Google has bought fifty-one percent of iconic arts festival Burning Man. People are speculating whether the world’s biggest tech company can maintain the free-spirited ideals this event holds.
The Burning Man festival brings around 70 000 people every year due to its unique format of being run by its participants. The event, set in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, is a week-long experiment where its citizens control what happens. No musical acts are booked and there is no money exchanged – everything is to be created and brought by its goggle wearing, free spirited attendees.
The announcement that tech icon Google has bought the majority of the festival has surprised many supporters of Burning Man. The festival is against commodification and with such a large industry taking over, it’s important that the ten golden principles of Burning Man are kept intact, including ideals like radical inclusion and communal effort.
Burning Man has seen its fair share of tech heavy weights, with many notorious members of Silicon Valley attending regularly. Names like Elon Musk, Alexis Ohanian (chairman of Reddit) and even co-founders of Google Sergey Brin and Larry Page have danced their way across the Nevada desert. Brin and Page were such big supporters of the festival that they even chose their CEO Eric Schmidt, after being impressed by his survival in the Black Rock Desert, according to Mixmag.
People are speculating over Google’s role in the festival and wandering what they will bring to an already highly successful event. In an interview with Mixmag, Google’s chief of Fun and Games Division, Marcus Fooley, said they won’t make any major changes to the aesthetic of the event, but will incorporate an “onsite search engine where people can request amenities like food, water and glitter”.
Google’s announcement of its ownership has come at a time of conflict within the Burning Man community. CEO Marion Goodell has recently made a statement aiming to reduce the number of influencers onsite and to remove the luxury packages. Goodell made a statement on the Burning Man website, in which she slammed the way people were using the event to promote other brands and themselves, reinforcing one of the event’s ten principles: decommodification.
Burning Man is seen not so much as a festival but more of an experience created and built by its participants. The challenge will be for Google to replicate this through its new part ownership, and to sustain the ideals of the event’s 10 principles. With such an influential company such as Google, the sky, or should I say the Nevada desert, is the limit for the Burning Man experience.
Let us know what you think of Google’s decision to get involved with Burning Man Festival.