While I read this past week’s reading about Burning Man, I found the words both visually and academically intriguing. In particular, I was curious about the original formation of the “Burning Man” statue and what it really represents for the very eccentric and radical event.
In deciphering this figure’s significance, it became apparent to me that the power of visual presentations can reach the darkest depths of any individual. It is due to this fact that the Burning Man drew in a collection of interested individuals in the first place. ‘We were inspired by the sudden society of strangers we had created’ (Turner, 82) according to landscaper Larry Harvey, the creator of the original statue.
Turner’s entire interpretation of the Burning Man celebration of creativity and peer-production draws conclusions that lead me to understand the paradox behind Burning Man. The figure stands alone at the center of the vast location in the desert, as if it were representing corporate America that is responsible for destroying the “velvet goldmine” of a workplace: “a workplace in which the pursuit of self-fulfillment, reputation and community identity, of interpersonal relationships and intellectual pleasure, help to drive the production of new media goods” (Turner, 80).
At the same time, it seems that even a democratic society needs a focal point. It could be that the very idea behind this event is to diminish that focal point, and make the American workforce less centralized and more a distributed system.
That being said, Burning Man acts as an inspiration for allowing knowledge and creativity to thrive in a group network of individuals who all have an important contribution. “Black Rock City also serves as a massive example of the fusion of the social and the productive around which so much of their everyday employment is now organized” (Turner, 81). By replacing money with ideas, and therefore using stories as a form of currency, it provokes the same empowering experience for every individual. This type of system, like the internet, allows people to develop connections with others, learning about their experiences, and advancing their general understanding of the world beyond what they know.
Developing skills in this manner can help discourage the hierarchy of corporate America and insist upon the importance of expression. This type of production that has made the internet explode globally benefits world-wide awareness of the various opportunities in the workforce. It can truly alter one’s perspective on the world and their experiences in it. “Because they are explicitly removed from systems of market exchange, gifts can come back to participants not as money, but as reputation, artistic pleasure or friendship – or all three” (Turner, 77).
Turner, Fred. “Burning Man at Google: A Cultural Infrastructure for New Media Production.” New Media and Society. London: Sage, 2009.
Photo from Creative Commons.