Oct 31st, 2018

What do we know about the impact of Burning Man?

Well well, after two months the dust has settled it´s time to ask: How was your burn and do you still feel it in your daily life? We at Burning Stories hope to hear about it!

We have very limited scientific understanding on the impact of Burning Man has to individuals, communities and to the society. We do know something, for example, on the transformational impact and the academic database gives further clues on what is happening.

Currently the most referred peer-reviewed evidence comes from a study that focused on the impact of Burning Man to the tech scene in Bay area. Turner, a professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University, studied Burning Man’s appeal within the tech industry for a quite some time. In his 2009 paper in New Media, Turner described how the event has become a key platform for ideation for the tech industries. The paper further argued that core elements of the Burning Man—participation, communal effort, and radical inclusion have driven the collaborative work culture celebrated within Silicon Valley tech firms.

The Burning question in this setting then is...why does Burning Man have a special appeal to techies? Turner has some views on this in an interview with Furity:

I think Burning Man is to the contemporary tech world what the Protestant church was to industrial manufacturers. In the industrial era, you might work in a factory six days a week. On the seventh, you would go to church. The bosses would sit up front, the middle management right behind them, and the workers would fill out the pews. The church itself was a model of the factory, transformed into a spiritual community.

Whether its spiritual community or a template to try out new, its equally exciting. For many, Burning Man provides a blank canvas to bring fullfillment to life, to explore something that you truly are. Turner continues:

At their day jobs, they are usually laboring to bring to life somebody else’s vision. But at Burning Man, they experience the kind of flow that is supposed to accompany engineering in the Valley on behalf of their own work. What they make in turn is high visible: Everybody sees everything on the playa, and celebrates what they like. In this way, Burning Man models the kind of project-centered, team-oriented manufacturing practices that drive Silicon Valley and at the same time reconfigures them as a collective spiritual exercise.When I was doing interviews at Burning Man with people who work in Silicon Valley, they would tell me that they work really hard in their companies but they are always fulfilling someone else’s vision. At Burning Man, they feel like they are fulfilling their own vision, which is beautiful for them.

Whether its fulfilling the persons´vision or going to spiritual event, Burning Man has as many unique stories as Black Rock City has inhabitants. To understand more on why people go to Burning Man and what is the impact, we would just love to hear your story and the ride!

Turner´s piece is worth reading. You can find the paper from here