Burning Man: IT on Fire
Like clockwork, it happens every year – same time, same place. Tens of thousands of loyal Burners and newbies (affectionately known as Virgins) flock to the dusty flats of Black Rock City, Nevada, just 16 miles northeast of the nearest town of Gerlach. The city is built in the span of a week and stands just as long. But, you may already know about it. So much has already been written about Burning Man: articles, books, and college theses. You may have even seen the recently released documentary film, Spark: A Burning Man Story.
My first journey to Burning Man was in 2009. The theme was Evolution and I had no idea what to expect. Like you, I heard the rumors of drugs, sex and dust. But the world I found was so much different than the folktales had told me. I completed my 4th Burn last month and no matter if there were hardships, struggles, drama -- the countdown begins from the moment it ends to the moment it begins anew. Every year I return 'home', I find myself in awe of the creativity, ingenuity and, sometimes, the undisputable genius that manages to triumph in the harshest of conditions.
The ancient lakebed, commonly known as The Playa, is an alkali desert formed of dust so fine that it is impossible to escape or clean away, try as you might. This year's event, Cargo Cult, seemed no different from my first -- except the city's population had grown from 40,000 to 68,000 in 5 years time. Just a week prior to opening day, the Playa was besieged with thunder and lightning storms that hindered build outs and threatened early setup crews.
So what can I possibly tell you that you don't already know? How about the technology behind the event and the fire? It's in the infrastructure and everyday operations, it's in the art, it's in the music and it's in the camps. Until I started seeking it out, I wasn't exactly sure of how far it reached. A section of the city is dedicated to techies (Silicon Village, of course), there is an independently organized TED event, and, yes, there is fire in IT, I found out. Lots of it.