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Thoughts from Burning Man: blog by Philip

Meade Paravane
Hedgehog
Join date: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 4,845
09-09-2009 13:18
Philip just blogged..

From: Philip Linden
I've just returned from Burning Man. For those who haven't heard of it, it's an unusual 'art festival' held yearly out in the Black Rock desert in Nevada. But that description really really doesn't do it justice. For one week, 50,000 people camp in a giant circle (about a mile across) and construct a virtual city - a strange and fascinating place which exists for no reason but pure art, and dissapears at the end of the week without a trace. Hearing about it, you'd think the feel of it would be either that of a strange art carnival and/or a big raver party, but neither would be accurate. The feeling of being there is quite remarkable and unique, and in many ways very similar to being in Second Life. In fact, there is actually a 'regional' Burning Man event called Burning Life which happens in Second Life that you can visit to get a better feeling for the experience.

It has been said that I was inspired to build Second Life when I first went to Burning Man in 1999 (the year I founded Linden Lab), but that isn't quite true. I had been thinking about building Second Life since I was in high school. When I got to Burning Man, I had long been obsessed with the idea of what a fascinating thing it would be to use computers to simulate reality - to basically build the worlds biggest Lego kit - one that would let you build a whole universe out of digital 'atoms'. But I hadn't really thought much about what the community and social experience of being in such a digital world would be, or what sort of things people would build and for what reasons. So when I pulled up in the middle of the night and passed through the gates into the city, I was blown away by the sudden realization that probably the world of Second Life would look and feel a lot like Burning Man:

Much like Second Life, Burning Man doesn't exist for any one specific reason. You don't have to go. There isn't any specific necessity or schedule - at it's base, the 'platform' of both is purposeless, which then enables the fantastic breadth of purpose that is seen in the things that are created.

Another similarity was this sign I saw at the entrance... it said "No Spectators". As a first time arrival, I didn't really know what to make of that message. It seemed kind of intimidating - I was somehow supposed to be a part of the art? In the words of one writer about Burning Man: "At Burning Man, you are the entertainment. BM is not something you 'check out.' It is something you help create." Sound familiar?

Finally, there is this feeling of being in a vast, hostile desert. The white sands of Black Rock are visible from space. Temperatures can move from the 40s to over 100, very fast. There are whiteout sandstorms (there were several this year!), and the wind can tear apart your camp and stop you in your tracks, hunkered down on the sandy playa. You have this tangible feeling of desperately needing the help of others to survive and to get your bearings, especially if it's your first time. It's hard to get started. You have to really want to be there, and you really need to find friends to make it. Sound familiar?

The end result is an amazing, breathtaking, transformative experience. Many of the things you find while wandering the playa look like builds lifted straight from Second Life. There are fantastic live music spaces filled with dancing avatars. Giant Robots. Fire, everywhere there is fire. Like Second Life, there is way too much to see it all.

I was struck by how although Burning Man has grown a lot over time, it's culture and appearance remains fairly constant. When I was there in '99 there were about 20,000 people, and now there are about 50,000. There are certainly changes, and there are both those who yearn for earlier days and those who are excited to see the evolution of it. This makes me think about Second Life as well. Presently, Second Life still isn't very accessible - most people still don't have the time to get over the steep learning curve and get to the amazing stuff inside. Similarly, the total number of people willing to drive 3 hours from Reno into the middle of a barren desert carrying a week's worth of drinking water and food is limited. I suspect that Burning Man won't grow much more, and frankly as a 'burner' (resident) that's fine with me. I like it just the way it is, and although I know it's selfish, I'd rather just have it stay the same. No more people.

But I think Second Life is different than Burning Man. To reach it's potential, it has to grow, probably more than 100 times larger than it is today. If all the people working on Second Life are right - if virtual reality really is the future of the internet and a big part of our collective human future, it's gotta get a lot bigger. Like I said recently at the SLCC conference, we should try and realize that we are working together on a small village that in a few years will be a gigantic metropolis. Everything will change, and needs to. Try not to cling too tightly to what we have now. The design, the UI, the orientation experience, the tools - all these need to change, a LOT, for Second Life to become accessible to hundreds of millions. Those changes are sometimes going to be disruptive and painful. Coming back from the desert heightened that feeling of empathy - in many ways I don't want Second Life to change either. It is magical, and it is cool to feel like you are one of the brave and visionary few who came early. But a bigger part of my heart wants to see it reach everyone, and so we must evolve. Onward!


Original, which contains a number of clicky links that I'm not going to try putting here in the forums: https://blogs.secondlife.com/community/features/blog/2009/09/09/thoughts-from-burning-man
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Shiloh Caeran
Registered User
Join date: 5 Oct 2009
Posts: 21
Yeah,..but,..
10-07-2009 18:09
I tried to post at the blog,but no go.
Thing is about this Burning Man,is the part about not being a spectator.If oyu need to be specially picked,and be prpevious volunteers,that really shrinks their populatiry scale.Also,whats wrong with checking something out first to see if it is for you?I'll pass.Im beginning to rethink my SL experience anyway,and Ive only been here two months.
I may go back to Morrowind.It doesnt cost a thing(other than the less than the initial $20.00 to buy it at the store,cheaper on ebay),even to build or own.Land is free there too.And,anything you can do on SL you can do in Morrowind,and much more.
Swythe Armistice
Registered User
Join date: 3 Dec 2005
Posts: 17
10-24-2009 04:29
Yeah, using SL as a medium of expression only goes so far.

Really Phil. Its just too expensive for regular people to just build for the sake of building and set up their build in a place they want.

Its still so much more easier and cheaper to setup a web site, you can do so for less then $100 a year. Even if you own the physical machine and place it in your basement.

You want SL to grow and be a medium of expression like no other? Make is cheaper (next to free), decentralize it, and above all else, keep the greedy governments off the grid.

Art for art sake, not for the sake of money.
Tegg Bode
FrootLoop Roo Overlord
Join date: 12 Jan 2007
Posts: 5,707
10-24-2009 05:33
From: Shiloh Caeran
I tried to post at the blog,but no go.
Thing is about this Burning Man,is the part about not being a spectator.If oyu need to be specially picked,and be prpevious volunteers,that really shrinks their populatiry scale.Also,whats wrong with checking something out first to see if it is for you?I'll pass.Im beginning to rethink my SL experience anyway,and Ive only been here two months.
I may go back to Morrowind.It doesnt cost a thing(other than the less than the initial $20.00 to buy it at the store,cheaper on ebay),even to build or own.Land is free there too.And,anything you can do on SL you can do in Morrowind,and much more.

Perhaps SL's version should be similar, 9 sims of medium sized say around 200 prims each set for sale to anyone, but no build may be bigger than one parcel or join a build in another parcel, just set to open building rights but no scripts running.
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