Smart Phones on the Playa?

Jon Mitchell, who also writes for the official Burning Man blog, has published a piece titled The Social Network is All Around You -A Lesson from Burning Man. He raises an interesting issue:

Every year at Burning Man, I have the same argument. Someone plays the role of the starry-eyed futurist, someone else is the grizzly survivalist. The futurist says, “If only we had map and chat apps out here, we could meet everyone and see everything! It would be a utopia!” The survivalist says “Hell no. We come out here to get away from all that.” At Burning Man, as in everyday urban life, the answer lies somewhere in between.

I think what scares the grizzly survivalist (which was me this year) is the notion of burners walking around Black Rock City peering down their arms at the glow of a smartphone instead of looking around at the people and the spectacle. It’s already happening to some extent. Now that smartphones are many people’s primary camera, people have them out even without a data connection.

That’s bad enough. On Saturday night, when the Man burns, it’s hard to see the real thing through the forest of arms holding up phones and cameras in front of you. I understand why people want a document of this mind-blowing event, but how many (thousand) copies do we need? The grizzly survivalist worries about the spirit of those spectators who watch life through the screens rather than connecting directly through their optic nerves.

There are Burning Man-specific apps, like iBurn, but I have never seen the thing in use. Frankly, I hope I never do. Black Rock City is designed to be dead easy to navigate, and Burning Man is the best place in the world to ask for directions. It doesn’t even matter where somebody sends you; you’re going to like it.

[…read the rest of Jon’s article]

The original Wicker Man might be associated with the Luddite movement, but it goes way earlier than that. There’s no way we are going to be able to keep technology out of Burning Man. Our better hope is for Burning Man to inspire the technologies – seems like that is happening with Google Goggles, Sergei stopped by IDEATE wearing them.

Personally we think it’s great that Rockstar Librarian had an app this year, we used it all the time on the iPad to see who was on, where and when. And the BurnerMap is invaluable.

Will wearable personal tech like Google Goggles transform Burning Man?

7 comments on “Smart Phones on the Playa?

  1. Pingback: The Fishy Smell of Corporate Excess | Burners.Me Burning Man commentary blog

  2. While we’re at it maybe we could get some fast food joints and liquor stores setup as well and maybe a TV station or two. Why not incorporate as much of the ‘outside reality’ as possible?

    It used to be that BM was a temporary respite from the ‘real world’. However that’s no longer the trend. The growth of the event has reduced it to little more than a large scale party, for the most part divorced from whatever idealism the event presumably represented.

    In the future I predict Ferris Wheels, cotton candy, games of ‘chance’, however sufficiently equipped with a veneer of being cool and significant for the rampant egotists that think attending this event is further proof of their infinite coolness….

    What a pity.

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