Burning Man, the Internet and late stage capitalism

I think that’s a crucial point, and leans towards the implicit indeterminacy built into a super augmented liminal space the definition of which remains open, and which has left many a surveyor dashed on the rocks of speculation.

It is a very worthwhile point as is:

In addition to the strategies implied are other traits implicit to the success of PC, such as the freedom to fail without prejudice, and an unrelenting self-interrogation aided by satire and the parodic imagination which were notable hallmarks of the Cacophony Society that fed into Burning Man. There were, as we know, Cacophonists who thought that BM did become, as you say, “too attached to their own values”. And there were many more others who, transfigured, have collaborated to enable the potential for transfigurement - or transformation, if you like - in others. How recurrent liminal conditions become optimised in superliminal states is a source of fascination to me, as are the strategies that serve to protect the liminal as a “realm of pure possibility” as Victor Turner would have said. My interest grows as the model is mirrored and mutated worldwide, as the cultural event becomes an event culture that can illustrate tensions associated with a replicated model. I’m thinking of contentions expressed in the burnerverse which echo those of core-periphery power relationships associated with imperial (colony), corporate (franchise) and ecclesiastic (church) expansionism. So here superliminalisation is fraught with the possibility that one may develop the sensation that you’ve landed in the playa colonies, are implicated in McDonaldisation burner style, or are faithfully delivering victuals to the local shrine of a global cult.

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Thanks for the link - I’ll look forward to diving into that. The point I was trying to make was: A) public intellectuals (J. Gilbert was the example, but there are others) are typically absurdly removed from their subject matter (i.e. BM) which is grifted to peddle an abstract socialist agenda - a remote viewing exercise not uncommon among journalists and academics in the age of the popularisation of Burning Man (I’ve been putting together an article on this that I will share at some point); and B) even worse, Gilbert thinks Burning Man is irrelevant because it failed to stage a socialist “transformation”. It’s a troubling proposition to argue that BM aught to be steered by a socialist agenda. I doubt Black Rock City would have come into being, or will have been crushed long ago, if it operated under a programmatical flag.

Downstream from all the many and continuing odds, we’re downstream from a successful nurturing of a participatory event model that has faced a multitude of adversities over its journey, typically countered with participant on-the-ground solutions. That Burning Man is not the arm of an external political party, or a machine running a party programme, is integral to its continuing success. The book is a bit long (now I can talk!) but Caveat Magister in The Scene that Became Cities gets to the nub of this - i.e. that BM’s potential lies in it not having a cause, a purpose. I think what remains central to the allure of this phenomenon is that it is a virtual enigma that is immune to efforts to classify, codify, and map it (and believe me I’ve tried!). The map is not the territory - a remarkable circumstance for a “city” surveyed and mapped in such minute detail.

As would I. Where’s the material? In terms of books, there really isn’t much around on the subject of BM and the internet AFAIK, though there is a labyrinth of blog entries and articles in Wired, Tech Crunch etc, all available at your finger tips. The material is in 1000 potential interviewees. It’s in a dusty city that seasonally rises and disappears. It’s in 100+ other communities that mirror and mutate the pattern. It’s in the book that you may need to exorcise from your system. And I’ll look forward to reading that. Get cracking!

This has nothing on BM, but you might want to check Fred Turner’s From Counterculture to Cyberculture , as BM is somewhere downstream from that trajectory, although it is not a super critical approach. He also later wrote the article:

Turner, Fred. 2009. “Burning Man at Google: A Cultural Infrastructure for New Media Production.” New Media and Society 11(1–2): 73–94.

Regarding BM and capitalism, you may have seen the discussion here on BM as “the new capitalism”.

According to PJ Rey, “the story of Burning Man isn’t a battle between capitalism (or the consumerism it encourages) and communism; instead, it is a story of the ritualized integration of market and commons. Burning Man demonstrates how market-driven consumption fuels a new commons and how this commons, in turn, creates new markets. It embodies what Virno called “the communism of capital.”

Another interesting passage: “It is unrealistic for anyone to expect Burning Man to exist outside of capitalism, but it is possible for Burners to participate in the economy in ways that are more socially-responsible and in ways that are less socially-responsible. If the Burning Man community truly wants to embody the progressive values of inclusivity, communalism, and civic responsibility, Burners need to start thinking seriously about issues of class and economic justice.”

And with that red muleta flashed, I dissolve back into the internets…

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