Stanford University lecture on Burning Man and its ties to Google

Burner culture is certainly becoming bigger, better, badder, and broader. Burner Fred Turner, a cultural and literary historian and software engineer, gives us a lecture on what the Burning Man festival means in the tech world. How the lobby at Google had photos of people in loincloths twirling fire.

The culture of Burning Man constitutes a cultural infrastructure for a new way of manufacturing. The notion that culture should be infrastruture is a little bit new

Burning Man literally serves as a factory space for new products for Google

If you are interested in the aspect of Burning Man which is an idea factory for “commons based peer production” and “high tech art”, you will enjoy this.


I thought it was telling that he starts with the history of the military background behind the counter-cultural movement. If you’re interested to understand more about this, this 22-part series about Laurel Canyon’s role in the history of rock and roll is fascinating and informative. Until I read it, I had no idea that so many major 60’s figures had military backgrounds – like Jimi Hendrix and James Morrison. The thesis and the antithesis. Google provides internal training seminars for its staff on Burning Man, and in 1999 the entire company shut down so that they could go to Burning Man.

Personally, I suspect this talk is more of a recruiting pitch for Google, than a valuable contribution to academic discourse. However it does have relevance to the conversation about commercialization at Burning Man. BMOrg are definitely not as well operated and successful as Google, so when the lecturer tries to draw those comparisons, I raise an eyebrow. Like “you can bring your dog” is a “powerful manufacturing mode”. Dude, it’s Silicon Valley. Hipsters can bring their dog everywhere.

16 comments on “Stanford University lecture on Burning Man and its ties to Google

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