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: