[Andrew Johnstone is an artist, muralist, 3D computer designer and enthusiastic geomapper. He was the creator of the first 3D fly-through simulation of Black Rock City (originally using Microsoft Flight Simulator software), and he crafts the 3D models of the Man and Man base found on the Burning Man website. He has been the Project Lead of the Burning Man Earth Project since its inception in 2005. This post is part of the Metropol Blog Series.]
In 2005, our city designer, Rod Garrett, saw Black Rock City as the perfect Petri dish for technological experiments in geographic data and digital inter-connection. He began to assemble an exceptional international team of creative innovators and programmers, and formed the Burning Man Earth Project.
This volunteer team designed mapping and communication tools to enable Burning Man attendees to better locate themselves and others within the city, to communicate within the area, and to access and contribute information about artworks and events. The project was aimed at providing a managed digital space to encompass all of the physical facets of the Burning Man experience, both in real-time functionality and as a permanent archive.
It was imagined that this work also had implications beyond the limits of Black Rock City. These tools of “where enabling” would have application for populations isolated by natural disasters, refugee camps, or other devastations. The remoteness of the Burning Man event provides an ideal opportunity to test and adapt our programming into proven solutions for disaster relief. And as it is completely open-sourced, others are able to use and build upon it.