Spirit of the Burn

Amid the worry and scurry, hue and cry that has accompanied the transformation of Burning Life (an official Linden Lab mega-fest) into Burn2 (the extension of Burning Man into the metaverse) I will take the following position:

The transformation of Burning Life into Burn2 is a very good thing.

Aisling Easterwood and her Fire Skin

The question of course, is “a good thing for who?” Most commentary on this has been concerned with what the change signals from Linden Lab and how it affects hopeful residents who were eager to try for a parcel this fall. There hasn’t been a lot of discussion of what it means to Burning Man and the virtual burn itself.

Burning Man has a unique culture (and it is this culture that makes it very attractive to yours truly). Similar to SL itself, it’d be easy to focus on some of the more sensational sex, drugs and rock and roll aspects of Burning Man, but this would miss the point entirely (as it would in SL also).

The real coolness, the fierce core of burning culture, can be found in the Ten Principles. They lay out a vision of a community that is composed of creative, independent individuals who don’t hang on the sidelines. This culture invites you in and encourages you to express yourself. It celebrates generosity. It expects well being and responsibility.

Burning Life Needed to Change

There are two principles that are particularly germane in examining the BL to B2 transformation. First up is principle #3.

Decommodification. In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

Sponsorship comes with strings attached. Corporate logos next to a charity’s name on signs and Tshirts is bankable good-will and high quality public relations. The sponsorship is not extended altruistically. That’s why Burning Man has decommodification as a core value – to defend the idea that true gifting is unconditional and without thought of reward. But wait… let’s check out the header of the website for Burning Life, 2009… and ouch. Second Life logo, upper right – the price of corporate sponsorship.

Burning Life 2009 Website Header

That isn’t to say Linden Lab couldn’t have provided support for Burning Life if they wanted to. It’s just that such support should have been provided no strings attached, as is expected of all contributors to Burning Man.

Moving on to our next principle…

#4 – Radical Self-reliance. Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.

It’s really no surprise that Burning Life was huge (34 sims in 2009), with enormous participation from builders and artists and hordes of SL residents flocking to attend. I mean, it was FREE. It cost nothing to get there, nothing to build there, nothing to exhibit, nothing to perform, nothing to attend. Free. Free. Free.

TANSTAAFL. There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.
Robert Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Well, not really free – because it was a Linden Lab event, subject to their constraints (PG), rules (no megaprims) and oversight. Still, it was a pretty good deal – except it wasn’t really Burning Man, metaverse edition. It was SL Birthday, desert edition.

It’s not like Burning Man in the actual world is free. You pay to get in and you pay to exhibit. You pack your car / truck / trailer with desert camping gear, water, food, propane and enough sunscreen to drown an elephant. Add all the stuff you want to build with once you get there. You are expected to be entirely self sufficient in the heat and sand and pick it all up and take it out when you’re done.

That’s partly why the culture is what it is. You work hard to go to Burning Man. You invest in the event and you earn being there.

So, What’s Next?

If bigger is seen to be better, then Burn2 will be seen to be a huge step backward, at least in the short term. It seems reasonable to assume that many were participating in Burning Life because it was free and a short term hit can be expected.

On the other hand, Burning Man in the metaverse is now free of Linden Lab and Second Life. There is nothing to keep it from spreading out into Blue Mars, InWorldz, Rezzable, Reaction Grid or even Open Sim servers dedicated to the burn.

Achieving a truer reflection in the metaverse of actual burning culture necessarily requires an event that takes a bit more work and investment to make happen. If the birth of Burn2 ultimately results in the emergence of a more altruistic, more self-reliant virtual community, I will count it a tremendous advancement.

Second Life® is a trademark of Linden Research, Inc.
Burning Man is a trademark of Black Rock City LLC.
Raven Haalan is not a trademark of anyone at all.

Also posted at: ravenhaalan.com

23 comments

  1. A great perspective 🙂
    I would note that the entire Blue Mars grid is PG13 – which could put a crimp in a few people’s style!

  2. INDEED! It is no longer PG and you can use megas! yeehaw! i think the fact that Burn2 is directed by the actual Burning Man organization provides a credibility to the event that it didn’t otherwise have. Burning Life was a virtual Burning Man wannabe. Burn2 is a real virtual Burning Man.

  3. Ty for your comments. They mean a lot. 🙂

    @Fogwoman: Only a crimp in the non-PG style, but I can imagine a metaverse burn that spans many grids simultaneously.

    @Barb: I’m not sure I’ve clarified what is exactly going on – I wasn’t there for most of it, but I’ve hope for what will happen.

    @Wiz: As you said, yeehaw!

  4. High Raven

    The high mission of any art is, by its illusions, to foreshadow a higher universe reality, to crystallize the emotions of time into the thought of eternity.

    If Burn2 can deliver a higher universe reality we still have to see.. I truly hope so….. “the light of creation” is an inspiration to us all………and with app 75 days still to go i like to see some initiative action because “creation may to the unwise mind look as a miracle while in cosmic reality it is always well thought-out.

  5. Very neat, interesting post on Burning Life. 🙂

    Let’s hope Burn 2.0 event can deliver the same experiences as in previous years. It will be interesting what happens this year. 😀

    I heard there’s going to be less regions this year like 2-4 regions for the event. Hmm…

  6. Yes Daniel

    AS far as I know from post elsewhere there will be less sims/region.
    Also new group: BurningMan 2:0

    Why the name of group/event is gender orientated miss my mind.:-)
    So to counterbalance this seemingly confusion of cosmic consciousness i performed a show last3 years called Burning Woman.
    I suggest we rename the event: Cosmic Burners.
    Wonder what M2 Rau think of this…:-)

  7. @Daniel – The sim count will undoubtedly be reduced – I’ve not heard word on a final number, but I’m assuming under 10.

    This change really should have gone down much earlier to give the team time to prep for this year, but que sera sera – I won’t draw conclusions until after next year’s on how things will go, long term.

    @Yman – The event is actually called Burn2, which is gender neutral (they dropped the dot-oh, yay). Not sure about the difference in the group name (Burn2 taken?).

    I’m pretty sure references to “Man” in the context of Burning Man refer to the historical central figure of BM (who never seems to survive the fest, poor fellow), rather than implying favored status for one gender over another.

  8. OK, let’s think about the actuality of what will happen here. I doubt that there will be parcels available with 450 prims. This is the kind of resources needed by artists to make something that is not run of the mill. So that will not be
    there.

    If the prim limits are less than 200, you will have seriously impeded, less interesting builds. That is a fact.

    Fewer Sims mean fewer artists and builders will participate for whatever reasons. There is no getting around this.

    So you can talk all you want about how great it all is, but the fact of the matter is it will not be AS great as it would have been.

    And btw, I doubt that they will allow Megaprims in the builds because of lag reasons…. As I have never ever seen a large event in SL that did.

    I’m willing to concede that a more seriously dedicated smaller group of Burning Man people can potentially make it more social and focused on imitating Burning Man. But we have something here that has the potential to be less limiting than replicating a desert with stuff on it, let’s think about that.

    My two cents worth.

  9. Actually, Scarp, although Linden events do forbid the use of megaprims, other major events such as Relay for Life, with all its fantastic builds, accept them happily. And I believe you can use them at most of the Expos too.

    Of course, these events are pretty laggy … but then so are the Linden events too. The way that RFL worked to control lag this year was a good example of how things can be improved, without sacrificing megaprims.

  10. Interesting article- however maybe can you explain or clarify why the wife of one of the Burning Man founders, m2Danger Ranger Director of Genetic Programming at Burning Man, Dusty Linden now Udal, who is an ex linden (her contract was not renewed and Courtney Linden took the role of Linden Labs events manager in her place) – was in charge of Burning Life for the last 3years and was paid by Linden Labs to run this Burning Life event.

    Looking at the terms of Demodification:
    Decommodification. In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.
    Dusty was a fully paid and contacted employee of Linden Labs volunteering/working for Burning Man and wife of one of the Burning Man founders, namely Danger Ranger. Clearly the 10 principles of Burning Man were ignored by both Dusty and indeed Danger as the household flew the corporate Linden Labs sponsorship flag for so many paid years! With a logo included! So why now the U turn? Was it perhaps because Dusty was not given the events management job she had been doing for Linden Labs? I am speculating this is the outcome of being told Courtney Linden, as announced on various Second Life blogs, was to be running the Second Life event of Burning Life 2010.

    How odd ‘unmediated by commercial sponsorships’ apparently does not seem to apply here, and to Dusty – why not?

  11. @Mr. Orange – I can hardly comment on the ins and outs of that history, Dusty’s employment negotiations nor all the various motives and reactions of everyone who has ever applied for a job at Linden Lab or Burning Man.

    Certainly there have been many vying for position over the years, and no shortage or rocks and aspersions cast – but of course my post discussed the positive nature of the current change – which, imho, moves everything in the right direction.

    The Burning Man decommodification principle focuses on the use of brand associations and how they relate to the experience and deliberately removes the ‘clutter’ of endless advertisement and the false charity of sponsorship that besieges us today. Removal of the SL logo is a good step, and a necessary one, in upholding that.

    The Burning Man organization has full time, paid staff – as do churches, charities and hospitals. In my book, if some folks earn their living advancing a worthy cause, that doesn’t make the cause less worthy, or their dedication to the cause suspect. My personal interpretation of the principle is that it isn’t meant to address terms of employment with Burning Man and related activities at all. I certainly don’t assume that everyone associated with Burning Man should always work for free.

    (and of course, I have no current affiliation with BM, BL or B2 – so all of this is just my own opinion)

  12. @Scarp – there is no doubt that the event will be smaller, and that represents a loss.

    It is my feeling, however, that it does not reflect all that positively on the burn to be able to claim that, having offered everyone in SL free parcels, they were successfully filled.

    I’m still waiting on hearing how I might participate in B2 – and I’m willing to put some skin in the game and effort into that privilege. I suspect many of us are – and that the major limitation on the event this year is organizing time, given how late in the game this change came.

  13. @Wizard Gynoid not a Burning Man wannabee at all, as Dusty the wife of Danger Ranger who is a founder of Burning Man was running the event Burning Life for the last 3years under the name of Dusty Linden (now Udal)

  14. @Raven Haalan

    You should have made your non affiliation to anything BL, BM or Burn2 related clear at the start I think, I was under the impression that you spoke with authority and had a current official capacity within the Burn2 set up. So I assumed that you spoke with inside knowledge, which is a little misleading as you have no affiliation – I see from the comments that persons feel the same as me thinking you had accurate and up to date knowledge. When this is just a personal view from you.

    Correct me if I am wrong – you also keep implying that Burning Man is a charity. It isn’t. Burning Man also failed to get non profit status last year when it applied. This speaks volumes.

    Have you actually been to Burning Man? How did you find it compared to the Second Life event? Or maybe a regional burn?

    I did a little research and came up with this; Burning Life was initially given direct permission from Burning Man to host the event in Second life 7 years ago; Burning Life was also made an official regional burn in 2008 by Burning Man – http://burninglife.secondlife.com/press

    “This is the sixth year that Burning Life will be celebrated in Second Life, and this year, since many real-world burners are long-time participants in the Burning Life community, Danger Ranger has organized the first Burning Man Regional group in a virtual world.”—As announced by Burning Man, Sept. 19, 2008

    So it would again seem that the demodification principle was officially and publicly ignored by Burning Man – why take to long to remove Second Life sponsorship from Burning Life? And if Dusty had kept her job at Linden Labs would the Second Life sponsorship and use of the Second Life Logo within Burning Life still have continued I wonder. It seems to clash with the principles of Burning Man with Dusty being Dangers wife is all I am saying.

    Every time someone speaks about the reasons of change regarding Burning Life, Burn2 and Burning Man the information changes – this recent interview with Danger Ranger is different to what is being talked about on the grid. http://treet.tv/shows/metaverse-arts/episodes/mva-31jul10

    I also wonder why the Second Life group set up for Burn2 is called Burn 2.0 and a heap of websites have also sprung up with similar variations in name – it seems badly thought out and poorly organized at this stage. I wanted to know also why chat was disabled in the Burning Life group?
    Back to the 10 principles of Burning Man:

    Communal Effort
    Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.
    So why was this communication cut from the resident Second Life group? Interaction was totally stopped by disallowing chat in the group, and it’s still disabled – not within the spirit of the 10 principles at all imho. Participation was effectively stopped in its tracks, which is another corner stone of the Burning Man spirit. ‘’ Everyone is invited to play’’ ‘’our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic’’ Well apparently not within a virtual community 😦 It would appear than different principles apply here. If you can’t answer these questions maybe someone else reading it can.

    Burning Life and the Burning Man virtual event has taken place on the Second Life grid for the last 7 years – it’s important to remember the history and see how this event developed. Without the many resident volunteers to burnt the man all these years to keep its spirit living on the interwebs I see it as a step back having now only 2 Sims, with maybe a handful to follow. The Burning Man virtual team should be grateful for the base already provided from years of previous work donated by Second Life residents. Burn2 looks to be reinventing itself as a new project. Why is this?

    I did a little more digging and saw this recent twitter by Danger Ranger recently made this message on twitter, ‘’ danger_ranger: The spirit of BURN2: http://bit.ly/aBy24E Burning Man & the 10 principles enter the metaverse.’’
    This isn’t really true.

    The spirit has been here alive and kicking for the last 7 years!

  15. @MrOrange: My affiliations are clear enough for anyone who cares to stay current. You seem personally stung by all this… it’d be enlightening to all to have you come out of the shadows and declare your own history here, methinks. 🙂

    Thanks for your response. It’s such a wonderful world, with such a broad range of perceptions and ideas and impressions – and it was nice you shared yours.

  16. It is great that someone is bringing all these inconsistencies to light. It would also great to hear your thoughts on them Raven, rather than dodging the bullet completely with a slappy happy platitude.

    I don’t have any connection with Burn2/Man/Life any longer, but I am interested in the machinnations that appear to be taking place, and wonder what the future will be for this event. The history of the event from what I can tell appears to be in the process of some highly creative reimagining, and it is wrong for that to be done anywhere – and especially within the histpry of such a pivotal even such as Burning Life as it was.

    For the record, your post did imply that you had a connection, and it was as such, irresponsible to write in the tone that you did when you have no official affiliation with the event.

  17. To be honest, Toxic, I have read the post several times, and I never felt that Raven was claiming any official affiliation with Burning Man, Burning Life or Burn 2.0.

    I have my own take on Burn 2.0, which is not the same as Raven’s (and we’ve had several discussions on this). I’m happy to let people who are involved with Prim Perfect post and cross-post here to share their views, and will happily wade in …

    My own feeling is that Burning Life – like SL7B – pretty much guarantees an annual row over the limitations on the artistic content (Nipplegate! Child avatars! Nudity! Susa!) and that the Lindens, with other things on their minds, felt that mediating this (and taking the flak for it) had somewhat slipped down their list of priorities. Therefore they were more than willing to step back.

    I find the timing of their decision on this rather significant – it came shortly after the mass lay-offs and therefore could be seen as reflecting a change in priorities. It was rather ironic that with Philip announcing that the focus was now going to be firmly on the residents, the first thing that happened was the pulling back from a major resident festival.

    I can see the good things about this that Raven points out in his post from the perspective of the Burning Man philosophy and I think, for dedicated burners, it can be an exciting and empowering thing – as Raven argues; my concern is that the price to be paid for this may be a high one.

    I share with Scarp the concern that the severe restriction of sims could have a hugely detrimental affect on the event as a whole. My concern is that it could become elitist – or perhaps more elitist than it was; there were always reserved places of the playa – but there was previously a feeling that anyone could go in and create.

    To be honest, what is worrying me rather more is the fact that there seems to be an end to the renting of sims for community projects at low rates. Burn 2.0 is probably less affected by this than other events; they can move to OpenSim and revel in the freedom.

    But what about the events that are part of the lead up to Relay for Life, like the Clothing Fair, the Fantasy Fair, the Home and Garden Expo … ?

    If they are forced to pay the full rate next year, we could see a much bleaker grid.

  18. The burning spirit in me greets the loving spirit in you all.

    Your debate is fruitful and I appreciate the sober tone.
    As the last 2 years Burn stage manager i am wondering when M2Danger and his Burn2 crew begin preparation..

    From previously experience with live fire performers of many kinds , we all need time to design and organize.?

    Another issue is…how will they deal/select(chooose with the participants if sims are limit !

    Would like to see a sketch from the Burning Men of the desert

    With Light, Life and Love..the Burning Woman

    1. Afterthought…
      To clarify my position as Burn Stage manager…..

      I volunteered and was selected by the BM organizers.
      I was in charge of Burn stage in my capacity as a live fire performer with experience both from reality and virtuality (SL)
      I organized ,helped, collected and prepared all live fire performers for the Burn stage.

      I worked in cooperation with various organizers such as Dusty, Talia, Doc but I am not paid or affiliated with LL.

      I had since my first performence been advocating stage condition, fire decorations and other ideas to the Burning Man LL crew over the years and I guess this made me kind of qualified as Burn stage manager..

      With light, life and love Yman Juran

  19. Well, first I’d like to thank Raven for both his encouragement and belief in myself and my work, and his extraordinarily-beautiful Belltower of Privilege at Burn2.

    I’d also like to reply to Scarp, in that, as in real life, limitations exist in all artistic and creative mediums. Canvas size and weave is a limitation, as are the properties of one paint over another, or the inability to purchase the latest or expensive tools (like an airbrush). Van Gogh had to create his own paint because he was poor and couldn’t afford “store-bought paint”; I do not consider this limited Van Gogh in any way.

    Having a lot of RL experience with both Burning Man and many underground events, what can be done with paper tubes, paint, scavenged materials, older technology and no access to power or light has never limited me in any way; it has forced me to view materials and hard physical logistics as just another set of circumstancess to be overcome and transcended with creativity and imagination.

    My own build clocks in at 315 prims (on a limit of 351) in a 32x32m plot (and I indulged myself at the end; it was fairly complete at 292). Having build access to the sims, I have seen many wonderful builds (Nish Mip’s, AM Radio’s, Bryn Oh’s (who is not known for her miserly prim counts), Raven’s own build and many more who have taken these “limits” as just another physical material or circumstance to work with and have produced interesting, involving and incredible pieces.

    Many of the works comment either overtly or obliquely on the current situation in Second Life; I am not sure how much of that would have been possible with Linden sponsorship; probably not my own build.

    I’d also like to address Mr Orange; as someone who was at some of the earliest Burning Man events (as well as Moontribe and a dozen others in the mid- and late-90s) I’d say do some research into the festival yourself; try the word “Budweiser” for starters). And get off my playa.

    Lastly, Raven, you forgot to mention “toilet paper” in your logistics of the Black Rock Desert. I’ll tell you now, carting along 100 rolls of TP to the Playa will guarantee you bargaining power for almost anything else you might have forgotten or want 😀

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