In 1999, Philip Linden went to Burning Man, and came back with new ideas for the virtual world he was planning. Among them was the idea that humans abhor a blank canvas and will compulsively create form to fill void. They will provide their own content and entertainment and create a whole city (or world) when they are given permission and tools to do so.
Humans will naturally form community when physical and emotional conditions are harsh and they are wrenched out of their usual comfort zone. Humans are resourceful. The fewer the tools that are available, the more creative and amusing are their solutions to problems of food, shelter, transportation, art, leisure and identity.
What happens at the real life Burning Man is quite phenomenal. This real-world city of 50,000, built entirely by its citizens, is 100 miles from the nearest source of supplies. Yet it has roads, street signs, an FAA-approved airport, a power grid, a hospital, huge public plazas, street lights, processions, rituals and spectacles. It has fabulous fashions, ridiculous situations and artworks so raw they are literally dangerous.
“No Spectators” is a common meme and in fact, passive consumption of amusement is pretty difficult in a Survival Camping environment such as this. You must bring with you everything you need to survive, since nothing is for sale and exchange of money is forbidden in Black Rock City.
Water, shelter, food— the hot tub, the 3-storey duck-shaped nightclub you designed, the fabulous sequined cocktail dress, the personal flame thrower— you need to bring it all with you! And people do. Many camps roll onto the playa with fully loaded 16-wheelers and hundreds of camp-mates anxious to get to work building their vision.
BUT – It’s all temporary. At the end of a week, much of the artwork is burned, and every last speck of what was brought there is taken away again, down to the last sequin, Leaving No Trace of the city that was just there. When the winter rains come, even the footprints will vanish.
Till next year….