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Burning Man Festival Goes Digital For 2020

Burning Man Festival Goes Digital For 2020
By Michelle Sciarrotta

Burning Man Festival has been revamped in the Covid-19 climate, and has embraced a digital format for 2020. Although the festival has become famous for the collective gathering of almost 80,000 people in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, this year looks to be quite a different experience.

Going Digital

14,000 people got in touch with Burning Man’s organisers offering contributions when it was announced the move online would be happening. The organisers turned down offers of sponsorship and corporate partnerships, instead opting for independent volunteers.

This team of independent developers led to the creation of eight official projects focused on digital experiences including virtual reality, advanced video chats, and the building of 3D environments. Known as ‘Universe Creators’, the technology creators have built a ‘Multiverse’ made of eight Universes, a virtual Temple and global distribution.

In layman’s terms, these universes are all built around concepts aimed to heighten connections between participants by creating a party environment and a unique, collective shared experience between people. Inspired by immersive theatre techniques, developers encourage participants to recreate sensory stimuli at home, such as avoiding showers during the festival period, replicating the boredom of a long drive to the desert, and camping inside the home.

Social Elements

Socialising and making new friends has always been a big appeal of Burning Man, and so it’s unsurprising that the video chat developments are a priority. One of the official apps, Build-a-Burn, integrates a map so that participants can move around different areas, chatting with others spread across Black Rock City.

There are other more advanced apps that incorporate virtual reality, including The Infinite PlayaThe Bridge Experience and Multiverse.

The concept of these apps is not to match the previous years of the Burning Man experience, but to create something new and different.

Burning Man 2021

While nobody knows what may happen in the coming year, options are being discussed about the potential longevity of the virtual platform. As financial concerns rise for the festival’s ability to recover for a physical resumption next year, the conversation has raised the possibility of the digital experience being a long-term addition. Developers may decide to keep working on ironing out their concepts and apps to make them future-proof, and adding monetisation options.

Get Involved

Burning Man 2020 runs from 31st August – 6th September online and is accessible across phone and computer platforms, with full information for each section of the Multiverse on the official website.

A VR headset is not required for access, and is optional for participants. The Burn Night: Live From Home will take place on Saturday, 5th September. There is also an option to donate to the festival as well as the ability to submit content to the festival and join the conversation in real time on Twitter.

Enter the Multiverse

The Multiverse is an endlessly expanding virtual Burning Man. Intrepid adventurers are invited to co-create eight Universes, a virtual Temple, and (coming soon!) a globally distributed Man Burn.

It takes a community. A Multiverse doesn’t just emerge from the ether. We’d like to extend our gratitude and appreciation to all the people who coded, designed, crafted, planned, and stayed up long nights, inspired by the unlimited possibilities of Burning Man culture. #thankslarry – Burning Man Website

Also by Michelle Sciarrotta:

The Human Library: Check Out Real People

Ali Wright Photographs Theatre Staff Working As Key Staff during COVID

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