chimerically: (Default)
[personal profile] chimerically

Burning Man 2008 costumes
Originally uploaded by morganya
Burning Man was, as I expected, intense. Not being much of a wild partier, I found some aspects somewhat unpleasant, particularly the incessant thumping music (especially bad right next to Center Camp, where we were staying -- though the music was much more diverse than the techno techno and more techno I had been led to expect!) and the hordes of obnoxious partygoers (often drunk and/or high) hollering stupid things, defacing things, pissing on the playa, littering, etc. (Ruth noted that this year, for the first time, there was more MOOP than she and Saryn could pick up on the way to the port-a-potties in the morning.) There were parts that didn't bother me, but didn't attract me either: the casual sex, the public nudity (I don't mind nudity per se but I didn't want to participate in the weird gender implications that I'll get into more later), the smoking and drugs. But there were aspects of the experience that were just incredible.

I knew I'd love the art, and indeed, it was mind-blowing to see (and interact with) it in person rather than just through photographs and videos, as I had in previous years. The general consensus seemed to be that there weren't as many really great art pieces but that there were more art cars this year than previously. But even so, this was my favorite part.

I was surprised (though perhaps I shouldn't have been, given all that I've heard) at the friendliness and openness of some of the people there: I have noticed that the friendliness that I grew up with and used to take for granted in Salt Lake City is often either absent or viewed with suspicion in the Bay Area, and I do miss it (though there are some reasons for it -- such as the cultural and religious homogeneity -- that I'm happy to be away from). I especially enjoyed interacting with camp-mates; even though a few members of the camp said that the group seemed less cohesive than in previous years, I really enjoyed getting to know such a diverse but consistently interesting group.

Finally, throughout my week at Burning Man, I was thinking about the interviews I did last spring on Second Life and on my research interests in the role of fantasy worlds in our lives more generally. Many at Burning Man, like in Second Life, seemed to like that there is some separation between that fantasy world and the "real" world. (Other online spaces, like Facebook, are much more contiguous with everyday life -- "online" is hardly monolithic.) And Burning Man, like Second Life and like the MUDs and MOOs so heavily researched in the 1990s, largely appeals to a fringe community (call them "early adopters" if you will, though the label isn't accurate). However, both also feel the stresses of becoming more mainstream, and there is discussion among "old-timers" about the changes. Both also reflect a certain idealization, and distortion, of societal norms and ideals. The "freedom" to create your own avatar in Second Life means you have the freedom to make her/him conform perfectly to social ideals (and the ostracism for "choosing" not to do so is surprisingly vehement and ubiquitous). The "freedom" at Burning Man to express sexuality or other aspects of one's personality generally not done elsewhere means that, for some, sexual stereotypes can be realized even more fully and publicly. There are other spaces, both online and off, that exhibit some of these characteristics, but I was especially struck with the similarities between these two. I'll be following up on the Second Life interviews soon, so expect more musings in that direction.

Overall, Burning Man felt very familiar. (I had even camped in the area before with parts of my mom's family, who are also known for their "radical self-expression," though not so much in technological terms. They were on my mind throughout the week.)

These last three weeks (the week-long Values in Design research workshop, the week of backpacking, and then Burning Man), though at times socially or emotionally exhausting, ultimately gave me the time, space, and mental quietness to reconsider my current direction in research and in life. I dragged my feet through the end of the OLPC research project because I had lost my sense of purpose in it, and for me, having a strong idea of why I'm doing what I'm doing, and why it's important to the world, is crucial for keeping my motivation. Now that I've finished up a solid first draft of the OLPC work and passed my Major Project, I'm at a good place to step back, consider my path, and make sure that who I am (and who I want to be) is clear in it. That's my goal for the next part of my life. In the last year and a half of my life (maybe even longer), I had lost my sense of who I was an what was important to me, and I had somehow lost faith in myself to be able to figure it out. But that is so far from the person I've always wanted to be, and the person I know I can be -- and I need to make sure to have enough time, space, and mental quietness in my day-to-day life to not lose myself again. Wish me luck.

Date: 2008-09-06 01:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rubrick.livejournal.com
Okay. Good luck!

P.S.: The costumes look fantastic.

Date: 2008-09-06 02:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] threadwalker.livejournal.com
Ditto on both! Wonderful dress! More pics please. :)

Date: 2008-09-06 02:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] owens888.livejournal.com
I look forward to reading your further thoughts on Burningman.

I am definitely one of those people who prefer keeping some space between my real and my online personas. I didn't quite realize how this separation mattered to me until the writer of a certain blog I liked and commented on frequently wrote me an email, thanked me for a loyal commenter, and offered to send me some books he had reviewed for the blog. Although it was a nice gesture, it really freaked me out. I accepted the offer because the author clearly meant well, but afterward I stopped being so willing to comment. The blogger had breached the symbolic wall between the real me, with a physical address, and my words on a blog, and in some odd way I felt less free to write what I wanted.

Date: 2008-09-06 05:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] paisleychick.livejournal.com
Looks like you had a good time. So glad for that!


[livejournal.com profile] owens888 ahh - see for me, it's completely different. I'm blmurch almost everywhere online - I'm actually thinking of changing my lj from paisleychick. I want control over my online personality. When people look me up online, I want to be in control over (as much as I can) about the results given. It also helps keep me in check commenting on sites because everything links back to paisleychick.org, so I'm very conscious about not getting into stupid flame wars, etc.

Date: 2008-09-06 01:30 pm (UTC)
ext_157608: (Default)
From: [identity profile] sfllaw.livejournal.com
That’s absolutely the right answer. If you don't express your real-life identity online, it’s only a matter of time before someone else does it for you.

And that person may not be nice enough to take it down, when you ask.

Profile

chimerically: (Default)
chimerically

January 2011

S M T W T F S
      1
2345678
91011 12131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031     

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 21st, 2017 12:20 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios