Burning Man Corporate Controversy – Selling Out or Evolving?

bman.jpgThe bulk of San Francisco’s creative social scene revolves around the monumental once-a-year event known as Burning Man. This year, Burning Man will have a “Green” theme which expands their already strong environmental policies to try to become a closed-loop event. Nonetheless, there is also great controversy this year, as Burning Man will feature a “worlds fair of clean tech” wherein companies have been invited to show off their wares.
Since its inception has been explicitly non-commercial in spirit (commerce of most kinds is banned at the event, logos banished, and a ‘gift economy’ proclaimed) so the invitation to corporations has many long-time burners seeing red.
The fear is that this act will be quite literally a death blow for the event – that corporate interests are so inherently contradictory to the philosophy of Burning Man that they simply can’t co-exist. On the other hand, with a logo ban still in effect, and companies required to turn over their products to artists who will have free reign over how and where the items are displayed, perhaps it’s not that big a deal and it’s the corporations that will really be changing for the better – or, more specifically, ideas that will be changing and evolving for the better into new and different kinds of companies.
Here’s what Money Magazine says. and here are two discussions about it [1][2] that take a different view.

On another note, I think the Green Man theme is not without irony. Burning Man always had a “leave no trace” policy which is a very green philosophy, but at the same time, Burning Man is about indulgant celebration and the dramatic banishment of past troubles, and involves the burning of a huge amount of fossil fuels and other material… much like a Nascar event for a more erudite demographic. The point has never been conservation, but rather momentary excess, the temporary freedom to completely release one’s sensibilities, inhibitions, and cares. I think that’s a good thing, and it would be a shame to lose track of it.
Anyway, what do you think? Is this remotely a big deal at all? Are you a burner who’s also in business? Leave your thoughts in the comments…

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has since grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.