Cameras at Burning Man: Policies for the digital age

Burning Man is trying to  figure out how to respond to the revolution in digital photography.

Old timers will tell you that cameras weren’t much in evidence in the early years of the event. But now you can’t help but see cameras everywhere on the playa —  from cellphones and point-and-shoots to expensive and sophisticated digital recording equipment that produces everything from stunningly artistic imagery to high-res but low-rent voyeuristic crap.

And the places that those pictures wind up is changing, too. Burning Man has always said it was fine to share your pictures among your friends and family. But what are friends and family these days, when you might have 1,000 “friends” on Facebook, or thousands of visitors to your Flickr or YouTube sites?

What happens to the privacy rights of, say, a schoolteacher who enjoys the freedom and empowerment of the Critical Tits bike ride? Should she have to worry when she gets back from the desert that her picture will be easy to find on the internet?

Last week, the organization gathered photographers, videographers, artists, event leaders, legal experts, technologists and just plain good thinkers to explore the ramifications of the digital revolution. Are Burning Man’s policies and procedures still up to the task of protecting privacy, preventing commercialization while still  nurturing the creative image-making process?

The discussions were heartfelt, impassioned, informed and on the whole amazingly constructive.
Much more work remains to be done, and a team of people, including the communications department and legal team, are charged with turning the talk into action items.

Here is some of what was said, plus, if you’ll forgive the intrusion, a little of what I think:


The Street As An Urban Social Space

[Metropol contributor Steven Young received his Masters Degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania, where his studies included urban social spaces. He has recently earned his LEED GA certification, and works extensively in the San Francisco Bay Area. This post is part of the Metropol Blog Series.]

Great streets of the world have a few things in common: space, people to watch, and places to stop and rest. The resting is usually the best part since it almost always involves eating and drinking. Pedestrian streets in particular have a vibrancy that emanates from the interactions taking place between the occupants. Streets are connectors, not only between places but between people. It is where we meet and it is where we act out our lives as social beings and communities.

Esplinade de Espana, Alicante, Spain
Esplinade de Espana, Alicante, Spain

The Esplanade de Espana in Alicante, Spain is akin to Black Rock City’s Esplanade. Alicante’s esplanade is an expansive street that goes on for miles, where strolling masses emerge from the city’s interior to take in the wonders of their community. It is the face of the city at the edge of the sea, with dense development on one side and the Mediterranean on the other; and it is where the occupants of the city find their connectivity. The Bund in Shanghai is also exemplary of the cultural vibrancy of esplanade walkways. (more…)

FIGMENT: What are You Bringing?

Check out this short documentary about Figment in New York City.

For more information about the project visit:

Check out some of the key projects from last year’s FIGMENT event on Governors Island, like Douglas Hart’s  “Are You the One?,”  David Henry Brown, Jr.’s  “Human Weeble Wobble,”  Taylor Kuffner’s “Gamelatron”  inside Deborah Yoon’s  “HiveMind,”  and the FIGMENT Minigolf course… plus brief interviews with FIGMENT artists and organizers…

This video is directed by Justin Lange, and produced by Ashley Martinez.

Building The Infinitarium – Timelapse of BIG ART

If you have been following along the last few weeks you know that Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito have been awarded a [BM] Honarium for The Infinitarium.  Check out their progress!

This is what the videographer Tom Sepe has to say about it:

tomsepe — April 24, 2010 — I shot this timelapse this week at American Steel Studios in West Oakland, CA where we are building a OVERSIZED BOTANICAL WONDERLAND out of scrap steel. Here you can see us building the roots for a Giant Flower. Come get involved! Build Big Art! We need you! Free welding classes too! goto: for more info.