One challenge of discussing the development of an organization with an “unusual” output (i.e., a week-long arts community devoted to countercultural principles) is having to explain what the organization produces. In conference presentations, publications, and even casual conversation, I always have to explain what Burning Man is about since my audience usually doesn’t know much, if anything, about the event. Even then audience members are mystified, “Burning what? They burn a person?!?”
The media has had similar difficulties. In earlier years, past media accounts tended to describe Burning Man with terms that public relations volunteers found undesirable or problematic – Woodstock, paganism, rave, etc.
In contrast, in recent years, Burning Man has assumed a level of taken-for-grantedness such that it no longer requires explanation or description. Imagine my surprise when reading a recent New Yorker article (“Lost” by Ian Parker) about the economic meltdown in Iceland. The article combined three words that I had never dreamed that I would see together in the same sentence: Burning Man and Tiananmen.