), Marisa Lenhardt (Death Guild Thunderdome), Mercedes Martinez (Burning Man Project Board Member and Ashram Galactica), Danger Ranger (Burning Man Cultural Co-Founder and Burning Man Project Board Member), Ray Russ (Community Member), Scotto (Meta-Regional and PolyParadise Village), Shadow (Placement Team), Simone Torrey (Lead Facilitator, bEEcHARGE! Camp, Red Hot Beverly Crew), Skywalker (Root Society Camp), Terry Schoop (Community Services Manager), Trippi Longstocking / Victoria Mitchell (Associate Director and BRC Cultural Direction Setting Project Creator), Wally Bomgaars (Burning Man Staff and Community Member), and Zang (Suspended Animation Camp) Profile image by Isabelle Horl.

73 Comments on “Setting a Cultural Direction for Residential Black Rock City

  • Amanda Wakely says:

    I’m not sure I get it. unfortunately. Help me understand.

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    • Jeff Maloney says:

      Amanda, this is your chance to make your opinions on BMan heard. Take the survey and tell them your thoughts. I did and I hope they finally listen down at BM Central. BMan is dangerously close to “jumping the shark” for many preventable reasons.

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  • some seeing eye says:

    Thank you deeply!

    I think burning man leadership has followed the (random & outside culture-driven) evolution of the community, not leading, and only stepping in at costly threatening edges.

    It is time to take on the ethnographic future design of our small temporary city in wilderness America.

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  • AbolishMoney says:

    More and better placed open camping, no generators allowed!

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  • Jaqualine Thompson (DPA, RDE, RDR) says:

    It’s time to charge camps for placement. There should be a $500-$1,000 fee for prime real estate. Too many camps are just getting away with being ‘cool’ over the years and somehow manage to keep landing prime esplanade space with an egg chair or a bunch of sofas with a penguin.

    We need radical inclusion and if placed camps don’t provide incredible entertainment then they should pay through the nose.

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    • Anderson says:

      This is the worst possible solution, remember DECOMODIFICATION. We need to remove money from placement, and there should be no theme camps that do not provide public interaction. All for profit theme camps should be banned, and they should not be allowed to hire people to set up, cook, clean, etc… These are further violations of the 10 principles, mainly Self Reliance, Participation, and Leave No Trace.

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    • Bird says:

      “Pay to Place” sounds as bad as “Pay to Play.” If you have enough money, you can set up a space-wasting, provide-nothing camp in the middle of, say, the esplanade, and just enjoy for your benefit but no one else’s.

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    • Brody says:

      So I put my time and resources into gifting a camp experience for others to enjoy out of my already shallow pockets and you think I should pay more for a decent spot if you don’t deem it “incredible”? You sound like a consumer and a spectator. This event is more than satisfying the likes of people like you.

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    • Willing says:

      No! This would really be disruptive to radical inclusion. Camps that are supported by big money could BUY real estate. Rethink this idea with that in mind.

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    • SK says:

      what problem would ‘pay for placement’ solve?

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  • Motorboat says:

    Stop the Airport bringing in charterd planes.
    Can’t imagine Russian millionaire daughters, Paris Hilton or any other turnkey camp members waiting in the line for 8+hours….!!!!

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    • Crazy Scott says:

      I fully agree with this!

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      • Lumen Being says:

        Shutting down the airport is a very good idea to ‘level the playa field’. It really creates a two-tier economic participation as those who have the money to fly in on a chartered plane vs those who do not. I am not to say don’t have planes offering rides to those who want to see BRC by air or provide the ride for the parachuters who jump. Just all participants have to come through the main gate like everybody else. If nothing else waiting in line to in get builds the patience muscle and is a radical equalizer.

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      • Victor Mach says:

        While I agree with the sentiment, I fear closing the airport will just give rise to luxurious shuttle services that allow maximum comfort while in line, or some such. People with the resource to afford these types of things always find a way. The option should be considered, but possible externalities coming from it as well.

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    • Trace L. Ament says:

      How you arrive makes no difference to in how one participates in the event… Besides it’s that many fewer people waiting in the gate road line… Neither is envy one of the 10 Principles…

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    • Dancing Queen says:

      Really? Shut down the airport? Money has nothing to do with the reason I fly to this burn. The lack of my available time because I have a child still in school and she is my #1 priority is the reason I fly into this burn. My husband drives 2,000 miles, sets up our camp and waits for my arrival. I have already done tons of prep work before he left town. I get our child settled in the first few days of school, then fly to the burn. Then I fly back home to take care of her while my husband drives back home. I think you shouldn’t just assume that money is the reason for flying. Until you actually talk to the people who fly, you should keep you mouth shut.

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    • Evan says:

      Yes yes yes!! The line is a great equalizer. Shakes out the fluff.

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  • Blue Coyote says:

    Shut down the airport. If you’re concerned about culture, start by having everyone earn “residency.” Trial by dust is a great equalizer. Having said that, I sincerely appreciate this new initiative and I will take the survey and will fully participate in the process at the regional level. One of the things that keeps me coming back to BRC is the proactive vision of the organization and the focus on trying to maintain the spirit of the 10 Principles, even as the event becomes more mainstream. Not an easy or simple undertaking. Much gratitude to those who will be leading, guiding, and participating.

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    • Fidget says:

      I agree that the airport has some flaws, but I disagree that “trial by dust” is a prerequisite for participation in our community. Radical inclusion means we make all sorts of allowance, where feasible, to account for economic disparities, physical barriers to entry (such as disability), etc. I personally know that some who choose the airport as a means of ingress or egress due so due to limitations in their day to day lives, such as children and family/employment obligations. It is faster, and for some people the expedience is worth the financial hit. I think limiting the airport’s use by independent and personal planes, and opening up greater access to “burner express” style planes similar to the buses, would be a more prudent use of community resources without unduly burdening members of the community that rely upon the ease of entry provided by planes.

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      • JV says:

        You know, we all have impediments and obligations. It’s called life. If personal life is too complicated to get to Burning Man, you don’t go that year. I’ve skipped a few years for that reason. But there should be no allowances for that, other than some accessibility for those with physical disabilities. Going to Burning Man isn’t a right. The difficulty of getting there used to be part of the allure, and was a big reason why most of the people there were somewhat invested in the event. I’m not saying you’re not invested, it seems you clearly are. But there has to be a limit. Charter planes only exacerbate the spectator aspect.

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  • Harry Larvae says:

    No more car themed camps. BM is not the place for a car show. I don’t want to see your hot rod unless we’re in the Orgy dome.

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  • Jalleemon says:

    I would venture to say, a somewhat overdue endeavor. And much needed for many reasons, growth and the inevitability of change notwithstanding. I am looking forward to seeing where this leads, and how these talks will be able to transcend opinion and enter the realm of ideas.

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  • Stephen Hoffman says:

    Already ideas are filtering in.

    The quest for more authentic camping, more open theme camps, interactivity, sharing, welcoming, etc. is a good one, but usually wrapped in platitudes and theoretical/humanistic ideals. All well and good – but dreamy, naive, hypothetical. Humans will almost always – when left to their own instincts and devices – accentuate power and status disparities, increase the gap between wealthy and poor, discriminate, strive to be higher up the economic ladder, enjoy more luxury. We have seen all of these phenomena proliferate on the playa. Now we have ‘for-profit’ monster “theme camps”, with perimeters of $500,000 RVs, guards, 5-star cuisine, sherpas and maids… you know the type. It’s about money, and power.

    Before anyone, at any level, starts to tackle this potent trend toward turn-key camps, “plug-and-play, etc., in my opinion one MUST take into account a very powerful engine running in the background: all this wealth, tech executive luxury, VIP services, $1,200 early-purchase tickets, airport activity, etc etc etc.. represents enormous money – a.k.a. PROFIT – for the BurningMan the Organization. No matter what they claim, the entire movement on the playa has been a tremendous wealth-generator for the Founders and their minions. BurningMan finances have been held as close to the vest as the launch codes for the US nuclear missile batteries. As an LLC, there have never been legal requirements for Borg to disclose anything meaningful about revenues, costs, and profits. They claim to have converted to a “non-profit”, but only a small part of the total operation exists under these statutes.

    Absolutely nothing will change to reverse the financial exploitation and rich/poor paradigm, the sad trend toward closed mega-camps, the overt display of money and power and exclusivity of the turn-key “theme camps… without hard, concrete, tough new guidelines, even rules, that are enforced. By laying down solid and hard-edged new policies, the negative trends of the last half-decade could be reversed to some degree. I am not saying that a given specific new policy *should* be enacted – but I am hoping that these ideas be considered, and debated.

    (Unfortunately, my thesis is that this will not happen, for all the usual reasons: The super-elite, high-end services (Borg has a whole department dedicated to this) bring a ton of money to the Org. There are all kinds of pockets being lined, from kowtowing to the tech executives, the trust fund babies, the über-elite from Europe. People in power love power, they like being superior to regular folks, they like money, luxury, and being catered to. (Larry Harvey himself was drunk on fame and glory, being toasted by intellectual and financial elites. Plus, he made untold riches from being “The Founder”.) Borg, as an organization, has literally designed-in this entire enrichment program. They personally love it, as the elite are further bonded to the Founders, around mutual self-admiration, exceptional opportunities (camp placement, and private luxury parties, close-in viewing of the Man burn, access to the huge cherry-pickers surround the burn… just a few examples), and just pure money. Rich and powerful people do not want their luxury rescinded, or restricted. Money talks, and Borg listens. Or, it is the other way around?)

    That being said, there are, or could be, policies and procedures which would unquestionably change the course of the Titanic. It takes many miles to turn a big ship around, but it can be done. The problems is: since BurningMan is one of the most undemocratic institutions you could imagine – with essentially zero real input by common citizens, and absolutely no power or authority available to them – we live under the auspices of the ruling Founders. We pay, they go to the bank. Regular folks have ZERO influence on the trends occurring at BurningMan. To be honest, I am not enthused about this new “Project Citizenship” initiative – because experience has shown that there is essentially no influence whatsoever on Borg policy and “development” by the regular citizens. Borg (the Founders) do exactly what they want. There is extraordinarily little disclosure of any of the ‘process’, the decision-making, the analysis, the data, the revenue, costs, profits. None of it. Totally and absolutely undemocratic, is the way of Borg. Nothing could be more “top-down”, more obtuse, and deliberately “behind the curtain”, than Borg.

    Yet: As a set of thought experiments, let us just close our eyes and simply imagine what life on-playa would be like, if new policies (yes! rules) were to be put in place. These concepts are in no particular order, they are commonly discussed already, including in this thread. Some are radical, others are simple. Some are easily enforced and could be pretty much guarantee to accomplish their stated goal. Others could be worked-around, by the elite money-powers.. But they are worth contemplating, in my opinion, because they open the debate, and they challenge the financial and power equations behind which Borg has always hidden.

    Some hypothetical propositions, to help return to some of the roots of the BurningMan movement:

    * Ban generators. 14 years ago, when I started participating, there were very few generators, anywhere on-playa. Now we have mega-camps, with large industrial diesel generators on heavy trailer platforms. And practically all the RVs above mid-size have generators (and AC) going all day.

    * Shut down the airport, except for emergencies and medical evacuation flights. The airport is emblematic of the huge culture shift many of us are regretting. Borg claims, “innocently”, that the huge airport promotion serves to reduce road traffic. But that’s a small part of the story. The real reason is the enormous flow of money and fame that comes in via the airport: the super-elite, tech executives, the international bucket-list punchers, celebrities. Currently, über-wealthy from around the world can jump on an airliner in Europe, the Middle East, or from any city in the US, and, after hopping several flights, land at Black Rock City, and (literally) get a golf cart ride to their luxury villa or RV, which is already stocked with the finest food and booze (and comes with a maid and service people – yes, I have seen them many a time). These tourists coming in by air cannot – practically by definition – bring in anything but their personal effects and outfits. They can’t bring or build art, can’t bring anything to share. It’s the ultimate model of plug-and-play.

    * Limit the size of RVs. The playa is now inundated with the very biggest, most expensive, most luxurious Class A RVs that exist. These machines can cost easily $500,000. Typical rent for a week can be $50,000 (add $$$ for the booze and food, the maid and the “help”, the clean-up). They run their generators constantly. The supplying of RVs, and drivers, and RV pre-event placement is now a major “industry” – engendered by BurningMan. Borg *could* (I say this with due recognition that they would never have the courage to actually try such a thing) put a size limit on RVs. Instead of the monster “Madden cruisers”, they could lead the participants to down-size to something more modest (say, maximum of 28 ft. RVs). I’m sure some people would shriek at this concept, but frankly, it would super-easy to enforce, and would indeed create a small counter-trend to the progressive excesses and over-the-top manifestation of luxury and wealth, which is now overtaking us.

    * Build it yourself !! Stop the use of paid surrogates to build art, camps, or villages. Stop the trafficking in sherpas, maids, and personal assistants (this would include the paid babysitters, sorry). Currently, as virtually everyone knows, there are endless fleets of 18-wheel trucks, immigrant laborers and hired builders, coming and going between the playa and points around the West, for many weeks prior to the opening of the event. They are on “temporary visas”, and have to leave before the event starts. It’s one thing for Borg itself to need and utilize work crews for the building of the Man, the Temple, and the Borg operational trailers and container-offices. It’s another thing for super-wealthy technocrats and elites to hire large crews to build their luxury villas, dining rooms, domes, stages, etc. Build it yourself !! Let the holders of Real Actual Tickets come in (either with temporary permits before the event opens, or, under the early-admission system) and let THEM build what they want to show as art, or, where and how they want to live.

    * Discourage the use of maids, sherpas, and camp slave labor. I have literally seen immigrant women going from luxury RV to luxury RV, on a daily basis, working as “house cleaners”, toting their mops, plastic buckets, sponges, and cleaning chemicals. Certain camps employ go-fers, laborers, servants. They work for their masters all week. The $1,200 early-ticket process is a money-making abuse that favors the Borg coffers, and the super-elite. The program allows the playa oligarchy to buy as many tickets as they want, for their tourist friends, and servants. When some of these executives and playboys (virtually all are men) reach into their pockets, just the “small change” that falls out onto the ground is enough to ticket several maids or servants. Obscene. But this is what Borg “wants”. They have paved the way – deliberately and progressively – for the super-wealthy to come to the playa, enjoying much of the glamour and privilege of their regular outside homes… and spread the money around (airport, playa VIP services, villas and RVs, etc.) (Parenthetically, reducing the level of prostitution would be nice too, on the part of the super-elite men, but, that’s a little more difficult: harder to identify. Just a thought…)

    None of the thought-experiments, above, would reduce the humanistic and previously-authentic playa experience that we used to love. Life is not always better with more money, more technology, better smartphone coverage, larger RVs, more servants, more closed events, more fly-in tourists and spectators… Able-bodied people do not need fleets of Segways on-playa. Sometimes, one needs to go “in reverse” (go back to earlier modes of living), to find more soul, more genuine friendliness, more down-to-earth creativity. We don’t need more 747s (the playa’s apex of hubris and culture-clash and shocking narcissism). We need more small-scale art, more organic living structures, more DYI. We need less massive generators, less encircled palisades of monster RV parks, less need of a ticket to board an art car. We need to live closer to the ground, and and share, rather than use guards to keep people out of camps.

    We need to go back to the world where virtually everyone you passed walking on the street would smile and say hi. (Yes, it really was that way.) Put people on an equal footing, instead of favoring the super-wealth, elites, and celebrities. 11th Principle of BurningMan: DO IT YOURSELF.

    Well, ’nuff said for how.
    Just my € 0,02 worth…

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    • Julie says:

      As someone who bought a used RV for the playa (I don’t camp. Anywhere, ever) I want to impress that RV owners with any size rig are absolutely capable of been full, giving participants. (This was my 7th burn.) In fact, for someone like me who bakes cookies randomly, invites strangers to lunch and invites friends over to wash their hair or shower, it allows me to give more freely in the manner I choose. But there’s no doubt that RVs are taking over, and I think any burner who owns theirs should strongly consider making their rig an ArtV. We have already removed all decals from ours to begin the process of sanding and painting that will make our home at Home a part of the beauty of burning man. You don’t need to ban the RVs, you need to encourage participation and promote the acculturation of those who use them.

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    • David Brown says:

      Dude, you talk too much. Can you make concise statements?

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    • Icy says:

      Jesus that was long but I read it all. Agree with a lot of it. Also agree that not much will actually happen and we all love to idealize the past.

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    • Yeah OK says:

      Yes! So much this ^^^

      It’s obvious the BORG is enjoying selling out and is oblivious to how making the culture accessible to those who can purchase it without getting their hands dirty is diluting it to the point of non-existence.

      People now to come to burning man to rave, consume culture, and make networking connections for silicon valley.

      The above suggestions would really help- the RV one a little tough to define (what about those hippie schoolbusses?) maybe making them “art RV’s” would do it.

      Also restricting the number of pre-event builders/ “vendor” permits. This one thing alone would change the plug n play situation. Also discouraging the airport from bringing all but actual pilots. Wait at the gate sucks? Make a second gate. That’s a lot easier than spending 3 months rolling the desert to make a landing strip.

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    • Bau Bau says:

      Thank you for writing this. As a regional midwest artist, I was thinking of trying to attend this year, but I see that the event may have gotten a little too far away from its roots for real community to thrive anymore. I thought the whole plug and play/profit thing didn’t jibe with the BLM permit they had. Guess the lesson of the age is to stay home and focus on building real community where one lives rather than working hard to be part of an infrastructure whose apparent function is to entertain the ultra wealthy.

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    • Lumpydumpkin says:

      I only read half of your thesis, and I agree!

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    • aFein says:

      Some good points made in there. Definitely arguments for some people that use the airport that arent on the elite side but overall it probably does more harm than good.

      re; pre-sale tickets. ‘supposedly’ a good chunk of that extra $ goes towards art grants etc to help support those of us that cant fundraise and afford to bring the art to the playa. curious how much is given out vs collected.

      being a 501c3 arent the financials published yearly now?

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    • The Hustler says:

      You forgot to cite sources.

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    • Cleu lady says:

      If the 10 principles have been weakened so much, then how about dividing the city in half? On one side of the city, no RVs allowed and no generators. No one can pay to get placed on this side, so they would have to have an attractive, interactive, public camp offering to be placed. Otherwise, just open camping, but NO RVs. On the other half of the city, you can pay to get placed, bypass the Gate, have employees if you must, whatever makes profit for Bmorg. This may not sound fair, but right now, it’s worse. Give the people what they want. Wealthy people want comfort, so that’s their loss. The rest of us want to enjoy the neighborhood. Why should my all volunteer crew have to deal with a giant RV with a leaf-blowing employee constantly blowing dust off the astroturf? Anyone could travel to either side of town to see how the other half lives. Just like when first world people “discover” the hospitality of poor people when traveling abroad, the wealthy might learn a few things from those of us who enjoy communal effort and the bonding that happens in harsh conditions. Black Rock City used to be entirely built by its citizen volunteers. Let’s not lose the whole city, just half. Art installations could still be done by anyone for any size art. Hooray for the egalitarian folks at the Artery!

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  • Patchez says:

    To achieve most of Stephen Hoffman ideas one simple thing needed – put a name on the ticket. On all of them – regular and $1200 priced. No more multiple tickets bought for plug-n-play camps, no more sherpas, nothing. If, due to change of plans, you have to sell your ticket – return it and get your money back.

    Another thing – time to adopt electronic tickets. No more lost/stolen tickets. Together with the above (names on tickets) will eliminate scalpers altogether.

    And as an observation – IMHO the event has been going through an interesting transformation. And it happened in a very natural way. In attempts to create bigger and more involved projects, camps need more funding. Core crews contribute a lot, but it is not enough anymore. Additional funding is coming from camp fees, which are now easily reach $500 and more. Now to get this kind of $ camps need to offer something for it, so here come meal plans, camp bikes, water and such. All that creates a whole population of folks who just pay whatever camp fee is and that’s it. Self reliance – what self reliance? Camps provide everything, you ride a bus in and ride your bus out.

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  • Christopher Boyle says:

    It is an oxymoron: we love taking it over the top on playa but it just becomes ostentatious. You can’t compel style. Keep the focus on acculturation. I like size limits on RVs, it is not supposed to be easy. Zero out paid staff – either inspire volunteers or DIY. Seriously. As a long time airport wag it would bother me none to see the Burner Express shut down, But for heaven’s sake keep the little planes, those peeps still burn from the core. Quit whining about the traffic and roll back the population cap to 60k. There’s plenty of profit for the BORG who should manifest a stable and sustainable community.

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  • Motorhome Sally says:

    Burning Man has evolved into the world’s largest RV parking lot. That’s progress.

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  • shazbat says:

    By this survey, does Borg actually realize that the cultural erosion they’ve caused at BRC jeopardizes its long-term viability? That the Coachella types can’t create the experience real Burners freely gift to BRC, for Borg to profit from?

    Show us that you DO by taking tangible corrective action, and we might come back.

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  • Yeah OK says:

    Agree that BORG policies are driving these problems. The number of “vendor” permits is INSANE. As someone who has both worked on big art and worked for plug n plays that didn’t offend me too much (never again, okay? I’m sorry!) I know how it works!

    If you don’t have ten thousand people with early arrival passes building big camps you can’t have the level of luxury infrastructure that all these prissy people are requiring to be out there. People are coming to build camps and not staying for the event or are working through the event to support the rich improving their instagram feed.

    The airport is the other culpret. You’re reducing traffic? Were the people in gerlach really upset at their commute being ruined? Airplane gas is so much less polluting than car gas? What a joke! Open a second gate instead of spending months rolling the desert to make an airport. Ive met pilots that fly to burning man to GO to burning man- awesome. Everyone else should have to deal with the DISCOMFORT of getting to playa and the DISCOMFORT of being there that’s one of the things that makes it what it is. It’s not that radical to fly into a place and be whisked to your air conditioned RV with gourmet meals all day.

    Someone in the thread above recommended limiting generators- which might be a great way to go. You need it for art- cool. Air conditioned dining areas? NOPE. Hell could just not deliver and solve that real quick.

    I think the BORG thinks they’re changing the world by spreading the burn to rich people who will disseminate it, but they don’t realize they’re just consuming it and after it dies (which it already is) they will just go on to consume the next thing artists create.

    It’s so sad to have lost our home because the org let the power get to their heads.

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    • Jamal Leryor says:

      I agree with you. It’s time to ban all of this stuff. There are too many weirdos out there and they fly planes and there’s like this slut thing going on for Instagram. This has gone completely insane. All I wanted to do was get laid out there, but I got arrested for fingerbanging some sparklepony who PIAD ME!! She paid me and then called the cops. I don’t even know what this whole thing is about anymore.

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  • Slapshot says:

    Does the org really think paid workers will take the place of the volunteer army that has made the event possible from the start? Because that’s where we’re going here. You can’t have both volunteers busting their asses trying to shoestring projects together and people paying pros–why would the former keep contributing? And if the org kills the golden goose by turning off all those volunteers what credibility do they think they’ll have left? The jet set crowd will find something else to do, the volunteers won’t come back, and the burning man event will be dead. And I’m not even touching on the entitlement people feel after showing something with cash, or how no one goes to the playa to really feel like “have nots” while their neighbors flaunt their wealth, or a million other things wrong with the situation. It’s just a joke that any of this is being considered–what is the upside?

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  • Harry Larvae says:

    I’m not against bringing an RV. If you’re doing playa art, have the comfort of an RV. More power to you for doing art. What I think should be not allowed are RV theme camps like Airstream camp, Fleetwood camp, VW bus camp…

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  • Dumbledore says:

    I don’t think exclusive camps should be allowed. Everyone should be able to visit every camp. You’re famous and people will recognize you? Bring a good costume.

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  • Barbender says:

    Just close down plug and play camps. They cause much more harm than good. Don’t coddle folks who want to come. It never works. They come and watch, but don’t participate. If the org needs to promote these camps just to bring in more operating money, then own up to it. Find another way to fund the art without destroying the event.

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  • Buzz says:

    How does “Plug and play” or “Convenience camping adhere to the “Radical Self Reliance” of the ten principles. The affect it has on other campers in the attitude also shines through.

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  • Scott Potter says:

    I have only been coming to BM and building Art and MV for 15 years now. I have seen the good and the bad. In a camp of two people and a Theme camp of several hundred. It’s not a persons fault that somehow some way they find out about BM and show up with no lights for nighttime. Or nothing to gift. Or is it!!!!
    If your have all the money you need and want to come to Bm do you really think they want to tent camp. Well I do. But that’s me. I have had so many people get on my MV and say I need to go here. And I inform them I’m going here. Would you like to join us on this ride? And some people just don’t get it. They have had it there way there entire life and that is not BM fault. We just except them into our community and hope they become a productive member of our community. And if not? then we hope they never come back. But they will because they can.
    It’s not my place to say if someone want’s to spend 5-8-10-15K to come to BM and have there ass whipped for them. Then that is what they want to do at BM. I wish for the most part they were not there. But then I meet some people who spend 100K to come to BM and I love them for ever because they are great people inside and out.
    So I guess what I’m trying to say is take everyone as a person. And not if they paid 100K to have a MV built for them and all there meals cooked for them. It is unfortunate that many of the people who do come to the Plug and Play camps expect amazing service. After all that is what they paid for.
    As a community we as burners need to educate and inform these people that it is great that you were able to come here and see the most amazing thing you have ever seen. But if you really want to be part of it. Then be part of it. Share, Care, Love, Be Loved, help, gift, be thank full, build something, help build something, We as a community are not a team. We as individuals are individuals. We don’t all think alike, look alike, talk alike, or 100 other things alike. But at the end of the day did you just do things to make you feel better. Or did you do something to make some stranger feel better.

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  • Chaos says:

    Increase performance art by closing the airport and force the One Percenters to walk-in parallel to Gate Road, dragging their luggage through the dirt, and then make them pay a walk-in fee at the Gate. Cruel but Radically Immediate.

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  • Matisse Enzer says:

    The increased percentage of the BRC population who does not struggle as much for survival on the playa definitely reduces the degree of community.

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  • JV says:

    This post is lip service. For almost 10 years now, there have been very vocal and thoughtful suggestions from different communities of long-time burners, whether on eplaya or theme camps and some others. There have been meetings and summits and Q&A sessions. The result: almost none of the suggestions have been implemented. Some of these are represented in the comments here: shut down charter planes, crack down on plug and play camps, reduce the vendors, limit RV size, personalized and non-transferrable tickets, etc.

    So I have zero confidence this latest effort to “listen to the community” will result in anything. The ideas are well known to the BMORG, there’s nothing new to offer. It’s up to them if they want to act. Don’t hold your breath.

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  • Fen Aisling says:

    At the moment, I think it is time to acknowledge that while the 10 principles are nice in theory, in practice they lead to a very unsafe community, because the reality is that people cherry pick the principles to suit their purpose at the moment.

    It is also time to recognize that in becoming a staple, burning man is longer and will never again be what it once was. At this point, it is literally the antithesis to environmental responsibility just simply in the mass number of people who spend large amounts of money for over priced tickets and then ride in petrol powered vehicles to get there, pack in a ton of waste product, and then burn giant structures every night for a week.

    I have no doubt that these opinions will garner argument, and I don’t really care. These are things that literally everyone I talk with says about the burn now, *including people who go every year*. You are worried about camp placement when what you should be worrying about is the complete lack of steering the ship now has as it sails on into uncharted waters, far from it’s original mission and course.

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  • Choo Choo says:

    I watched Bonnaroo go corporate and die from greed, with the same situations of plug and play glampers and a distinct and growing division of the have and have nots. I’ve also watched motorcycle rallies go down the same path with the Toy-Hauler trailer trash set of “bikers”. Sad to see the same thing happening here with the same inevitability. When the 10 principles can be bought or bribed away, greed always triumphs.

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  • szsz says:

    Ban megaphones.

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  • ChaChaCharly says:

    I love Burning Man, even after 11-years of watching incredible growth with the attendant problems. My short lists of challenges:
    1. Time wasted at the Gate. It is unconscionable to waste half a day after paying $500. How do we get away with that?
    2. Generator noise. I have no problem with the monster RV’s but running those noisy and smelly genny’s is not neighborly and rude. Solution? Require all RV’s that run their genny’s clustsered in the middle of their camp space exhaust facing each other, so if they insist on A/C let them deal with noise, not the neighbors. This would also alleviate the “walled encampments” and facilitate connecting with the community. Placers would have the chore of moderating the arrangements when camps are being built but penalties need teeth like future less desireable placement, loss of ice purchase and no sewer service.
    3. Difficulty buying tickets. Other then earning a ticket purchase with volunteered services the past year (as I do now as an entertainer etc), can’t think of any other solution.
    BTW the elite camps don’t affect me so I welcome everyone and maybe they take away something to improve our world even if they never will be BURNERS! Some of these people are influencers and there are already instances of our metastasizing.

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  • splat says:

    If evolution was easy, it wouldn’t take millions of years.
    Labor Day on the playa before Burning Man was Sail Camp. A bunch of land sailors camping and holding races with an open bar – and just being there. It’s now on track to be a ten-day city of 200,000 . Looking at the progression to date and beyond with so many facets to consider is Nobel-worthy think tank material for coexistence,

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  • Snarky Bastard says:

    I really don’t see a point in filling out your survey. This is all window dressing. The majority of the problems with the event are caused by org policies. Want to know how to improve neighborhoods? Freaking shut down Point One privileges for non-event vendors! It used to be that it was only ice deliveries, United Services, and LEO came in this way.

    Not only is the org allowing “vendors” to haul in RVs, generators, bicycles, and other plug-n-play infrastructure through Point One, they’re charging them for the privilege. The org is profiting from the very plug n play camps they pretend to be so concerned about. Funny how none of that revenue shows up on the afterburn report.

    The solution is pretty simple. Make everyone wait in Gayte line like the rest of us. Rich, poor, whatever, nobody gets to sneak in the back door.

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  • Motor says:

    My advice is stop going to Burning Man! Like I have, and how most others I know have as well.
    The BMORG killed Burning man by:

    – not upholding personalized tickets with restrictions on transfers unless resold through the site
    – not cracking down on plug and play camps that are clearly violating the principles
    – allowing camps to barricade themselves in
    – allowing camps to be exclusive

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  • lifeisshort says:

    First question that comes to my mind is.. ARE YOU OVER-THINKING THIS?

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  • Judy Larquier says:

    Shut down the airport to all but the most most necessary transportation needs. Shut down the plug and play camps. Shut down the walled in camps with their guards. Stop the use of paid workers to build camps. Get back to the philosophy of participation and community.
    Get rid of the obvious prostitution that is taking place with rich middle eastern men bringing in very young foreign girls with tons of makeup and high heels that are barely let out of the closed in camps!!!

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  • JV says:

    Also, the fact that this position:

    Kari Gregg (Philanthropic Engagement for Burning Man Project)

    is on this committee is Exhibit A of the main problem. Why in the EFF is there even a “philanthropic engagement” position at BMORG? THEY DON’T NEED ANY MORE MONEY!! And if they did, they’re doing something wrong. The BMORG’s primary and sole purpose for existing should be to facilitate the event. TRUST THE COMMUNITY to “spread Burning Man culture” beyond BRC. Instead, we all get emails, after all the time, effort and money spent on the event asking for fucking donations!? Are you fucking kidding me!? For what?

    Even worse, though, as evidenced by the existence of a Philanthropic Engagement position, is the courting of extreme wealth. It’s the reason we have charter planes and plug & play fortresses and readymade art cars.

    Dah! The community has spoken. This bullshit survey is just cover to pretend that BMORG has “listened.” Bullshit.

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  • Diane G says:

    I know people who waited in line for 12-18 hours. After driving all day or night to get there & then waste an entire day getting in. It’s incredible that BM can’t figure out the the entry/exodus problems. I’m a volunteer (for years) & with early entry still waited over 4 hours to get thru the gate. That was the entry time my 1st few years going back to 2004. I agree 100% that generators should be banned. BM used to be full of really cool camps with open doors. Now we have a RV/trailer camp. The smell & sound is sickening & disruptive. They block the view & there is nothing cool about fancy RV’s. Too many closed camps w/huge RV guarded neighborhoods. Is this inclusion? Inclusion? I agree with the comments regarding the “elite” with special privlidges as well. Stop it!

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  • Ree greenwood says:

    I am surely glad to have read this discussion!
    We will be able to eliminate going to Burning Man from our list.

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  • Merlon Olsen says:

    I didn’t think it was possible that that burners could parallel the hate-filled politicians and religious leaders in our country by spewing their hatred and by trying to insist their own ways on other people they don’t know and who’s way of burning has zero effect on their time in BRC (although I’m sure you will used the tired old rehashed excuse that RV’s obscure your view and generators are noisy and plug-n-play isn’t real burning). It’s eerie how this is the exact methods used to oppress women, LGBT and non-christians in this country

    I’m amazed at how many commenters are showing their envy and jealousy about how other people burn. It must be exhausting spending your entire week on the Playa missing out on your own experience by obsessing over your disapproval, by choice. Here’s an idea, you worry about you and leave others to worry about theirs.

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    • JV says:

      It’s neither envy, nor jealousy, nor hate. But nice try on linking our heartfelt suggestions to a historically unresponsive BMORG with oppression of women and minorities. If you will notice the consistency of topics in these comments, you’ll realize there is some consensus on policies that could possibly keep the event unique, and that there are absolutely practices that have increased in frequency that threaten to homogenize Burning Man into just another festival.

      Might I suggest having someone bring you an extension ladder to climb down off of your awfully high horse?

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  • Neil Verplank says:

    I just came across this comment, and see the survey is already closed. As a long time resident of a city and culture that spans decades, it’s a little disappointing that you’d take less than a month to solicit input on the potential direction of our culture. Ah well.

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  • david says:

    It has gotten so huge now. Hard to get a ticket. i have been lucky for 15 years to find a ticket. Every year I think it is my last year to go.

    I doubt that anything anyone says of figures out would make any difference. It is simply a mind concept that really has no real meaning… My thoughts anyway.

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  • Michael wauschek aka Pyro minion says:

    I love going to burning man for the last 4yr I have I always bring something extra back into my default world on how I can make this earth a better even when I am not at burn. It like standing rock it is not just at burn it is truly burning man is everywhere

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  • Captain Vic says:

    I don’t have a problem with RVs, airplanes, and high rollers that help to finance large art projects. On the other hand, I do have problems with people that attend as spectators rather than as participants. As I see it, the big concern regarding plug and play camp customers is that they don’t contribute their personal energy and creativity to the event. I don’t think we want to let that principle slide. When I experience the wonderful generosity of those that work for months to create art pieces or prepare performance art as gifts to our community, I am overwhelmed, even after many years of attending. As a result, I try a little harder each year to up my contributions to our community.

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  • Xosexdoll says:

    Glad to see this discussion

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