LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

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DrYes
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LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by DrYes » Wed Dec 03, 2014 4:55 pm

Two posts to read here: http://blog.burningman.com/

They sound the right notes but there's some bullshit there too. For instance, they claim, "Packaging, advertising and selling the Burning Man experience is absolutely not okay."

And yet they appear to have no problem with Green Tortoise which has been offered for years. Packaged, advertised, sold.

I guess we'll see whether they followed through or not when we get to the playa next year. My guess is that we're going to see commodification camps that make the barest effort at 'giving back' or simply promise to and don't.

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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by Jovankat » Wed Dec 03, 2014 4:58 pm


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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by DrYes » Wed Dec 03, 2014 5:02 pm

For some reason, those direct links are taking a lot of people (including me) to page not found errors. No idea why. Same with if I click on the individual posts on the page, or the comments.

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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by Jovankat » Wed Dec 03, 2014 5:11 pm

Both work fine for me...

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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by GreyCoyote » Wed Dec 03, 2014 5:26 pm

Gobsmacked. Absolutely gobsmacked.

They sure protected their rogue board members. I cant believe I actually read some that. Not a single reprimand or board member apology. The message there is pretty clear.

So. Its over. At least until next time.
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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by DrYes » Wed Dec 03, 2014 5:30 pm

GreyCoyote wrote:Gobsmacked. Absolutely gobsmacked.

They sure protected their rogue board members. I cant believe I actually read some that. Not a single reprimand or board member apology. The message there is pretty clear.

So. Its over. At least until next time.
They sure went out of their way to declaim the idea that board members speak for BM, but it felt a lot like, "Yeah, our Board members ran these bullshit camps, but that wasn't official behavior so don't worry about it!"

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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by Ano » Wed Dec 03, 2014 5:37 pm

I feel like it's a lot of waffling around, but at least it's something.

So - Turnkey camps are no more, but will be treated as theme camps, requiring them to be interactive in some way. I hope this means less wristbands, more friendliness, and I hope that it isn't just a token "come get smoothies/popsicles/food/drink between 1-3 on monday and wednesday" kind of thing. But, I'm not the theme-camp-police. I also hope this means that some camps just plain are not invited back, but, I doubt it will come to that. I've noticed a trend where you're allowed to bend the rules more and more depending on how much of a big thing you do for the event - otherwise undecorated busses with major world-class sound systems wouldn't be there year after year.

Donation tickets are gone as well - good. Good fucking riddance. Absolutely insulting to know that they were around in the first place. Those extra tickets should be put directly into STEP.

And, unless I'm missing something, those are the only real changes that are going to come from this. So... it feels like we all waited a long time for, well, not very much.

Still unhappy, but I'm still going next year, so... Okay. I guess that's it then, pitchforks away, folks..?

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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by DrYes » Wed Dec 03, 2014 5:47 pm

Ano wrote:I feel like it's a lot of waffling around, but at least it's something.

So - Turnkey camps are no more, but will be treated as theme camps, requiring them to be interactive in some way. I hope this means less wristbands, more friendliness, and I hope that it isn't just a token "come get smoothies/popsicles/food/drink between 1-3 on monday and wednesday" kind of thing. But, I'm not the theme-camp-police. I also hope this means that some camps just plain are not invited back, but, I doubt it will come to that. I've noticed a trend where you're allowed to bend the rules more and more depending on how much of a big thing you do for the event - otherwise undecorated busses with major world-class sound systems wouldn't be there year after year.

Donation tickets are gone as well - good. Good fucking riddance. Absolutely insulting to know that they were around in the first place. Those extra tickets should be put directly into STEP.

And, unless I'm missing something, those are the only real changes that are going to come from this. So... it feels like we all waited a long time for, well, not very much.

Still unhappy, but I'm still going next year, so... Okay. I guess that's it then, pitchforks away, folks..?
I dunno. I mean, if they really did follow through on what they said they're going to do, and really do treat commodification camps with the exact same standards as theme camps, I personally will be ok with it all and can ignore camps being invited back that behaved badly previously if they're held to standards of good behavior going forward. I'm a little dubious they really will follow through though and that we won't continue to see favored commodification camps getting special treatment even if it's disguised more. Still, I suppose it's not fair to accuse them of not following through when they haven't had the opportunity to yet, so I'll just be optimistic and hope, for now.

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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by Jovankat » Wed Dec 03, 2014 6:03 pm

Nothing was said about paid workers at camps. Eric mentioned that there are camps that have had paid workers who still get plenty of free time for years but the stories that came out this year about people bing worked around the clock, treated rudely and abandoned without food or shelter when they complained were quite worrying.

I have no idea how they'd go about enforcing decent working conditions but I feel like something should have been mentioned about that really not being cool.

And as much as they tried to push the idea of it not being about financial inequality for every Rich dude who pays someone to work for them at the burn that's a ticket that's not going to someone who wants to participate not work. While there are camps for whom that arrangement makes sense and who manage it well as Eric mentioned I think the message should be sent that that approach is not encouraged unless it is genuinely required.

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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by Lonesomebri » Wed Dec 03, 2014 6:11 pm

My favorite part is where another straw man is created and dragged out by the Borg, all the while with them acting as if that is the issue.

Larry-
This issue of equality almost amounts to a straw man.
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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by jneilvindy » Wed Dec 03, 2014 6:30 pm

At any point did he out and out deny STEP tickets being pulled and sold far over face value to turnkey camps at the last minute?

Oh and what exactly does the project need to promote?

3/1 demand versus tickets what's the point? 4/1? 5/1?

There is clearly enough burners already, what audience is he talking about reaching out to? It's just going to create an even greater demand it seems.

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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by Ano » Wed Dec 03, 2014 6:38 pm

jneilvindy wrote:At any point did he out and out deny STEP tickets being pulled and sold far over face value to turnkey camps at the last minute?
This was addressed in the second (First?) blog post, not written by Larry:


Were tickets taken out of the Secure Ticket Exchange Program (STEP) and sold to plug and play camps?
Nope, not a single one. In fact, in addition to tickets contributed to STEP by participants, the Burning Man organization put an additional 2,500 tickets for sale in STEP in 2014, which went to those waiting in the queue. Tickets are never removed from STEP by the Burning Man organization for any reason.

Take that as you will, however. They also deny the handicapped golf cart rumor... and I have it on good authority that these golf carts were definitely available... but that's just me.

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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by pink » Wed Dec 03, 2014 6:40 pm

Yeah I noticed how he trotted out the deflection that we're all just jealous of nicer digs. And notice how the unlimited amount of 'donation' tickets one could buy wasn't addressed nor the fact that answer girl specifically mentioned the CommCamps weren't required to be interactive. Or staging of RVs by CommCamps & PnPs before the event or why Caravansicle wasn't dismantled until the end of the week or later. Yeah it's about privledge not tent vs yurt vs RV.

Nor the issue as to why we the participants have to support Larry's desire to flit around the world spreading 'burner culture'. If the nonprofit's budget doesn't allow it then flit a bit less. Or ask for a stipend to speak. Our culture was disseminating just fine, we don't need ambassadors.
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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by trilobyte » Wed Dec 03, 2014 6:44 pm

@DrYes - as far as Green Tortoise is concerned, I've never done that route myself but know a number of people who have over the years. Interestingly, all of them felt it was a pretty participatory experience, they were required to bring and do stuff, and I believe they also participated in making gifts and other work on the playa. I think in every case it was that person's introduction to Burning Man, and they've universally gone on to bigger and better burn experiences and participation (building big art, mutant vehicles, organizing theme camps, lots of volunteerism, etc). To me, that doesn't sound like a concierge camp at all, but exactly the kind of thing that they should be doing. My understanding is also that they go through the proper channels with regards to the BLM as well.

I've seen/heard scattered reports about issues with the links on some browsers, and heard that the tech team is working with the folks at wordpress to sort that out. Hopefully they'll get it ironed out before the JRS goes out.

I'm kind of glad that Burning Man didn't roll out a bunch of new regulations or things to enforce. Larry touched on it a bit in his post, but one of the great things about Burning Man is all the freedom we have out there. Yes, that includes the freedom to do things wrong, but makes me feel really good about the event is that even with all that freedom the overwhelming majority of people do the right thing. Also, I think adding a bunch of regulations would lead to things that were impossible to monitor or enforce fairly. The blog post suggested that some additional information and changes would be coming for the 2015 event - I'm curious to see what those are, maybe we'll get more details around the time ticketing info is announced or when placement questionnaires open up.

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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by Elderberry » Wed Dec 03, 2014 6:53 pm

Call me weird, but there was only one thing in either of those posts that stood out to me, which was the new mission statement. What does this mean?

The mission of the Project is to spread our culture throughout the world. This is an ambitious goal, to say the least, and such a start-up enterprise requires money.

Isn't Burning Man already represented in countries around the world? What is the benefit to anybody in that mission statement. Wy is that important? Maybe that statement is what is driving all of the problems we have been ranting about?

Everything else makes sense to me. I just can't wrap my head around the entire new mission of the organization.

If somebody could explain that to me it would be greatly appreciated.
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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by DrYes » Wed Dec 03, 2014 6:54 pm

trilobyte wrote:@DrYes - as far as Green Tortoise is concerned, I've never done that route myself but know a number of people who have over the years. Interestingly, all of them felt it was a pretty participatory experience, they were required to bring and do stuff, and I believe they also participated in making gifts and other work on the playa. I think in every case it was that person's introduction to Burning Man, and they've universally gone on to bigger and better burn experiences and participation (building big art, mutant vehicles, organizing theme camps, lots of volunteerism, etc). To me, that doesn't sound like a concierge camp at all, but exactly the kind of thing that they should be doing. My understanding is also that they go through the proper channels with regards to the BLM as well.
I have multiple friends that have camped with Green Tortoise multiple times before I lured them into our theme camps. I'm at a loss as to what Green Tortoise gives back based on their experiences there. It makes life easier for a lot of first-timers and non-first-timers, just like other commodification camps do, sure, but as the post said, "Packaging, advertising and selling the Burning Man experience is absolutely not okay." Which is exactly what GT does. Go google "burning man green tortoise". The first result is likely to be their brochure for their for-profit Burning Man tours. I have no idea how you can look at that page and not think they are "Packaging, advertising, and selling the Burning Man experience." Because they blatantly are.

I know what I'm asking for is a single standard to be applied to all camps, not breaks given to some because they've been coming for awhile or are cozy with the BMORG.

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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by trilobyte » Wed Dec 03, 2014 7:21 pm

@Elderberry - Burning Man is focused on creating the event in Nevada, and Burning Man Project's mission is to take some of the things from the desert and try to bring them out into the world. Stuff like the YES project flying saucer (art education to kids in schools), the Las Vegas downtown project (art installations and whatnot in urban spaces) and stuff. That's just my understanding.

@DrYes - were your friends worthless campmates for the experience? The thing that struck me as interesting about them was the number of people who had a first experience with them and who went on to become more involved. To me, that's evidence of an operation that's doing it right. The people who take that trip seem to be connecting to the culture, which is the opposite of what I think a package tour/concierge camp would do.

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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by socks2 » Wed Dec 03, 2014 8:22 pm

I will translate Larry for you all

You all are jealous of me and my new rich friends
there is no problem at all here with plug and plays move along
We will continue to sell plug and plays tickets from the direct ticket sale
and they will get EA and placement
The 10 principles do not matter anymore

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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by Bodmin » Wed Dec 03, 2014 8:56 pm

By and large it was a very placating response, full of what all of us want to hear. Very obviously absent was any mention that the worst offenders of the commodification camps were perpetrated by BM project board members.

"Burning Man does not condone this activity. Commodification camps are not only in direct conflict with our culture, they are also not allowed by the terms of our permit. Individuals and groups operating commercially on Federal land are required to have a special recreation permit issued by the Bureau of Land Management. "

So JT went behind everyone's back?

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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by DrYes » Wed Dec 03, 2014 9:03 pm

trilobyte wrote:
@DrYes - were your friends worthless campmates for the experience? The thing that struck me as interesting about them was the number of people who had a first experience with them and who went on to become more involved. To me, that's evidence of an operation that's doing it right. The people who take that trip seem to be connecting to the culture, which is the opposite of what I think a package tour/concierge camp would do.
The three friends I've had that camped there were absolutely there for the ease and the lack of responsibility. They played tourist for 3-4 years there. They joined my camp one year and participated, but I'm not sure why that'd be any different from the other commodification camps.

And I mean, they are a package tour camp. That's where I'm not quite understanding where you're coming from. You buy your tour from them and you get your ticket, your transportation, your water, your food, your placed campsite, your shade, etc. Granted, you do have to bring a tent and (if desired) shade for your tent as they don't provide lodging. And they're for-profit.

If the standard is that commodification camps are ok as long as their members are presumed to go on and become more involved, then how do we know that's not the case with the other camps? I just don't see why you'd (generic 'you') treat them differently from the other for-profit camps that are attempting to make money by packaging up and selling Burning Man. They're targeting a different demographic than Lost Hotel but I don't think -who- you package, advertise, and sell Burning Man too really matters in terms of that principle.

And I don't even have an inherent problem with the act of running a commodification camp, or at least, I agree with you on not adding regulations (especially relatively unenforceable ones), but regulations aren't needed. Just treat them like every theme camp gets treated. Make them actually give back like every other camp if they want EE passes and placement, and certainly do not grant them special blocks of tickets beyond participating on a level playing field with the rest of the directed group ticket sales participants. I'm genuinely curious how you've heard they do give back because while I wasn't there last year, I visited in 2013 and 2012 and saw no evidence of it at all. It was a camp of unconnected strangers who had paid a for-profit company to take them to Burning Man and deal with most of their needs while there.

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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by Sandstorm » Wed Dec 03, 2014 9:07 pm

Bodmin wrote:By and large it was a very placating response, full of what all of us want to hear. Very obviously absent was any mention that the worst offenders of the commodification camps were perpetrated by BM project board members...
I just finished reading the blog entry that was written by "Burning Man" and I feel conflicted and confused. I honestly believe that they looked into all the things that they said that they looked into. I also think that they've given Jim Tananbaum a free pass and avoided the fact there's something wrong with the event when there are ComCamps charging members figures such as $17K or $50K. It also seems that they've chosen to not deal with the issue of certain ComCamps being illicitly given handicapped passes for their golf carts.

Based on some of the comments in this thread I'm not looking forward to reading Larry's new blog entry.

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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by vargaso » Wed Dec 03, 2014 9:15 pm

Sandstorm wrote:
Bodmin wrote:By and large it was a very placating response, full of what all of us want to hear. Very obviously absent was any mention that the worst offenders of the commodification camps were perpetrated by BM project board members...
I just finished reading the blog entry that was written by "Burning Man" and I feel conflicted and confused. I honestly believe that they looked into all the things that they said that they looked into. I also think that they've given Jim Tananbaum a free pass and avoided the fact there's something wrong with the event when there are ComCamps charging members figures such as $17K or $50K. It also seems that they've chosen to not deal with the issue of certain ComCamps being illicitly given handicapped passes for their golf carts.
They did address the illicit handicap pass issue:
In 2014, we heard of the rumor, but can find no evidence internally that any camp received handicapped stickers for non-disabled golf carts or other conveyances.
I'm mostly OK with the response and proposed policy changes, particularly the elimination of the donation tickets.

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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by Lonesomebri » Wed Dec 03, 2014 9:31 pm

At the end of the day, whatever reforms are enacted or changes made to offset the commercialization and cronyism, Larry and the rest of them are going to claim that they were the ones pushing for accountability and openness all along. You can see that happening already in the blog post and particular comments here. There was no "mistake" made putting those hotels out on L and K, as Larry claims now that the cat is out of the bag, those camps took planning and collusion with the Borg.

Though it is nice that the continued pressure from disgruntled nobodies and irrational non-problem solving trouble makers forced all the responses of any kind from the Borg. Cheers to all of you who have participated in forcing larry to speak here. As silence and filling out disappearing forms would have done far far far less; accomplishing nothing (which was the hope of those championing that non-course).

Anyway, once the glitches are worked out of the blogs comment section, we can read what the unwashed have to say in response to Larry. I actually care about what the folks camped next to me think more than what the pronouncements from First Camp contain, but that is me.
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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by Sandstorm » Wed Dec 03, 2014 9:34 pm

vargaso wrote:
In 2014, we heard of the rumor, but can find no evidence internally that any camp received handicapped stickers for non-disabled golf carts or other conveyances.
I'm mostly OK with the response and proposed policy changes, particularly the elimination of the donation tickets.
Yeah, I saw the part where they addressed the golf cart issue. What I should have said is that there have been multiple first hand accounts about people seeing the golf carts in question and I think that this is one area in which THE BORG is choosing to not dig deeply enough. But hey, that's just what I'm choosing to believe.

I appreciate certain aspects of the blog entry. That said, they gave JT a free pass. There's also the fact that the event is still being run by people such as Larry, Marian and JT, people who think that it's OK to peddle tickets and influence, commodify the event and culture. I'll accept that THE BORG looked into a lot of the issues surrounding the ComCamps. I won't and don't believe that the event will be run in a more holistic way. There's plenty of aspects of how the event is run that are manipulative, hypocritical and abusive. My eyes are open and I'm not going to close them.

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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by FIGJAM » Wed Dec 03, 2014 9:43 pm

I was surprised that they were comparing pre-sale tickets to the donation tickets as if they were the same thing.

The pre-sales were very openly offered to everyone, whereas the donation tickets were offered to a select few.
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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by some seeing eye » Wed Dec 03, 2014 9:50 pm

Speculation on my part -
"Spreading the Burning Man culture around the world" is actually expensive. You have to trademark things in the countries you operate and have non-profits in those counties. You need multi-currency accounting, and tax/corporation reporting and filing. Have you have ever set up a non-profit in the US, imagine doing that in 20 countries, many with different languages and laws. Personally I think it is very ambitious, and in the spirit of Burning Man.

I thought the comment by Larry about the perpetual ticket shortage was insightful: that everybody's solution is to shift tickets away from someone that gets one to themselves. The reason someone doesn't get a ticket is not that the PnP campers got them, that there weren't enough/too many low income, too many went to the private club, too many/few directed sales, not enough STEP, etc. The reason is that there are more people that want tickets than the BLM will allow to be sold.

I'm sure some people will continue to be grumpy and I sure the BORG will continue to make small changes each year.
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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by Sandstorm » Wed Dec 03, 2014 9:52 pm

FIGJAM wrote:I was surprised that they were comparing pre-sale tickets to the donation tickets as if they were the same thing.

The pre-sales were very openly offered to everyone, whereas the donation tickets were offered to a select few.
I appreciated the fact that they made a distinction between the 2. I've never had a problem with the pre-sale tickets. I've taken advantage of them a couple of times. I used to be happy with the concept that the extra money that I was paying for a ticket was helping Burning Man.

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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by FIGJAM » Wed Dec 03, 2014 9:57 pm

I didn't read it that way.

It seemed like they were saying "We've been doing the pre-sale, so what's wrong with the donation program?" like they were identical when they're miles apart.
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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by Sandstorm » Wed Dec 03, 2014 10:02 pm

FIGJAM wrote:I didn't read it that way.

It seemed like they were saying "We've been doing the pre-sale, so what's wrong with the donation program?" like they were identical when they're miles apart.
I read it as they were saying that both types of tickets were priced at $650 a piece but that they were distributed in different ways. In truth I think that the eradication of the Donation Tickets is the ONLY change that THE BORG has made in response to the ComCamp Controversy.

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Re: LarryCo Responds re: Commodification Camps

Post by vargaso » Wed Dec 03, 2014 10:14 pm

I'm not exactly sold on the efficacy of the Burning Man Project as of yet. Do they have any concrete goals other than the very vague "spreading Burning Man culture"? Don't the regionals do a pretty good job of that for free, mostly? The fact that the BMORG seem to be banking (pun intended) on the BMP as the future, and so directing funds towards that doesn't sit well with me. But, as for the commodification camp issue specifically, I think they dealt with it. No more donation tickets and theme camp restrictions now apply to all camps.

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