March 15th, 2013  |  Filed under Afield in the World

In defense of academia, and why it’s good for Burning Man

March 15th, 2013  |  Filed under Afield in the World

Albert Einstein and Kurt Godel – paragons of academia?

About 60 comments deep into my post about why Burning Man and academic culture are at odds, I realized that what started out as a provocation and reaction had turned into a relevant conversation … and that the comments section on a blog is a terrible place to have a relevant conversation.

There are worse places, but they’re filled with toxic fish.

So I invited anyone (especially academics) who disagreed with me to send me short essays expressing their disagreement, and said I’d post some on the Burning Blog in order to give their ideas a better hearing.

So far only one has responded:  Lans Ellison.  (That’s a pseudonym:  he asked that his real name not be used.  I am hardly in a position to object.)  Much in the same way that my opinions in no way represent those of Burning Man, Lans is only speaking for himself, etc. etc. (boilerplate, boilerplate).

His essay is below, unaltered.  I’ll include my own response to his ideas in the comments section, after some other people have had a chance to speak (if they’re inclined to).

Whether I’m right or wrong, I think this is a useful discussion to have – and I appreciate Lans stepping up to engage, along with all the commentators to the original post who made salient points.

If anyone else wants a more full opportunity to explain just how wrong I got it, and has points to make that are distinct from Lans’,  feel free to send me an email with an essay (keep it to 1200 words if you can), and if the subject hasn’t entirely burned itself out (pun intended?) I’ll post another one or two.

Caveat

————-

What is Academia? And why it is not a danger to burning man.

By Lans Ellion

Academia is a broad and ambiguous word. Many of us may view academia as a monolithic closed minded structure embodied by only a single viewpoint in life. However, like any human endeavor, academia is comprised a wide array of individuals with differing viewpoints and coming from many different life paths. The topics studied by academics range from the hard sciences of physics and chemistry to the softer subjects of philosophy, history, and anthropology.

In fact, we must wonder who in fact can be considered an academic. Does it require that one work in a University as a tenured professor or can we consider the armchair astronomer who spends his day in the factory and his nights peering through his telescope at the stars an academic as well? I would prefer to use a broader definition of academic to include all those who ponder the nature of our universe whether they perform the complex mathematics of quantum mechanics or ponder the history of an arrowhead found in the ground.

But despite my definition of academic to include all those with curiosity and hunger for learning about our world, I think the concerns many have with academia fall specifically on the structured system in place in our universities and other institutions of learning. Many fear that this system has created closed minds and has distanced these people so far from the real world that they no longer see the real world around them. This view is that academics are all mirror images of Spock from star trek, completely baffled by the human experience.

I reject that definition of academia. While a rare few academics may fit this Spock mold, academics as a whole represent a diverse group of humans just like burning man. Every academic is a human at heart filled with the same desires and emotions that we all have. The defining characteristic of academia that I see is curiosity and a passion for learning. In fact, rather than being closed minded I view academia as the most open minded institution humanity has yet created rivaling even the open mindedness of burning man.

Take Einstein, one of history’s most famous scientists as an example. For nearly 300 years before Einstein, the world of physics was dominated by Newton’s laws of motion. Under Newtonian physics the speed of time was a constant clock ticking away at the same rate for everything allowing us to calculate the motion of objects with simple formulas. Einstein, a young upstart physicist managed to uproot all of physics with a completely outlandish idea. Einstein proved that time is not constant, but in fact relative. He showed us that time passes at different rates dependent on the relative speed of objects and the amount of gravity that an object is subject to. This idea initially appeared insane to many because it contradicted years of scientific “truth.” But, when Einstein presented his evidence the open mindedness of science won the day as traditional scientists admitted they had been wrong. Later in his life Einstein himself was wrong. He spent his later career denying quantum mechanics but, when sufficient evidence finally came in even Einstein admitted that he had been wrong. Despite our view that academics are not accepting of new ideas, Einstein provides the perfect example of how academics are willing to accept new ideas when presented with strong evidence.

Often we view academia as closed minded because it disagrees with beliefs we may hold dear. In fact, academics may often discount or outright disagree with evidence that is very true to us. Thus, we call these academics close minded. But, we must remember when they are being close minded to our truths we are also being close minded to their viewpoints and truths in return. For us to disagree with academics we must deny their world view just as their disagreement requires their denial of our world view. We are no better than they; we just have different ways of viewing things.

Many of us view academia as being absolutely sure of itself and denying all other realities. This is not the case. Academics do not work in the world of black and white; they live in the reality of the grey. When you talk to a scientist you may notice that they use language differently than we do. If you ask a scientist whether global warming is real they don’t say “yes” they tell you “in light of our best evidence today, global warming is likely occurring.” This is because academics don’t believe in absolutes, they realize the world is a vastly complicated place and we will never have absolute knowledge, we can only accumulate better and better evidence.

That academics search for the best evidence is one of the reasons that many of us view academia as close minded. Things like peer review and rejection of implausible claims exist because academia has spent years studying these subjects and improving its techniques of study. We all have biases, and as the saying goes, the easiest person to fool is yourself. This is why academics follow rules for research. These rules are designed to filter out our personal biases and while they may seem overly restrictive to the layperson, they make sense in light of the history of academia. Rather than saying academics are close minded for denying the realities that we perceive, perhaps we should stop to ask why they deny our realities and we deny theirs. Academic study is born out of curiosity and passion for understanding and these are intelligent people who have dedicated their lives to study. Perhaps we should wonder whether their lifetime of study has given them a greater understanding of issues that we may not understand.

I do not believe academics “kill what they love” and I outright reject the idea that “academia tries to establish an empirical model of a phenomenon that limits what is possible in order to better define it.” Nor do I think academia tends to “deal badly with lived experiences on their own terms.” Academics are human beings like all of us and with a passion for knowledge. Academia may be only one way to understand the world, but that way does not kill what it loves, it only gives us a greater appreciation for the beauty of the world. I believe the academic process is beautiful and only increase our appreciation for the world around us. Thus, study of burning man will only help us to better appreciate its beauty.

In fact, if we look at the burning mind project which was criticized by Caveat Magister we can see the perfect example of academia adding to rather than subtracting from burning man. These academics saw success in burning man and wanted to find a way to bring that success outside of burning man and into the classroom. This started a dialogue that I believe has helped many come to a better understanding of burning man. Caveat pointed out flaws in their understanding and they responded with the open minded acceptance that they were wrong. This in itself is the perfect example of academic dialogue.

Burning man may be complex, have many different facets, and be composed of countless lived experiences. But academics are intelligent enough to understand this. They are not Spocks baffled by our human experiences, they are humans just like us and can use their humanity to try and better understand burning man. Academics may simplify burning man to define it because that is how we build understanding. Perhaps we may disagree with these academics “definition” of burning man. But you know what?  I disagree with some of my camp mates definition of burning man. Disagreement isn’t bad; it’s just a starting point for conversations that can lead to better understanding by all. That is how I see academia overall. I don’t see it as setting rules for the universe (or burners) to follow; I see it as starting a conversation about the world we see.

We may fear that academics will define burning man in some ridiculous way that leads others to view burning man the “wrong” way or that destroys the 10 principals. But if they do that, they are doing academics wrong and we can simply keep on burning to show them how wrong they are. Rather than rejecting academic study of burning man I say we welcome it with open arms and do our best to help their understanding. Let us be the subjects of their study because, in being subjects, they have given us permission to act upon them and influence their world view. They will be subjected to our reality, our lives, and our experiences. Hopefully we can change them and they can help us change the world to make it a better place. Let us open their minds and in turn perhaps they can also open ours.

I want to conclude not with my own words, but with the words of Richard Feynman, one of most famous physicists from the 20th century in the field of quantum mechanics. His passion for science defies the idea that academics are like Spock and that academic understanding harms what it studies. So if you have the time I highly recommend this video with Feynman’s words. He beautifully sums up exactly why I believe academics can only add to our understanding of the world and burning man.

 


56 Responses to “In defense of academia, and why it’s good for Burning Man”

  1. junebug Says:

    “Academic” is the PC term for “pseudo-intellectual” Everyone knows this, even the pseudo-intellectuals.

    Stop the mental masturbation. It’s just a party in the desert. It’s not special, it’s not even original.

    Remove head from ass.

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  2. Jared Says:

    I’ve engaged in this debate with a number of people. Without fail, the defenders of academia, including Lans, are ignorant or in denial of the model of science put forward by Thomas Kuhn in the Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Einstein was a revolutionary, not a good representative of the average academic. The average academic, concerned with tenure and professional reputation, will reinforce the groupthink of their discipline. Once a model of Burning Man has taken hold, it will be cited and reinforced, pushing out any alternate conceptions unless a once-in-an-eon revolution comes along.

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  3. MetaK Says:

    Kind of amused at the thought that people are worried that the academic’s definition of burning man is the one that will stick. As if THAT’s ever happened.

    As Lans points out, academics go for grey areas; precise but dry and inaccessible language; remote skepticism rather than fervent conviction – all of which make for incredibly sucky memes.

    If you’re worried about someone’s version becoming the version of record, I’d be looking at marketing, not anthropology.

    Oh, and the word “academician” has a very specific meaning – professional gatherers of knowledge who spend a lot of time testing their theories and are open to being wrong. Pseudo-intellectuals are the people who want to sound smart but are too lazy to bother with systematic reality-checking, then get butt-hurt when someone points out the inadequacies of their argument.

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  4. Peace Says:

    I’m not really concerned about them, but aren’t the 10 principles more of a threat to Burning Man’s spontaneous culture than the recorded observations of academics?

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  5. McDude Says:

    I appreciate the thoughtfulness of the discussion here. I feel like I have to add, though, that insofar as The Academy is a real and present threat to the experience of Burning Man, ignorant beer-swilling sexually-harassing frat boys looking for a party pose a threat ten thousand million billion times worse.

    We may, as a culture or tribe (or whatever sort of social entity you want to analogize us to, none quite fit IMO) encounter our fair share of Napoleon Changons, and they may cause some real damage, but I have to think that it pales in comparison to the threat posed by this very real (and very bloodthirsty) tribe-next-door.

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  6. Stu Sands Says:

    Without going back and reviewing the whole conversation, I offer the comment that the issue is one of being a participant vs. a spectator. And studying BMan, at the festival, seems to imply that one is a spectator, an observer.

    I think this is the sand in the vaseline.

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  7. Liz Says:

    Stu, I would offer that an academic is an observer, not a spectator. A spectator is one who offers nothing and takes away nothing. An academic observer watches, studies, and takes away their data. Their offering to the community comes in the form of their analysis. Plenty of people perform their main contributions off playa or pre-event. A more say hard-data example of this would be the official Burning Man census. No one would suggest that they are mere spectators. Same thing with photographers or videographers. Their form of art requires observing or “spectating” and I think most would agree that some spectacular work has come from these people. As much art as observation.

    As for “defining” Burning Man, as MetaK points out, academics are probably the least likely to determine that. It’s unlikely to become a big enough mainstream issue that academia will somehow come to some sort of scientific consensus. It’s just too nebulous and relatively unimportant for there to be a big enough body of work to have that happen. And even if it did, so what? As if a consensus in the social science community will somehow become the public definition? The public can’t even accept global warming, but they’re somehow going to grab onto the scientific definition of Burning Man.

    No. As MetaK points out, it’s the marketers who are the real danger. It’s not that they monetize the look and the culture, it’s that they simplify it. To see the BM-inspired ads, and music videos, Burning Man looks likes nothing more than a pretty person’s party in the desert. That “doing” Burning Man means showing up in hot pants and goggles and getting drunk or doing drugs. That is the real danger. That people like my fat ass will believe that definition and never off themselves to the community to learn different. Academia won’t simplify Burning Man. It’s rarely capable of simplifying anything.

    As with all the people and skills that find their way to the playa, it’s up to us to find a way to include it and accept it into our world. We’ve managed to accept and use the skills of welders, architects, mathematicians, chefs, lawyers, and artists. But somehow academics alone are unsuitable?

    It’s a big tent (or dome), everyone can fit.

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  8. Lans Ellion Says:

    @Jared, you are correct that I was ignorant of Thomas Kuhn’s writings. I did a quick overview of his work, and I might look into it more. However, I find that there is a high level of criticism of his ideas. Not to say he is wrong, just that his view isn’t the only one out there. From what I have read so far, I don’t entirely agree with what he is saying but that may change once I read more.

    I agree that academics can and often do reinforce group think, but there is also high pressure to think outside the box. As Einstein demonstrated, fame and glory in academics is earned not by supporting the current views but by proving current views wrong and starting a new paradigm. Thus every academic is attempting to find a new way to think about the world while every other academic is trying to prove them wrong. That is the great power behind academia, its ability to filter out bad ideas by debating new ideas. And as I was trying to demonstrate with the Einstein story, the majority of academia grew to accept Einstein’s ideas despite their revolutionary nature, a perfect example of the open minded nature of academia.

    Thanks, for the cite to Kuhn, I love finding new ideas to read about.

    @Stu Sands, interesting point. I would agree that an academic who does nothing but observe would just be a spectator. But, if we expand our definition of participating we could include academic study because study requires at least presence if not interaction to learn more. In another sense, writing about burning man afterwards is also participation. But, I feel like I’m just trying to justify their lack of participation. Someone who totally failed to participate and just observed is an interesting idea and although I personally believe it would add to the event I admit there are very good counterarguments to why it does not.

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  9. Jesus Says:

    Of course we should be Welcoming Academia to BRC!

    For many years, I’ve been happy with my short, sweet definition of BM.

    “BM is whatever you’re into.”

    No matter what that is, even if you don’t know what it is, you to a great extent are sure to a)show up and bring whatever you’re into to BRC, b)find what you’re into as you explore, and c)find yourself enchanted by stuff you discover and get into on-playa! Examples: From AA to THC, NRA to PLUR, EDM to JSB, FC to DPW, …

    Academia is no exception. If academia is not just your profession but your passion, if you come to BRC, academic pursuit will surely be part of your experience.

    I particularly enjoyed the good-natured ribbing ‘Lans’ provides in convincingly showing that we/burners/Caveat were “being close minded to [academia's] viewpoints and truths!”

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  10. christy k Says:

    lans
    your viewpoint is nostalgic, humble and downright pretty. for that, i love you. it’s the way Burning Man makes me feel.

    obviously our experiences are different as many things academic make me feel dismissive, egotistical and downright anxious.

    perhaps it is a difference of culture and environment (it sounds like you’re older than i am by a measurable degree) it would be nice to talk with you about all this and have a hug. maybe we’ll see each other at the burn.

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  11. Punxsutawney Phil Says:

    Yes, we didn’t go out there looking for principles. Freedom & good times I think. Those ten might have gotten introduced just as to what a good base would be to function at. 36,000 @TT. Maybe they were afraid for peoples lives and needed a little order. Just having those ten principles though, all tied up nice and tight like a hot dog package gives Academia plenty of food for thought. What if still no principles now?! Then what? These principles, nothing extraordinarily new to live your life by though. You probably we’re doing most of these principles already to some degree, before you went out there. But add the word ‘radical’ across your package and suddenly ‘Holy Fucking Hell!, We gotta do this shit right! On all levels! Stand back! Where’s my pen!’. Which is exactly what happens next. Somewhere on along the way maybe at an early age you were told/taught: express yourself dam it, don’t litter, civic laws or go to prison, a sense of bond/community, inclusion at most places as long you pay, having some level of self reliance, survival or participation, in spite of yourself. It happens. Although, decomodification, immediacy of participation & gifting. These seem to be most key. They are part of what make the ineffable-ness happen. It’s why when explaining BM to a virgin w/ a ticket. It always ends with “You just gonna have to wait and experience it for yourself.” The playa environment is in some ways is a real important backdrop that thrusts us together saying, “How can I help?’ Which makes us want to ‘be’ and help each other be creative and make it. When it’s written in the fashion of how things ‘need to be’ or ‘are’ and sent into the default world is irrelevant after living and being this. Especially, while it’s in such a constant flux year after year. By the time you get back home to write, your gonna hafta make a bunch of amendments. As Academia goes thru it’s processes to define/understand it as this or as that, even with good intent. Trying to come up with a description of ‘how to burn’ as a model, even if the description was relative and from an observer/studying/participate type view. It still feels like it waters it down and misses the mark. And a lot of the time, humans hate stuff that’s watered down. So, something else is needed to balance it out. Opposition. Expect it. It’s needed. Maybe through this, this can be fine tuned. Since everyone needs to go out there and do their own thing. To define this you can only go so far, even as a poet, then it’s just further description. I’m no Academician. I will predict though, that this ineffable-ness energy will continue to ‘BURN’. We just need a couple more people!

    Thermodynamics

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  12. Solitaire Says:

    I wanted to email this as an essay to be posted separately, as Caveat requested, but I can’t find his email address anywhere. So, posting here.

    —————————————————————-

    Caveat Magister’s blog post about the damage academics are doing to Burning Man contains a variety of objectionable elements, most of which have already been expressed in the comment thread. I am going to explain one that has gotten relatively little attention, but is, I think, the most important. It is this:

    The actions and attitudes Caveat Magister advocates conflict with the principles of radical inclusion and radical self-expression, and they would destroy some peoples’ experience of Burning Man.

    True to his name, Caveat Magister leads with a caveat: “We’re all welcome at Burning Man, and the work they [academics] do just as legitimate as whatever other crazy project someone wants to put in the middle of the desert.” Then he goes on to delegitimize them. He incites a campaign to “frustrate ‘academia’ every chance we get”. He says we should be “willing, and eager, to confuse, befuddle, and overwhelm the academic attempt to define Burning Man at every stage … from strenuously critiquing published accounts to refusing to respect data-gathering processes … and under no circumstances take academic studies too seriously”.

    He can’t have it both ways. Like the phrase “I’m not racist, but…”, Caveat’s caveat does not erase his prejudice. Rather, it shows he is aware that the things he is about to say are grossly intolerant. His intolerance has made me feel les welcome in what had become my home.

    In order to explain how, I need to unpack the word “academia”, because Caveat Magister’s use of the word obscures much of what he is actually arguing. Academia is, among other things, the structure that supports most modern scientific research. It is an imperfect structure, compromised by bureaucracy and competition for funding. However, this structure isn’t what Caveat Magister attacks. What he attacks is science.

    Science is the process of discovering things about the world by going out and investigating them. Human beings are mistake-prone and not very good at divorcing their preferences and biases from what is actually likely to be true, so modern scientific enterprise has tricks and systems to help. These systems include experiment blinding, data analysis techniques that help us make sense of what we are seeing, and the peer-review process that subjects every discovery to ruthless examination and critique. The core of scientific investigation is the concept of open-mindedness: the premise that you do not automatically know the answer; that you are looking at evidence as objectively as possible in order to find it out; and that if you are wrong, you will change your mind. It doesn’t always work out that way because scientists are human and it hurts to be wrong. But even when it is poorly applied, open-mindedness is accepted as a virtue that is fundamental to scientific inquiry. This makes science the best way we have of finding things out about our world.

    Scientific inquiry involves conducting studies, gathering data, and publishing accounts of the results – three things Caveat Magister specifically targets for attack. You can’t “frustrate” these activities without preventing people from conducting scientific research. Some may say that that’s okay, because Burning Man is not the place for scientific investigation. They would be mistaken, and, more importantly, their attitude harms people who feel that science is part of their Burning Man experience.

    I am such a person. Science is intrinsic to the way I think and approach the world. Every wonder I encounter inspires questions about how things work and musings on how those questions could be answered. When I come up with a way to find new answers that would rise from evidence and stand up to criticism, I feel like I have built myself wings. Science isn’t about creating limits. For me and for most scientists, the quest for understanding is a form of worship. It is about wonder and delight in the phenomena being investigated; in each new piece of the puzzle as it is revealed; at the enriched understanding that helps us make wise decisions and appreciate the details and patterns of our world.

    I am also a burner. Before burning man, I found refuge only in nature and saw humans as a pestilence. Burning Man opened my eyes to the beauty of humanity. In Black Rock City, I stood in jubilant awe of human love and creativity. I now see that beauty in humans everywhere. At Burning Man, I found my home for the first time.

    Burning Man is utterly beautiful and utterly fascinating. It is rich with unanswered questions and offers the chance for profound insights. The ones that most interest me deal with evolutionary psychology, and they would probably involve questionnaires and attempts to categorize and quantify data about subjective experiences. These are the very things so many of my fellow Burners seem to fear, for reasons that escape me. My research would not attempt to put anyone or anything in a box; it would, at most, reveal a hitherto unappreciated angle of some small part of what is going on. That would be my gift, the greatest gift I can conceive of to my fellow burners. My way of participating. My means of self-expression. My way of giving back.

    Not everyone would want to participate in my research or read my paper, just as not everyone wants to go through the Human Carcass Wash at Poly Paradise. That’s fine. Furthermore, Burning Man is a playful, irreverent place, and if some people treated my project in a playful, irreverent way, I would gladly laugh with them.

    I would not laugh with people who tried to compromise my data or treated my endeavors with hostility and contempt, as Caveat Magister seems to advocate. Such people would be tearing from me my sense of inclusion and my freedom of expression. They would tear away the very things that make Burning Man worth loving.

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  13. joe Says:

    The video at the end of Lars essay is gorgeous. I like the narator’s description of beauty from the perspective of a scientist.

    As in many discussions/arguments definitions and perspectives play a key role here. If one’s definition/perspective of an acedemic is anyone who loves to learn and acts on that love consistently then I think most burners would be considered an academic. However if one’s view of an acedemic is a crusty, tenured college professor who thinks he is better than most then well maybe not.

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  14. Solitaire Says:

    Joe, why do you assume that tenured professors would be “crusty”? Most are drawn to that profession because their love of learning is exceptionally strong. I am utterly bewildered by these stereotypes.

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  15. pineapple Says:

    Solitaire, your comment is fantastic!

    When I read Caveat’s piece or others like it — and sadly, this is not the first time I have encountered these attitudes among burners — what I hear is, in a nutshell, “Curiosity is wrong; I am afraid of your ideas; critical inquiry is a threat.” These are attitudes with which I am fundamentally at odds. I just don’t see any common ground from that starting place.

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  16. dirtwheel Says:

    “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

    John Muir

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  17. Caveat Magister Says:

    I’m a big fan of Richard Feynman, and I love the idea of academia that Lans envisions – it is a wonderful ideal.

    The reality, however, can very different. Feynman himself (in his biography “Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman,” among other places) raged again academic systems that knowingly use incorrect textbooks (either because it’s economically or politically easier), as well as PhD programs that encourage rote learning over critical understanding. Feynman never felt that academia was automatically immune to charges of hypocrisy, inadequacy, or just plain falling down on its face.

    He’s not alone.

    In a 2011 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education on “Avoiding the Hunker Down Mentality,”(http://chronicle.com/article/Avoiding-the-Hunker-Down/129642/) former Provost Gary Olson wrote:

    “At a professional meeting recently, I was chatting during a coffee break with a group of deans when the conversation turned to a subject they found troubling: departments that make bad, clearly inappropriate decisions and then defend those indefensible positions with vigor.”

    Wait … what? That’s not how the system’s supposed to work! Academics, according to Lans and others, is a system that admits its mistakes and moves towards the truth with the humility of vegan monks in the Peace Corps. So how can it happen that academic departments would not only make clearly bad decisions but then defend them to the death?

    It happens because the ideal of academic culture is only an ideal. Just as the ideal of democracy in America doesn’t mean Jim Crow never happened and voter suppression isn’t happening, the ideal of academic culture doesn’t necessarily resemble the reality. Yet it’s the reality, not the ideal, that we have to deal with.

    Many academics are indeed very open about the failings of academic culture. Their description of a conformist, agenda driven, academia is recognizable to most people who have worked the field.

    From a Chronicle of Higher Education discussion of the tenure system (http://chronicle.com/article/Reactions-Is-Tenure-a-Matter/64321/)

    Cristina Nehring, writer and Ph.D. candidate in English literature at the University of California at Los Angeles:

    “Today’s academic tenure process mostly rewards conformity over achievement, collegiality over originality, quantity over quality, and fashionability over utility or profundity. The paucity of positions in an increasingly overspecialized academic environment makes, moreover, for extremely slender job mobility; a given scholar may have only one or two positions nationwide a year for which she is truly qualified. Such hyperspecialization is a bane to public discourse as well to the general improvement of society by powerful minds.”

    Daniel W. Drezner, professor of international politics in the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University:

    “People who lament the peer pressure in American high schools have never matriculated for a Ph.D. Students enter doctoral programs for many different reasons—a love of learning, a fear of the “real world,” a desire to make a contribution to scholarship, an enthusiasm for teaching, or the misguided belief that academe provides a bounty of free time. People exit doctoral programs with a single goal—becoming a tenured professor at a research institution. Those heretics who stray from that goal risk becoming nonpersons in their fields.”

    KC Johnson, professor of history at Brooklyn College, City University of New York:

    “In theory, tenure serves to protect academic freedom. In practice, tenure too often functions as a club, utilized to condition untenured faculty members against challenging the status quo.”

    “Given the ideologically and pedagogically one-sided nature of most humanities and many social-science departments, an untenured professor would have to be naïve or foolish to dissent from her senior colleagues on a matter of substance. The risks—possibly alienating the tenured majority, thereby risking her career—far outweigh the rewards. But, as Alan Charles Kors has frequently observed, how likely is it that a professor who spent seven years practicing a go-along-to-get-along philosophy will suddenly, having received tenure, turn around and embrace the principles of academic freedom?”

    From an Australian article on whether academic culture is sustainable by professors Euan Ritchie and Joern Fischer(http://theconversation.edu.au/cracks-in-the-ivory-tower-is-academias-culture-sustainable-8294)

    “The “value” of universities and their employees is now measured by the number of papers and citations and the volume of grant income earned.

    In short: more is always better.

    To be clear, we are not for a second suggesting that we shouldn’t be rewarding our most productive, but the idea has become an ideology.”

    “So, who would choose academia? If you are interested in questioning the world, is academia really where you would seek a career these days?”

    “At present, academia’s cultural ills largely mirror, rather than transcend, the rest of society. An academia that joins the rat race for more (or even leads the charge) is poorly equipped to even know what the questions might be that are worth asking.”

    —–

    The point I’m making isn’t that academia is bad per see, or that there isn’t diversity within it. But it is a cultural institution, and like any cultural institution it has biases, blind spots, and agendas: some of which are quite common from university to university. It’s fair and reasonable to ask what they are and whether they have implications for the academic study of Burning Man – which I believe they do.

    As for the argument, advanced in the comments section by Solitaire that I’m anti-science … well, look … “science” is in the same boat as “academia”: flawless and superb in theory, but often downright appalling in practice.

    The scientific consensus for much of the last millennium was that people of color were mentally inferior. It was understood to be true by all the learned universities. Claiming otherwise could get you kicked out.

    The scientific consensus for the first half of the 20th century was that smoking was good for you. For a long time arguing otherwise (even though the evidence was all there) got you labeled a quack.

    The scientific mainstream (I won’t say consensus) for much of the second half of the 20th century was that marijuana was a fiendishly addictive “gateway drug” that caused crime.

    The mainstream scientific consensus used to be that comic books lead to juvenile delinquency, that fast music destroyed the nerves, and that women were emotional creatures largely incapable of rational though. All of this in direct contrast to observable fact.

    Is it anti-science to point these things out? No, of course not. It’s honest. It’s history. “Science,” like “Academia” is always a pure and driven search for truth in the abstract … but a value-laden endeavor full of cultural baggage and socio-political agendas in practice. It is capable of ignoring observable truths that don’t fit its theories de jeur, and often does (this was Thomas Kuhn’s point in a nutshell). This isn’t to discredit science so much as to say, look: it’s capable of making very big mistakes that it defends vigorously for a long time.

    The fact that they generally get corrected eventually is terrific (though hardly unique as its proponents claim), but enormous damage gets done in the meantime.

    I’d even go so far as to suggest that the science-of-the-time has been wrong, absurdly wrong, about every major counter-cultural movement in the 200 years. Many reputable scientists wrote very stupid things about abolitionists, suffrage, the Harlem Renaissance, the emergence of Jazz, the civil rights movement, and the 60s counter-culture.

    Burning Man, it seems to me, is exactly the sort of thing mainstream science has a track record of being very wrong about at the time. This doesn’t mean anyone should try to ban it or restrict it – but it also doesn’t mean one is “anti-science” to be concerned … and to want to do better.

    I welcome scientists and academics at Burning Man – I thought I’d made that clear – just as I welcome frat boys and yahoos and Christian missionaries. Everybody’s welcome, and everybody’s fair game to be fucked with.

    My point was never that academia (let alone science) is bad, it’s that Burning Man is exactly the kind of thing they have a bad track record of getting right while it’s happening, and maybe we can do better if we engage with it (in all senses) rather than sitting back and letting them make proclamations about what we’re “really” doing.

    My thanks to everyone who’s engaged on the topic. As always, everything I write represents only my own views.

    – Caveat

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  18. Peace Says:

    Caveat. Okay, I think I get your point. It seems to be, “There is coruption in the academic default world, so we should frustrat academics’ attempts to do their work at Burning Man. Well there is coruption in the art world, in the music scene, and in religion, so basically we should frustrait anyones attempt to bring art or music to Burning man, or have any kind of spiritual experience (that’s my thing). Among other things, Burning Man can, when approached sincerely, be a coruption filter. Rather than frustraiting academic work at Burning Man we should be supporting it the same way we support art and music for the sake of pure experience. Should we get rid of the Temple because some people might accedentally have a spiritual experience there and religion in the default world is sometimes corupt? Or should we encourage people to expand their consciousness in new ways. Burning Man should be a place where we get a break from the corruption that has crept into all our fields. It should be a place where we re-learn how to practice our vocations with integrety. If the academic world is indeed corrupt (and in places it may be) that is a threat to the future. If the world is to step back from the brink we find ourselves on, academics will have to be a big part of it, and I feel much better about the future knowing some of those academics have experienced and worked to understand Burning Man. we’ve all said while standing in the middle of the playa “if only the rest of the world were like this”. Well in order for the Burning man ‘ethos” to enter mass culture it has to be transmitted through art, through spirituality, and through academics. If you care about Burning Man, if you believe it’s more than just ‘a big party in the desert” you should support the work of academics.

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  19. Caveat Magister Says:

    @Peace

    It’s not “corruption,” so much as it’s in the nature of human institutions to have biases. All human systems do, and there’s no reason we should ignore them.

    Academia is distinct from the art scenes or the music scenes in that it makes claims to being authoritative on the nature of phenomenon, rather than just exhibiting preferences. That’s an important difference. Getting rid of the Temple because someone might have a “wrong” spiritual experience there is ludicrous; among other reasons because the temple makes no claims as to what a “right” or “wrong” spiritual experience is. It’s understood that your interpretation is just as valid as anyone else’s.

    Most forms of academic discourse, by contrast, are attempting to be authoritative: this is what happens, this is how it should be correctly understood. That’s part of the academic system: if something isn’t claiming to be authoritative in some way, it’s rarely published.

    Now tell me: if someone were to build a temple and say “there are only three ways of understanding or relating to this temple that are correct, and here’s what they are,” would we accept that, or would we mock it? Challenge it? Engage with it in 100 different ways that the authors never intended – and possibly even make the experience better for everyone by doing so?

    What I’m saying is: that’s what we should do with academia. Instead of sitting back and letting it make authoritative pronouncements about Burning Man, we can engage in 100 different ways that might or might not be “acceptable,” but that hopefully will make it a better experience for everyone.

    I say about academia, just as I say about the art scene, the music scene, the fashion scene, the architecture scene … and every other scene: we don’t have to take the system’s biases lying down. We can do better. That means more critical thought, and more art – not less.

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  20. Peace Says:

    Caveat said “Academia is distinct from the art scenes or the music scenes in that it makes claims to being authoritative on the nature of phenomenon, rather than just exhibiting preferences.”

    Now you are the one comming up with definitions and saying they apply to an entire disciplin. The academic articles I’ve read describe phenomena. They don’t make claims to ‘this is the only way this can be understood”, to the contray, they typically say “here is A way this phenomena can be understood, and here is why that could be important”.

    You are saying there is no value to academia looking at Burning Man based on your specific definition of what academia is. You actually advocate “monkeywrenching” academic study of Burning Man, thereby eliminating any possible chance academia might have of transfering valuable insights into Burning Man to the general population. In doing so you are reducing the positive impact Burning Man could have on the problems of the world. maybe that’s not important to you. if not, maybe you should just live and let live rather than try to destroy someone elses work you clearly don’t understand.

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  21. Caveat Magister Says:

    @Peace

    While there are exceptions (such as phenomenological research and qualitative methodology, as I mentioned in my original post), I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the vast majority of mainstream academic work makes a claim to having something authoritative to offer about the subject under discussion. Otherwise what’s the point?

    What good does it do to publish an article in the Harvard Law Review about what they law might or might not mean, it’s kind of up to you? What help is an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association about how a disease might or might not spread – it kinda depends on how you’re feeling about it? The whole reason that papers in sociology and psychology journals determine whether the affects they measure in their experiments exhibit statistical significance is that they want to say, definitively, that there is or is not an effect. Historians understandably grapple with a lot of ambiguity, but nevertheless try to come as close as possible to an authoritative understanding of historical events and people.

    The whole point of academia, its strength, is precisely that it is attempting to make meaningful claims about the world. Academic content that fails to do that is generally considered a failure by academics in the field. Of course there are exception, but I think it’s fair to say this is largely the nature of the beast.

    I’m not saying there’s no value to academic looking at Burning Man: I am saying that Burning Man is the kind of phenomenon that academia has typically handled very badly, because of its institutional and cultural biases. By all means: academia can study Burning Man. But we don’t have to honor their biases. Why would we?

    It’s important to remember that academia is not synonymous with critical thinking or intelligent questions or meaningful insights. It is possible to have all of these things outside of an academic context. To say “academia has historically handled phenomenon like Burning Man badly” is, in fact, an attempt to have just such a meaningful conversation.

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  22. Solitaire Says:

    Peace, I love your comments. Caveat: “…we can engage in 100 different ways that might or might not be “acceptable”…” You are still confusing descriptions of how things are with proclomations about how they should be. In any case, the rebellious creativity of interpretation that you descibe sounds like a fascinating thing to study. I look forward to seeing what you come up with, and I’ll join you when I’m not collecting data.

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  23. Caveat Magister Says:

    @Solitaire

    I think descriptions of how things are suspect in this context, and carry consequences. That said, I think your proposed course of action gets it about right. I’ll be happy to shake hands on that, and to say sincerely that I’ll read any study that comes out with genuine interest.

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  24. El Gallo Says:

    I agree in principle with Mr Elion’s position. But his is the classical interpretation of the role of academia- the one we all assumed was still in play.
    Unfortunately this has not been the case in the academy for at least the past 30 to 40 years.
    The current academy, and especially the sociology departments, are so heavily invested in Leftist political activism and their fascist agenda, that we must, unfortunately, be very careful about how the academy becomes involved with Burning Man.
    PC had no place in any free spirit endeavor. If one reads the opening literature in the Burning Minds website the collectivist agenda is startling. Even if they now back-peddle off of it, this is still a clear indication of the mentality that so permeates today’s academy. It would be wonderful if Burning Man were to change the academy. But it would be dreadful if it turns out to be the other way around. What I witnessed at the Ashram Galactica in 2010 was clearly a deliberate attempt to effect a change at Burning Man, a change that had the PC smell all over it. It was truly disheartening. I hope that by raising this issue and bringing to the surface, the attempt to PC Burning Man will result in a dismal failure.

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  25. D. Opinion Says:

    If they get off on studying shit I say go for it. I see it like an art project; if it’s corporate shitty art, we’re going to reject it; if it’s good, we’ll climb on it and talk about it for years.

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  26. Peace Says:

    @El Gallo, I’d be interested in what a Leftist leaning facist agenda would look like, condiering they are on the opposite ends of the political spectrum. I hear a lot of generalisations, but they tend to be, “someone said something I don’t like in 2008 and therefore academia sucks”. This sounds like paranoia, not reasoned debate. Ironically Caveat has presented his version of what academia is and will not let that opinion go, no matter what the argument against his opinion is, no matter what evidence is presented, no matter what value others demostrait in academia. He is doing exactly what he accuses academia of doing. Here’s an interesting phenomena recongnised byacademia…PROJECTION.

    @Caveat – You are entitled to your opinion, what you are not entitled to do is destroy other peoples work just because you don’t recognise the value in it. I’m happy to agree to disagree if you will simply disavow your earlier suggestion that Burners try to monkeywrench the work of academics at Burning Man.

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  27. joe Says:

    Don’t necessarily drink the Koolaide just because Einstein or Jesus or (fill in the blank) is giving it to you.

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  28. Lans Ellion Says:

    Caveat, I actually agree with a good portion of what you have said criticizing problems with academia. In fact, I often have raised some of those same criticisms myself and I have read many papers from academia criticizing problems within academia. But these are problems that exist just as they do in any institution. The great part about academia however, is that academia is a dynamic and learning institution that grows and slowly changes itself to fix its own internal biases. It is of course not perfect but it is our best attempt so far at systematically learning about our world.

    As you pointed out, academics held views in the past that seem absurd when viewed from our knowledge today. But, that is a sign of the success of academia, not a failure. It shows how over time academia corrects its own mistakes as we learn more. That is why we will never have perfect knowledge and never know everything. We can only collect better and better evidence. And you can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim academia doesn’t work because things like tenure prevent new ideas but then admit that academia has changed its opinion vastly on numerous topics (i.e. fast music, smoking, and comic books—though I am not convinced that there was ever academic consensus on these issues as you suggest).

    This doesn’t mean we should give up on academia or try to frustrate its work. We should instead try to improve it. Help it overcome the obstacles in the way of learning. Which is important because of the direct benefits on society that many aspects of academia can have. Academic research can help us decide what path to take with our world—especially important today with the numerous environmental crises we face. As we learn more we can use that knowledge for good or ill. But, if we don’t spend time learning then we are left with guessing being our only option. Academia is our formalized system of learning and although it has problems it has brought us a long way.

    And you limit yourself to pointing out failures of academia while ignoring its numerous successes. Academia may often fail, but it is also the system that has lead us to have the knowledge that we have today. Again, if we don’t have a system for learning then we are left guessing who is right. Even Thomas Kuhn and Feynman, who you quote, argued that one of the great strengths of academia was its resistance to change. Thomas Kuhn stated that the scientific system produced “the greatest and most original bursts of creativity” of any human enterprise. They both believed that our academic system was a strong tool for filtering out bad ideas from the good.

    Academics may try to be “authoritative” as you state, but not in the way that you state. If you read through academic literature a common trend is to find many studies or papers written that say “this paper is not conclusive on this issue and merely suggests a need for further research. Although we detected an effect, the results were not strong enough to warrant a conclusion on the issue.” So yes, the point of academia is to find out answers about our world, but it does so in terms of maybes and evidence not in absolutes.

    In a sense I feel like you are changing the goal posts slightly. As I understood your original point, you were arguing that we should frustrate academic attempts to understand burning man because it would limit burning man. You claim that academics have gotten nearly every counter-cultural movement in the past 200 years wrong. Honestly, I have no education on this issue so I would love to learn more about it if you have sources I could look at. But, I would also ask whether academia getting those movements wrong limited the movements in any manner. I would suspect that those movements went on just fine despite academic attempts to define them (of course since I have no education on this issue I could very well be wrong). This is exactly why I say we open academic study with open arms and do our best to educate academics and help them understand the movement. If we try to confuse academia about burning man then we will be the ones to blame when they get it wrong.

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  29. Lans Ellion Says:

    Jared, thanks again for the cite to Kuhn. In the past few days I have dove head first into his writings and had some of my previous ideas challenged and learned quite a bit. My initial disagreement arose out of my misunderstanding of what Kuhn was saying. Ironically, Kuhn admitted later in life that most people misunderstood his work and his position was actually far closer to his critics than to his supporters.

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  30. Peace Says:

    Lans – well said.

    I’m still hoping Caveat will disavow the idea of monkeywrenching academics at Burning Man.

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  31. JV Says:

    Caveat, it seems like you’re saying Burning Man is a unique and unclassifiable phenomenon beyond the reaches of mere academic observational powers. It sometimes feels that way, especially at around 1am on Thursday night in deep playa, but ultimately our little event is just another gathering of humans, one that is even particularly ripe for academic study. Will one academic be able to encapsulate all there is about Burning Man in one paper? Of course not. The only way to do that is to have every person who ever attended the event jot down some words about their experiences (and man, it sometimes seems like they have after spending a couple hours on the internet). But the urge to study Burning Man and come up with a few things to say about some aspects of it seems entirely valid to me. As does the attempts to fuck with that endeavor, the act of which, of course, is also well within the traditions of Burning Man and therefore, ripe for study.

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  32. Peace Says:

    @ JV – I don’t understand why attempts to fuck with academics endevor to study Burning Man would seem valid. It is not Burning man tradition to destroy someone’s art because it displeases you, why would it be cool to screw with someone else’s work?

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  33. JV Says:

    @Peace, good-natured pranksterism was pretty much the primary impulse behind the creation of Burning Man, and continues to be one of its most interesting and fruitful (and hilarious) forces. I’m not sure that Caveat is endorsing something like vandalism or physical intimidation against academics studying the event, just maybe messing with them a little. While I disagree with his opinion on the validity of academic study of Burning Man, I do support throwing a little good-natured chaos into the mix.

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  34. pineapple Says:

    As an academic (albeit, an ancient historian and therefore one who has not studied BM at all), it strikes me that fucking with data-collection is well within the culture of BM, and therefore a reasonable stance towards filling out academic surveys. Makes life a little more difficult for the researcher, but that strikes me as something that comes with the territory of studying this event.

    However, I think assimilating academic research to commercialism is really bizarre. Anti-commercialism is such a fundamental aspect of burner culture — do you really feel so strongly against academic knowledge-seeking, Caveat, that you perceive it to be as negative a social force in the default world as commercialism?
    If so, I have some specific questions for you:
    Are public universities as insidious as Walmart?
    Is the Ivy League the equivalent of the Fortune 500?
    Are faculty similar to banking CEOs and CFOs?
    Are students in universities similar to homeowners taken in by unethical mortgage companies or other exploitive big businesses?
    Should the Occupy Wall Street movement have been occupying university presses?
    Your proposed equivalence is very disturbing to me, and (if the response to your initial post is any indication) to scores of progressive faculty seeking to teach young people to think critically, to question authority, and to live authentically. These things are a great and strong tradition within academia. Yes, there may be corruption and hypocrisy within any institution — but that does not mean that the goals of trained intellect and critical inquiry should be shat upon.

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  35. Peace Says:

    Corrupting the data is not pranksterism. It destroys the validity of the study. It is much closer to vandalising someones art.

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  36. tiny bunny Says:

    What we really need at Burning Man are more camps with small stages with some pseudo-intellectual with a mic pretending to be Mr. TED. Pseudo-intellectualism is beyond annoying, self-righteous and pretentious.

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  37. Peace Says:

    @Tiny – Yeah the anti-intellectual movement in America has done so much to improve things.

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  38. Prince Neptune Says:

    @Peace. Please change your name. It doesn’t fit.

    Also, I would like to point out that Caveat does the most thorough job of citing sources to prove his argument of anyone else posting here. the self-proclaimed academics are citing personal experience and opinion.

    Just sayin. i think it’s funny. i doubt the experience of Burning Man will be altered by any academic influence though it is disheartening as a “burner” to think that future generations might define such an enoromously powerful event through “non-burner” lenses.

    honestly, i think that Burning Man’s limitless possibility is being narrowed consistently by people who have been attending for years. they have the right to it. academia doesn’t. but academics should study the shit out of it. things like this don’t happen often in the course of human events.

    - in the name of allah.

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  39. Peace Says:

    @ Prince

    First off, based on what I’ve said, I just don’t get your first comment.

    Secondly, all Caveat has done is sight a few study’s that support his position without answering the arguments against his position. What he is doing is just as anecdotal as anyone else.

    I’ve never said he couldn’t hold his position, I’ve simply asked that he stop advocating the destruction of other people’s work.

    Finally, we aren’t talking about some group of academics who are standing on-high observing Burners and making pronouncments, we are talking about Burners who happen to also be academics, who are practicing their disciplin at Burning Man.

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  40. Magpie Says:

    How can anyone in Academia even attend Burning Man given that it occurs precisely during the first week of Fall Semester for nearly every school? One missed class the first week means a drop from the course for students, and for Professors it would be unthinkable to miss class for Burning Man. The two are naturally divided. If you really care that someone in Academia got it wrong, write a thesis to disprove their thesis, defend it and become a Professor and teach a class on Burning Man. Then I will take your class since I can no longer attend Burning Man, because it falls on the first week of the Semester.

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  41. Pineapple Says:

    BM does fall the first week of classes for most institutions on the semester system. For my university, which is on the quarter system, classes don’t begin until late September (and end mid-June). Semesters are more common than quarters, but a number of universities do use the latter system. Also, I suppose any faculty member on sabbatical leave could attend.

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  42. Solitaire Says:

    JV, Peace, and others have discussed whether “fucking with data collection” should be acceptable at Burning Man. I think the answer is very clear: it’s fine so long as it isn’t going to compromise the results. An example of a harmless way of fucking with data collection would be to write ridiculous and obviously made-up survey answers. The researcher can simply leave obviously made-up answers out of the analysis. If they appreciate the irreverent spirit of Burning Man, they will probably even get a laugh out of it. It is NOT okay to enter false answers that are not obvious with the intention of skewing the results. It is the difference between slipping silly notes in someone’s toolbox and taking a machete to their half-finished sculpture.

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  43. Peace Says:

    @Solitaire

    Sure, that would (sort of) be fine. It would complicate random selection, but some accomidation needs to be made for fun.

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  44. JV Says:

    “It would complicate random selection, but some accomidation needs to be made for fun.”

    See, now you’re just proving Caveat’s point, ha. Giving totally false information to anyone aside from someone in genuine need of help and/or an emergency response person is damn near essential. Seriously.

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  45. dirtwheel Says:

    Skip ahead Brother. Next – ‘In defense of Irreverence, and why it good for Burning Man’

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  46. impboy Says:

    I have often considered festivals like Burning Man a vacation from the facts and a chance to explore your inner world as well as the imaginative world your fellow participants are creating alongside of you. There are many people – particularly New Agers – that are in the soup that harbor worldviews, such as antivaxer New Agers, that are utterly incompatible with the academics. Yet it’s not really BM’s job to discriminate. Back in the day, the OG burners looked askance at the dance camps and pushed them a mile out into the playa away from the main city, but they still let them in. So I’d argue that while there is an intellectual component to BM, it will never be able to tell the full story.

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  47. Freehand Drawing Says:

    Wow,

    This is by far the silliest heated debate via a combination about an innocuous, broad label for a type of person and an unknown range of activities by any number of people.

    Anybody that participates in any significant way I will celebrate on the playa.

    If you bring the pathology discrimination, please go back to civilization.

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  48. Peace Says:

    @ impboy and Freehand … Couldn’t agree more.

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  49. luke Says:

    I noticed that a lot of the language around science seemed to be treating the enterprise and those who participate as part of some large company, and all cooperating. Just like members of any community there are a lot of disagreements. Saying “science said XXX in the 20th century” isn’t very meaningful since there are lots of people involved in the scientific community and the existence of a bogus study, or 100, does not invalid the process itself. The whole point is to progress towards knowing more, and science is a fairly new enterprise. Additionally, reputable scientists don’t believe much of what they read in scientific journals. At least the scientific community does reevaluate, many communities do not. Check your stereotypes and do your research.

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  50. Caveat Magister Says:

    @Luke

    So does this mean it’s meaningless to say that there’s a scientific consensus around the existence of global warming? Or that there’s no such thing as a scientific consensus that evolution is a real phenomenon? Or that science has never definitively settled whether the Earth revolves around the Sun?

    Of course not. There is indeed a scientific consensus on all these things. Which isn’t to say that every scientist agrees, or that there aren’t aspects of it that are still being debated, or that new evidence might not come up some day forcing us to re-think these things.

    But broadly speaking a meaningful consensus does exist on these issues within the scientific community, just as it has around many other things past and present. Some turned out to be right, some turned out to be wrong as a result of massive cultural biases held by scientists and “science” as a cultural institution.

    The fact that science revises its opinions over time is one of its strengths – though not a unique one. Even the Catholic Church revises its doctrines over time and in the face of new evidence.

    But science absolutely does re-evaluate and improve, and often more quickly than other institutions: it’s just that it can be very resistant to ideas that it doesn’t have a clear place for in its current paradigm. (So, for example, the Atkins diet always worked, but most medical experts denied the evidence for decades; likewise autism was never caused by a lack of motherly tenderness, but psychiatry held on to that one for decades despite a complete lack of evidence.)

    Which is to say we’re not talking about a “bogus study” – we’re talking about blind spots and biases.

    As for the notion that “reputable scientists don’t believe much of what they read in scientific journals” … if that’s the case the system is far more broken than I’ve ever suggested. Which may be true – but is certainly not an argument for giving scientists (or academics) a special status or their work any particular respect.

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  51. Peace Says:

    First off – not sure I’d go along with the “eputable scientists don’t believe much of what they read in scientific journals.” I will say, many social scientists handle statistics poorly and statistics are used incorrectly in some journals.

    Caveat said “but is certainly not an argument for giving scientists (or academics) a special status or their work any particular respect.”

    1. Doesn’t any human being, attempting to understand something complex, deserve respect?

    2. Is believing someone should be able to practice they’re disciplin without it being vandalized by pransters, granting academics special status?

    After all the discussion that has taken place on this subject, do you still believe it is alriht, even desirable, to disrupt the work of academics at Burning Man? You’ve kinda gone quiet on that.

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  52. Freehand Drawing Says:

    Guys,

    Sorry I am late to class. Epic night on the Playa, hitched rides on about seven different art cars, danced/tranced for like six hours straight and yeah, great time. Who’s got some water and a handful of Advil? Sorry about all the dust; I was waaaaaay out there last night. Lost for like an hour trying to find the portajohns. Does anyone else’s feet hurt like hell?

    Is the lecture / debate today going to be all…….academic? It is? Again? Like the last four days?

    Do you guys mind if I just put my head down on the desk for just a few minutes and listen to the lecture about how when that one time cause yeah hgmf ……..augh…zzzzzzzzzzz.

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  53. Brm15 Says:

    Damn these people like to talk and talk…blahblahblahblahblah…come on we all know BM is full of geeks, academics, academicians, and more..blahblahblahblahblah…
    Go get your damn gear ready! The next Burn is coming up sooner than you can say mensa o en Español MENSOS!

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  54. Gary A Lucas Says:

    I’ve heard him speak several times, but I’d like to see Larry Harvey’s opinion of this and anything else he might wish to write about.

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  55. NAB Says:

    why homogeneity is not good for academia and feasibly the only real reason why academia could be bad for Burning Man:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/04/06/teachers-resignation-letter-my-profession-no-longer-exists/#.UWHeRKfBTPw.facebook

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  56. Peace Says:

    “Play is the highest form of research.”
    ― Albert Einstein

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