As Black Rock City 2023 approaches, we’d like to take a moment to focus on a topic that’s critically important to the preservation of our shared principles of Radical Self-reliance and Decommodification. Please remember — convenience camping (formerly described as turnkey or plug-and-play camping) is not permitted in BRC, and runs totally counter to the values of our community. We are actively working to extinguish this practice, and we need your help to do so.
In 2022, 60 camps, mutant vehicles, or artists received a warning or were placed on “Limited Standing” or “Not Good Standing” due to poor behavior or performance on-playa. These evaluations were made through Placement’s Good Standing process, which has also been taken on by the Art Department and Department of Mutant Vehicles. In total, nine groups were completely disinvited from Black Rock City for one to three years. One camp, La Grange, was evicted from the Black Rock City 2022 event — meaning, they will not ever be welcome back. Right now, we are more committed than ever to stopping convenience camping in its tracks.
We Can’t Do This Alone, We Need Your Help!
First, we need your help to 1) teach new Burners the right way to do Burning Man, and 2) educate those seeking convenience camping on the importance of self-reliance. Burning Man has never been about convenience! Acculturating newer Burners about the 10 Principles is a great mechanism to get into this topic, and can be an effective way to prevent commodification. Black Rock City is not a weekend festival and camps are not hospitality services — camps are communities brought together in a radical experiment in community.
If you encounter issues related to convenience camping or commodification — for example, a camp offering full amenities (housing, meal plans, bikes, etc.) for a set price-tag — report them to us at email@example.com.
While we receive some reports before we get on playa, we don’t always see it until the event happens and count on your eyes and ears at the event too. If you see something on playa indicative of convenience camping such as paid staff working, or delivery of housing (i.e. RVs/trailers), please report them on-playa to Placement Headquarters at 5:59+Esplanade, or find someone with a radio to help report what you saw. Provide us with as much detail as possible so we can act swiftly. If it’s before or after the event, again, report them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Do We Do with Reports of Doing It Wrong?
Pre-event, we promptly assess reports by gathering evidence and investigating. If we receive reports early in the season, we attempt to remediate and will work with the camps to correct their actions to align with Burning Man culture. If we discover continued wrongdoing, we disinvite the camp from receiving placement. We’ve not approved placement for camps throughout the last decade including several camps this year, and will continue doing so if more continue to arise. We will also publicly name camps that are so egregious to help protect community members from signing up for bad deals and unknowingly falling victim to predatory convenience camp organizers, and to show those organizers there are real consequences for violating our guidelines
During the event, we ensure that camps are abiding by our Outside Services Program policies and will turn around individuals attempting to circumvent them like hiring people to transport items or to build their camps. We also have the option to evict, and will do so if a camp demonstrates complete disregard of our instructions and our culture.
Post-event, representatives from multiple Burning Man Project departments collectively evaluate the challenges we’ve faced with camps and other participant groups. Consequences for bad actors include warnings, limitations or complete dis-invitation for future participation. While we do often offer second chances in good faith, we also have no tolerance for people who willingly attempt to deceive the community or the organization.
If you’d like to read more in detail about how we address convenience camping, please visit this webpage, “Eliminating Convenience Camping in Black Rock City,” that we’ve created to explain the steps we take once we have determined a camp/group Doing it Wrong.
What Is Okay and Not Okay?
Since the 2019 event, we have been actively adjusting our policies and protocols to move closer to our Cultural Vision for Residential Black Rock City. In the vision, we shared:
“Theme camps allocate their collective focus, time, and resources primarily toward their public contributions rather than personal comfort and convenience. Conveniences are used in service of the camp’s contribution, which adds to the vibrancy of the city.”
Building on a stand taken against packaged tours and concierge experiences in 2014, we have added new policies to thwart outlandish conveniences. Camps are not permitted to deliver housing, and bike rental is not allowed in BRC. People cannot be paid to work for camps/groups unless they are approved by the Outside Services Program. We offer more examples of what’s okay and what’s not okay on our Decommodification, Gifting, Participation and PAYticipation page.
If you’re passionate about preserving the spirit of Burning Man, and want to volunteer to help in this work, email email@example.com to let us know your interest in helping to make a Black Rock City where convenience camping is a thing of the past. Together, we can uphold the 10 Principles and keep Black Rock City a vibrant and authentic community of makers and doers.
Cover image of a row of RVs at BRC, 2017 (Photo by Philippe Glade)