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Mobile wireless computing at Burning Man

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09:14 AM ET (US)
Good article. I'm dealing with a few of these issues as well..

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08:16 PM ET (US)
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01:30 PM ET (US)
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05:26 PM ET (US)
> It's an event that's about immediacy and direct
> connection. Not mediated experience.

all experience is mediated. this is, of course, unless you know some way to turn off your brain....
02:40 AM ET (US)
I'm not sure that playing cards and anime screenings weren't worse distractions. A good game of bridge or a showing of "ghost in the shell" (a camp near ours was going through anime classics) could keep a person non-interactive far longer than the often disconnecting or very slow internet connections we had.

Beer, other drugs or sleep (too much or too little) also often made people less interesting, at times. Someone dancing all night to a dj spinning pre-recorded music in a 100 dB techno club isn't being terribly interactive by my arbitrary standards. That at any given time 1/2,000 of burningman is connecting off-playa seems fairly irrelevant, in comparison.

But why judge it at all? Just decide that there'll always be some percent of the art out there that doesn't do anything for you: simply appreciate that its doing something for its creators and not worry about it.

As to the non-art benefits: some people could not have come at all if they couldn't check back to the other side periodically. I'm glad they could come. Some people needed to send emails to connect with incoming friends or to have supplies brought in.

Worse yet, this year our camp also supplied SIP phone connections, providing not a few 'Trigger Happy' style "Hello! Hello! You'll never guess where I'm calling from... Burning Man! Not Burmingham, Burningman!..."

But the Spirit of Burning Man (tm) can and should survive touches with the (un)real world: how else can you learn to carry it home with you? For me the net was a necessary banality (I had to check email daily), but then at times so was eating (if I had to go back for food when I'd rather be elsewhere).
02:37 PM ET (US)
You misunderstand me. I'm all for technology at the event. I love seeing which tech is adopted by the community each year: EL wire, Luminex, the ongoing changes to the tesla coil crews who make improvements each year, the increasingly cool enhancements to fire tech that have made increasingly cool art.

 I think the motorola talkabout radio adoption that happened over the past few years is a good example. People brought them out to stay in contact. It added a LOT to the event. People were using them to hook up and coordinate their camp activities out on the open playa. In fact, there were a lot of cool unexpected things that came out of it. We ended up sharing our channel with the a tribe of "monkeys" called Malo Chango. We trash-talked each other all week, deliberately sending each other bad directions and adding a level of chaotic crosstalking entropy to each other's week. It was an unexpected and welcome thing. It connected us with a group that we didn't know and added a ton to our experience.

But I'm dying for examples of what makes the wireless network access interesting and what it brings to the community? How does it add to the burning man experiment and how did it improve the art and interactivity of the event. Can you give me any examples other than people checking their Hotmail accounts or blogging the event for the outside world?
Both of those things could have happened by putting an access point in media mecca and calling it a day.

I have no problem with your right to be there. I'd never suggest that you don't have a right to do whatever you want. But it's also my right to describe your project as dull or bad art and to avoid it until it gets more interesting.
10:01 PM ET (US)

I think your idea of Burning Man as being a non-techie event is both short sighted and unrealistic. Art comes in many different forms, and sometimes heavy engineering, and technology come into play. If you think that technology doesn't shape Burning Man, then you haven't gone. Applying things like temporary wireless networks to Burning Man only increases the ability for computer artists to participate in such a vibrant festival. Remember Burning Man is made up of a lot of different people. Even if you don't agree with what people like PlayaInfo, The Embassy, and I, it doesn't mean we don't have a right to be there. My intention is _not_ to just provide email access, but to push the limits of technology and art.

Overheard at my camp:
"A coworker of mine said 'A friend of mine told me he went to Burning Man and saw a guy sticking a carrot up his ass.', to which I replied 'Well I don't spend much time at Carrot-Up-The-Ass camp, so I wouldn't know.'"
spincyclePerson was signed in when posted
09:57 PM ET (US)
> bringing wireless networking to the playa is like
> bringing a Dish TV set-up so you can watch reality TV

umm...no, I think it's more like bringing a satellite dish to the playa. Sure, you could watch reality tv with it, but who's going to?

Folks, the Internet is just a connection. It's not spam, commercial websites, or a leash to the office. Those things can happen with the connection, but so can lots of other, cool things. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.
05:58 PM ET (US)
mark me down with the Ugh! folks.

This is an exercise in temporary community and radical self expression. It's an event that's about immediacy and direct connection. Not mediated experience. Bringing the net to the playa breaks something for me.

Compare it to the Playa Phone experiment which creates a surreal closed network of random encounters and a closed loop experience. Giving people net access just brings in the outside world in a way that doesn't add to the experiment.

I'm not a luddite about this but as it stands, bringing wireless networking to the playa is like bringing a Dish TV set-up so you can watch reality TV. What are you really bringing to the community? How are you encouraging people to interact with each other in a new and more direct way?

I just don't see the point.
craniacPerson was signed in when posted
08:26 AM ET (US)
I want to start a site called "Burning Man gone wild" showing pictures of sober college girls on the playa hurriedly covering themselves.
01:45 AM ET (US)

Thanks for posting a boingboing reader's project, even though promising not to do any more 'burning man' posts.

The Roam-Net Technomadic Trailer is not Burning Man centric, just it's birthplace and stomping grounds. Expect this to be evolving into a much more technomadic project, with serious art themes intermeshed with technology.

Being an avid reader of the list, I really hope to visit other events of bOINGbOING readers. With further collaboration within the community, I think we can do some really fun stuff.
10:18 PM ET (US)

The project has all the intentions of evolving into an SRL type installation. I do not think providing email access is anything near to my dream, just a very lowball goal. I would like to see the project be much more artistic, including doing things to actively fuck with the users. I'm looking to collaborate with other artists with a taste for fire and chaos.

For example, there was one art car (which was burned unfortunately) that spewed huge flames and had a faux machine gun that would fire continuely. Adding atmosphere is the next major milestone for the Technomadic Trailer.

Thanks for the feedback guys!
Alex SteffenPerson was signed in when posted
08:21 PM ET (US)
Of course, one could always just use the free postcards and messenger service provided by Black Rock Spatial Delivery, or the Karmic Delivery cards, or the Potsal service mailbox-to-mailbox delivery, or the message boards, or....

It's cool, and useful, but I too think part of the charm of the playa is it's immediate and non-utilitarian nature...

Good post though
Dav ColemanPerson was signed in when posted
06:48 PM ET (US)
I actively avoid computing technology when I'm on the playa (but I am sorry I didn't track you down last week, Nym...you know how it is). However it is really nice to have email/Internet available in an emergency, such as when my girlfriend left the bolts to my geodesic dome in the kitchen back home and had to contact people in our camp who hadn't left San Francisco yet to go get them. Someone at the Embassy let her use an Internet phone to make the call. (That turned out to be a false alarm though, we found the bolts submerged at the bottom of a cooler. She's scatterbrained, but she's cute)

My problem with the net access I've heard of on the playa is that it's too standard. Yeah, I know it's a feat to just get anything running in Black Rock City, but why bother if it's just a standard PC/keyboard/mouse set up? This is an exemplary city and calls for some serious creativity to even be average. If I see technology on the playa I want it to look like something from the MIT media lab or SRL. Otherwise it's no different the having a blender to make mixed drinks. I don't want to send email to Camp Arachnid, I'd rather send morse code that gets translated to ASCII on their LED display.
05:34 PM ET (US)
"... and I hope that Burning Man organizers consider teaming up with Tom and crew to expand it next year."

The problem I see with this isn't increased connectivity, it's the proposed involvement of the "Burning Man organizers". I'm sorry, but they are already involved in too many aspects of what goes on on the playa. They're great folks, and do a great job, but it's important to remember that their job is to handle the basic infrastructure, not to provide extended services and support to attendees. If someone wants to make something happen there, great - by all means, do it! But let's not turn the BM organization into a crutch or public utility.

Being on the playa is about self reliance and the D.I.Y. ethic.
pretentious purist
04:43 PM ET (US)
ugg... i liked how impossible it was to comunicate with the outside world at BM... what's the art in giving people email access? what next year, free satalite phones? fax machines, office cubicles? on the tech side of it, pretty impressive work.
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