Last weekend BMOrg hosted their Global Leadership Conference. We didn’t attend, but feel like we were there: thanks to an unprecedented social media blitz from BMOrg, spearheaded by their new blogger Jon Mitchell. He has added tweeting and the ability to take digital photos to their repertoire. More than 300 attendees – some invited for free, some paying $100 to attend as a “guest” – were encouraged to use the hashtag #bmglc14 to provide a “real-time” experience of being in the conference.
The conference featured both presenters and attendees who haven’t been to Burning Man before. In fact, going to Burning Man is no longer considered necessary to be
indoctrinated living your life by the Ten Principles. There were cocktail parties, sit-down dinners, entertainers, DJs, speeches, the works. I heard the party at the Crucible was a lot of fun.
Burning Man see themselves as pioneers of new economic models. The current trend of the “sharing economy” is something they’re all over: so much so, that in fact, all Ten Principles are now to do with the sharing economy (a term first introduced around 2007). The Minister of Propaganda went even further, saying “the sharing economy is the new morphine”. Because we all know morphine is a wonderful and desirable thing that should be shared widely.
One company held up to be a leader in the sharing economy is AirBnB. Instead of them, though, BMOrg chose to present the wisdom of Burner Casey Fenton from Couch Surfing – someone who has publicly said “I’m not interested in making money” while burning through $22 million of investor’s funds. Casey positioned his site as the high-brow, anti-capitalist solution to people’s social problems. He preferred the “gifting” and “sharing” side of the business, while AirBNB and Uber pursued the “ten billion dollars” strategy. This is the new hipster maths of San Francisco – “cool points” with BMOrg should be aspired towards, based on your free labors; if you get lucky and make billions, then please just donate and they’ll send you a scarf.
You want a better example of Burner innovation in the sharing economy? Try Travis Laurendine’s AirPnP.co, an app created during New Orleans Mardi Gras that lets people monetize their bathrooms. A perfect solution for those with spare dump-tank capacity in their RVs at Burning Man…
Let’s take a look at some of the leaders of our culture.Discussing the future of Burner culture, and how we are doing the impossible AND saving the world at the same time, is not all just sitting on your ass watching Powerpoints. They also have contortionists, clowns, and hula hoopers to entertain you. And, yoga in between sessions. There may have even been a break-out bike meeting.
The event was held in Burning Man’s new headquarters in the uber-hip Mission District. So hip, they couldn’t keep the lights on – the power went out at least twice. You would think that’s one thing they’d be guaranteed to get right, especially in their own building. 16% of attendees were from outside the United States, and the average number of burns across the attendees was 4.
Defaultia, also known as the “Default World”, or “Meatspace”…is no longer en vogue. It’s more politically correct these days to refer to it as the “playa-adjacent world”.
Here’s a round-up of some of the conference highlights, from Twitter:
“Burning Man didn’t change your life, it changed the path your life was on” – Marian Goodell
“It seems like only yesterday that we wanted to be a city, and now it seems other cities want to be us” – Stuart Mangrum. Wait – there are other cities that want to be Burning Man? Where? Let’s go! Sounds better than having to deal with hostile judges and sheriffs in remote Nevada.
“No longer just a party in the desert, Burning Man’s a global creative renaissance” – Rosie Lila, Event Co-ordinator
“Burning Man out in the world is turning from a noun into a verb. It’s a global social movement” – Bear Kittay, BMOrg Social Alchemist
“We don’t have media just talking about the debauchery and myths anymore. They are asking about our philosophy” – Will Chase, BMOrg Minister of Propaganda.
“We talk a lot about Radical Self-Expression, but not a lot about Radical Listening” – Tom Laporte
“Don’t make a tower out of the Ten Principles – we’ll burn it”
“When you promote a family friendly event, you can blast the burner party reputation” blast!
“Non-Burners at Burner parties need education about culture, ie not typical club behavior, respect of women, etc.” yeah good luck with that one. Burning Man is going to teach non-Burners respect of women at parties. OK, go! Please report back here with the results.
“The sharing economy is the new morphine” – Will Chase, BMOrg Minister of Propaganda
“Tax benefits for donating” – Harley Dubois, Burning Man Founder
“The only thing valuable in this marketplace will be a gift” – Larry Harvey
“After Cargo Cult, I decided I’ll no longer do themes that are self-explanatory” – Larry Harvey
“Every year I come up with an idea of a theme camp but no-one will help me. They’re all working on the Man” – Larry Harvey
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As was said, the more you know, the worse it is. I will say that this illustrated for me the several stone soup groups I am a (literal) dues-paying member of, and how to better appreciate our combined efforts. But these are in CONTRAST to the BOrg and their little “Amway convention” (stolen from a FB comment) event described here. No, the stone soup model is there, and has been for hundreds of years. It was not discovered by Larry and the BOrg. They just added the angle to: a) charge for the soup; and, b) keep anyone else for charging for anything, particularly the people who donated the ingredients.
Funny thing: I asked a forensic psychiatrist friend to look at Larry’s interview on Charlie Rose. Here is what she said:
“1st impression: cult leader type who wants to earn cash.. NPD manipulator, looks bizarre, liar which is too obvious reading from his neurolingustics/gestures/body language and pauses between words, prefronttal cortex needs a little more time to create a lie; fake smile, Machiavellian traits…”sense of mastery”?? Give me a break, who’s buying this???? All in all, hypocrisy on a lighter note. socioipath/snake in the suit.”
But she is just a professional witness, an MD who testifies in court on such things. I am sure she is out of tune with the nouveau Burner crowd and their “just enjoy the party” agenda.
Back in the 70’s, the redneck kids I partied with in a gravel pit with a keg of beer had more in common with the ten principles than this bunch of one percenters.
“Non-Burners at Burner parties need education about culture, ie not typical club behavior, respect of women, etc.” yeah good luck with that one.”
Indeed! laughed out loud at that! might just write Larry a letter about my last burn and the delightful experience of being grabbed and bitten – as in properly drawing blood painfully BITTEN – by a guy because I didn’t want to kiss him.
that’s never happened to me in a club….
wow thats scary! Did you report him?
A few things on the accuracy of the article.I won’t comment much on the spin , Yanno that’s what people do to collect views and pay the rent. Everyone has to make a living including e-rags. .RC’s did not have to pay. The power failures were caused by having 3 or more coffee pots plugged in on the same circuit. A single circuit failed at a separate venue. I certainly don’t take any entrepreneur’s word of what they experienced at BM as a model of their business ethics and morals. You go ahead . Try not to think of Google when you do, or look in the mirror. Tying them into something like air BnB is kind of stupid . They were not pitching new economy dependencies or structures on any one.What they are continuing to say is people deserve to make a living , not hoisted on the perception of what decommodification means inside the event. I expect them to exhibit that more in their volunteer structure at the event. Most of what the conference offers is tools for having a healthy community and event . Full disclosure , I attended the conference as a RC.
so your comment on the accuracy is : “it is accurate”. i have been to plenty of events before with more than 3 coffee pots where they kept the lights on. This is a sad indictment of Silicon Valley to the international and out-of-town attendees. I agree with you that their attempt to tie themselves to the sharing economy is stupid, and a smokescreen to obfuscate the true nature of their business model. When they say “people deserve to make a living”, I hope they are talking about artists and others in the global Burner ecosystem – not just their own cash-out. As to RCs having to pay, you say “they didn’t”, Havoc here says “they did”. I’m inclined to believe Havoc.
Upon the topic of the lights, Marian, as was tweeted during her talk, stated the building is to be turned into condos. If her talk was presented at BM HQ, they must locate yet another HQ. Upon the topic of ‘people deserve to make a living’, in addendum to the smokescreen rationale for their huge cash out, they might be dangling a carrot towards the RCs and regionals organizers, of receiving a stipend for their loyalty and labours. It might, perchance, mean a doubling of ticket prices for 2015 for attending Flipside, of which Clovis is associated, in due towards paying the stipend, but, perchance, more in due towards paying the license levy for the Burning Man(TM) trademarks from Decommodification LLC.
I did not say your article was accurate. What I did say is I would not comment on the spin. We were not in the dark ,lights were on , it was not at BMHQ, It was one circuit not a a complete power failure , 60% of your article was quoting their tweets. I am not sure you are the sharpest pencil in the pack , but I would be astonished if you did not quote them accurately. I take this site and “info wars ” in about the same vein. The truth is out there , way out there. I did just send an e-mail to a member of the board for flipside, saying we should consider raising the price for flipside tckets by at least 150%. After all I am going to double what I received from BMORG in wages , and also the fact we are going to double the amount we pay BMORG as well,. “Balanced Perspective “hinted that was coming .”Balanced Perspective” after all brings us their view much like a kindred media known for their “fair and balanced ” approach to the news. Tell me while we are on this info wars accuracy kick . Did you apply for a job in BMORG’s media dept. and were denied? Enguiring minds want to know. As far as Havoc’s interaction with BMORG I have this thing about posting what I know . I know they made it apparent RC’s did not have to pay a conference fee, I didn’t pay one, Havoc might have had a different experience than every RC that I know, that did not pay a conference fee. As for transpo and lodging , why would I expect community money to pay for me?
I note that “a balanced perspective” continues to pull income numbers out of somewhere. As for my remarks about flipside tickets doubling in price for some unknown fee,that was actually farcical in nature. Sarchasm= the gulf between those that use it and those that understand it.
So, cLovis, you now state that you were untruthful, what others would term a lie, when you stated, ‘I did just send an e-mail to a member of the board for flipside, saying we should consider raising the price for flipside tckets by at least 150%. After all I am going to double what I received from BMORG in wages , and also the fact we are going to double the amount we pay BMORG as well,.’
This is comprehended. Please disregard my comment above in response to these now admitted lies, I do not stand behind the comment, in due of it being an interpretation of his now admitted lies.
burnersxxx, I have never requested a moderation of comments prior, but his continuing ad hominem attacks, both upon your site under, by appearances, multiple names, and, by appearances, upon scribe’s recent article under a different name, which he believes are acceptable in due towards his putting a query mark upon them, in a fox news style, are beyond the pale, and would be subject to moderation upon most sites. Please, in addendum, delete my comment above.
deleted. I can’t tell whether when Clovis says “the site is inaccurate”, or “I would be astonished if you did not quote them accurately”, he is employing the sarchasm he speaks of. Or the spin he refers to. Either way, I find his manner of communication confusing – but hey, I’m not the sharpest pencil in the pack.
Clovis is obviously one of those ostriches who prefers to bury their head in the sand parroting “Alex Jones is a kook”, instead of doing his own research and waking up to what is going on around him. There’s a war on for your mind, if you want to be aware of it and choose for yourself which side you’re on, go to http://www.infowars.com – otherwise, stay ignorant, trust the government, trust CNN, trust BMOrg. Because you know they really, truly have your own best interests as their core motivation. [/sarchasm]
Much obliged again, burnersxxx. Brilliant sarcasm also. Most sites remove comments such as his, with the commenter often permitted to state his points in a proper, non ad hominem, manner. The second comment, if not the first comment, of this manner often results in removal of the commenter.
Ad hominem attacks define the acuser, not the accused. Leaving them up is often the best punishment, so long as the attacked or others do not reply in kind.
wow that sucks…… here i was thinking that they ran this shit on what was essentially ‘our’ dime (considering it’s a non-profit now.. that sense of ownership feels a bit larger than before) …and worse yet! they were charging people money to attend?! lame.
I know within the HQ these events are PR boons, they see these as a great opportunity to show how great they can be…spreading the brand throughout the world, making burner love for everyone! ..and some people love it. the 300 people attending that fancy dinner surely felt some appreciation…
…. but for the more cynical among us.. over the years it has been shown that the regional network ..and this conference.. are just a way to cozy up to the franchisees and the street team… to expand the brand and the value of that brand.. theyve shown that spreading ‘burner culture’ isn’t really desirable to them..
using these contract and non disclosure agreement bound people to expand the brand, the ‘gift economy’, the ‘sharing economy’, they claim to bring burning man to more people, allegedly spreading it throughout the world for the good of everyone, even claiming to be changing the world……… but when they do this they do this with various contracts and NDAs, taking the bite off of that very laudable sounding goal to spread burning man culture
but nobody is allowed to use this brand without permission.., this burning man thing is off limited without signed contracts sent to the LLC/non-profit.
if you arent one willing to attend the conference, if you dont want to sign on the dotted line, just what good is all of this spreading of the burning man ethos in practice?
if the burning man ethos, the brand, the event, the idea, is limited to those willing to enter into binding contractual agreements with the LLC/Non-profit what good is this so-called movement? and how is it truly a sharing economy, a gift economy, a new thing if the IP is bound so tightly in the grip of the same handful of people that still profit off of all of it?
this GLC probably would have been fun to attend, i love burning man shit, its cool…and taking part and feeling a part of it is great…… but all of the PR feels like justification of something that has been shown to be a load of crap along the lines of various multi level marketing companies
The history of couchsurfing is amazingly sad: After an amazing a great level of success, they sold out to the venture capital industry rather than try to build a long term independent project. The focus of the VCs was on growing quickly not matter the cost, which flooded the website of people that were not cool at all (e.g. would behave worse to hosts, and would be there mostly for the free couch). A lot of the people they brought were also guys just doing it to get laid. That made most of the previous users go away, and the new ones ended up not sticking out as much, so the website is pretty much failing (see e.g. the alexa rankings). On top of that, they also changed the website in a way that destroyed a lot of the local communities that had developed around couchsurfing.
See https://www.google.com/search?q=couchsurfing+fall for some good articles about this.
If that is the model BMOrg wants to take, then well, I am just hoping that the banner of transformational art festivals/gatherings/parties is taken by other people somewhere else in the world, hopefully with a less pretentious bent as well.
thanks for the comments. I know a lot about this story, more than I am going to write about here. I agree that it is a sad story of a startup with potential that failed based on a few poor decisions, and tensions between the founders and the board – one of thousands of such stories in the Valley. It is strange to me that Burning Man thinks this is an example of how their principles of “Gifting” and “Decommodification” can bring positive change in the playa-adjacent world.
Wouldn’t they be better to say “look at all these Burners having great success”, and hold up some more positive examples? Do they want to network successful Burners together, and share the knowledge amongst the network for the benefit of everyone? Or are they more interested in creating a network of also-rans and boot-lickers, making their own pyramid bigger?
$100 was the entry level fee. there were also $200 and $300 “guest” tickets. also, RCs had to pay.
What rubbish. The former BRC LLC owners are pocketing, by appearances, upon their statements and upon simple maths, $28 million to $45 million from their cash out, yet they require Burners whom have contributed mightily towards Burner culture and towards the Burning Man(TM) event, and even their regional coordinators, pay towards attending their conference. In addendum, did they pay peanuts towards lodging and flights?
Kudos to the awesome artists whom are to receive payment towards their art. How much is the Project to pay? Is the Project to pay a full commission for all expenses and for the considerable labours of the artists, or, is the Project to pay peanuts with promises of being of assistance towards additional fundraising? Are the contracts penned towards permitting Larry and company to place the art upon their planned Fly Ranch project, as opposed towards placing the art upon public squares?
A ‘gift economy’ functions solely when all buy into the concept. A ‘gift economy’ disintegrates with rapidity upon takers taking advantage of the givers, especially upon taking the amounts of $28 million to $45 million towards their pockets. As with the disintegration of communism, with the lords at the top becoming minted, while the commoners lived in near poverty, not caring to continue to give. What rationale behooves the givers to give upon these circumstances?
For details of their seven annum $28 million to $45 million cash out, please view my commentary upon the ‘Elon Musk: Burning Man IS Silicon Valley’ blog post by burnersxxx upon the next page of his blog. Much obliged, again, burnersxxx, for permitting open commentary. I would be very much obliged if anything may be proved incorrect, it would assist towards obtaining better maths upon their cash out.