Omar Lizardo talk at 4pm EDT at The City College of New York this Wed., April 4, 2012

Back in Feb., thanks to colleague Prof. Leslie Paik, the CCNY Dept. of Sociology was lucky to have UWI Prof. Alice Goffman present on her research on how Philadelphia inner city residents’ tenuous relations with the local police.

This Wed., April 4, 2012 from 4-5:30pm EDT, University of Notre Dame Prof. and orgtheorist Omar Lizardo will give a talk on his research, titled “Liking Things, Talking Culture, and Making Friends.”

This “talk will explore the links between cultural tastes and practices, conversational interaction and social network outcomes, paying special emphasis on how this research informs our thinking about the bases of social stratification in the contemporary context.”

The talk is in the Dominican Studies Institute Library, North Academic Center (NAC) 2/202 at 160 Convent Ave. NY, NY 10031. To enter the building, bring a valid id.

Download the flier here: Omar Lizardo Flyer-Final

How to virtually connect with other Burning Nerds

Originally, I compiled this info sheet for the 5th annual Burning Man Leadership Summit; others might find the below instructions useful for connecting with others interested in research on Burning Man.

I. Website (currently under construction – please note that listings are not comprehensive, nor are all listings peer-reviewed)
See what scholars and researchers have discovered about Burning Man:

Know of peer-reviewed publications related to Burning Man that should be listed or linked on this webpage? Email suggestions to academics [at] burningman [dot] com

II. Discussion list
Burning Nerds has a google group for those interested in reading, conducting, or writing research about Burning Man and its related worldwide culture. Stay updated on recent, relevant and ongoing research about our collective experience on the playa, plan meetups, events, and collaborations. Currently, message traffic ranges from zero to several messages a day.

Visit this group’s homepage:
Email this group: burning-nerds [at] googlegroups [period] com
Subscribe to this group:

How to subscribe to a google group (note: you do not need a google gmail account)
“You can subscribe to a group through our web interface or via email. To subscribe to a group through our web interface, simply log in to your Google Account and visit the group of your choice. Then click the “Join this group” link on the right-hand side of the page under “About this group.” To subscribe to a group via email, send an email to [Groupname] For example, if you wanted to join a group called google-friends, you’d send an email to”

How to manage messages or unsubscribe:
Rather than receiving individual emails, you can elect to have daily summaries/digest sent to you. Or, you can just read the conversations on the web. If you are already subscribed to the list, you can change your settings by logging into your google account and clicking on “Edit my membership.”
Here are your options:
“How do you want to read this group?
• No Email: I will read this group on the web
• Abridged Email (Once per day or for every 100 messages): Get a summary of new activity each day
• Digest Email (Approximately 1 email per day): Get up to 25 full new messages bundled into a single email
• Email: Send each message to me as it arrives”
After selecting the option you want, click “Save these settings.”
If you wish to unsubscribe, click the “unsubscribe.”

Full disclosure: At the Burning Man organization’s request, I am co-moderating the Burning Nerds google group along with Burning Man staff Rosalie Fay Barnes and Andie Grace.

Burning Man organization headquarters moving to downtown San Francisco

Last Friday, during the Convectional Caucus, Burning Man co-founder and Executive Director Larry Harvey announced several changes to the Burning Man organization’s structure. One of these changes includes moving Burning Man’s headquarters to 6th and Market in downtown San Francisco. Eric Mar, from the SF Board of Supervisors, noted Harvey’s quote in the San Francisco Chronicle‘s coverage of this anticipated relocation: “Burning Man believes in urban revitalization,” Harvey said. “After all, we build an entire metropolis every year in the desert.”

SF denizens know that 6th St. has had a distinctive atmosphere, populated by those who are down-and-out and visited by downtown workers on their lunch break and the occasional tourist. Years ago, on a hot summer day, I waited for a friend outside Tu Lan, a Vietnamese restaurant on 6th St. To my puzzlement, a parade of passers-by greeted and addressed me, an unusual activity for urban dwellers who are known to mind their own business. One man exclaimed, “you know why everyone’s talking to you? We rarely see someone like you here.” Although I have never figured out what “like you” meant (my age? ethnicity? gender? my profession? all of the above?), his comment underscored how segregated neighborhoods can diminish opportunities and interactions across socioeconomic strata and racial/ethnic groups. It’s possible that groups like Burning Man could directly and indirectly foster some of these connections.

Interested in reading research about the effects of segregated neighborhoods? Start with: Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton’s American Apartheid, William J. Wilson’s The Truly Disadvantaged, and Katherine Newman’s No Shame in My Game.

Burning Nerds at the 5th Annual Regional Network Leadership Summit

I will be in San Francisco and co-representing Burning Nerds (aka Burning Academics) at the 5th Annual Regional Network Leadership Summit this Fri., April 1, 2011. This event is free but private – an advance RSVP is necessary. For more information, click here. If you’re attending, come over and say hi!

Flipit from Chicago was nice enough to design this image for Burning Nerds:

Don’t know what a regional is? Find out here.

For regional representatives on Sat. morning, April 2nd, I will be facilitating a workshop on “Charismatizing the Routine at Burning Man and Regional Events: Making the Mundane More
Meaningful through Storytelling, Rituals, and Other Activities.”

You can see Burning Man’s blog post about last year’s regional summit here.

The meaning of money in relationships, as explained by sociologist Viviana Zelizer

As some people know, Burning Man has a gift economy. The only cash transactions possible during the event are purchasing coffee/tea at the Central Camp Cafe and ice to cool drinks and to keep the food in coolers from spoiling.

While some may believe that cash transactions lack meaning or emotion, one sociologist has devoted her career to disputing that division with historical evidence. In today’s NYTimes, sociologist Viviana Zelizer has an op-ed about the evolution of cash as a gift. Zelizer has written several academic press books about people’s complicated relationship with money. She shows how people have infused cash transactions among loved ones with meaning and emotion. For example, her book Pricing the Priceless Child (1994, Princeton University Press) shows how once economically “useless” children became “priceless” by tracing the development of life insurance. The Purchase of Intimacy (2005, Princeton University Press) examines the intertwining of familial and romantic relationships with money. You can hear a podcast about that particular book here.

Comparative article on Burning Man and open source projects now available

The folks at Emerald gave me permission to post a PDF of my 2009 Research in the Sociology of Organizations article “Differentiating Organizational Boundaries” on my personal website here. Click the name of the article to download the PDF, or click the name of the journal to learn more about the other articles. For those of you who are not familiar with RSO, it’s a specialty journal that features cutting edge research on organizations. This paper, which I co-authored with Siobhan O’Mahony, was chosen as Outstanding Author Contribution Award Winner at the Literati Network Awards for Excellence 2010.

Academic meet and greet Fri., Sept. 3, 2010 at Burning Man

The latest Jack Rabbit Speaks, the official email newsletter for Burning Man, has the following announcement:


Have you published an article about Burning Man? Written a book on BRC? Do you teach at a university or are you enrolled in an advanced degree/phD program? Do you have a subscription to academic libraries?

In short…are you a Burning Nerd? We want to meet you! Join us for a small cocktail meet and greet in BRC. Friday, 2:30-5 PM (location TBA). Meet members of the Burning Man organizing staff and mingle with other academics studying Burning Man from intellectual angles!

Please RSVP to academics [at] burningman [dot] com for your official invitation with location details and other info as it develops.

Can’t make it, but want to make sure you and your work are on our radar? We’d love to hear from you: academics [at] burningman [dot] com.”

I will be there, and I look forward to catching up with old colleagues and meeting new ones!

Lee Gilmore’s Theater in a Crowded Fire: Ritual and Spirituality at Burning Man now available

Religious studies scholar Lee Gilmore’s book and dvd about spirituality at Burning Man, published by University of California Press, is now available. This book should appeal to those generally interested in Burning Man, as well as academics and students in ritual studies, religious studies, anthropology, sociology, art, and American Studies. Click here and here to find more links about her work.

Nature, red in tooth and claw

One of the immediacies of Burning Man is the Black Rock Desert, a former prehistoric lakebed. With its vast expanse and vaulted sky, the Black Rock Desert is merciless in demonstrating that you are just a mere speck in time. Camping in this environ in a serious affair in survival, given the extreme temperatures, blinding dust storms, and occasional rainstorms. Only the foolish take life for granted under these circumstances. Here, nature offers plenty of experiences to contemplate her ways, like waiting out a whiteout while watching a heavy cast iron skillet, caught in camo netting, drift hypnotically up and down in the wind.

In conventional cities, taking life for granted is typical because of our routines and sheltered environments, until nature reminds us otherwise. With the almost two feet of snow, between yesterday and today in New York City, daily activities like walking beneath trees suddenly become more anxiety-inducing, especially when you hear a cracking noise, and a snow-laden branch lands near your feet. Plus, the “friendliness” of a resident raccoon may well be driven by a virus looking to replicate.