Black Rock City - Burning Man

A Quantum Kaleidoscope: Burning Man Moves Online

Burning Man, the annual free-spirited celebration of self-expression, avant-garde culture, communal collaboration, and personal liberty will not convene in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada this year. Instead organizers are creating an online experience, the format and nature of which is still evolving.

The 9-day gathering debuted in San Francisco in 1986 and has occurred every year since. In 2019, some 80,000 “burners” came together to build, occupy, and enjoy the temporary metropolis known as Black Rock City. Many regard Burning Man as the most forward-thinking annual cultural event in the world. Public figures who have attended include tech titan Elon Musk, movie star Will Smith, hedge-fund manager and author Ray Dalio, supermodel Heidi Klum, Google co-founder Larry Page, rapper and entrepreneur Sean “Diddy” Combs, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg – among many others.

An Online Experiment

This year, organizers have declared that they will “build Black Rock City in the multiverse” – i.e. the celebration will take place via the internet. Although the concept is at the early stages of development, attendees will be able to participate and contribute to the community from their homes. Appropriately, the theme for this year’s Burning Man had already been established as “The Multiverse” – a celebration of alternative realities of sorts. Those who wish to get involved in any way can go here.

The 2020 Black Rock City event theme explores the quantum kaleidoscope of possibility, the infinite realities of the multiverse, and our own superpositioning as actors and observers in the cosmic cacophony of resonant strings. It’s an invitation to ponder the real, the surreal and the pataphysical, and a chance to encounter our alternate selves who may have followed, or are following, or will follow different decision-paths to divergent Black Rock City realities. Welcome to the Multiverse!

Stuart Mangrum, a pioneer member of the Burning Man community

Burning Man, like many nonprofits, is experiencing significant financial hardship at this time. To ensure future viability, the organizers have indicated that they will have to layoff staff, reduce pay, and take other steps to conserve funds. They are offering refunds to people who have purchased 2020 tickets, but they are asking those with means to consider donating the value of their purchased ticket. The organization already promotes several humanitarian, environmental, and educational ventures, including Burners Without Borders and Fly Ranch.

The 10 Principles

The Burning Man community’s ethos reflects ten principles:

  • radical inclusion: anyone can participate;
  • gifting: acts of giving should not require reciprocity;
  • decommodification: the culture resists commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising;
  • radical self-reliance: Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources;
  • communal effort: an emphasis on creative cooperation and collaboration;
  • civic responsibility: community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare;
  • radical self-expression: a respectful reflection of the unique gifts of the individual
  • leaving no trace: community members should clean up after themselves and leave places in a better state than when they found them.
  • participation: transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation;
  • immediacy: immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture.

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