AfrikaBurn 2024: 29 April to 5 May

Friends don’t let friends exploit our culture

Intro by The Tim
Words by Charlie Dolman

Our friends over at the big Black Rock in the desert face many of the same challenges we do. One of the challenges they are facing is that of commodification on Social Media.

You’ve seen it, we’ve seen it, and we’ve been working hard to keep it to a minimum. However, even if we employed a team of people who’s job it was to troll the internet looking for brands and “influencers” using imagery and content from our events to sell their lifestyle/clothing/hairstyles/biodegradable nipple pasties, we’d never be able to keep up. 

The trick i s:“Each One, Teach One”. Educate our community, and those who are fresh to our culture, and let them know how things work. No pitchforks, no feathers, no baseball bats, just good old-fashioned learning. And you know who needs to do it? You. 

Check out this email from the Desk of Charlie Dolman: 

Has this ever happened to you? You’ve just arrived home from BRC, you’re scrolling through Instagram, only to see people promoting their brands and clothing lines with pictures from the playa?Don’t be like this fool Doesn’t that break your heart a little?
It bums me out, too.

Burning Man truly is your opportunity to turn your phone off, take a break from promoting how great your life is, and “be here now.” If we’re not careful, Burning Man could end up like the rest of the world, where advertising is so pervasive it doesn’t always register when we’re being sold to. We may not even notice anymore, but in the default world we’re always someone’s “target market.”
Black Rock City is a city where you are valued based on how you contribute to the community, not for who you are, what you have or what you’re selling. That’s why Burning Man’s Principle of Decommodification is so important for us to uphold as a community.

How can you help?
Here’s what NOT to do:

  • DON’T photograph your product at Burning Man (not even your super-cool handmade festival belt)… not cool.
  • DON’T use Burning Man imagery to promote your personal (or your company, or another company’s) brand, service or product… ick.
  • DON’T commodify someone’s art or mutant vehicle by using it for selling or promoting something. Burning Man artists gift their work to citizens of Black Rock City… and they don’t appreciate being in your ad.
  • DJs: please DON’T use images or videos of your sets on playa — or the fact that you “played at Burning Man” — to promote your club gigs the rest of the year… just no.
  • DON’T film your music video here, either. Black Rock City isn’t an awesome backdrop, it’s an actual community… really.
  • Don’t even think of rolling up in an energy-drink-branded truck / car / bike / sampling vehicle… eye roll.
  • Lastly, DON’T post your Burning Man photos on any business-affiliated Instagram or Facebook page… just don’t.

The absence of commercialism allows us the rare opportunity to gift rather than sell, to receive rather than buy.

It allows us to try social currency instead of transactions.

A scene from They Live (1988)

Commercial sponsorships, advertising and transactions are not our way. Decommodification allows us to flip the default world’s capitalistic narrative, and instead focus on what really matters – creativity, connection, and sharing authentic experiences with each other.

Who are you and how will you act when you’re no longer bombarded by corporations trying to give you those answers, sell you their product, and your net worth or celeb status no longer gets you in the door? At Burning Man, you get to find out. But not unless we safeguard our community against exploitation.

Don’t forget to leave your logo’d clothes behind, too. If you must have words on your clothes, try stenciling some on with spray paint. It was good enough for the Sex Pistols! (Cover up those logos on rental vans and RVs too! But probably not with spray paint.)

And seriously, why would you want to waste time in Black Rock City on social media? Put your phone away, be present, and tell your friends all about it afterward!

Most importantly, DO enjoy and appreciate this rare place where you are not being sold to.

From the desk of Charlie Dolman

Remember that the Burning Man event starts in 20 days (26 August), and you’ll be able to see it all via their live stream, and listen to it all over Black Rock Information Radio.

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